Yesterday, for reasons long, complicated and not entirely rational, I found myself wondering how America went from a generally united nation of respectful neighbors to being as sharply divided as it is today. We are a nation divided religiously, politically, culturally. And so we have always been. There have always been Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. There have always been conservatives and liberals. There have always been Irish, Italian, Hispanic, Asian, and Slavic. So why does our nation seem more divided than ever? Why are disagreements so heated and disrespectful? Why are religions sacrilidged? Why are groups despised? Certainly there have always been prejudices, but something much bigger than that has divided a country so fiercely that to disagree can result in public persecution and condemnation.
A while ago, on the Disney Channel, a special My Friends Tigger and Pooh aired. It was a one hour musical special that we DVRed. Being exhausted this morning, I put it on for the girls to watch. It begins with everyone in the Hundred Acre Wood getting together for a picnic at which they sing about how they are all “one big happy family.” Rabbit had done such a wonderfully thorough job preparing and organizing for the picnic that the group decides to make him Mayor of the Hundred Arce Wood. Rabbit then proceeds to place all sorts of rules and regulations on anything and everything from when Piglet should wash his dishes to when and how often Tigger can bounce. Needless to say, this leads to much unhappiness and frustration. Rabbit tells Tigger that he can be Mayor of his half of the Hundred Acre Wood and they proceed to draw a line dividing the wood in half. Poor Piglet, whose house is literally divided in half by the line, is forbidden by Rabbit’s rules from moving his honey from one side of his house to the other where Pooh could have some. Eeyore cannot cross the line to eat any thistles. Roo and Lumpy cannot play together. What was “one big happy family” has become a wood divided, separated, and frustrated. Needless to say, each half of the wood’s next picnic is not very cheerful. So where am I heading with this?
Government. Regulation. And overuse and abuse of both. Certainly over-regulation by Rabbit causes nothing but misery throughout the Hundred Acre Wood, but I began to wonder how much of our national misery could be caused by the same thing. Government in our nation is bigger and nosier than ever before in our history. Our government tries to regulate more now than it ever has before in history and demands the taxes to do it and wastes just as much money and resources in the process. But here is the thing about government – it eliminates respectful disagreements between people through forced regulation. How can anyone respectfully disagree or discuss or even be neighborly when the government interceeds forcing the preferences of one group upon another? How can anyone who has the preferences of another forced upon them be expected to be a neighbor to those who hold the enforced preferences? The governmental force divides them and puts up an impossible barrier of resentment and difference.
Why does everything nowadays seem to be pushed onto the platform of being an issue for national government regulation or enforcement? When did Americans become incapable of discussing and deciding things for themselves? Who decided that government was the all-knowing parent to decide disputes and treat her citizens like children? In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little Town on the Prairie, she reflects that Americans only have to obey their own consciences and have no earthly king. What can we do to remove the government as the god of our nation and put back the God of the consciences of her people? Is it possible? Or have too many people fallen into the terrible easy mindframe that it is better to have a government that so few seem to approve of regulating nearly everything? Is it just easier to not think and let the government destroy our humanity than to step up to the responsibility of governing ourselves? Do too many Americans prefer to remain children forever?
I’m afraid my pregnant brain is going to end there. Any one else’s thoughts?