Noilly Prattle: A House Divided

Monday, January 23, 2017

A House Divided

The View from the Dark Side

A recent Pew Research Center poll found that 86% of Americans think that the United States is more politically divided than it has ever been. 

The atmosphere surrounding the election and inauguration of Donald Trump justifies that depressing assessment and foreshadows continuing and unending disarray is the body politic of the nation. The question arises not only how the day to day operations of a government can be conducted under the nearly obsessive demonstrations--with no apparent constructive goal--against the administration, but, more to the point, how any nation can exist as a rational entity with such enmity among its citizens.

The specter of a house divided against itself arises in the acrimonious slogans and insults hurled across the ideological divide. The one-time peace advocating liberals, seeking revenge for the defeat of their own flawed candidate, thirst for blood—some even hoping for an assassination. 

Conservatives, gloating in the “victory” of their flawed candidate, taunt the losers to “get over it”. Liberal progressives who supposedly support divergence and tolerance post a smutty photo of two naked women in an embrace, one of whom is identified as Melania Trump. Harley Davidson bikers gather on the Mall in support of Trump and vow to take law and order into their own hands if necessary. Probably the lowest smears are against a 10-year old boy who happens to be the Trump’s youngest son. One Hollywood celebrity purports to have video evidence that Barron Trump has ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and a SNL comedy writer quips that Barron would be the “first homeschooled shooter” although he goes to a private school, and so on ad nauseam.

It is a dilemma as old as history; societies corrupted from within implode as a result of their own corruption. The expression “a house divided” is at least as old as the bible. It appears in the Gospel of Matthew: “And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto him. Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”

Photo of Lincoln by Abraham Byers
Thomas Hobbes said that “a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand” in 1651 in his Leviathan. In 1776 in Common Sense, Thomas Paine said in relation to the Monarchy: “this hath all the distinctions of a house divided against itself . . . “

Abraham Lincoln used the expression in an 1843 speech accepting his nomination for United States Senator by the Illinois Republican Party. Lincoln’s “house divided” referred to the free and slave States. He said the Nation could not remain divided but would become all one thing or the other—all free or all slave States. He would then fight a bloody civil war to ensure that it not remain ”a house divided against itself”. But today, once again, our house is divided against itself.

Are we going to need another civil war?

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