America, Let’s Stay Together. Even if It’s Just for the Kids.
Let people in different states make different choices about their values and how they’d like to be governed. Then stop being so concerned about what people elsewhere are doing.
America is coming apart at the seams. Senators are being hounded in bathrooms and airports by the left for pumping the brakes on progressive spending bills. Meanwhile, parents and kids are being harassed by people on the right for wearing masks. It seems like the only thing we can all agree on these days is that there are now two Americas. The logical conclusion, according to some, is to call it quits. To split up. To move out.
According to a recent poll conducted by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and Project Home Fire, “4 in 10 (41%) of Biden and half (52%) of Trump voters at least somewhat agree that it’s time to split the country, favoring blue/red states seceding from the union.”
A “national divorce,” an idea that has a certain appeal to moderns who have grown accustomed to such temporary arrangements, is appealing to almost anyone who has given up on the American experiment. And unlike a bloody civil war (too messy and violent), conscious uncoupling somehow sounds more civilized and sensible—but it’s still a bad idea that can’t and won’t work.
As conservative Rich Lowry noted, “Russia and China would be delighted and presumably believe that we’d deserve to experience the equivalent of the crackup of the Soviet Union or the Qing dynasty, respectively.”
There’s also the practical problem of who gets what in a divorce. Even in the TV sitcom trope where a house gets divided in half using masking tape, problems immediately arise: Who gets the kitchen? Who gets the bathroom? Who gets what was a big sticking point in our last civil war (see Fort Sumter), but modern America would be even harder to divide.
That’s not to say we don’t have huge problems that are dividing us—albeit across cultural, not Mason-Dixon, lines. As Jim Antle notes, the right and left face “profound disagreements over values and basic facts about the nation’s history, religion, the nature of biological sex, even the winner of last year’s presidential election.”
Breaking up is hard to do. And, in our case, it’s stupid. So let’s stay together. Even if it’s just for the kids. But how can we do that?
The first step is trying. According to Harvard Professor Arthur Brooks, “there is no evidence that, in a marriage, anger is correlated with separation or divorce.” Rather, citing social psychologist and relationship expert John M. Gottman’s studies of thousands of married couples, he says the “biggest warning signs for divorce are indicators of contempt. These include sarcasm, sneering, hostile humor, and—worst of all—eye-rolling.” Brooks believes these principles of marriage and divorce actually also apply to nations. “Just as contempt ruins a marriage,” he warns, “it can tear a country apart.”
I think it’s safe to say that there’s a lot of eye-rolling going on in America today. This contempt is stoked by Twitter and cable news—relatively modern technological innovations (in case you’re wondering why this is all coming to a head now). However, we can individually commit to building relationships, filtering out toxic information, and refusing to hate our fellow Americans—despite our profound disagreements.
As with many things in life, this is easier said than done. It requires a change of heart. We could also benefit from adopting a “live and let live” mentality. This was easier in the old days, when you would never hear about someone conducting a “Drag Queen Story Hour” three thousand miles away from you, much less care what the folks in San Francisco do for fun.
This brings us a conservative governing philosophy that could help us all get along and mind our own business: federalism. That’s right, the idea that the federal government should have a broad but limited role in our lives, while states and localities should oversee our day-to-day existence. It would allow for healthy boundaries to be enforced and yet provide adequate space to head off heated arguments. The equivalent of a man cave/she shed for America.
If people in, say Texas, want to live by a different state of rules and be governed differently than those in California, let them. Removing the locus of power from Washington could deescalate our differences by changing the paradigm from a winner-take-all model to one that lowers the stakes and allows for a patchwork of diverse decisions.
Absent a utopian society where we all agree on everything, we can at least agree to disagree in a civil manner. And fostering an environment where people are free to live their values without constantly being shamed or coerced, would go a long way toward making sure we can at least peacefully coexist in the same union.
Divorce is stupid. Instead of that, let’s give each other some courtesy, grace, and breathing room. Let’s quit worrying so much about everyone doing what we want them to do. Let’s find a way to get along. In the long run, it will be easier, cheaper, and a lot less messy.