Fractured America: Where did the ‘United’ go?

Diana Caldon opens a bottle of wine for customers at Diana’s Cellar Door in downtown Kingman. She definitely thinks the nation is divided politically and socially, judging from conversation she hears at the wine bar.

Photo by Hubble Ray Smith.

Diana Caldon opens a bottle of wine for customers at Diana’s Cellar Door in downtown Kingman. She definitely thinks the nation is divided politically and socially, judging from conversation she hears at the wine bar.

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David Pleger of Los Angeles enjoys an iced coffee at Beale Street Brews on his way to Supai. He said people have to get over being upset with the new president and see how things go with the Trump administration.

We’re called the United States of America, but the country appears to be more fractured than united with a wide divide between the left and right, a broken-down health care system and general discontent among the population.

And that’s the short list. The nation is also split on issues such as immigration, abortion, education, gun control, economics and culture.

Most Americans – and their political representatives – can’t seem to agree on anything, and that’s driving a wedge through the country. They can’t even decide on how to begin fixing the problems.

In his book, “The Fractured Republic,” author Yuval Levin argues that the politics of nostalgia is failing 21st-century Americans.

The left remembers a time when unions were strong and large public programs promised to solve pressing social problems. The right beckons back to the Reagan administration when deregulation and lower taxes spurred the economy.

Both Republicans and Democrats are blind to how America has changed over the past 50 years, Levin said.

“Individualism, dynamism and liberalization have come at the cost of dwindling solidarity, cohesion and social order,” he writes. “This has left us with more choice in every realm of life, but less security, stability and national unity.”

Hope and change

There’s still hope for America. The power is in the hands of the people to change direction, and there’s a growing sense that people have had enough of the bitching and bickering.

“Terrorism, racism, anger. Everyone is just angry,” said Michelle Dunn, a working wife and mother of two who was enjoying a glass of sangria with her friend at Diana’s Cellar Door. “Why can’t we get along? Peace and love.

“I was telling my husband I want to rewind and be a housewife of the ’50s and take care of the kids. Nobody’s watching the kids and making them respect anybody,” she said.

That’s a big part of the problem, Dunn added. People are disrespectful all around, burning the flag and protesting and rioting.

“I just saw a video of Snoop Dog shooting the president. He should be in jail for that,” she said. “I don’t care if you don’t like him. Give him respect.”

David Pleger of Los Angeles can see how the country is divided by reading comments on Facebook.

He said he lives in a “sea of Democrats” in Los Angeles, but there are Republicans to the east and north, from the San Fernando Valley to the San Joaquin Valley, and everyone is mad at each other.

“Can’t we just look at cute cats on Facebook?” he said at Beale Street Brews, where he stopped in with his wife and daughter on their way to Supai. “People just have to get over all the upset, but right now there’s just so much going on. Yes, things are different, but Congress will run just as it always has.”

‘Give him a chance’

Clearly, the election of President Donald Trump has created political change in America that is reverberating worldwide, and the majority of the U.S. population remains committed to seeing how it all plays out.

Diana Caldon, owner of Diana’s Cellar Door wine bar in downtown Kingman, admits she’s “right-winged” and has no problem with the president.

“My own personal belief is give him a chance and see what he can do,” she said between wine pours. “We know some places where companies are coming back, the stock market’s going up. Being a small business for the last eight years here, it’s been real tough for me. There’ve been no cuts to help small-business owners. I’d definitely like to see tax rollbacks and help us build.”

Though she’d prefer to keep the conversation light, Caldon hears heated political banter at her wine bar. People are certainly expressing opposite opinions of where they stand on the issues, which makes her feel sad.

“It’s almost like the other side wants that division, and nobody wins when that happens,” the bar owner said. “It’s like a divorce. Nobody wins.”

Common purpose

Patriots joined forces to defeat the British in the American Revolution, and the United States emerged from World War II as a prosperous and powerful nation. Then we put a man on the moon.

We’re still the greatest country in the world, but there’s not really a sense of common purpose in America, said Eddie Sarfaty, a writer from New York who’s living as an artist-in-residence at the ArtHub.

In World War II, you had a farmer from Iowa fighting side-by-side with a Jewish guy from New York and a Mexican from New Mexico, he said.

“You have people say, ‘This is my right as an American,’ but nobody talks about their responsibility of being American,” Sarfaty said. “We don’t have any kind of community service. The thing is, we need so much done in this country. Why can’t we rebuild our infrastructure and make it a group effort?”

Carol Dykman, formerly of Kingman and now living in Gilbert, sees the division growing wider and wider, with Trump supporters excluding others from coming to America.

“Our country was built on blending,” she said. “It’s really disturbing that they want to make America all white and exclude Muslims, Jewish, Mexicans. It’s the strength of our country that we’ve been a nation of immigrants,” Dykman said.