With all this talk about race in the news lately, America seems to be–and perhaps it has always been–one of the most polarizing countries in the world where nobody agrees on anything, except perhaps, the fact that nobody agrees on anything.
Is murder, for example, right or wrong? In America, it depends. I would be able to answer you question if you could kindly give me some more information on who pulled the trigger and who took the bullet?
In American media, we are presented with these situations left and right, morning and evening.
Given a scenario with a blank slate, like murder and its circumstances, people will readily come to one uniform conclusion: that was horrible, just intolerable and inhumane.
But when race is mixed into the picture, the conclusions will drastically differ.
Should a man choke another man to death for absolutely no reason in broad daylight? Or shoot a man in the back multiple times just for running away?
Certainly not. That is murder, if not in the second degree, at least a homicide.
Unless of course, we introduce race into the story. Then we create all kinds of narratives of self-defense and fear for ones life. Murder is no longer murder, only murder if the killer is one race and the victim is another.
If a train is going 100 miles per hour when the speed limit is 50 miles per hour, the unanimous conclusion will be that the driver was overspeeding, meanwhile endangering hundreds with his reckless behavior.
But when the identity of the driver is introduced, that story changes: was something wrong with the train? Maybe a projectile hit it before the crash. Someone could have heaved rocks at the train to propel it to such a dangerous speed. Maybe it was a mechanical failure.
We can imagine that if the driver of the train was of a different race or gender, the conversation in American popular media would take a different course.
That driver has a history of breaking laws and should be arrested. We shouldn’t have trusted the driver with passengers. How come the company didn’t conduct a more thorough background check?
Or the conversation might sway down another path.
There aren’t many female drivers of trains. Most women don’t major in engineering in college. We are unsure whether she is qualified to drive the train. How could she have slipped through the cracks to become a driver unbeknownst to the company?
The same conclusions can be drawn in sports, conclusions that say America is polarized and growing tails in opposite directions.
At the root of it all, we all agree that cheating is deplorable.
Cheaters never prosper, the adage goes. There should be an even playing field. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
But when the race of the cheaters is revealed, the response is different.
There’s no room for cheating in this sport. They should be suspended from the sport indefinitely. They should be stripped of their titles, effective immediately. We are sending the wrong message if we allow this act to go unpunished.
Or conversely: everybody finds ways to gain a competitive advantage. It’s called gaming the system. You can’t find one team that doesn’t live at the edge of the rules. It’s not that serious. They’re still great regardless of this one harmless incident. Those guys are just better at gaming the system than everyone else.
Besides law and sports, America’s polarization also creeps into politics.
Should government employees send government information through private emails? The immediate response: No, definitely not. That information is confidential. Are they some kind of idiot?
But after the identify of the offender comes to the forefront… Come on, those emails? They’re completely harmless. There’s nothing scandalous about this. Keep moving, folks, nothing to see here.
Finding common ground in America, while difficult to achieve by virtue of there being a variety of people from different backgrounds residing in crowded spaces, becomes virtually impossible if we cannot agree on real issues where there should be little disagreement.
With issues like murder and cheating, the line is usually not so blurry; our tribal passions only make it so.
It can be hard to agree on anything if we are always searching for one’s affiliation to tell the story for us. But that is where America finds itself today in 2015.
Perhaps this is where it has always been.
So what is to come of a nation and its people where there is no common ground, where people who live side by side will disagree on murder and cheating, on paper or plastic, on coffee or tea, so long as it brings discomfort and pain to his neighbor?