When Everything Is Political
What happens to the fabric of society when everything is political? How can citizens go about their daily lives without the constant bombardment of every division imaginable? How does the civil society maintain its balance when everyone seems to be at each other’s throats?
The current state of affairs, augmented by an angry media, seems to be the new normal. It is a constant state of angst that afflicts academia and entertainment with politics leading the way. Now the affliction has invaded the world of sports, once a form of escapism and a unifying force of team loyalties.
America has always been subject to internal conflicts based on economic, racial, and ethnic diversity. We are a country of distinct regions. Our Constitution is meant to provide the glue of national sovereignty with individual rights and the rule of law. All powers not specifically granted to the central government were reserved for the states, the very entities that created the federal government in the first place.
It didn’t always work. It took a bloody civil war to save the Union with what Abraham Lincoln called a new birth of freedom. The scourge of slavery was removed by war and constitutional amendment, yet it took another century for millions of Americans to realize the legal guarantee of basic civil rights. But the forces of division and unfinished business were just below the surface like the fault lines of a potential earthquake.
Perhaps today’s loud public discourse had its origins when the Vietnam War and Watergate destroyed the traditional belief that government and elected leaders could be trusted to do the right thing. In more recent times, such events as the contested presidential election of 2000, 5 to 4 Supreme Court decisions, and deep divisions over such highly charged issues as abortion and gay marriage kept the pot of public discourse simmering.
Now the pot is boiling. It has been overflowing since the 2016 presidential campaign, the election of Donald Trump, and the slings and arrows of citizen against citizen in the face of an uncertain economy, uncontrollable immigration, costly health care, unending war in the Middle East, and the threats of more war in Korea and new tensions with Russia.
America’s civil society is now shot through with grievances like a virus that eats away at an otherwise healthy body politic rooted in values and tradition. We seem to be struggling to maintain a fragile equilibrium that can explode like Ferguson or Charlottesville in any place at any time.
Meanwhile, millions of Americans rally to the side of President Trump as a clear voice in their country that they believe ignored and even betrayed them for far too long. Through raucous rallies and daily tweets, Trump answers their calls. When Trump took on the NFL he was speaking to his people.
But millions of others believe that Trump is an illegitimate President elected by an antiquated electoral college that defied the will of the majority. The Washington establishment, terrified of losing power and still reeling from the shock of last November, seems determined to deny Trump key parts of his agenda and even destroy his presidency.
Sunday used to be a day of rest reserved for worship, family, friends, and the diversion of our most popular sport, football. Now even Sunday is a day of national conflict when Americans are fighting over such once untouchable symbols as the flag and the national anthem. Politics is everything and everywhere. Where is the relief?
Image: Department of Defense-Public Domain
During the course of his career, Walker has worked in Chicago, Washington DC, New York City, and Phoenix. He served as a reporter in Chicago, a press secretary and speechwriter in Washington, and in numerous positions in New York in corporate and financial services communications.
Walker is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.