Tag Archives: divisiveness

COVID-19: We Could Have Done Better. Why Didn’t We?

We could have done better. COVID-19 might have been a uniter, bringing Americans together to deal with a common threat and to preserve a shared interest. We could have done what America has done before in the face of such threats: put aside what divides us and work together for the common good.

But COVID-19 has not be a uniter. Or rather, we have not been uniters. We have retreated from each other into our political, racial, and religious corners, like prize fighters, impatient for the next round so that we can deliver our jabs or maybe even a knockout punch.

Writers and social commentators are calling 2020 “The Year of COVID” and “The Year of the Coronavirus,” but this is a misnomer. 2020 was “The Year of Division.” The coronavirus merely alerted us to how deep our divisions are.

Before the coronavirus, the division between the races, always painfully present, was front and center. The division between the sexes was also highlighted by the Me-Too movement and the trial of Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men. The division between the wealthy and the poor became glaring in the light of growing income inequality.

The divisions have further divided us. Somehow Black Lives Matter turned into an argument about the value of Blue Lives. The pain and humiliation suffered by the sexually harassed led to the defamation of victims. Instead of raising concern, the income inequality numbers became a sword in the hands of political swashbucklers. COVID didn’t divide us. We were already divided.
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Choose a Side That Does Not Divide Us

I feel like I am in a Doctor Seuss story – like we are all in a Doctor Seuss story – a story I know. My kids and grandkids know it too: The Sneetches.

In The Sneetches, Dr. Seuss presents a race of furry yellow, long-necked, narrow-footed creatures that are nearly identical to each other in appearance. The only difference among them is that some have a star shape on their bellies while others do not. By the third paragraph, we understand that the starred sneetches feel disdain for their plain-bellied cousins.

Into the story comes the ethically challenged grifter Sylvester McMonkey McBean. He sees an opportunity to use the sneetches’ self-righteous contempt for one another to his advantage. He builds a machine that can change a sneetch so that it looks like every other sneetch.

A sneetch, at a cost to itself, goes into the machine and comes out looking just like other sneetches. The grifter, of course, cares nothing for the sneetches, only for their money. He reshapes them for his sake, not for theirs.

Sylvester has reappeared. This time around, he has created a propaganda machine that imprints ideas rather than stars. All day long, people go into the machine – that is, into network, print, and social media – where they are made to look like every other person who accessed the machine through the same entrance. Continue reading

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