05 February 2017

Unity and Polarization

Sub Tuum.

Amidst the transition to the new President of the United States, calls for unity as Americans are contrasted with diametrically-opposed criticisms of and apologetics for Trump. This is not a situation unique to the United States, but ongoing evens there make it a timely example. Those who say that the elected President is the President, some will like him and some will not, and all people should come together in unity as Americans for the common good are indeed perplexed by the polarization. Those who support Trump cannot understand why some are opposed to Trump. Those who oppose Trump cannot understand why some support him. Neither side wants to budge. 

President Ronald Reagan (left) greets future President
Donald Trump (right) at a White House function.
Reagan was President during a time of greater national
unity, while Trump leads the U.S. government
during a highly polarized time.
In standing back and watching the unfolding situation, it occurs to me that there can be no true unity in anything when there is such polarization. It is a fundamental impossibility. There will always be some degree of disagreement - even some who strongly disagree. But, when it is widespread and strong, it is difficult to ignore. 

Those who support Mr. Trump have their set of reasons. Those who oppose Mr. Trump have their set of reasons as well. The President's opponents do not feel they should ignore issues about which they are passionate simply for unity. If they believe something is wrong, then they will continue to stand up to it. Whether one agrees with their logic or not, one cannot dispute that they truly believe what they believe, provided that they are being honest. I use simply the title of President here intentionally. Consider that if Mrs. Clinton had been elected, those of us who oppose the wholesale murder of millions of children each year, most of them from minority backgrounds, would surely right now continue to oppose the Presidents support thereof and would not back down simply in the name of national unity. Note however, despite my use of the abortion example, I am otherwise not making any comparisons or judgments in this writing on any specific aspect of the Trump Administration's policy or what would likely have been the Clinton Administration's policy. 

So, there it is. Two sides with vastly opposing views that simply cannot be reconciled. If we give the benefit of the doubt to at least the majority of citizens on either side, then we have two groups standing up for what they believe. That is not likely to change - at least not any time soon. And so perhaps the United States is in a period of divergence within the population. I could make arguments for that being a positive thing. For example, to use abortion once again, if we have "two Americas," one that supports abortion and one that does not, then I cannot say that such deviance within the population is at all bad, for the defense of life cannot yield. Similarly, if we have "two Americas," one that is of the Catholic faith and one that is decidedly anti-Catholic, as much of the United States has historically been and is to this day, I cannot say that such divergence is bad, for we must stand for the faith of Christ. On the other hand, I can argue for national unity, provided it does not reach the point of nationalism. It is not a good thing to have people tearing themselves apart and doing harm of any kind to others simply because they have differing political views or disagree regarding something that is going on in Washington. How does that benefit anyone? How does it solve any problem? 

I do not have a solution for this problem. Sometimes situations in human dynamics possess a certain momentum and will run their course on their own unless they are acted upon by some greater force. (Wars have done just that on more than one occasion.) What I can advise, as trite as it may sound, is to have respect for others of differing viewpoints. The more divergent their viewpoint is from yours, the more difficult that will be. The more divergent their viewpoint is from yours, the more you must listen. You don't have to agree with them. You can certainly stand up for your own principles, even if that means standing against them. I absolutely advocate standing up for right. However, we ought not let a disagreement of ideas between us and our neighbor end in doing harm to each other. 

History is full of scenarios like this. While national brotherhood in its authentic and beneficial form may be a laudable ideal, it is presently elusive. Rather than becoming frustrated, why not do something to put your principles into positive action and help others?