America’s Great and Growing Divide

Funny place to find oneself on Super Tuesday as the fog lifts, this ridgeline of hillocks and dips overlooking a broad swathe of pastures, fences and narrow tracks in the rolling ground of rural Pennsylvania. This is where they saywell, some say — the South’s defeat was sealed and with it two more years of slow retreat, defeat and bloody ruin. This southern aspect of Little Round Top (above — look closely, they are bodies amid the rocks) is the most visited site on the Gettysburg Battlefield’s monument-studded national park, the slope where Joshua Chamberlain famously led the 20th Maine in a death or glory bayonet charge. That was 159 years ago, when America was last at war with itself.

Gettysburg, about as far north as the Confederacy ever reached, is 1700 miles from Palmito Ranch in Texas, on the Mexico border, where the very last names were added to the 600,000-odd who perished in five years of settling irreconcilable differences. It was an easily appreciated divide back then, a geographic one, courtesy of Messrs Mason and Dixon having marked on their map the abrasive edges of abutting economies and cultures. Then those who elevated states’ rights above federal authority in defence of slavery struck the spark at Fort Sumpter that transformed the long-building heat of that friction into open conflict and the powder keg exploded.

Please, bear with me, because there will be a natural reticence to entertain the thought that America is once again coming apart. It’s tinfoil hat stuff, surely — America remaking itself as a bad day in Beirut! Sell that movie treatment to Hollywood, you might scoff, because who can believe this country of hand-on-heart patriotic affirmations, of parking spots reserved for military vets and the Stars and Stripes flying proud over used-car yards could ever be anything but whole? The thing is, though, the rifts are there and, unless you make a supreme blind-eye effort, impossible not to see. After my 10 weeks on the road, swinging up through the guts from Miami towards Iowa and then veering northeast to New England before turning dead south again for Dixie, the growing suspicion and, yes, the fear is that such a film will need to be a documentary.

In part, those fissures are what led to here. The intention had been to spend the night in Washington, where a former colleague and old friend works in Al Jazeera’s bureau, but that reunion fell through and without a reason to remain within DC’s boundaries these days it is best to get out of the place. It was bad in 2022, when I was in town for the congressional midterms, but it’s much worse now. Bums on every corner, murders, carjackings, the deranged roaming and howling. If there is an overhang to be found — even a showcase window, say, that juts above the sidewalk — there will likely be beneath it a shambles of filthy rags and cardboard bedding and some unfortunate who calls it home. At his stump rallies, Donald Trump makes a point to vow that cleaning up Washington, to “make it a great city again”, will be high on his to-do list and this pledge always gets a huge cheer. Americans for generations have headed to the national capital on school-bus excursions and summer holidays with Mom and Dad to take in the showcased wonders of American exceptionalism, from the Smithsonian’s aerospace Spirit of St Louis to the Capitol at one end of The Mall and Lincoln Monument at the other. Washington was laid out and built to inspire but can no longer serve that purpose, not in its current distressed condition. Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on the hill” has become a pig sty, so the easiest, fastest way Google could suggest an exit from the traffic-choked CBD was followed.

That route led through up-market Georgetown, expensively chic, largely white and still mostly safe, through small towns and villages to this damp rock overlooking Gettysburg’s vistas of former carnage. The only company in the morning’s calm being the calls of ravens and thoughts of how a nation can shred the rules and tear itself apart with such resolute determination.

In this light, consider the Supreme Court’s ruling which this week rebuked three states for their attempts to strip Trump from the November ballot. No way, said the Justices without dissent, ruling that citizens in Colorado, Illinois and Maine have a constitutional right to vote for whomever they like. Clear cut, right, no room for further argument? Not as far as congressional Democrats are concerned. No sooner had the decision been posted than a trio of prime movers in Trump’s two impeachments immediately announced they would explore what legislative powers might be brought to bear to stop a re-elected Trump entering the White House. In other words, they will set out to do precisely what they have spent three-plus years accusing Trump of doing on January 6, 2021: overturning the will of the people. Colorado’s thwarted attorney-general slammed the Supreme Court for trampling what she said were state’s rights. Ironic echoes of the Civil War grow louder.


TONIGHT on Capitol Hill, Joe Biden will deliver his third State of the Union address. He’ll claim the economy is singing (it is on Wall Street but not elsewhere), that inflation is declining (it isn’t), that the “our democracy” thing is strong but in dire peril (from Donald Trump). He may also insist, almost certainly will, that the southern border is secure, America’s enemies wouldn’t dare cock a snook, and the US military remains mighty and invulnerable. All lies and brazen lies at that. Apparently untroubled by US bombs, the Houthi sand goblins have continued bombarding Red Sea shipping, most recently sinking a British-registered vessel and seizing an American merchantman. Biden orders airstrikes and his handlers spawn sound bytes about the might of American arms. Yet the attacks continue and the volume of lies cranks up to match them. Most likely, at some point in proceedings, Biden will be jeered, which never used to happen on State of the Union night, but now is a regular feature. Decorum and good manners, like so many other quaint habits that lubricated political behaviour, have vanished from American politics.

Where it all ends, whether the frictions reach combustion point, no one can tell. But the signs are there that the trashing of so many conventions, the by-any-means necessary devotion to winning, isn’t going to end well, just as it didn’t in 1860. God help America if all Biden’s talk about Trump being “a threat to democracy” incites some fool to take a shot at him. It’s a big country. There are plenty more sites to host the demons that led once to Gettysburg and might again.

11 thoughts on “America’s Great and Growing Divide

  • Alistair says:

    Roger, I thought the Democrat rhetoric was now, not “a threat to Democracy” – which is patently crazy talk given that more than half of Democrats admit the election was stolen from Trump, but “a threat to democratic institutions” – like the mainstream media, the FBI, the Justice Department and all those other instruments of the Swamp.
    My feeling is that the Democrats will allow Biden to stand, and that he will be allowed to be defeated and take the blame for the defeat. Then, with Trump in the White House, they will unleash Antifa, BLM, into the streets, while simultaneously unleashing the Federal Reserve, the Treasury and Wall Street on the markets to crash the economy on Trump’s watch and blame Trump for the wipe out of Middle America. Roll on 2025.

    • dtu31393 says:

      I’m not sure that the Democrats will allow Biden to be defeated. Their most valuable skill is the ability to rig elections and get away with it. That they did so, so blatantly in 2020 and 2022 and not much has been done to stop any of those shenanigans, does not bode well for this one. Trump’s plan of being “too big to rig” does not fill me with confidence.

      • pgang says:

        Yep. I think Halley was their Plan A to get one of their own into the Whitehouse, but that failed dismally. I don’t like to think what Plans B to D are going to be.

  • Maryse Usher says:

    America slashed her wrists when she screeched her insistence on killing the baby in the womb. We’re just watching her exsanguination. We ….oh!

    • lbloveday says:

      The Guttmacher and United Nations Report on abortion rates is reproduced in Wikipedia with the disclaimer “The Guttmacher study numbers used in the table below are estimates based on statistical models and are not actual reported numbers”.
      Still interesting to see the USA well down the list and rated 108th out of 153, and below Australia at 101st.

  • Davidovich says:

    From afar, it looks very much that most of the blame for the disintegration of American society can be fairly laid at the Democrats’ door. The behaviour of the Democrats and the left when Trump won in 2016 was worse than disgraceful. Rather than showing the time-honoured respect for the office of President they spent the following four years doing everything possible to pull him down, quite happily and unconscionably doing the same to the once relatively harmonious American society.
    If Trump survives and wins back the Presidency, we can be sure that massive disruption will once again be brought about by the left to the detriment of all.

  • pgang says:

    I read a fair bit of American media and it is increasingly apparent that the USA is experiencing an extraordinary political/social separation. Socialism has reached into the key institutions and ripped them apart in the form of a technocratic, military-industrial cronyism. The institutions are deliberately destroying the nation, and half the population are becoming ever more desperate to put a stop to it. Even the southern border invasion is being funded by American taxpayers via the UN and NGOs.
    Secession is now openly discussed, ironically because of national patriotism. The unknown today is modern weaponry, as compared with the civil war era. Biden was right when he gaffed about AR15s taking on F16s, and it’s not hard to envisage the US bombing its own cities in the future.
    Whilst my knowledge of US history is limited, it seems apparent to me that the Civil War was just War of Independence part 2, and that America has never resolved the rift between loyalists and nationalists that was created through that terrible and unnecessary act of violent sedition.

  • peterpurcell says:

    A beautifully written and insightful essay. I couldn’t.t agree more. Whether you like Trump or not is not the point. The effort to ‘cancel’ him and his supporters’ right to vote for him is the issue. I agree that it is a potentially explosive moment.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    We watched Joe Biden perform his dissembling and self-justifying rant at the State of the Union address as we sailed away from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, where life is still lived in a civilised manner in a left-over little bit of whatever what good once about Britain’s colonialist outreach.

    Whatever Dr. Feelgood is treating Joe’s increasing dementia with certainly offered an extra dose of the excitable angries for that night and the make-up artistry on display was certainly America’s pride as Joe’s teeth flashed their macabre grins and the botox held up well. The content, was as you say, entirely predictable. Joe went over his role in every Democrat meme of progressivism, creatively inserting his career into every memorable moment in American history in the past sixty years, with the twenty before that lived in the homespun territory of his non-authenticated working class family. Joe’s for the middle classes now though, plus he’s ‘a capitalist’ but one who is going to bleed the rich to Robin Hood the Democrat poor and needy, because only tears of blood will do it. Bah, what humbug. We’ve seen where that’s led a thousand times before, and it isn’t towards the good for the poor and needy.

    It all seems to be passing by the comfortably well-off Americans on board, who show spectacular disinterest in this debate, flocking instead to other entertainments. Perhaps secretly they have all made up their own minds to vote Joe out. One can ony hope.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    One highlight of Biden’s speech was to study the stony faces of the members of the Supreme Court as he attacked them about Roe vs Wade and promised to rescind it. Their honors were not impressed. Who is this fool pretending to be President, their faces said. Even the Democrats. And I did note too some rather worried looking faces amongst many of the Biden staff, especially the female nurses, all anxiously awaiting the moment of the gaffe. It didn’t quite happen, but there were a few perilously close moments as Joe did his lean forward and started his confidential hiss towards the end. The meds are on their way out, I opined.

  • Alistair says:

    Think about it. The Swamp have always intended to crash the economy in order to advance their stated “Great Reset” agenda.
    Maurice Strong, UN senior advisor to Kofi Annan, Rio de Janeiro 1992 …
    “We may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrial civilization to collapse … isn’t it our job to bring that about? ”
    They are not going to want one of their own in the chair when that happens.

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