THE ELEPHANT IN AMERICA'S ROOM
Updated: Oct 18, 2022
Try counting all of the many “divides” in today’s United States of America.
It may take you awhile.
In my 76 years here I’ve never seen it like this. We are nearly two separate countries within a Nation.
Or states within a State.
This bitter "election season” is a sad testimony to how divided we really are, and sadly there is scant evidence that come November 9th we’ll not be launched into the 2024 “election season” without so much as taking a day off to come back up for air. We are drowning in division and too big for anyone else to rescue at sea. We may be the Titanic after midnight.
That said, I’m still waiting for the one division I never seem to hear or read a single word about. The one that may actually lead to rescue if we were to see it, say it, and vote on it.
Where most of our differences pertain to issues rather than values and questions related to policy and investment (what to defund and how), here’s one value past due for some airtime, in my humble opinion. It pertains to people vs. property.
It really is a cultural value America has yet to debate dating back to 1619 and even before. It’s a value we’ve never clarified. It’s a division we’ve never faced, let alone resolved.
Violent crime is an issue where there is clear division. Oh, sure, everyone is “agin” it. But in today’s partisan divide we have one party wanting to talk about it and one wanting to change the subject. The problem is, however, that there is violent crime and then there is violent crime.
There is violent crime against property and there is violent crime against persons. Huge division. A divide as old as, well, shall we start with 1492? A values divide.
Which is better, to love people and use things or to love things and use people? That’s a values-clarification question. And where violent crime is concerned, which crime needs policed and punished first and how? Is it the broken windows of mass protest, for instance, or the broken hearts of mass murder?
Hear me out, please, when I say that I’m not in favor of violent protest or crimes against property. I’m not suggesting “thou shall not steal” should be removed from the commandments.
What I am suggesting is that “thou shall not kill” is not the same. It’s different. As different as people and things. As different as persons and property. It’s a values difference. It’s a priorities difference where policy and investment is concerned.
And our silence is deafening.
George Floyd was murdered over a counterfeit $20.
And while we should be facing up to our many divides in areas of racial injustice and such things as the allocation of police funds and prison dollars, I’m not at all sure America is going to ever overcome such divisions until we address our primary divide. Property vs. persons. Things vs. people. Land vs. citizens.
A $20 bill or a human life?
That’s a values question.
And, right now, that may be the one divide America has yet to raise in any election season or in any partisan fund raising, church sermon, or editorial column.
As an old retired preacher, don’t even get me started. I know, and every Christian-identified American should know that Jesus never assaulted a person. He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. John, the Gospelist, writes that he chased them with a whip but nothing more. He was judged a criminal. But his values (may I assume Christian values?) were perfectly clear. And he was not above calling for a divide, or claiming himself to be a divider.
Yes, America today is divided. But we’ve yet to address the real divide. The real elephant in our living room. Do we most value persons? Or do we still……..yes, still…….value more our almighty property when we talk about our violent crime problems? This is the division we Americans need to vote on!