The fissures in American society are widening. It appears that to be at peace with itself, the country needs to break up.
The Baltimore riots in 2015, Donald Trump’s election as President in 2016 and now the Charlottesville incident could not be conveying a clearer message: America as one nation isn’t viable anymore. The country is more divided than ever – politically, racially, ethnically. And you can go back in history till the Civil War period, at least, and it would still be true.
In a display of bold journalism, VICE Media shot a documentary tracking the events as they transpired in Charlottesville, Virginia, showing white supremacists carrying out a torch rally and making derogatory remarks against Jews and African Americans. These people came from different parts of the state to participate in the rally organised by ‘Unite The Right’ group to protest the city’s plan to remove Confederate monuments from the Civil War period. Activists of the Black Lives Matter movement and those from the Anti-Fascist groups organised counter-protests and shouted back at white supremacists, calling them Neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan supporters.
Small clashes took place between these groups, which turned ugly when a car rammed into one group of protesters, killing one and injuring several others. Two police officers were also confirmed dead after a helicopter crash. In the documentary, the leaders of far-right groups seem to be itching for a fight. One of them could be seen telling the reporter that he was trying to make himself more capable of violence. The video ends in this white supremacist’s room where he proudly takes out his arsenal of guns to display his capability.
There is no middle ground to be reached here between the two groups. It’s not possible. For one group, Donald Trump, who they probably voted for, isn’t racist enough, while the other group sees their President as a Nazi-sympathiser. Any electoral map of America will show solid Blues on the west coast and the north-east of America, and a Deep Red in the middle and south. But the divide is not limited to politics; it has become all pervasive and is only sharpening with time. It has gone way beyond the regular left-right, conservative-liberal divisions of the past. Barring war or an external threat, nothing can unite America easily, it appears.
Why have things come to pass in such a way? The reasons are obvious. America was first settled by diverse peoples from Europe and expanded through violence and ethnic cleansing but then inundated with two additional racial infusions – the forced importation of Africans and the demographic migration of Hispanics into America. Whites whose share in the population is constantly dropping suddenly feel like they’re under a demographic siege which they know not how to stop. Soon, they believe, it will reach an inflection point from where there will be no turning back and America as they know it will be changed forever.
The odds of getting sidelined politically and from the country’s mainstream are scaring the daylights out of them. Obviously, not all whites feel that way, only enough to help Trump get elected President, but majority of them will never take to violence. However, many of them will and this is bound to create further fissures in society.
The division is also not of one type but such that it may end up splitting it into many parts. According to Colin Woodard, America is not one nation but an aggregation of as many as 11 of them. In his book, American Nations: A History of the 11 Rival Regional Cultures in North America, Woodard says the two poles which lead these 11 national cultures are Yankeedom and the Deep South. A report in Business Insider, which summarises Woodard’s book, says that the 11 nations embedded in the US (and which include contiguous areas in Canada and Mexico) are the following:
The reason why Americans fight continually over the left-right ideology, religion and secularism, big government and deregulation, and welfarism and personal liberty is that they are not one people now. The rise of American prosperity has deepened the cleavages that have always existed. The splits are widening further under economic pressure now that American power is no longer unchallenged and its economic superiority is waning.
To be at peace with itself, America needs to break up. It needs to become a free-trade area like the European Union.