Many politicians, pundits, and talking heads have recently trumpeted assertions that the American people have grown increasingly divided over a growing litany of social issues. Whether there is a measurable increase or not is certainly debatable but there can be little doubt that the nation is, in fact, divided on many points.
One of the resulting effects of simultaneously possessing the God-given (or natural) rights of free thought and will to formulate one’s own opinions and the individual right to express them is that disagreements concerning said opinions are ultimately unavoidable. One cannot realistically expect a nation comprised of well over 300 million people of different values, perspectives, and goals to agree or necessarily even get along with each other on all issues. There simply is no single cookie-cutter solution for every problem nor is there a standard approach that is a fit for every person, family, or group. Some issues are just too complex, too dependent upon values, or too infused with passionate stakeholders for compromises to realistically work.
What compounds and inflames this resultant, and I would contend otherwise amicably moderated, social division is that some of us feel compelled to force our own values, approaches, and solutions on others. This is clearly where the line gets crossed. We are a meddling species, and all too often succumb to what St. Augustine called the libido dominandi – the lust to dominate others. We crave, consciously or not, to force our will upon others – to make them carry out their lives and business the way we see fit or approve of. This is the prime causal factor of our social disenfranchisement, what widens the gap that already inherently separates us. Disagreement is innate and certain in a free society comprised of unique individuals but what brings this disagreement to a contentious and potentially hostile climax is our unwillingness to acknowledge that it is each our God-given right to live our lives as we see fit. Every one of us possesses the natural right to be whom we wish to be even if others do not like or approve of who that ultimately is, as long as we do not commit actions that deprive others of their own natural rights.
The answer to the famous question “Can’t we all just get along?” is a very simple “no.” At least, that is, not while we continue to interlope in affairs that are not our own to command. The only practicable approach to mitigate this resulting social disunion, short of outright tyrannical oppression by government or a social majority, is for every one of us to consciously decide to leave each other alone to do as we please (provided the aforementioned caveat regarding others’ natural rights is not violated in the process). Unsolicited interference from a paternalistic government, our neighbors, or the special interest lobby is certainly not the solution. This is not a matter of holding hands and singing Kumbaya together, nor is a naïve suggestion that we could somehow obtain social bliss a viable approach either. Rather, this is simply a call for everyone to stay well within their rightful “lanes” of influence – which is to say, their own.
Perhaps if we could learn the lesson that one size does not fit all at home we may just be able to capitalize on this reasoning at an international geopolitical level, but that is another topic for a different time…