Why is there so much division in the United States today? This question is one that I have constantly been exploring to try to find answers, and though I may have found cultural, religious or traditional reasons, I cannot understand why divisive and partisan ideas continue to grow even if they are proven untrue beyond any shadow of doubt.
Why hold on to these beliefs when all evidence points out they are incorrect?
While watching one of the videos that Annabel Park and Eric Byler released from their upcoming Story of America: A Nation Divided documentary, a white, southern man from Mecklenburg, Virginia states, “the Constitution tells us that if you don’t work, you don’t eat.”
Hearing this struck a nerve for me because in my area of Western Kentucky, this is a common theme being expressed by many people, and they are proud of their beliefs. The Virginian continues by stating, “We’re divided because we are intentionally divided. Okay? If you can divide a country, while you are fighting amongst yourselves, they can take your country over, just like what’s happening.”
When he was asked why there was so much rhetoric directed today towards President Obama in the last four years, he immediately began to bring up the same talking points that some of the national figures have been saying, “I’ll tell you why, because he has never pulled out his thesis paper from college. He borrowed money from the government. Okay? And he is not an American citizen. Okay? He’s a Muslim.”
I have heard these talking points many times, and when asked if any evidence could be produced to prove these assertions, none are found or given, except excerpts and quotes from far right media sources that also provide no proof.
It doesn’t matter if these ideas make no sense or are misinformed by the rhetorical talking points directed towards the President, because they are staunch in their holding on to these beliefs and will adamantly stand their ground against anyone that may question their ideology.
Just the other day, I was talking with one of my friends that is a republican, and somehow the conversation steered into my friend exclaiming in disgust, “Obama is trying to close down the coal industry in Kentucky, all because of this made up theory of climate change.”
I asked if she didn’t believe in the science and her reply was, “It’s not true and the only reason why Obama keeps talking about it is to give him more power by regulating things like the coal industry and losing everyone their jobs.” There was no doubt that she honestly believed that the President was intentionally doing this.
I began to counter but we both decided to agree to disagree, which has been our way for many years. We both understand we have major differences when it comes to the government and politics, as do all of my friends here in my area.
I still want to find an answer to this though. It perplexes me how people can stubbornly hold onto their beliefs, no matter the facts. Whenever I ask them for evidence, I am told that it is something they were told. It is like having a faith in an ideology so profound that it never matters about the facts. It just is.
I very much doubt there is anything that I could write or say that could persuade them to go against these beliefs. It will take more than that.
This is why I think an important step forward is the making of this documentary, The Story of America: A Nation Divided. Not only are they going around the country and interviewing Americans of all stripes and colors, but they have also setup, on their website, a place for everyday people to tell their own story of America, and hearing these stories can help promote an understanding of different people’s situations and beliefs. Watching and reading these compelling stories opens eyes and hearts where there may have been a self-imposed wall standing between people.
These are such crazy times in this country and finding any quick solutions to ending the division in America may never happen, but one thing is for sure, without dialog and understanding, it has no hope of being possible. It will require the nation to reflect on what it means to be American, and with one little step at a time, we all can begin to envision a day when all the hatreds and divisions are finally healed.
To do that though, it may just take one story at a time.
[WATCH - Why are we so divided? A voter from Mecklenburg, Virginia from Story of America: A Nation Divided]
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