The Offended Form This Nation

We have reasons to be offended

Are you offended?

It may be an easy question to answer given the state of the news we see every week, every day, every hour. Pile on what you experience if you trapse through the offerings of social media and you may easily come away incensed with the state of our current realities. Offended, indeed!

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The Washington Post, as reported on the front page of Saturday’s edition of The Oregonian, identifies yet another national divide in, “Poll: Support for pullout, not methods.”

Americans overwhelmingly support President Joe Biden’s decision to end the war in Afghanistan, but by a 2-to-1 margin they disapprove of how he handled the chaotic and ultimately deadly withdrawal, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The new poll shows 77% of Americans say they support the decision to withdraw all U.S. forces. Support crosses party lines, with 88% of Democrats, 74% of Republicans and 76% of independents aligned.

That’s just one bit of the news that shows we are a divided nation. Here’s another that followed shortly thereafter, as reported by John Fritz’s article in USA Today: Supreme Court declines to block Texas abortion law that bans procedure at six weeks.

A divided Supreme Court late Wednesday denied an effort by abortion rights groups to halt a Texas law that bans women from having the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy, wading into a divisive debate hours after the prohibition had already taken effect.

The 5-4 ruling, handed down one minute before midnight, followed a daylong outcry from abortion rights groups and applause from anti-abortion advocates across the nation after the Texas prohibition took effect and several clinics said they would honor it. Similar abortion bans in other states had been quickly halted by federal courts before they took effect.

The offended form political divides

Such news pulls us apart – away from each other. Whatever the news item, one side is pleased and the other is offended. All of this comes in the midst of mask mandates, vaccination requirements, and kids going back to school – or not. There’s plenty of offense to go around.

David Brooks, writing for The Atlantic, points to a divided nation emerging just a few years before these more recent news items. His article, How the Bobos Broke America, reports:

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the 50 most-educated counties in America by an average of 26 points—while losing the 50 least-educated counties by an average of 31 points.

These partisan differences overlay economic differences. In 2020, Joe Biden won just 500 or so counties—but together they account for 71 percent of American economic activity, according to the Brookings Institution. Donald Trump won more than 2,500 counties that together generate only 29 percent of that activity. An analysis by Brookings and The Wall Street Journal found that just 13 years ago, Democratic and Republican areas were at near parity on prosperity and income measures. Now they are divergent and getting more so.

If Republicans and Democrats talk as though they are living in different realities, it’s because they are. [my emphasis]

We have many reasons to be offended. World changing news events constantly cause us to reevaluate our own realities, emphasizing our differences both in terms of values and economics.

Being offended means you care

Just to be reassured, it’s natural to be so offended. It means you care.

It is this very caring and this very sense of offense that make democracy difficult. We must stand for what we believe in, for what we desire to pursue, while respecting and allowing “the others” in our midst to also stand and pursue for what their realities may dictate.

How we react to offending news reveals much about us. Do we engage and seek answers to coherent questions, using reason to calm our nerves? Or do we vent our anger and, undisciplined, allow it to eventuate into violence?

It’s difficult to gain consensus. Because it is, we must respect and listen to each other. David Brooks continues in his article:

Donald Trump … won because he made the white working class feel heard.

Presidential elections, however, are not good examples of respecting or hearing voting citizens in any kind of democratic accounting. Every presidential election disenfranchises large segments of our society, averaging 48% of the ballots cast over the past 16 elections because of the Winner-Takes-All (WTA) approach. Over 69 million ballots never made it to the Electoral College in 2020!

Would you be offended in 2020, say, if you voted for Biden while living in Texas or for Trump while living in California and realize your vote did not matter? Are you offended whenever your opinion goes unnoticed, your vote disenfranchised?

Equal Voice Voting (EVV) will not alleviate your being offended by the news. But it can guarantee that All Votes Matter! That should bolster your voting confidence. EVV should reassure you that our democracy functions by hearing all voters, all perspectives, and respecting true coalitions that form across our nation.

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By Jerry Spriggs and the Equal Voice Voting Team