One of the first articles I wrote for The Daily Wire was a typically optimistic and cheerful piece titled “The United States Of America No Longer Exists.” It was not met with a warm reception by many readers, who understandably found it to be a tad bleak. Three years later, it brings me no pleasure to say, “I told you so.”
My basic thesis in that piece was that our country, though existing still as a legal and geographic entity, cannot be meaningfully described as “united.” We have nothing but the law and the land holding us together anymore. That is not enough to make a nation or a people. There needs to be something else. Some uniting principle. Some defining commonality that binds us. If we are going to be united, we must be united around something or by something.
Today, all of this holds true, only more so. The key difference between now and three years ago is that we no longer have the law. Between the unconstitutional lockdowns and the sudden abandonment of those policies in order to allow rampaging leftist mobs to wreak havoc in the streets for weeks on end, the rule of law has broken down. And with our borders still about as porous as they’ve ever been, it is hard to say that we are meaningfully united even on a geographic level.
With these two pillars crumbling – pillars that were already insufficient in themselves to keep a country together – what is left? Many nations around the world and throughout history have been held together by the bonds of their common heritage, ancestry, language, and tradition. The United States has always been different in this respect, but we once had a language and at least some traditions. Now, it is ethnocentric, xenophobic, and racist to expect immigrants to learn the language of the country they are immigrating to.
As for traditions, our national holidays like Thanksgiving and Columbus Day have been abolished in many quarters, and that trend is rapidly gaining speed. No doubt, Memorial Day and Independence Day will be on the chopping block soon enough. These holidays are being torn down along with the statues of our historical icons, and politicized like the sporting events that once gave us respite from the political back-and-forth. These losses are not insignificant. Healthy, vibrant countries have always had their traditions, holidays, and heroes. We are going to try to be the first country with none of those. I do not think the experiment will prove successful.
But the thing that has always made America unique is that it is a nation founded on ideas, on a creed. If nothing else, we were once joined by our shared belief in those ideas and that creed. We have never succeeded in actually applying all of our lofty principles – that all men are created equal, endowed by the Creator with inherent dignity and value – to everyone equally, but we shared them at least on an aspirational level. Now we no longer aspire to be that sort of country. Many Americans fundamentally reject the inherent dignity of human beings. And our ideas of what it means to be “equal” are so elementally opposed as to render the term meaningless.
Are we joined by our shared desire to be free? No. In the minds of many, the ultimate vision of freedom is a socialist utopia where the free market is abolished and the government provides all basic needs. To me, and many others, this is a vision of slavery, not freedom. It may be true that all Americans talk about freedom, and say they want freedom, but the only commonality between the competing views of freedom is the word itself.
Can we be bound by our passion for human rights? Again, no. The situation with rights is much like that with freedom. Those on the Left – not just the leftist fringes, but the mainstream of the movement – would say that mothers have a “right” to kill their offspring, some Americans have a “right” to the money and property of other Americans, biological males have a “right” to access women’s locker rooms, gay couples have a “right” to the goods and services of Christian business owners, and so on. They see a “human right” as a claim always in competition with other rights claims. One right must supersede another. The woman’s right to autonomy must trounce, violently, a child’s right to live. A college student’s right to be free of debt must overpower a wealthy man’s right to the fruit of his own labor.
What they’re really describing is one group’s struggle for power and dominance over another. It has nothing to do with rights. Rights are inherent to our human nature; by definition, human rights cannot be in competition with one another. But since we have fundamentally opposing definitions of the term, we cannot be united around it.
If we cannot be united around tradition, language, or heritage, and we also cannot be united around a shared belief in freedom and human rights, then what is left? We would appear to be, already, two different countries. Or perhaps several different countries. Even that may be an overly generous way of describing our current state. Really, when a man tells me that he believes babies aren’t people, biological sex doesn’t exist, men can get pregnant, police departments should be abolished, America is racist to its core, and I am a white supremacist because I disagree with him on these points, I find myself questioning whether we are from the same planet, or the same universe, let alone the same country. That is how absolutely opposed we are, on all levels, with almost no common ground, or shared frame of reference.
It is not hard to see why our debates are fruitless and our conversations go nowhere. We are speaking different languages, both literally and metaphorically. We are a people divided by gaps that cannot be closed. There is no bridge that can connect the Left to the Right. The differences are too deep, too wide. For unity to occur, one side or the other must simply abandon almost everything they believe and profess, and join the ranks of the other. That is not likely to happen any time soon. So the divisions will remain, and grow deeper, and we will be less united over time.
I don’t know where to go from here, or how to fix it, or if it can be fixed at all, but I know that any path forward must begin with an honest assessment of the situation. This is my honest assessment, for what it’s worth.