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Division Bell: An American Problem

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In America today, we have many different issues gripping the country. At the surface, they seem unconnected and to have no common theme, yet this is untrue. In all that is happening, there are only two sides to the story, with any middle ground solutions being ignored.

Teens and adults alike seem to be exhibiting this phenomenon, with some people directly quoting news pundits with a history of being biased. Now, it may seem odd to some people to quote a biased talking head, however, information and facts have become increasingly mired in political rhetoric. We can see the effects of this in a recent PEW study, which shows that political affiliation has overtaken career, family, and even religion in importance to American families. The amount of people who say that either they or their child marrying someone from the other political party would upset them has dramatically increased since 2012. This may seem like an unimportant detail to some, but what it says is that people want their children to be instilled with political values that exclusively reflect their own, and they want their children to pass it on to their own progeny. Why? Because in American, policy has not only become ethnicity, but in the minds of the people the ‘other side’ of politics has become inherently evil and a threat to our way of life.

First, it is important to consider that these things are not a product of the neo-conservative and neo-liberal ideologies themselves, but rather it is a blend of factors, the largest being sensationalized political coverage in political analysis, by both cable news and online news sites (i.e. Huffington Post, Breitbart, Fox News, and MSNBC). For this piece, I red two articles, one from Breitbart, the other from the Huffington Post, serve as an example for what the two narratives currently gripping the American conscious actually are. In the comments sections of these biased articles, one from the shown article from Breitbart and the other from BuzzFeed (Huffington Post doesn’t have comments sections.) had people on the right generally focusing on the argument that leftists and the parents of leftist teens were ‘bought’, ‘communists’ and ‘degenerates’, and a slew of more colorful terms I’m not allowed to quote for this publication.

On the BuzzFeed article there were very similar terms used: ‘racist’, ‘nazis’, and ‘megalomaniacs’, along with more colorful language. This strategy isn’t surprising, as in recent years more entertaining, sensational media has been more profitable that balanced news outlets. However, whether intentional or not, the danger lies in the fact people take these stories word for word and truly believe that their fellow Americans are plotting to ruin the country and bring harm to innocents, yet news media isn’t the only factor in this situation.

The second factor in the polarizing of America is foreign interference, namely, Russian information warfare. Russia is the world leader in cyberwarfare, able to target digital infrastructure of an opponent and able to influence foreign nations and place them in an unstable environment of their own making. Utilizing a very ingenious plan of using paid social media ‘trolls’ while at the same time employing state owned news outlets such as Russia Today (RT) to spread false information, with the main priority being division, and the second priority being to influence American voting patterns. This is an investment in a sort of perpetual degeneration of trust in America, that we, as Americans, will begin to see each other as enemies, and it seems to be paying off, as radical elements have grown in America since the onset of the Russian influence campaign.

Now, onto the meat of the issue, the actual polarization itself is divided along two lines, location, and age. Most of the problem has to do with location, urban culture, across all racial divides, has changed in the seemingly opposite way that rural culture has developed. With the onset of the Internet, increased safety, and higher living costs, people who live in cities are more likely to lean towards a Social Democrat or Socialist ideology. This means being in favor of gun control, as guns aren’t really necessary in the city, along with government funded programs as a way to offset the already high living costs. On the contrary, the rural culture of America hasn’t changed as much, they also support some government funded programs to offset low wages and unemployment. Yet people in rural areas are much more likely to support gun rights. Also, the lack of Internet and rebelliousness from these areas makes for a much more traditionalist culture, meaning that programs such as Affirmative Action, are seen as meaningless and even racist. There’s also immigration, cities are diverse places, which means people there are used to new faces and new experiences. In a rural environment, the opposite is the case; there is an exclusivity that has been bred into the generations. It would be difficult for some of these communities to welcome other Americans, much less immigrants.

The other big factor in cultural difference is what generation you’re from. People from Generation X and Millennials tend to be more liberal, whereas Baby Boomers and Generation Z (or iGen) are more conservative, with the Baby Boomers becoming more populist, while Generation Z are Nationalist Libertarians. However, the generation coming to power is currently the Millennials, and they’re liberal and dissatisfied, and this has, of course, further decayed the relations between different Americans. These differences are the hardest to pick apart, as we don’t really know how different the political scene and Conservatism in general will change with the rise of GenZ.

All in all, Americans are becoming more divided, and the present and future conflicts in place tell us that this trend won’t be going away anytime soon. Most likely artificial division will continue as media becomes more biased and Russia increases its active measures against Western nations. It is almost certain that nothing can be done about the dialectical conflicts between region and generation in America. We are headed down a path that will not reverse itself, though it would be best for us to be understanding rather than organically responding to opposition. We aren’t slaves to the trend of division, and should work hard to break from the mold.

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