Pat Buchanan, in his Dec. 3 Other Views column, Divorce, American style, correctly identifies the cultural chasms that divide Americans. But he fails to recognize the concrete harm they cause or to provide a solution to the problem. In the movie Lincoln, northern congressmen pass the 13th Amendment to end slavery, on a 119-56 vote. What if the states that voted against President Obama had been able to participate in 1865? America would surely be the last slave-holding nation on Earth today — if America still existed.
Philosophical differences don’t explain the 48 blacks killed in Memphis by white rioters in 1866 or the 40 blacks and radical Republicans murdered in New Orleans that year by a white mob for promoting suffrage for ex-slaves. The end of Reconstruction didn’t signal an ephemeral change in some cognitive process. Its end brought on a dark age of 100 years of persecution, disenfranchisement and oppression for black Americans.
Buchanan’s problem is that he sees segregation as a solution to the problem: Let us all move to communities where people share our prejudices, politics and values. Surrendering to the fringe who want to secede from progress — Buchanan’s base — isn’t a solution. The solution is for people of vision, like Abraham Lincoln, to cobble together coalitions of fair-minded centrists who can save the American experiment.
The forces for disunity seem insurmountable. Congress has gerrymandered districts so thoroughly that Republicans won the House 233-201, even though Democrats came within 1 percent of winning the total House vote. MSNBC, Fox, Rush Limbaugh and a gaggle of radio flame-throwers exacerbate disunity. Bosnia, Darfur, the region of Palestine and our own American alienation and a myriad of intractable disputes suggest our “divorce” may be permanent.
History gives us innumerable examples of triumphant evil: the Inquisition, colonialism and Hitler, for instance. But it also gives us people who transcended evil: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Lincoln and many others. The impulse to secede is always among us, but the tide of history favors a Yes in answer answer to Rodney King’s question. Cultivated by prescient leaders, we can all get along.
James Wilson, Plantation