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Is America More Divided Than It Used To Be?



              Last night I started reading The Divider, Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s book about Trump and it took me only to the sixth paragraph to hit this sentence: “America on the eve of his [Trump’s] ascendance was more fractured than at any other time in generations.”

              The entire book then becomes an explanation of how Trump tried to exploit those divisions for his own ends, culminating in the attack on the Capitol on January 6th.

              I have been hearing and reading for the last seven or eight years about how this country has never been so divided. I get this now-unquestioned narrative from both sides, and I really can’t figure out what it means.

              And I can’t figure out the so-called divisions of this country because as far as I’m concerned, they don’t exist except in the minds and editorializing activities of the Fake News.

              Let’ start with race. Know when this country was really divided over race? When blacks were lynched in the South on a regular basis, and nobody gave a good goddamn.

              Know when the country was divided over gender? When The New York Times had separate classified ads for men and women to make sure that no woman ever applied for a man’s job.

              Know when the United States was divided over religion? When my 5th-grade teacher told me I had to leave the classroom and stand out in the hall because I wouldn’t bow my head while she read a passage from the New Testament every morning.

              And by the way, I was a student in the very first public school integrated after Brown v. Board of Education – West Elementary School in Washington, D.C. – because until 1954 the D.C. schools were segregated which meant we had an educational system in the Nation’s Capital completely divided along racial lines. Not in Mississippi or Alabama – in fucking Washington, D.C.

              When I was 10 years old, this was 1954, we drove for the first time on the New Jersey Turnpike which had opened in 1951 except the section which ran to the northern end of New Jersey wasn’t completed until 1953 or 1954.

              Anyway, we drove over the Delaware Memorial Bridge at the southern end of the highway which let us out on Federal Route 40, and stopped at the first roadside snack bar so that my father could take a piss.

              Below the counter where you could order a hot dog and a drink was a sign which read – ‘Colored out back’ with a black face and an arrow pointing around to the rear of the place just in case someone who was black couldn’t read.

              I remember looking at that sign as if it were yesterday. Except it wasn’t yesterday. It was 70 years ago which also happened to be 15 years or so before Peter Baker or Susan Glasser were born.

              One more brief episode about how ‘divided’ this country has become.

              In 1997 my wife and I spent four days at the Hilton Head Inn in Hilton Head, SC, where my wife attended a medical conference, and I played golf. The second night we decided to eat in the hotel’s dining room and were seated next to a party of three – a young, married couple and somebody’s mother.

              We were served politely and nicely by two young women. The two hostesses were just as friendly and polite to the young man, his wife and someone’s mother at the next table.

              We were white, the two servers were white, the party of three were black.

              This was South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union in 1860 and where the first shot was fired in that war the following year. I lived in South Carolina from 1976 to 1980, and if you went down to Hilton Head in those days, the only black faces you ever saw in the dining room of the Hilton Head Inn were the blacks who came into the room after all the white diners left to mop the floor.

              Don’t get me wrong. Of course, there are social, economic, and cultural divisions which, if nothing else, reflecs how remarkably diverse the country has become, a diversity which continues to become greater no matter how Trump and his shitass friends try to keep every non-white out of the United States.

              But there’s really no reason to assume that the diversity which has characterized the American population over the last two generations won’t continue or even become more evident over the next sixty years.

              Should we go out for lunch at the Chinese or the Mexican joint?

             

             

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