POLARIZATION’S ASYMMETRY IN THE UNITED STATES*
29 MARCH 2021
Untitled, Watercolor, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
The good news is polarization in the United States is asymmetric. Only one side has abdicated all principle. Among those who lack the good character and sense to have abandoned the party of Lincoln, name a Republican pol with intellectual honesty and credibility. On the national stage and many local stages, such a task is near impossible. Why? Because the now rudder-less party stands for little else than crass obstructionism, intellectual dishonesty, the Big Lie, and unmasked racism, all as justification to disenfranchise millions of voters. Again, why? Because those are the only means for a shrinking authoritarian-minded minority to gain or keep control — so they can continue refusing to change while also refusing to govern. Who, by the way, has emerged as the intellectual standard bearer of so-called conservatism (or whatever it is the GOP purports still to represent)? Do we have divergent points of view with debatable intellectual and moral merit, if not equivalence, that have at least the potential to resonate? No. William F. Buckley won’t be debating Gore Vidal, James Baldwin, or Noam Chomsky anytime soon.
Polarization, used advisedly here, often inhibits our willingness or ability to dissect, analyze, and criticize issues on their merits. We care more about who said it than what was said. That may be inevitable where the Republicans have a demonstrated history of brazen dishonesty and abandonment of core moral imperatives. One side, and not the other, having gone so far off the rails, I find it difficult to consider whether anything they say has merit. The former guy’s estrangement from facts and truth exposed everything he uttered as ulterior with zero merit. I concluded it should be summarily rejected. That continues to be my initial reaction to all things concerning him or those who cynically prey on his following. Upon deeper analysis — taking into consideration any discernable substance that might, in fact, improve the lives of people in the United States — my initial reaction seems a mostly fair and legitimate continuing response to him and his radical discipleship.
More substantively, I have gone after, and will continue doing so, those who debase themselves out of personal, political ambition — the likes of Hawley, Cruz, Graham, and Lee — by cynically exploiting radical disciples and conspiracy theorists, those given to abandoning self-determination in favor of unqualified submission to stupidity. Living during what is among the most divided periods in US history, I am willing — sometimes eager — to join that divisive fray with irreverent, small-minded cracks at perceived nemeses. I throw jabs at blatant ignorance and inanity, at frenetic loyalty and discipleship to cultish, conspiratorial nonsense, Cruz-led side-shows and spectacles, alternative facts and realities — a sort of owning the libs in reverse. Parody and sarcasm to make the point.
On real substance, however, dissect analysis, challenge reasoning, counter arguments. I am, of course, not talking about the maggot-ridden, decomposing remains of the GOP.
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com. Rob’s second novel, a beautifully written suspense drama that takes place in Utah, Wyoming, and Norway, dropped on November17, 2020. Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Bookstore and your favorite local bookshop, this novel, The Contortionists, which Rob himself narrates for the audio version, is a psychological page-turner about a missing child in a predominantly Mormon community. I have read the novel and listened to the audio version twice. It is a literary masterpiece. The Contortionists, however, is not for the faint of heart.
**Richard J Van Wagoner is my father. His list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in many traveling shows domestically and internationally. My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father’s work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father’s art reproduced in https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com are hers