By Cyril Vetter
We are a deeply divided country. Our divisions run along the fault lines of race, class, religion, et. al. Our political divisions are stark and well defined and decidedly First World.
Consider this the next time you engage in an argument or troll an internet comment page over women’s reproductive rights, Jesus, gay rights, civil rights, political correctness, confederate monuments, restroom gender battles or any of the other culture war issues that divide us so sharply. Just Consider: Forty percent of the world’s population is without running water. Sixty percent is without sanitary toilets. Twenty-five percent is without electricity. Eighty percent of humanity lives on less than $10 a day. Over 11 percent of the world’s population is hungry, lacking adequate food supplies and malnourished.
And the refugee crisis is exactly that, a crisis and worsening. 60 million of our fellow homo sapiens are displaced: refugees escaping war, poverty, religious extremism, corrupt and oppressive governments, barrel bombs and Sarin gas. I could go on. About one in 100 people are physically separated from their homes.
But it’s impossible to starve to death in the U.S. (You can eat yourself to death, but unless you do it intentionally, you can’t starve to death.) And while there definitely are issues of food insecurity here, you’re not likely to see video of mass famine or fly covered babies with distended stomachs in Iowa or Ohio.
And with the exception of the tragedy of Flint, Mich., a resident of the United States can drink the water from any public lavatory; conduct basic hygiene in the bathroom at a MacDonald’s, find shelter at a facility for the homeless and, despite the current bombast in our nation’s capital, be relatively free of oppressive government.
I don’t mean to minimize or diminish the enormous problems we face as a society. Crumbling infrastructure, wildly uneven health care delivery, inner city and rural education and drug problems, outrageous income inequality, random violence, etc. ad infinitum.
But still, those are not issues of survival, of access to potable water, of starving to death, of fear. Ours are self-imposed issues created by a culture of too much.
And until we realize that the things that so deeply divide us are creatures of our own making, we are destined to continue on this divisive and unproductive path. How about a little civility, a little dignity, a little respect for a different position? How about we agree to disagree on issues that divide us, tone down the toxic partisan rhetoric and be about the mission of improving the lives of all of us.
How about we start by dialing back anonymous flaming and shaming on comment pages and social media. If you’re a MSNBC news devotee, try watching Fox news for a while and vice versa. Volunteer in a public high school; get involved in a political campaign or a non-profit fund raising campaign. Do something positive. It might feel good and it just might get your temperature back down to 98.6. It just might put the issues that divide us into perspective. Sen. Ben Sasse says as much in the thesis of his new book, The Vanishing American Adult.
Cyril Vetter is an attorney/businessman and a lifelong resident of Louisiana. He has written and produced books, music, film and television projects with a Louisiana cultural preservation theme.