“Fear of the divisive in politics seems to hark back to our original, still-undealt-with divides, one of which leads straight to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 'There probably has not been a more racially divisive, economic-divisive president in the White House since we had presidents who supported slavery,' said Representative Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican, in January, 2016, during a radio interview.
“Barack Obama has been on the receiving end of this accusation for years. In a 2012 speech, Marco Rubio said, 'We have not seen such a divisive figure in modern American history as we have over the last three and a half years.’' Few of the accusations of divisiveness specify what exactly makes Obama so divisive.
“With no supporting evidence, you are free to speculate that Obama’s race is at the root of his divisiveness. But you can’t just say ‘'because he’s black,' because that’s divisive, too. The bad math emits a radioactive glow. We keep dividing until there’s nothing left to say: That’s how it feels on both sides of the chasm.
“A word meant to describe the opening of mouths has now, with regard to race, become a muzzle. Nonetheless, Brooks seems fond of leaving his at home. 'Obama is hellbent on doing this kind of damage to his country,' he said on talk radio in December, 2015, 'because he doesn’t think the Judeo-Christian people who made America the greatest nation in world history are deserving of the role that they have played in making America great.'
“Brooks and his ilk are fomenting divisiveness. You can hear, in their language, politicians looking to keep the country turned against itself. And you can also hear divisive old Taylor Swift singing our grim new national anthem: We are never, ever, ever getting back together.”
(Wesley Morris. “It’s in America’s DNA to Be ‘Divisive.’”
The New York Times. February 09, 2016.)
No matter President Obama's comments on any sensitive issue, scores of his opponents rail about how Obama is dividing the country with his rhetoric. It is my belief that many people who find it so easy to criticize the president do not listen to his words as much as they judge that those words come from a dark pigmented face. This prejudice – a form of conditioned dislike – is often disguised as political disagreement when, in reality, it is a rejection of the need for an increased minority consciousness.
When a view is divisive, it causes disagreement or dissension. Born of honest argument and diversity, divisiveness has been a part of the American culture since the country's inception. But, the connotation of the word divisive no longer entertains logical consideration. Wesley Morris, critic at large for The New York Times, explains …
“The word is now used in a way that is both antirhetorical and opportunistic....
“This incarnation of the word doesn’t invite debate. It pre-emptively squelches it. 'Divisive' here tries to take what’s divisive off the table, in order to keep a version of the peace.
“So 'divisive' has mutated from neutral to negative. Now it’s a criticism. Of anybody.”
Morris's point is well taken. As President Obama makes statements that may seem divisive in that they often invite debate – statements on gun control, race relations, immigration, gender rights, police brutality – opponents are quick to say he is damaging the country with negative dissension. In truth, the president often encourages the nation to better itself by broadening its common, worn perspectives.
Who is really guilty of being polarizing if government officials use the “divisive” label to advance their own prejudiced, political views? These people certainly contribute to great disunity with their continuous ad hominem attacks upon the president. It seems any argument about important issues leads to political figures exclaiming Obama is tearing the country apart. Instead, isn't it just possible he is pointing out significant fractures that already exist and threaten to cause greater, more significant damage?
The word divisive is a weapon wielded by disgruntled, angry people who often seek a scapegoat for tremendously complicated social and political ills. These folks are quick to hurl the criticism and bandwagon together in a mob mentality instead of taking considerable time and effort to research the reasons for any discontent. America must remain a country of individuals and particular voices, not a union of blind alliances.
And, speaking of divisive presidents, who can deny that Abraham Lincoln, with his monumental attempts of preserving an undivided and just union, was the victim of the most polarized government in American history? Criticism, debate, and the search for truth and justice have endured as essential parts of the American character. If President Obama practices these things, those who view him as negatively “divisive” should look closely at what needs to be on the table.