A nation divided

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(Host) The election this week tells us we’re a divided nation, but in what ways are we divided and what can we do about it? Commentator David Moats has some thoughts.

(Moats) What does it mean to be a divided nation? There are a lot of Democrats who debate among themselves whether President Bush is the worst president ever, worse than Nixon, Hoover, Harding, Andrew Johnson. There are a lot of Republicans who believe President Bush has been placed in office by God. Now that’s what I call divided.

The election on Tuesday came as a shock to Democrats because they figured that during the campaign the nation had begun to see what they saw. How could you watch the debates, they said, and cling to the idea that Bush had a clue?

The election came as vindication for Republicans who figured Democrats felt threatened by a leader with old-fashioned convictions and moral values.

The Democrats were aghast. How can you talk about moral values when you’re sending kids off to die and you lie about why you’re sending them? Republicans were determined. How could you elect someone so weak that he changes his mind every other day? That is a divided nation.

And it’s a division that goes deeper than policy. It’s not like fixing Social Security. It has to do with how we see the world and what we value in our leaders.

And here’s where I’ll show my own bias – I think Bush has cleverly exploited the so-called moral issues so that in people’s minds they are more important than the looming disaster in Iraq and our nation’s crumbling finances.

Some people are saying the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts helped elect Bush when it approved gay marriage. It gave him an issue that would loom large, the way your hand is large enough to block out the sun.

The trouble is the sun burns hot. Reality will be the test for Bush and for all of us. Pretty soon the war won’t be an issue of dispute in a political campaign. It will be a matter of mounting body bags and burgeoning budget deficits. The Democrats predicted disaster if Bush were re-elected, not to scare people, but because they foresaw disaster. They still foresee disaster.

It would be better for everyone if the war went well and Iraq became a model of democracy. But now history will take over from the spinmeisters of both sides, and we’ll get a lesson in reality.

As for our divided nation – we’ve heard a lot about the gulf between Volvo drivers and Chevy drivers, Starbucks and. Dunkin Donuts, soccer moms and NASCAR dads. The real and important division is between mean, bullying, closed-minded people and compassionate, respectful, open-minded people. There are representations of both in each party. We ought to encourage one and discourage the other. That’s how to heal the divide.

Healing won’t come by trying to bend the other side to your will. It will only come by recognizing the humanity and worth of the other side. That doesn’t mean giving in to the bullying. It means stopping the bullying whenever it occurs. That is something to work for.

This is David Moats from Salisbury.

David Moats is the editorial page editor for the Rutland Herald and winner of the 2001 Pultizer Prize for editorial writing. He spoke from studios at Middlebury College.

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