SAN DIEGO, April 5, 2016 —”The world is changing.” That chilling whisper opened the film, “Fellowship of the Ring.”
While the movie was a fantasy, its theme was quite real: good and evil against the backdrop of a world called Middle Earth. Wickedness and deception were on the rise. Power-hungry wizards broke from their sworn creed. Goodness was fleeting. People who could once be trusted were no longer reliable. Strange, unusual alliances were formed.
The most innocent people, uninterested in power, who merely wanted to live their lives in peace, were not sure where to turn.
These days, reality has become as turbulent and suspenseful as fantasy. America is also changing. A nation created as the greatest experiment in freedom the world has ever known is now inhabited by citizens who wonder if the experiment’s twilight years are upon us.
More successful than not, America has overcome its problems in the past. The most glaring one, slavery, was ended with a war that almost ripped the nation apart in the process.
America survived and slavery ended. The Civil War was bloody but a necessary birthing process for a nation that was having difficultly living up to its nobly stated goals about equality.
That was then. This is now. Today, America is experiencing another civil war. No, the borders have not been marked with a Mason-Dixon line, and, no, the issue is no longer slavery, but a battle for the soul of the nation has taken place between liberals and conservatives. Less geographical and more philosophical, this current conflict has not been carried out with weapons and hopefully never will.
It remains a battle of ideas. And this battle has been going on for many years.
But lately the process has become more complicated. The rift does not merely tear left from right. There is also a civil war brewing between zealous conservatives and the Republican establishment. Tea party loyalists, Evangelical Christians and many others feel betrayed by a party that makes certain promises to win an election and regain both houses of Congress, only to then turn around and cave in to Obama out of fear that it will be badly portrayed by the president’s bully pulpit and his cheerleading squad, otherwise known as the liberal media.
As if that isn’t bad enough, there is also a rift between the two most conservative candidates, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, whose positions are questionable but who at least articulates very conservative values at the moment.
How should American citizens unpack all of this?
We can begin by making a distinction between necessary conflict and unnecessary conflict.
We’ll start with the necessary.
Unity between liberals and conservatives may be impossible. While certain fiscal policies do call for give and take and while there are always simple functional laws that both Republicans and Democrats can and should come together over and pass, some convictions are simply too important to compromise.
Just imagine looking back at the Civil War with 20-20 hindsight and asking for bi-partisanship regarding the issue of slavery. Slavery was evil. It needed to be ended. There was no room for compromise, and the famous Missouri Compromise did not avoid war. It only postponed war. If war could have been avoided, slavery would still have needed to end.
There are other matters that cannot be compromised.
Either abortion is the taking of a human life or it isn’t.
Either radical jihadists have declared war on America or they haven’t.
There really is no middle ground. It might be time to do away with popular terms like “bi-partisan.” They are only words of convenience.