If it seems the country is now more divided than ever — well, perhaps that’s because the country is now more divided than ever.
Besides the ever-present conflicts over politics, we have coronavirus, which is the most divisive issue of my lifetime. People can’t agree on whether we should shut down again, whether we should have shut down in the first place, whether kids should go back to school, or whether everyone should be forced to wear masks.
Further exacerbating the situation is the fact that those disagreements do not always fall along party lines. I now find myself at odds with friends who have shared my views on practically everything for many years. And because the issue is so emotionally charged, sometimes those differences of opinion can become pretty contentious.
Believe it or not, I’ve never had anyone unfriend me on Facebook because of my politics. Yet in the past four months, several erstwhile friends have done just that over my views on the coronavirus pan-panic.
But there’s something else going on here, too. It’s not just that attitudes toward the virus and our collective response have created such division. It’s that the virus itself has destroyed, at least temporarily, so many of the things that unite us, that bring us together.
Take church, for example. Some of the people who no longer like me because I believe the shutdowns were a mistake are members of my congregation. For years, I would see them on Sundays, and often during the week, and we would exchange friendly pleasantries. That hasn’t happened now for four months.
Some might think religion itself is divisive, since not everyone believes exactly the same things. But as a Christian, I always found it uplifting to pass other houses of worship with mostly full parking lots on my way to church each Sunday morning. It made me feel part of something bigger.
And then there are things like sporting events and concerts. I’ll tell you what: When you’re cheering on the Red and Black at Sanford Stadium, it doesn’t matter if the fan sitting next to you is black, white, male, female, gay, straight, Baptist, Methodist, or atheist. You’re too busy high-fiving when the Dawgs score a touchdown.
The same goes for music. Every summer, I love attending those free outdoor concerts at the Mall of Georgia or in downtown Lawrenceville, listening to some local cover band play my favorite songs. I don’t care if the people around me are aging leftist hippies or recent immigrants. We’re all just enjoying the tunes.
Now all of that is gone, or at least suspended. Given the level of hysteria currently permeating our society, I wonder if some of it will ever come back.
That would be tragic perhaps coronavirus’s worst casualty. Because when we lose those things that unite us, all we’re left with are the ones that divide us.