- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Dear Dr. E: Our nation seems to be hopelessly divided right now. We live in two different Americas that are opposite to one another in almost every way. It wasn’t that long ago that leaders such as Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill could find common ground, but today’s Democrats and Republicans can’t even agree on what time it is. What went wrong? – Tired of the Conflict in Washington, D.C.

Dear Tired: When a hunter is scouting new territory, an aerial photo (or what we used to call a map) can be one of his most important tools. The bird’s-eye view shows the lay of the land, the topography, the rivers and streams, the hills, the roads, and the trails. Any hiker, biker, tracker, or even tourist knows the importance of having a map. The map unifies what is otherwise a fragmented perspective, bringing everything together as a unified whole.

When you are in the woods without a map, you can only see what is immediately before you. You have no perspective. Your vision is limited to the next tree or turn in the path, the next fork in the road, the next rock and ridge. It’s hard to understand proximity, place, and even purpose when you don’t have perspective.

This loss of perspective, this myopic fragmentation of the way we see things, is more prevalent than ever in our current political discourse. With each new controversy, our loss of perspective regarding who we are as a nation becomes increasingly obvious. We seem to see no further than the end of our noses.

Segregation, victimization, and balkanization presently dominate the political stage. We’re splintered rather than united. Liberals versus conservatives, young versus old, blacks versus whites, men versus women; the list of divisions, cliques, and groups seems endless. It’s as if E pluribus unum has been flipped on its head. We now seem to be a nation built on the assumption of E unum, pluribus, dividing the one into the many.

Not only have we discarded common purpose, but we have also lost any modicum of common sense, rationality, logic, and civil discourse. When it comes to disagreement, it seems that we are content to crawl on our knees in the mud rather than get in a plane and fly.

If you listen carefully to any of the current political stump speeches, you will hear a litany of disjointed and contradictory ideas made by the same individual, the same party, and the same media pundits. One politician says that he stands for government funding of childcare while at the same telling us the government should pay to kill these same children just seconds before they’re born. Political candidates who pledge allegiance to one nation under God then act as if they are God. In their oath of office, they swear to “defend and protect the United States of America,” and then they condemn those who want to defend and protect America’s borders.

Like a hiker trying to navigate new territory without a map, our vision is truncated. We don’t see the big picture. We are crawling on the ground when we could be using a drone. We need to get above the treetops to see the big picture.

One of the most remarkable aspects of our founding era is how well-read our country’s leaders were. They anticipated issues of their day and how a certain set of ideas would impact the nation at large. They understood Locke and Montesquieu. They read Hume and Voltaire. They discussed Plato, Cicero, and Socrates. They knew their Bibles like the backs of their hands. They were immersed in Moses, as well as Jesus. They could see backward as well as ahead. They knew where they had been and where they were going. They saw the promise of a republic and the dangers of a Robespierre. They understood the freedom of a covenant and the bondage of hierarchy. They saw the risks of radical democracy and the rule of the gang. They believed in a big God rather than Big Brother. They had perspective. They saw the forest for the trees and the paths and roadways that history and providence had carved on their behalf.

We are lost and divided today because we have no idea where we are going or why. We have discarded the Bible, disparaged the classics, and ignored the Constitution. We pretend our new ideas that are five minutes old are better than those that have stood the test of time for centuries. Or, to paraphrase the book of Judges, “In those days, there was no map, and every man did what was right in his own eyes.”

If you are seeking guidance in today’s changing world, Higher Ground is there for you. Everett Piper, a Ph.D. and a former university president and radio host, takes your questions in his weekly ’Ask Dr. E’ column. If you have moral or ethical questions for which you’d like an answer, please email askeverett@washingtontimes.com and he may include it in a future column.

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