It’s been a month of terrible news and political developments, not the least of which were the SCOTUS decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the passage of extreme abortion restrictions in Texas, and the awful acquittals of George Zimmerman in Florida (who pursued a Black teenager and shot him, killing him) and Ezekiel Gilbert in Texas (who shot and killed a sex worker after she refused to have sex with him). All of this comes on the heels of the Steubenville trial, in which members of an Ohio football team gang-raped a young woman at a party and were convicted as juveniles, meaning they’ll be free after only a few years of light detention. It comes after three years of struggle against conservative forces pushing back gains made by workers unions in the Midwest, after a series of voting restriction laws in more than 20 states, and after a half-dozen high-profile mass shootings around the country—including one that targeted 6-year-olds—that have garnered no new restrictions on gun ownership or registration. To say that America is reeling on its collective heels is something of an understatement.
If we only pay attention to major media outlets, the narrative tells us that there is a huge polarization in the United States today, with warring factions at the extremes waging their battles through reductive and incendiary rhetoric about dead babies, massive government databases, corrupt politicians, gluttonous oligarchs, lazy poor people, insane terrorists, and tone-deaf state employees. It’s almost as if a badly written Hollywood screen play had taken over the nation. In truth, most Americans—according to places like Pew—are centrists, not pushing strenuously one way or the other for a progressive or conservative agenda. But this has occurred at the same time that people aligned with a political party have become more loyal to those parties and their stated values.
Let’s take a step back, and reassess America the Melting Pot. How has a nation of immigrants, one so presumed to be representative of a great diversity of people, values, and opinions, become so dichotomized politically? If that’s what’s actually happened, that is.