…. On record, the Great American Civil War had more than 600,000 fallen heroes whose blood drenched the battleground to unite a divided nation … What separates us in this great divide is a gravitational pull of ideology, philosophy and beliefs over which disputes strongly attract us like moths to the lamp.
Neurosciences: Humans are not rational but emotional. Yet when we unravel the mysteries of the Universe, there is no doubt in my mind that only rationality separate man from beast. Therefore the answer to the question is in the brain.
The beating of Rodney Glen King by Los Angeles cops caught in video left an epic of racial anathema that challenged our fragile society with this ever-repeatedly asked question — can’t we all just get along?
In this 1992 episode of police brutality which put on record one of the most celebrated trials in U.S. history, winning the case in court was not enough. Winning friends was much more if as the Gospel teaches Christians the world over, we can just get along.
How to win an argument and lose a friend is not what I am writing about. What I am writing about is just the opposite. One may win a debate but lose a friend and in victory, grieve and cry, so to speak. For, attrition is discomfort, war is death, love is life; in this light, amity is the seasoning of life. The thought of losing a friend is a terrible loneliness.
To most of us if not to all social bipeds, that loss is tantamount to losing a dream, like losing Mary Stevenson’s footprints in the sand left by the Invisible that carried you on his shoulder when no one was there after you lost a fight, and you were down and out.
The litmus test to these axiomatic platitudes let alone divine truism is when we as a nation quarrel over how we love or hate America.
For instance, the war in Iraq relates to how we feel about Uncle Sam. We are ten feet tall where we stand, whether we are for or against the war; if we lose the debate yet are able to smile and shake hands, there is hope. We cannot afford to be too radically villainous to one another to the point of self-destruction … we are just combatants of principles in our version of democracy, in our vision of freedom and liberty in this part of the globe.
But to a great extent, our passion when we argue whether or not our troops should come home, like wildfire burns far and wide as if to cover to the last inch the breadth of this ever widening great divide.
Surprisingly, we are implausibly challenged by this elementary problem many of us hardly noticed: The art of civil and cordial argument is very hard to learn, especially if by nature one is too opinionated and at the same time rabidly adversarial, but contentious or amicable, amiable and affable or distastefully unlikable, we are helplessly magnetized towards our dispute like how moths are attracted to the lamp, and it does not matter whether we survive or perish in the bar of public opinion.
It is the general rule in public debate that when our views are pointedly criticized, we take it as a personal offense. Most often than not, we end the argument with a shocking discovery that our differences are infinitesimal. Obviously this is not good to anyone’s rising blood pressure, and bad to the nerves of America. Sociologist opined that it was not bitterness but neurosis and paranoia, which took the most out of the irreconcilable North and South differences before the farmers where politicized, who then left their homes and marched down the prairie with a curse and a gun.
We frequently reminisce this closed bloody chapter of our history without ever forgetting that The Great American Civil War had more than 600,000 fallen heroes on the take, whose blood drenched the battleground to unite a divided nation, and nourished the concept of a democracy under the government of the people, for the people and by the people.
As the exchange of views about America that we either love or hate detours towards personal hissing and drifts towards name-calling thus graduating into a slam-bang of animosity and hostility, the widening chasm of disagreement becomes an abyss that only then we realize that the South and North Poles are really not located in the same quadrant of planet Earth … that is if we no longer have this doubt that our critics who surprisingly disagree with us with such uninhibited innocence if not unforgivable ignorance are not really from this planet but from Mars.
How we alienate ourselves from each other that much is not only incredibly astounded me but also extremely disturbed my calm, peace and quiet in this kind of virtual anarchism. When I think about it in my private moments by the fireplace, I gasp breathlessly, and when I saw myself in a haze of doubt and skepticism if I myself was a silent partisan in the controversy, my jaw simply dropped with utter disbelief. We go to school to learn the basic refinements of life, the art of self-discipline, civility and niceties of our personal relationship with our neighbors in particular, and with our fellowmen in general, and from kindergarten had learned good manners and right conduct … in short, we were taught how to be human and humane [more so on how to be polite and compassionate], but in the heat of the argument we snap and lose our cool and turn ourselves into extinct habitués of the zoo.
In the great divide, we ask ourselves nonchalantly how and by what are we exclusively identified. The answer is simple — the same way carnivorous are identified by the food they eat. We sink our fangs on principles and make a mincemeat out of our opponent.
We are either red or blew in politics. In the battlefield of our differences, those who hate America camp out in the radical side of the great divide. Known as the left-leaning progressive or liberal ideologues, they are in an everlasting search of a new paradigm; the norm is static and temporary, while they are dynamic and contradictory, philosophically free to roam in the wilderness of individual rights, liberty and freedom where reality is relative and, as a concept, truth is open-ended.
The so-called Guardians of the Realm, the conservatives in Lincoln’s camp that lean to the Right, are defenders of institutionalized American ideals and traditional values. Our forefathers impregnated these birthmarks in the womb of freedom and liberty when they founded this nation; from the other side of the great divide, they preach their beliefs and pontificate their concerns of what might become of America if the ship of state is left to the wind uncharted and unmanned. They believe in divine intervention when ungodly challenged, and premise their arguments on “In God We Trust”.
We are either in this side or that side of this great divide. And we are committed to the side we chose, which is why most often when we clash with our opponents in public, our civility spins out of control. When it does, the outcome is ugly.
Corollary to King’s concerns if we cannot get along, divided, are we going to win the war in Iraq? If we lose, will it mean a war in the homeland? It is fearsome if and when this comes to pass.
On the other hand, if we win this war, is another war unavoidable … the bombing and invasion of Iran inevitable?
If this hate-America contagion continues to rise, we are likely to lose the war whichever and wherever that is — war in the homeland or elsewhere… anywhere.
Nemesis…” a radical book written by Chalmers Johnson — a call in the wilderness to demonize America, which in effect a call to arms to overthrow the government, and implode the “evil empire” from within — like many other several scholarly written hate-America discourses, has to be reviewed to give the average American a chance to decide whether or not America is truly evil that should be erased from the map. In this book, the country is being lampooned to a serious injury if not to death. In my published editorial review, at least the wounded nation must be allowed to breathe.
Our main concern is not how to restrain the discontented from hating America, but rather how to prevent this country from falling apart out of discontentment, and worse when public combatants relish on the aggravation of the conflict, their hands reaching at each other’s throat. And all of these depend on how we argue our peace, nay compromise with our adversaries across the great divide to earn our peace.
To back this up, I stand four squares on my belief that anyone has a right to say that this government and its supporters are his/her own enemy. Anyone’s freedom to choose what not to believe, not whom to believe, not why and when to believe is also my freedom of choice to what, whom, why and when to believe. We are our own universe. This is how I would end our animosities in a public debate with neither a winner nor a loser.
To me it is more than just a winning experience if our differences of outlook are publicly discussed with respect and concluded in a polite and cordial manner.
We in the great divide have a strong opposite philosophical attractions to and from each other. We are stubbornly married to what we believe in and like a solemn vow in the altar of holy matrimony, we said “I do” to those beliefs, ergo, till death do us part.
That being the case, to the radical Left, this is what I have to say: If your attraction is stronger than mine, you will pull me into your philosophical orbit where I will crash and perish. If my attraction is stronger than yours, you will smash into my orbit and my gravity will tear you into pieces.
But since the founding, our strength of gravitational attractions are almost perfectly equal, and our opposing beliefs on what America is all about are held in almost absolute balance, like how the moving planets are holding their own gravitational pull against each other within our Galaxy … in Cosmology the heavenly constellation of stars, the Milky Way; in Genesis, the beginning of being – the Universe known to Mankind.
I see this shining star right above the shoulders of my opponents as much as they see mine above my shoulder. I do not doubt at all that the rest of the world see those stars well too as much as we do when we both speak out our thoughts and debate the principles we believed in.
We both have this strongest thing in common: We both treasure free speech like a precious jewel that would get us along for now.
© Copyright Edwin A. Sumcad. Access October 24, 2007.
The writer is a veteran diplomat-journalist for more than 45 years and a recipient of excellence awards in journalism. He is a former Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations; he is also an economist, a lawyer and an ASEAN specialist on fiscal policy and regional industrial cooperation. His human interest writings and editorial insights appear in other publications and published in several websites. A brief comment may be e-mailed to email@example.com.