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November 18, 2012

Party Opposition is Not Civil War

By Eric Lucas

Today, politics in our nation is waged like war. Many observe that politics is pursued with the scorched earth strategy of war where the objective is to annihilate the opposition. But if we are to prosper as one nation, if we desire to end our undeclared civil war, then we must come to a new understanding of party and the idea of opposition.


Today, politics in our nation is waged like war.   Many observe that politics is pursued with the scorched earth strategy of war where the objective is to annihilate the opposition.   But if we are to prosper as one nation, if we desire to end our undeclared civil war, then we must come to a new understanding of party and the idea of opposition.

Polarity:   Fracture or Complement  

  It is common in political-speak today to describe our nation as "polarized."   In an article entitled "Five Things We Learned on Election Night" CNN editor Paul Steinhauser wrote:

"The 2012 presidential election shattered spending records, further polarized a divided country and launched a thousand hashtags"."

But what does polarity really mean? Are opposite poles complements like "male and female," or do they represent irreconcilable contradictions?  

The description of polarity imbedded in the quote has within it a view of polarity as irreconcilable differences or "fracture" as I have begun to call it.   The concept of "fracture" is introduced and thoroughly discussed in my article entitled:   "Law, Truth, Meaning and Lies: A Metaphysical View of Berea College v. the Commonwealth of Kentucky."      

Berea College   

Jim Crow was instituted in the United States at the turn of the century.    Jim Crow laws were intended to reverse the achievements of the Civil War and institute in the place of slavery, a structure of second class citizenship for the former American slaves.  

The State of Kentucky adopted a set of Jim Crow laws in the early 1900's and then began their enforcement.   The aim was to segregate whites from blacks.   The tool was to make illegal certain associations between whites and blacks.   The Berea College case was Jim Crow applied to higher education.   The college was required by the new law to stop teaching whites and blacks together.    

Berea College organized under the General Laws of Kentucky in 1859. Thus, at the time when the State of Kentucky indicted the school (1904), whites and blacks had been attending school together since the school's inception -- approximately 45 years.

The article asserts a few essential concepts.  First:

"Laws, legal argument, and legal analysis all exist by making distinctions"....that traditional legal analysis creates distinctions by creating conceptual oppositional pairs: like the public/private distinction. This is how meaning is created."

In other words, lawyers from law school forward, deal with "oppositional pairs" like the "public v. private" distinction.   We discover that these oppositions are necessary to create meaning and eventually final outcomes.   We work with them on a daily basis our entire careers.   Most of the time we arrive at "meaning" and/or "results" by balancing these pairs of opposites.    But sometimes -- like in the case of Berea College -- the opposing concepts do not achieve their ends via a process of balancing.   Instead they achieve their ends via a process I have called "fracture."

Polarization that balances is the polarization of complementarity: like male and female.   But a polarization that separates and annihilates is a polarization of fracture: like white/black segregation.  About polarization that fractures I wrote:     

  ""....Fracturing, then, is a process of privileging through polarization where the polarizing process is somehow taken to the extreme.   It is this extreme polarization--stretching the rubber band beyond its bounds until it breaks--that creates the fracturing of the relationship.    Extreme polarization destroys.   The method utilized is to destroy the form (oppositional pair) and thereby achieve a destruction of substance."

Republicans vs. Democrats: Freedom, Unity, Party and Purpose  

Today many individuals conceptualize and thereby practice the politics of fracture.   They either explicitly or implicitly use the rhetoric of destruction and annihilation:   whether reflected in efforts to "secede" from the union or merely suggesting a "gun-sight" be placed on a website over a particular opposing candidate's photo.

Roles have altered over time.   But in our day, arguably, it would be fair to describe the Republican party as the party seeking to uphold the ideal of freedom.   And the Democratic party as the party seeking to uphold the ideal of unity or community.

There are two different ways to view party roles.   One way is the way of fracture and annihilation:   that freedom is the only way and that community is socialism and wrong and must be destroyed at all costs or the result is the apocalypse, and vice versa.  

The other method is the way of balancing or complementarity.   This view recognizes that each party has a purpose.   It recognizes that the purpose of each party rests in advancing its particular ideal:   freedom or unity.   It recognizes that freedom and unity are pairs of opposites that need each other in order to create meaning--that there can be no conception of freedom without a conception of community.   This view maintains that practices of fracture and annihilation destroy our whole society, not just the intended hated other.  

Complementarity understands that it is extremely difficult to try and hold as your goal both ideals at the same time.   One must have priority over the other.   But complemetarity also understands that this "prioritization" is not evil.   In fact, it is necessary.   And, this is the very role of political parties, to hold sacred and advance the core ideal of its group.   However, complementarity understands that in any given epoch -- sometimes freedom must lead, but sometimes unity must lead also.   It understands that this is why we have elections: to decide which priority should lead given the needs of the time.

Put an End to Civil War Thinking

We must put an end to Civil War thinking.

There are multiple valid purposes, all inspired by a given ideal.   Men and women; Parent and Child, white and black, Republican and Democrat, the list goes on and on.     

In our lives we can treat these differences as contradictions and reasons to try and annihilate one another, or we can see them as the complements they are in reality.   If we accept reality, we accept a dynamic life that demands and requires balancing.   We understand that this is the thrill of living. For the work is never done.   We adjust our purpose in the great symphony of life and thereby advance all other forms of purpose.   This can only happen if we accept the importance and purpose of the other and not seek their annihilation.   When every person is important and has significance, the result is peace: a dynamic peace in living.   Annihilation will achieve peace also. But it will be the static peace of death.   Choose life.

Submitters Website: http://www.ezlight.wordpress.com

Submitters Bio:

Eric Z. Lucas is an alumnus of Stanford University (Creative Writing Major: 1972-1975), the University of Washington (1981: BA English Literature and Elementary Education) and Harvard Law School, J.D. 1986. Since law school he has been a public servant: a prosecuting attorney, a city attorney and a trial judge. Born in Spokane, Washington where his military family lived until the age of twelve, he still resides in Washington State. Married to his wife Beth since 1974, they have four adult children and two grandchildren. Further discussions of Eric's work are available on the website: The Path of Public Service. Eric is the author of the following books: a children's book entitled: "The Island Horse," November 2005; "The Tao of Public Service" published February 2013 by Balboa Press, and "All Lives Matter: Essays, On the Need for a New View of Citizenship" published by KindlePublishing e-book July 2015. Eric's books are currently available from: Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Balboa Press and Self Discovery Publications directly or through the website listed below.