Wednesday, October 27, 2004

A Nation Divided

Robert Steinback in today’s Miami Herald on America’s Civil War II.

At issue is what manner of nation we want to be — one that presumes its own righteousness, thus making its actions self-justifying; or one that acknowledges transcendent principles and constantly strives to achieve them.

The one side embraces a defiant and pugnacious America that asserts its will as it chooses, and scorns any force — friend or foe, moral concept or philosophical idea — that would take issue with its actions. This I call rural-individualist America, rooted in the strength of will demonstrated by the pioneers who tamed a continent.

But this also is stubborn America, which refuses to admit when it makes mistakes, or to change course when the initial one has proven unwise or unproductive. This America whitewashes its tarnished history rather than facing up to it; it rationalizes its blunders rather than acknowledge them, and it covers up its unholy acts with defensive piety.

The other side sees America as virtuous not by nature but by deed. This side recognizes America doesn’t always do the right thing, but holds fast to the conviction that America always aspires to be better and more righteous in its actions. This side, which I call urban-philosopher America, is rooted in the noble vision of the nation’s founders, who believed not in unimpeachable government but in the creation of “a more perfect union” of people.


Yet both sides of America are America, just as in the original Civil War. America has thrived by displaying both toughness and wisdom — the steel to win world wars, and principles to inspire peace and accord. One America can’t be severed from the other without destroying the nation’s very soul.

This may be the most egregious failure of the Bush presidency: He has pitted America against itself. He and his minions have played only to rural-individualist Americans, while utterly debasing urban-philosopher Americans.

All presidents, in the final analysis, must be “uniters.” America can’t bear four more years of civil war.

Read the rest here. It’s as good an assessment of this country’s divided mindset as I’ve read in a very long time.