A nation bitterly divided stood by on Jan. 20 as Joe Biden was sworn in as the next president of the United States. And while the pageantry was typical of the aura of what is usually a day of renewal, it occurred under the watchful eye of more than 20,000 National Guard soldiers.
Few of us now need to wonder why so many Guardsmen were on hand. Security at the inauguration was at an all-time high because of the riot that erupted a few weeks ago and ignited a mob that overran the U.S. Capitol.
Division is nothing new to America’s brand of politics, but recent events show the discord is deepening and swallowing up the logical and pragmatic element to our national nature. Pick any political subject and there is an almost instant national dissonance. The battle lines are quickly drawn and everyone — it seems — comes down on one side or the other.
There is no longer an adult politician or pundit in the American political room. No Sam Rayburn to work quietly in the background to make deals that helped not just Republicans or Democrats, but all Americans.
Instead, we’ve somehow all been shanghaied onto a fast-moving train of half-truths, distortions and conspiracy theories. We don’t, on the national level, work to find a compromise. We work to smash the enemy. And the enemy is the other political party.
We can bemoan the fact that our national soul is in the process of being abducted, but in the end it is up to all of us to try to change the trajectory of what has become a red-hot cannonball slicing through the night sky. That will, in the end, be the real challenge. Because Americans have been fed — for more than 30 years — a diet of fear, dogma and dissension by on-air personalities of both parties.
The national news splashed across our television screens at night in no way resembles what we all saw 30 or 40 years ago. Pundits, not newsmen and women, have the microphone now, and they use their platforms not to unite but to divide. At the end of it all is the voter. He or she is bombarded daily with slanted information that leads to more misinformation and, eventually, to a mob.
As an editor of a small-town newspaper I don’t profess to have all the answers. Heck, I don’t even profess to have half the answers. All I know is that I am increasingly troubled by the path this great nation is on.
Only voters — you and I — can fix this developing division. Not through shouts and slogans, not through the peddling of falsehoods, but by finding a common ground and working forward. We all know the problem. There is no secret to our discontent. Yet, we must look not toward blame, but to finding a solution.