Have you heard of the latest crisis threatening our country? Apparently, we’re no longer a single nation.
Jonathan Weissman captured this troubling trend last week in The New York Times:
“Pressed by Supreme Court decisions diminishing rights that liberals hold dear and expanding those cherished by conservatives,” wrote Weissman, “the United States appears to be drifting apart into separate nations, with diametrically opposed social, environmental and health policies.”
Weissman now calls our country the “Disunited States.”
In his 2020 book, Divided We Fall, David French wrote that “it’s time for Americans to wake up to a fundamental reality: the continued unity of the United States of America cannot be guaranteed. At this moment in history, there is not a single important cultural, religious, political, or social force that is pulling Americans together more than it is pushing us apart.”
Among the forces pulling us apart is the decadent idea that we must always have our way. A disagreement is no longer a disagreement—it is cause for contempt. If your side loses on an issue you care about, it’s worth losing your mind. We’re not just sore losers, we’re enraged losers.
This corrosive attitude is especially prevalent among the social-media class, where ideological rivals must be crushed and mocked at all cost. Platforms like Twitter murder curiosity and decency. They nourish instead our primal instinct to conquer those whom we consider threats.
But wait, there’s hope!
Social media warriors may make most of the noise, but they’re not the majority. The hope for our future lies in a much larger group called the “Exhausted Majority,” first identified in a “Hidden Tribes” survey in 2018.
Noting that he’s “growing increasingly wary of the binary analysis of American life,” French wrote about this exhausted majority this week, calling the “three Americas” the blue, the red and the tired.
Who are these tired Americans? They are, French writes, “the two-thirds of our neighbors and citizens (from across the political spectrum) who are fed up with polarization, forgotten in public discourse, flexible in their views, and still believe we can find common ground.”
You won’t find these tired Americans on your Twitter feed or on the evening news. They don’t supply enough conflict, drama or contempt to garner media ratings.
“The exhausted American,” French writes, “is in my email inbox, writing personal, anguished letters about lost relationships.”
The radicalized American, on the other hand, “is in my Twitter feed, furious at any deviation from the party line. The radicalized American is capturing institutions, making life miserable for dissenters left or right.”
It’s deeply ironic that one of the most exquisite examples of putting decency above ideology is on the U.S. Supreme Court, the source of so much of the rage we see on the news. In a Youtube clip I hope they play in every school, Justice Sonia Sotomayor talks about her friendship with Justice Clarence Thomas, her ideological opposite. Sotomayor acknowledges her significant differences with Thomas, but praises his humanity, saying they “share a common understanding about people and kindness towards them.”
America will never survive as the United States unless the exhausted majority starts to make more noise. Decency and curiosity trigger problem solving; anger and contempt trigger dehumanization, and, eventually, a Disunited States of America. Talk about losing.
In the meantime, I do hope we see a photo of Sotomayor and Thomas hanging out at the same Fourth of July party. If those two can do it, we all can.
David Suissa is editor-in-chief and publisher of Tribe Media Corp and the “Jewish Journal.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published by the Jewish Journal.