The Divided States of America – Will We, as a Nation, Continue to Stand? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf


15036682_10154709860681591_8947505383481702342_nIf you are like me, you are still reeling from the election results in the United States – trying to make sense of it, while at the same time going through the steps of mourning.  As I write this, it is difficult to call our country United – because it is anything but.  In reality, we have become the Divided States of America – and worse, we have had friendships lost and detachments with relatives over this election.  And I guess I could say, what’s even worse – we learned about the bigotry and viewpoints of people we used to consider friends or even learned this about family members, even spouses.

When one mourns, it is to cope, heal, and to express the loss of love.  However, I think we should stop or never approach the final stage of acceptance; rather, I think we need to be vigilant.

Back in the early 1930s, there was a person considered to be powerful and charismatic, and much like Trump, beyond reproach.  Hungering for change, a promise was made to the disenfranchised for a better life and to make the country glorious (or great).  Even with losing about 2 million votes from the previous election in July 1932 (a number that ironically is the estimated spread of popular votes Hillary won over her opponent), a coalition with Conservatives was made in January 1933, a man named Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor – head of the German Government – the proclaimed savior of a nation. Racism and authoritarian ideas, basic freedoms were abolished, forcing parties into goals, abolishing trade unions – the world saw the move from democracy to a dictatorship and the loss of privacy and use of terror used to achieve goals became the new norm.

Am I trying to be an alarmist, no, but I am calling for vigilance.  Part of the work I do requires me to read Nazi Era unclassified briefings, which often include government briefings, letters of victims, and correspondence between different businesses.  As I read through these documents, my mind continues to move back to the election. The fear, the desperation, and the destruction – you gain an insight from primary source documents that help you experience the fear of the oppressed.  There are so many similarities between that election and Hilter’s rise to power, that we must stay vigilant.

So here we sit, a divided nation that has blamed racial divide on our first African American

President, as well as a congress that has denied the President the ability to fulfill an almost 1-year vacancy in the Supreme Court, played bipartisan games giving the illusion that Obamacare and other policies were substandard and denying that they were bastardized by bipartisan disagreements and politics.  Then there are interference of the FBI, voter fraud allegations and lost ballots, the appointment of power-mongering racist career politicians that seem to remain at the bottom of that drained swamp that we have heard so much about, and the blatant allegations of fraud and wrongdoing – all of which continue to be ignored and overlooked.  Some will go so far as to say that this is for the betterment of the country.  I don’t have to tell you that I adamantly disagree – this country, before the election tore it apart, was already great – and we were in a time of measurable growth – the first time in a long time.

The “reality show” rhetoric with a string of already broken promises have been discounted and justified as a means to an end.  We as a nation stand abhorrently divided – and that is a problem.  We have racial violence and religious bigotry spilling into our elementary schools, universities, churches, and communities.  We have parades by the KKK, interference with foreign governments,  and the rhetoric of registries, walls, and camps – is this really the State of our Union?  We must never forget that at one time, in a not so distant past, it was our differences that united us – that is what made (or makes) our country great.  It was our quest to have a safe space to practice or not practice our faith; celebrate the traditions of our homeland while learning about others; in this, the United States of America, differences were welcome and embraced.

We need to recall Mark 3:25: “and if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” In other words, for the country to move forward, we must find a way to come together, heal, and be united so that the history of the 1930’s does not repeat itself. We need to be a better stronger nation – leaving the world better for the next generation.  With someone who does not believe in global warming and feels that since we have nuclear weapons, why not use them – will there even be a world left for my children and grandchildren?

Michele Stopera Freyhauf is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and a Member of the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University as well as an Instructor at John Carroll University’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies. Her research and areas  of focus for the classroom, lecture, and publication are Religion, Cultural Identity and Memory Studies, Forced Migration and Exile, Cultural Heritage and Human Rights, Biblical Archaeology, Provenance of Antiquities and Art (including Nazi-Era Looting) and international dialogue surrounding the protection, conservation, and education of cultural heritage.  Michele has an M. A. in Theology and Religious Studies from John Carroll University, and did post-graduate work at the University of Akron in the area of History of Religion, Gender, and Sexuality. She is also the student representative on the Board for Eastern Great Lakes Biblical Society (EGLBS). Michele is the 2015 recipient of the P. E. MacAllister Excavation Fellowship where she participated in the Bethsaida Archaeology Project.  Michele is a feminist scholar, activist, and author of several articles including “Hagia Sophia: Political and Religious Symbolism in Stones and Spolia” and lectured during the Commission for the Status of Women at the United Nations (2013 and 2014). She also wrote “The Catholic Church and Social Media: Embracing [Fighting] a Feminist Ideological Theo-Ethical Discourse and Discursive Activism” that appears in Feminism and Religion in the 21st Century: Technology, Dialogue, and Expanding Borders, edited by Gina Messina-Dysert and Rosemary Radford Ruether. Michele can be followed on Twitter @msfreyhauf and @biblicalfem. Her website can be accessed here and is visible on other social media sites like LinkedIn and Google+.

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Categories: Abuse of Power, Activism, anxiety, General, Healing, White Privilege

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7 replies

  1. Michele, you’re right–will there be a nation here for our descendants? Will Trump sell the Grand Canyon? Pollute the world’s oceans? What will happen to women in academia or in business? What kind of corruption is there already in Trump’s business dealings and what will there be after January?

    Your comparison to Germany in the 1930s is apt. Let’s add Italy and Spain, too.

    For whatever it’s worth, I will not watch the inauguration. I think I’ll watch my DVD of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret instead. And I’ll keep wearing my safety pin and pearl. And keep wondering HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

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  2. The whole world seems to be in a mess with extremists of Christian and Muslim and most of all, Consumer Capitalism lose with guns and dollars. I call it a crisis rather than a disaster, because a crisis gives us some power to respond. Then the question for me is: “How will we/I respond?” And when?

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  3. Out of my own mourning over divisions made visible, painful real and threatening in its consequences, I too had concluded we have become the Divided States of America and I cannot see how that can make us great again. ‘Divide and conquer’ usually works well together. In fact it has already worked well together in our country. Haves and have nots, whites and non whites, liberal and conservative, male and female, born and unborn name some of the most blatant lines of divisions played out in this election.

    I was born in ’41 into an immigrant Austro-Hungarian family. During the WW11 years my parents used their native language to discuss things they didn’t want us to hear. On rainy days I poured over a picture documentary kept in a closet with family memorabilia. Its graphic images of the horrors and devastation of their native war torn lands in Europe were etched in my young soul (not unlike the violent images our children see on tv everyday). My catholic college education touched on the Holocaust with little reflection, and left me to question how an educated and christian population could buy into and support Hitler’s national agenda. At later life intervals I questioned myself as to how I would respond if I ever had to live into and under a fascist regime in my own country? Somehow I always sensed that “one nation under God with liberty and justice for all” could become a pious platitude and lead us into a day to be tested.

    Your article ended with the concern, “will there even be a world left for my children and grandchildren?” Oddly our white far right conservative evangelical and catholic leaders with their narrow profile view are more concerned with the reverse of your question “, will there be children left for our world?”

    These religious leaders are blame worthy for both their silences and their promulgations around the “huge” issues that our nation faces, namely: worry about the unborn in favor of the born, a woman is not equal to a man and must never lead no matter how qualified, climate change is hardly a threat, economy “trumps” justice, ignore racial divides, uphold the advantages of citizens united and reverse affordable care, disregard the separation of church and state and practice religious freedom to discriminate.

    Once again I must ask, how DID an educated christian population buy into and support wholesale propaganda and select Trump as their savior? Note the statistics below regarding religious impact on christian followers.

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    Along with our painful detachment from one another, how can we trust/depend on our religious institutions or our courts for leadership or moral judgements in the future?
    Are we left as a ship without an anchor or a compass in the storms ahead?

    Consilia Karli

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  4. I’m not sure what the answers are, but I recently finished reading Starhawk’s book, “The Fifth Sacred Thing,” in which she imagines a world of the future where people live together in harmony with each other and the earth, but they make many sacrifices in order to get there. I’m afraid we will run out of water and unpolluted air before we get there.

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  5. I too was struck by the chilling comparison between what we have become and Hitler’s reign. We are divided as a country and we are women who hate other women. We NEED to see these truths to break through the denial

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  6. I am a British feminist woman writing from the UK who voted BREXIT,not because I am right wing or these days even left- but because I wished my country to take back the soverienty my government had given away, which was not its right to do so-And because I have seen the slow undoing of communities all over this country, through the effects of so called ‘pluralism’- globalisation- free market capitalism and the suffering and helplessness it has brought in its wake, with whole communities and peoples divested of any sense of purpose value and meaning, alienated and forgotten by politicians and politics in their rush to embrace more money, going into less than 1% of the population , whilst young people are left without skills or basic abilities to read and write; hopelessness and violence is what you see in some places in this country – where everything has a price,but no one knows what is of value anymore–and with only consumer goods put forward by the media and advertising as the way to a good life, to be a person
    We have lost our way in the West, and it seems in the USA, for some time
    Are you only now ‘a divided nation’, or was that division/s always there, and you did not see it!
    This is not a plea by any means for DT- but neither is it a vote for HC- my vote- if I had had one would have been Bernie Sanders- And now
    it seems to me, we cannot have hope until first we realise we are lost- then we can begin…
    Rosalind Mayo
    Psychoanalyst- writer UK

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