If we look at the issue of political divisiveness in the United States with the idea in mind that all politics are local, Mike Gates is probably correct in his assessment that the issue is ignorance and people who are too aware of their own opinions. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor might agree. Gates is a city council member in the small community of West Linn, Oregon, who did not run for re-election because of what he views as a a growing divide within his own community (2008).
His reason, he said, is simple. “There are just too many people engaging in pure political fantasy.
They have accumulated to a point where no one could possibly respond to all the nonsense,” (Gates 2008). In the West Linn case, the issue is one of the government’s ability to provide all the desired services that the city residents are demanding and how exactly the government should fund these services (2008). On a larger scale, this is the same debate that faces the nation as a whole.
Many people believe that the United States government should solve all the country’s ills, from global warming and poor economy to the lack of health care.
Those who believe that it is the government’s responsibility to assure that all men remain equal and therefore have exactly the same things also believe that to make sure everyone has their needs met, we should take from the rich and give to the poor. On the extreme other side of the coin, we have Americans who believe that a person should take individual responsibility for their own needs and not rely on the government. These people oppose higher taxes to pay for anything. It is a fundamental difference of opinion that has lead to a deeply divided country.
This is the divide Gates observes within his community. The people want West Linn to provide more services, but do not want higher property taxes to pay for those services. Complicating the issue is the question of religious freedom versus freedom from religion, as observed by former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor. In a case regarding the inclusion of the word God in the Pledge of Allegiance, O’Connor “asked whether the school’s pledge policy “sends a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community.
And, in concluding that it does not, O’Connor emphasized that the pledge “has been employed pervasively without engendering significant controversy” and “caused no political divisiveness prior to the filing of this lawsuit. ” (Garnett 2004). The Supreme Court justice tried to argue that a middle of the road approach, where those who disagreed with something simply chose not to participate, was appropriate. Unfortunately, this moderate approach was rejected by people on both sides of the issue.
Instead of being happy with a compromise solution, it seems that people are more insistent on getting things their way. “More and more, our law seems suspicious of those divisions that our Constitution actually protects–that is, the divisions that result when free people contend over difficult questions that matter–yet indifferent to the harm done to religious freedom by demands for the privatization of faith and its segregation from civic life” (Garnett 2004).
In this case, the author argued that removing God from the pledge was an imposition on the rights of the religious and the case had clearly claimed that the pledge’s use of “God” was an imposition on the rights of those with other or non-existent religious beliefs. Garnett and others seem more than willing to argue that the middle ground is not sufficient. All sides of an argument now claim moral superiority and believe that they must be given their way. This unfortunately contributes to a devisiveness from which the country cannot hope to recover.