The House Divided Speech was an address given by Abraham Lincoln, later President of the United States, on June 16, 1858, at what was then the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, after he had accepted the Illinois Republican Party’s nomination as that state’s US senator.
“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. “Lincoln said.
I agree that, as Jesus said nearly 2000 years ago, and paraphrased by Lincoln, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Further, I agree that “I believe this government cannot endure, permanently…” but in these early days 2021, I am not referring to the institution of slavery, as was Lincoln. I am referring to our country in its present partisan incarnation, Red against Blue, Social Conservative against Liberals. Such Divisions make our nation weak, the weakest that it has been since 1861.
Back in late October, I surveyed a large group of individuals from this area hoping to attempt an understanding of why there is no middle ground in terms of support for Donald Trump and his presidency. People either love him or despise him. Unlike past presidents, we do not seem to look at his policies and pick and choose items with which we agree. It is all or nothing. The survey of 10 questions did not lead to understanding. Instead, the survey led down a rabbit hole as I researched each claim to Trump’s perceived successes or failures. Rather than clarity, it led to obfuscation through a series of misinformation campaigns and outright fabrications. I began to realize that Donald Trump, and others like him, are symptoms of a larger problem facing our country: The degradation and destabilization of Truth.
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Nothing can quite highlight this assault on truth, as can 140 members of Congress and 12 Senators objecting to the results of a fair and secure general election. An election, as should be pointed out, that many of those objecting, won. Does it mean that they did not win their elections? Another component to this disgraceful act is the pressuring of the Vice President, who has been so careful in not earning the wrath of the President for 4 years, by the Whitehouse to overturn the election in favor of Donald Trump. But these seditionists are also a product of that much bigger problem. The problem was given a name in 2017: “Alternative Facts”. Then we were told that we live in the “Post-Truth Era”. On this day, as seditionist members of Congress and the Senate make their stand (A stand that could literally lead to bloodshed in the streets) we must wonder how the United States of America came to this juncture.
In 1949, the Federal Communications Commission introduced the Fairness Doctrine, a policy which required broadcast licensees to present controversial issues of public importance in an honest, equitable and balanced manner. The Fairness Doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented. This could be done in a news format, editorial, or public affairs show. The reason for the creation of this doctrine was to ensure that the audience was exposed to a diversity of viewpoints on important matters in order to make informed decisions.
On August 5, 1987, FCC Chairman Dennis R. Patrick, and the Federal Communications Committee abolished the doctrine by a 4–0 vote. The FCC suggested that because of the many media voices in the marketplace, the doctrine be deemed unconstitutional: “The intrusion by government into the content of programming occasioned by the enforcement of [the Fairness Doctrine] restricts the journalistic freedom of broadcasters … [and] actually inhibits the presentation of controversial issues of public importance to the detriment of the public and the degradation of the editorial prerogative of broadcast journalists.”
1988 was the calm before the storm. Stations began to understand the extent of their freedom following the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, they ignored general advice chat shows and smart news programming in exchange for huge blocks of specialized programming.
However, Fairness Doctrine corollaries like the “Personal Attack “rule and the “Political Editorial” rule remained staunchly in place. That is, until both were also repealed in October of 2000.
It was right here that, to coin a media created meme, the battle for the soul of America began. Conservative Political Talk Radio was born. On air personalities like Rush Limbaugh launched their careers, engendering others such as Alex Jones, Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter. The Progressives seemed to play catch up with Ed Schultz, Randi Rhodes and Stephanie Miller, among others. It seemed to the audience that there was a building ideological battle in the United States. This was, and is, exactly what media (insert media company name here) management wants us to think. A common enemy is good for ratings. Ratings are good for advertising dollars. Advertising is what media companies sell and is a great way to lure new investors and placate shareholders. Placating shareholders is a great way for upper management to buy that new summer home on Mustique. After the repeal of the “Personal Attack “rule and the “Political Editorial” rule, big media stopped serving up news and moved to news entertainment. Just about every caustic on air talent that gets cornered for saying something inflammatory and defaming, will defend themselves by claiming that they are only entertainers. However, while on the air they claim to be hard hitting journalists. But what about the big guns like CNN, Fox, MSNBC, Newsmax and OANN? They are far worse than the radio political shock jocks and their broadcast companies. These mega corporations learned early on that if they broadcast only to a segment of the population (meaning that they serve news stories with a specific spin rather than straight up news) they create their own audience. People prefer news from an angle with which they agree. This has been the standard operating procedure for 21 years now. It has changed everything.
The big media companies, more than likely, did not set out to emulate mob bosses dividing a territory. Nor did they realize the power that 2 generations of partisan based news would have to destabilize the country and create “tribes”. But, once realized, they certainly did not care. The money kept coming in from every side.
So, here we are, January 6, 2021. We are all waiting to see what happens in the Georgia Run-off Senate Election which will determine if Mitch McConnell remains Senate Majority Leader, and what will happen when the gangs of Seditionists object to the certification of Joe Biden’s victory. We wait to see if Donald Trump will destroy Mike Pence’s career if he does not singlehandedly overturn the election (which constitutional laws prohibit him from doing.) We wait to see if the streets of DC and the country will erupt in violence as police and Proud Boys duke it out with weapons. This has come so far from why/why not do we support Trump’s Presidency. It is time to realize that big media corporations are using us to line their pockets, all the while not caring what happens to the United States of America nor its citizens.
Only “We the People” can declare our freedom from this manufactured divided culture endowed with gallons of hatred for “the other side”. We are one people. We are, at the very core of our identity, Americans. We are not a political party. To survive, we need to turn our backs on partisan prepackaged news entertainment. Being comfortable with all the news is akin to a participation prize for not winning a little league game. It feels nice, but it amounts to nothing. Electing a politician solely because he speaks your language and mimics every ideal you have should have the hairs on the back of your neck standing on edge. Nobody can do that naturally. Sure, we all have seen politicians where we agree with most of their policies and ideals…but not all of them. This is marketing at its absolute best. It is illusion.
The United States, New Jersey, Monmouth County, and all the towns in our area need to heal. The only way to do this is to talk with (not to) your neighbors who hold different ideals and values than you do. Do not argue, just listen. Find common ground. This is how we can all get along and get things done in government and on our own blocks. The time has come to put an end to “war faces”, scowls, name calling and inflammatory rhetoric. Tolerance, patience, and smiles combined with facts need to overcome the politics of fear and anger in our lives.
And that is what I learned from talking with all of you, out here in the fields.