In America, ignorance unites

I was on the phone with my old pal who said, “It’s 1850 all over again. The nation is as deeply divided as we were right before the Civil War.”

My initial reaction was to agree—visions of red states vs. blue states dancing in my head—but the more I thought about his idea, the more I disagreed. I don’t think America is divided, except that six people with my last name (no relations) have more money than 42 percent of all the people in America.

If we were a nation divided, half the people would vehemently oppose our ongoing foreign wars and the maintenance of hundreds of military bases around the globe that cost us trillions of dollars we might better spend on culture bases here in America. But there is no anti-war movement to speak of today, and the candidates representing the supposedly opposing political parties have almost identical foreign policies.

If the nation were divided, half the people would oppose single-payer health care—otherwise known as Medicare—for all and half would be in favor of such a marvelous thing. But poll after poll shows that a vast majority of Americans in both blue and red states would love to have single-payer health care. If the nation were divided, half the people would want to increase taxes on the wealthy and half wouldn’t, but poll after poll indicates that the vast majority of Americans would love to increase taxes on the wealthy.

No, I think Americans are remarkably undivided—certainly compared to the Italians or Greeks or French or Russians. When was the last time we elected a socialist president or dissolved the government for lack of confidence or marched in the streets to protest unfair austerity measures (let alone to protest elections decided by politically appointed judges)? The difference between the Republicans and the Democrats today is infinitesimal compared to the differences between the top two Greek parties, or the top two parties in any democracy, which we most definitely are not.

Imagine the French putting up with a trillion-dollar student-loan debt. Wouldn’t happen. Their nation would be shut down in a trice by protests.

The thing is, we Americans are fanatically undivided in our love of cars and computers and television shows and 3-D action movies and comfortable living. Oh, and in the absence of royalty, we worship celebrities. We know more about celebrities than we do about our government. In fact, we know almost nothing about our government.

And the rulers of our nation know very well that ignorance unites us, so they make the continuance of our ignorance the focus of their governing, while keeping us stuffed with up-to-the-minute information about which celebrity was recently driving drunk, or in possession of an illegal substance, or cheating on his or her wife or husband with another celebrity. And though we may think we disagree about presidential candidates Mitt Romney and incumbent Barack Obama, in our collective heart of hearts we know Romney and Obama and Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and on and on ad infinitum are all representatives of the ruling elite and never deviate from the orders of their overlords. In our ignorance, we do not know who those overlords are, because they are masters of invisibility, which is one of the prerequisites for being an overlord.

OK, so I’m being cynical. But I think the ruling puppeteers use the idea of a great divide to distract us from our cohesiveness and to keep us from discovering how easy it would be for us to overthrow them.