The “Divided” States of America

“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:”  (Matthew 12:25)

The word’s above, spoken by Jesus, came to mind when reading the opening line to the latest article at the National Journal: Red, Divided and Blue Fly This Independence Day

It seems entirely revealing, if dispiriting, that the days before the July Fourth holiday showed Red America and Blue America pulling apart at an accelerating rate.

It also brought to mind Abraham Lincoln’s famous House Divided Speech given in Springfield, Illinois on June 16, 1858,

On June 16, 1858, more than 1,000 Republican delegates met in the Springfield, Illinois, statehouse for the Republican State Convention. At 5:00 p.m. they chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. At 8:00 p.m. Lincoln delivered this address to his Republican colleagues in the Hall of Representatives. The title reflects part of the speech’s introduction, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” a concept familiar to Lincoln’s audience as a statement by Jesus recorded in all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke).

“Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention.

If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.

In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other”

Unlike Lincoln’s statement concerning slavery and the United States, “It will become all one thing or all the other”, I don’t see that happening concerning the division we see today in America, for it’s not just one issue which divides this Nation.

Just a thought… 


5 comments on “The “Divided” States of America

  1. There is no red America or blue America. There is only dark America.

  2. I am just now watching a fascinating documentary on prohibition. It is just amazing how the prohibition saga parallels much of what is going on now in our country. If anything, that is a period in our history when conservative Christians were engaged in intensive political activism in a similar way in which they are engaged in anti-abortion and anti-gay rights issues today. One of the reasons historically why prohibition failed miserably was that the same Christian constituency that wanted prohibition enforced relentlessly also was simultaneously demanding that government “get out of peoples lives”. Thus they were terrified of providing the government the resources to even begin to enforce their pro-morality agenda. I really marvel at how we are witnessing the very same conundrum today as to the evangelical agenda. The whole thing is just so dysfunctional. It really doesn’t seem to matter to these people that they refuse to give government the police power to actually enforce the laws that they are passing. If anything, that is the silver lining in that it will eventually lead this movement to its demise. The terribly tragic part is the end result which is an exponential increase in corruption which results from such dysfunctionality in government. All of this is working together to destroy the work of God rather than build it up and that is, of course, the most tragic thing of all.

    • George if you watched the same one i did at PBS a few months ago, titled Prohibition and directed by Ken Burns, a big amen….it WAS fascinating to see the parallels. Comparing then to today, it is like watching history repeat itself. Amazingly, even as far as the immigration issues both then and today. Did you get that far into the series?

      In an interview about his documentary Burns was asked “Did you discover any striking parallels between the social and political climate of the Prohibition era and that of today?”

      Ken Burns: I think the whole group of people feeling like they’d lost control of their country. The small-town Americans wanting to take it back. This was always going to be prohibition for someone else. Our opening quote from Mark Twain is so instructive—“Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.” That speaks to something today as we see groups of people who think they’ve got to go back to a simpler time in America, which never existed. You see it in the lack of civil discourse, something we complain about today—that broke down completely then. People talked at each other and over each other and not with each other. The righteousness of it all—the self-righteousness of it all. The fact that people were absolutely certain they were right. They wouldn’t compromise. That kind of absolute certainty we see in our politics all the time.

      and “So what would you say was Prohibition’s most significant and/or lasting cultural impact on America?”

      Ken Burns: Definitely organized crime. We wouldn’t have organized crime in this country had we not experimented with what was called the “Noble Experiment,” aka Prohibition. There’s nothing noble about that unintended consequence. Female alcoholism, which was a relatively negligible social phenomenon, also became huge. Woman never drank in the saloons and then they drank freely in the speakeasies. Suddenly women entered the drinking culture in a way that only men and prostitutes had before. There was some female alcoholism in the “mother’s little helpers” in the 19th century—vegetable compounds with significant alcohol content that women would take. Women only in the highest upper class might have a glass of wine for dinner, but it was not a social problem, but that’s what we got. I think what we got positively was a democracy that worked. It worked in this way: that many, many people for real and legitimate and sincere reasons felt that alcohol was an evil and got rid of it. When Americans woke up and saw that [Prohibition] wasn’t working and had only made matters worse, they got rid of it even faster. And more importantly, this is a cautionary tale. That every time you think there is some magic-bullet amendment that’s going to fix everything—and you see that in the current political cycle (“Oh, if only you’d passed the blanket-y-blank amendment”)—everything would be all right. And what we know from Prohibition is that it doesn’t work.

    • Yes indeed, same series. It is now running on Netflix. I have seen most of Parts 1 and 2. I plan to watch Part 3 soon.

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