The heightened political climate over the last two years has left many questioning if this country will ever be united again.
Among the likes of journalist Peggy Noonan and former President George W. Bush, I too am concerned and frustrated with the striking division in America.
A series of explanations for this turmoil have been put forward by members of all political beliefs: some say Donald Trump is responsible, some say Hillary Clinton is responsible, others believe it’s cyclical, and many blame forced diversity and a widening difference of opinion.
However, I believe the true explanation for this societal breakdown is simply this: Politics can no longer be escaped.
In every aspect of our daily lives, politics has been inserted and interjected – oddly enough – as a coercion technique, and as we saw in the heated 2016 Presidential Election, a way to get votes.
The aspects of American society that once united us, such as the arts, television, music, comedy and sports, are now the very entities that divide us.
This shift, combined with what has always divided us, including the role of government, the welfare state and religion, has left nothing to unite us.
The divisive nature of our political climate has been injected into areas of our society that were previously neutral, and this has left politics as an inescapable force – a harsh reality of life in America today.
Just last week, New York City’s Public Theater depicted the killing of President Donald Trump in the play “Julius Caesar.” An iconic play that has been celebrated for centuries has now become a tool for political expression.
In November of 2016, the cast of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” publicly confronted Vice President Mike Pence when he attended the play in New York City.
Rather than having a meaningful discussion with the then vice president-elect, cast members chose to have a one-way conversation center-stage, telling Pence, “We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights.”
Politics has crept into television as well, with the cast of Empire publicly endorsing 2016 Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton in an advertisement directed by Lee Daniels, a writer for the Fox show.
In the ad, cast members voice their support for Clinton, praising her views on gun control, women’s issues and healthcare. Cast members Trai Byers, Taraji P. Henson and Jussie Smollett say, “The violence and nasty rhetoric against mankind is unacceptable. If Trump gets into office, it will only get worse.”
Kathy Griffin, an Emmy and Grammy-award winning comedian, made headlines this past month when she was photographed holding a bloody, severed head of Donald Trump, for a photo-shoot with controversial celebrity photographer Tyler Shields.
After this seemingly career ending move, Kathy Griffin held a press conference, blaming sexism and ageism for the public backlash, and accusing the Trump family of bullying her.
As Nancy Pelosi said last week in reaction to the Congressional GOP baseball practice shooting, “Sports are a wonderful thing in our country, probably the most unifying,” going on to add, “Sports really bring us together.”
Professional players like Colin Kaepernick have tarnished this unity that previously dominated sports. Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem – instead choosing to kneel. His rationale? America “oppresses black people and people of color.”
Politics, and the division that ensues, has crept its way into music as well. One of Katy Perry’s latest singles, Chained to the Rhythm, is a political statement about life in the Trump era, according to her. Perry said that the song describes people who are “asleep or apathetic” to what they are seeing. The lyrics of the song include:
Are we crazy?
Living our lives through a lens
Trapped in our white-picket fence
So comfortable we live in a bubble, bubble
So comfortable we cannot see the trouble, trouble
America will once again stand united when both parties, and everyone in between, have breathing room. The arts, music, sports, comedy and television must, as they have done for decades, provide an escape from the constraints and complaints of government and public policy.