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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

America: A nation divided

The United States witnessed a groundbreaking moment with the election of Barack Obama. But after the smoke clears from a heated campaign, what hope is there for a unified nation?

My experience in America has shown me a nation divided. As a keen follower of contemporary politics, I have never witnessed a democracy this vehemently polarised, with its people’s beliefs, creeds and races this juxtaposed. I have seen a country that threatens to be defined by the sectionalism of the Democrat/Republican divide. At no other juncture is this conflict more apparent as it is around one subject: President Obama.

He first broke into office among a tidal wave of optimism, yet few predicted that the “”change we can believe in”” would still be unfulfilled one year on. Rather than a unified belief that “”Yes we can,”” recent opinion polls appear to show that the average American citizen is thinking, “”No, we can’t.”” Many Europeans had hoped that Obama would offer a reunification of world politics. By electing its first black president, America appeared to be guiding the way for a world in which equality would become the norm and mutual understanding would be achieved.

It is not Obama’s declining opinion polls — from 68 percent to 23 percent among US citizens since March — that is the most alarming thing for Europeans. It is the degree of hatred that is shown to him from the Republican right. If America is divided so severely, then how can it hope to provide the guiding light as the world’s most powerful purveyor of democracy?

As an Englishman living in America, the furor surrounding Obama’s presidency has been a particularly fascinating one. While I had always been familiar with the bitter campaigning of opposition parties in European politics, I was shocked to discover the extent to which politics has left America as a nation divided. The U.S. healthcare debate has caused thousands of Republicans to attend “”tea party”” demonstrations, depicting Obama in virulent terms, representing him as Nazi and murderer. American news coverage is dominated by news channels so politically-biased that they seem to portray the “”other”” as Satan personified, and themselves are a heavenly purveyor of truth. Laughably, Fox News — recently lambasted by the Obama administration as being a Republican mouthpiece — proudly portrays the moniker “”Fair and Balanced”” on its broadcasts. Call Fox News what you will, but it is about as balanced as a wolf in a sheep’s pen, and it attacks its prey with equal ferocity.

America is defined and divided by morality. While Republican morality is rooted in religion, Democrats appear to have their ideas more firmly rooted in modern science. Many die-hard religious Republicans appear disgusted at an issue that causes a partisan divide: abortion. What debate is more morally influenced?

Race also creates a clear defining line. Many readers may be shocked to hear that, in the U.S., black men are twelve times more likely to be arrested for drug offences than their white counterparts (“”Racial Disparities Found to Persist as Drug Arrests Rise,”” New York Times, May 6, 2008), a significant cause of racial tension. Economic disparities too, appear to occurr along the racial line. Cities usually vote Democrat and are incidentally dominated by poverty, and many of those who live in poverty typically represent ethnic minorities. The election of Obama, therefore, may be a sad representation that, rather than overcoming any racial divide, America’s young, poor and ethnic population is growing.

Perhaps in the future, as these divisions are greater realised, it will not be unusual for a person to ask, “”Did you go to the blue or red United States?”” Yet, if Americans want to maintain the sovereignty of which they are so proud — since telling my British ancestors where to stick it — then they should find a common ground.

If you want to do yourself proud, America, do something as simple and American as having a friendly discussion. You must take heed from your own history. One can divide the United States across the countless social, economic and racial lines that have separated it in the past. The election of Obama and the breaking of these lines represent a great potential hope for American future. Reunite yourselves, and you will achieve more than you can imagine. But if you continue to despise your national opposition, well, we all know what happened last time there was such a significant divide.

— Jan Flisek-Boyle is an English exchange student. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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