A Country Divided By Absolutism

– Opinion Article by Michael J. Zicolello, Esq.

I keep hearing that we are a divided Nation, and it becomes more difficult to deny this fact as the number of the “unfriended” on Facebook mounts with each passing day. In my lifetime, I’ve seen plenty of divisiveness. But it always seemed that cooler heads ultimately prevailed. Lately, however, it seems like the divide has gone nuclear. Over the last few weeks I’ve tried to take a step back away from the chaos and name-calling to contemplate just how it is that we’ve become so willing to be so darn mean to each other.

Gone are the days where you and your neighbor secretly resented each other due to a mutual suspicion that the other was neglecting to comply with the societal obligation to scoop their dog’s poop. This has been replaced by open and notorious hostility tethered to your neighbor’s views on climate change or whether black lives matter more than all lives or, heaven forbid, blue lives.

After noodling over the issue for quite a while, I have arrived at one self-evident conclusion: The problem finds its roots in Extremism. Then I arrived at an even better conclusion, because when I say Extremism, we all think Muslim Extremism, and that would be a distraction from my point. So, I picked a better, more descriptive, and less “triggery” word – Absolutism.

Why is it that every topic or issue centers on the positions taken by two diametrically opposed sides; each of whom is Absolutely certain that they are 100% correct and that the other side is either bat-guano crazy or evil incarnate. The “reporting” on the hot topics of the day provides us with little insight or understanding of how a reasonable person might view the issue.

Instead, we get a “true believer” on each side. We are left with the distinct impression that there is no middle ground, that the battle lines have been drawn, and we must choose one side or the other. More importantly, in choosing one side in this manner, we are given license to deem anyone who may disagree as the sworn enemy of everything that is good and just.

While the examples of this are far too numerous to list, here are a few that come to mind. Either you are dead certain that we are all doomed by the inevitable impending weather disaster caused by indisputable man-made global warming, or you believe that climate change is the greatest hoax of the century perpetrated by a climate change cabal intent on padding their pockets with the largess of big government funding and carbon credits.

Either you believe that police officers are racist uber-violent bullies, or they are unfairly aggrieved do-gooders egged on by a non-compliant violent underclass. Vladimir Putin is either the son of Satan himself dead set on destroying us by virtue of a devious plot wherein he possesses total control over President Trump, or Putin is our friend.

Either Muslim Extremism is the greatest threat to Western Democracy since World War II, or it is a belief system that is limited to a small band of fanatics. There never seems to be a middle ground.

We are presented with each issue as if it is a coin and forced to choose between heads or tails.

There can be no solutions to the issues of the day so long as Absolutism controls the dialogue. Absolutism destroys all paths to reasonable discussion of the issues and ultimately prevents compromise. Absolutism leaves no room for disagreement – you are either a true-believer or a heretic.

When the media continually juxtaposes competing absolutisms, they set the most extreme positions against each other and merely serve to fan the smoldering discontent each side has for the other into towering flames which may very well consume us all.

For reasons I can not explain other than to speculate that it has something to do with TV ratings and print or internet circulation, the middle ground viewpoint has been disregarded by the media. When was the last time a guest appeared on a news commentary show because an issue was kind of important to them?
No, instead, each guest views the issue at hand as the choice between a new world order or cataclysmic anarchy. I guess heated arguments are better for ratings than sober discussion.

So, the next time you are presented with the opportunity to consider two sides of an important issue presented by individuals who are Absolutely-dead-set-cock-sure-certain that they have cracked the code and have the 100% correct position on the issue, consider that neither side is completely correct.

You are free to choose a third way, and decide for yourself. There is plenty of room in the middle for your own view. Your views on the issues are just as valid as the paid professionals appearing on the TV and, more importantly, just as valid as your friend or co-worker’s.

Perhaps we can then begin to close the divide that has been created by the pervasiveness of Absolutism and in the process maybe gain some “Re-friends” on Facebook.

Try to keep this in mind the next time you engage in a vibrant discussion of the issues of the day, because the life you save, quite frankly, may be our country’s.

Zicolello is a local attorney at Schemery Zicolello PC.

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