Jeffrey S. Stephens: America and the Great Divide

Charles Barkley—one of the greatest basketball players of all time and certainly one of the most engaging sports commentators of this era—was recently quoted as follows:

“I think most White people and Black people are great people. I believe that in my heart. The system is set up where our politicians, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, are designed to make us not like each other so they can keep their grasp of money and power.” He then added that they, “divide and conquer.”

Who could possibly have said it better, except perhaps by giving honorable mention to the mainstream media for being complicit in fueling the current strife in our country?

When we take the opportunity to listen to most of our fellow Americans, we inevitably discover that our differences are not that great. Some of us are wealthier than others, better educated than others or possess privileges other citizens do not have. But in the final analysis, are we not all part of the same country? Do we not all search for love, recognition, friendship and a sense of accomplishment? Are we not all going through this pandemic together, facing the same deadly virus regardless of our skin color, ethnic background, religion and so on?

What, then, is causing this Great Divide? Mr. Barkley believes our politicians promote the discord as a means of hanging onto their power and wealth. That is a very reasonable argument, especially when we take a close look at some of these leaders. Ask yourself, how long have they been in office, how much have they truly accomplished for us, and then wonder at the assets they have accumulated along the way. How is Bernie Sanders a multimillionaire if all he has ever done was serve the public on a fixed salary? Joe Biden has spent the best part of five decades in Congress and now the White House, how did he accumulate all of the money he has, not to mention three homes? Have you seen Maxine Waters’ estate in California? Or Nancy Pelosi’s ice cream-filled refrigerators?

I do not suggest the issue is limited to the Democrat Party, I just chose these as glaring examples of what happens when so-called public service turns into a cash and power grab. All of which would not be so bad—and I believe Mr. Barkley would agree with me about this—if we at least saw more evidence that these people in both parties were working for the greater good, rather than their own accounts.

It was not always this way, and we do not have to look that far back to find more reasonable times in our history. Ronald Reagan was a hard-core conservative Republican, while Tip O’Neill was an old school liberal Democrat from Massachusetts. When Reagan was President and O’Neill was Speaker of the House, they had obvious philosophical differences about how our country should be run. But they did not try to tear the electorate apart to make their points. Quite the contrary, they were famous for meeting after hours for cocktails, jokes, and polite discussions about how they could work together to make this a better country. Do we see any of that now? Has Biden invited any Republicans to the White House since he has taken office? Did Trump and Pelosi find a way to bring the country together?

At his inauguration, John Kennedy famously asked us to look at what we could do for our country, and inspired a generation. He told us to dream big, telling us that we would put a man on the moon by the end of that decade. Tragically, he did not live to see that accomplishment, but as we all know, the dream came true.

George W. Bush became president in one of the most closely divided elections in our history. He was mocked and reviled by the press and despised by a large portion of our country. But when we were viciously attacked on 9/11 he called for the country to come together, and we did.

Now is the time for each of us to ask, How am I going to help to bridge this great divide? A divide that exists between conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, Blacks and Whites, and others. We are getting very little help from our leaders, especially those in Washington. The mainstream media continues to stoke the flames of dissension because that is what sells. It is therefore apparent that we need to work on this ourselves. We need to come together to heal the wounds that are keeping us apart

Until a leader emerges who can make a real difference, who can close the gap and make us all feel proud of being Americans again, it will be up to each of us to do what we can to achieve those goals. Do something nice for your neighbor, a co-worker, even a stranger. It will not take much to get a groundswell of togetherness started.

We can only hope this sort of positive change will come sooner rather than later, and that it will not take a national catastrophe for us to join hands and remember the golden rule.

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Jeffrey S. Stephens

Jeffrey S. Stephens lives in Greenwich, Connecticut. He is also the author of the Jordan Sandor espionage thrillers, beginning with Targets of Deception and, most recently, Rogue Mission. Crimes and Passion is the first in a planned series featuring Lieutenant Robbie Whyte.

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