Thursday, June 2, 2016

Our Country Divided

Due to my recent obsession of all things America Civil War, I am learning more about it than I ever knew. However, the parts I am trying to learn the most, which are the toughest, are what it must have been like to live in a divided nation. A nation divided by imaginary borders, starkly different ideals, and opposing thoughts of how the country should be run. I wanted to understand why southerns and northerns hated each other so much. I couldn't understand what it felt like. Then I realized I could.

We are living in a country divided today. Only this time, borders aren't so clear. We are all living among each other. I'm talking of course about this year's presidential campaign.  I know multiple party system is a wonderful component of democracy, but the polarizing opposite ends of the spectrum present today really make me feel like I'm living in Civil War era United States. 

Why they hated each other so much
When European settlers first began coming to this continent different types of people began occupying different spots along the eastern coast. As those generations progressed and entering the 19th century, people occupying the northern states were descendants from the original Puritan colonists in Massachusetts. Their communities were modeled on small, conservative, egalitarian towns of New England, where life centered on the church and all important decisions were made by popular vote at town meetings.  People of the south were descendants of the more relaxed, less morally uptight English colonists who'd settled places like Virginia and North Carolina. Part of the reason they were so relaxed is because slaves were doing all the work. Though they were all living in the same country, travel between states wasn't as easy as it is today. I assume a lot of relations remained localized, so living in individual states and regions really felt like living in your own unique country. Northern states feared the expansion of slavery as new states were joining the Union. Southern states feared government would abolish slavery altogether. With polarizing opposites, it was becoming clear one government may not suffice for all. Upon the election of Abraham Lincoln southern states realized their way of life was about to be threatened. So much so that in 1861, 13 southern states began a snowball effect of succession from the Union, wanting to form their own free nation, one that would freely allow them to do the things they wanted. The briefly lived Confederate States of America, were fighting for their ideals and their homeland, and they were willing to risk life and limb to get it. The nation was still rather young, volatile, and susceptible to splintering.

Today's state of affairs 
Today I see similar opposing views going on. With institutional slavery long since abolished, we still are living off some of its adverse effects.  Rights states fought to keep can make us differ from our neighboring regions. Now instead of calling ourselves Yankees and Rebels, we call ourselves Democrats and Republicans. Except we are living next door to the other side. Working in the same office. Or even living as members of the same family. As the Republican Party wants to move this nation away from big government and social programs, Democrats want to keep us where we are at or bring us closer to a place of equality for every man, woman, and child. Republicans want to see greater tax breaks for the wealthy, privatization of-well everything- and more alienation and isolation of our nation to the greater globe. Democrats want to make decent health care and a good education a basic human right for all and shrink the wage gap. I guess it depends on who you are, where you came from, and what you want out of life. In my short life of 30 years, I haven't got a lot of anecdotal experience to work with. I know politics have continuously divided this country, but from what I hear, the division is sharp as ever.

*Photo credit