State of the Union

The state of the union is extremely precarious. Regardless of anything our fraudulent president might have to say when the delayed (through his own arrogance and stupidity) State of the Union address eventually takes place, it is beyond dispute that the United States is more polarized today than at any time since the Civil War.

Chanting “White lives matter!” “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!” several hundred white nationalists and white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, VA in August 2017. Photo: Washington Post.
Chanting “White lives matter!” “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!” several hundred white nationalists and white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, VA in August 2017. Photo: Washington Post.

To say we are “polarized,” though, is an incomplete explanation. Further, it implies a rough equivalency between the two estranged sides. There is no equivalency. On one side there is liberal democracy. On the other, a crude, atavistic nationalism that is being used by the extremely wealthy to further their own interests.

To make matters worse, the same grim scenario is now playing out in Europe. Nationalism is growing so rapidly there that 30 prominent European intellectuals recently issued a call to action to defend democracy. Many of the phrases in their brief document could be applied to the U.S. as well:

“A politics of disdain for intelligence and culture will have triumphed. There will be explosions of xenophobia and antisemitism.”

“We believe it [liberal democracy] remains the one force today virtuous enough to ward off the new signs of totalitarianism that drag in their wake the old miseries of the dark ages.”

“In response to the nationalist and identitarian onslaught, we must rediscover the spirit of activism or accept that resentment and hatred will surround and submerge us.”

Polish nationalists march in November 2017. Photograph: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images.
Polish nationalists march in November 2017. Photograph: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

There is, though, one important distinction which may yet be America’s salvation. Europe is a collection of nation-states attempting to act within a common framework (the EU). We are a collection of states attempting to act within a national framework.

The importance of our national framework was clearly evident during Trump’s recent, longest-ever government shutdown, when planes couldn’t land at LaGuardia and millions couldn’t get paid or live their normal lives.

Every American citizen depends upon the U.S. government, whether they acknowledge it or not. It is these ligaments, these much-maligned civil servants, that currently hold us together. Trump and the Republicans would retain only enough government power to maintain their place at the top.

We must fight, as Europe must, to keep liberal democracy in place. Without it, we will have no union.

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