If you follow the news at all, it's hard to escape the sense that we are three nations, under God, completely divisible, with liberty and justice for some. These three America's aren't like the two Americas that John Edwards used to talk about. Those two Americas are so well established that they have morphed into one depraved country in which the ruling elite so dominate everyone else that it hardly bears notice.
No, I'm talking about three different Americas, defined by attitudes and behaviors, not class and status.
The first of these three other Americas represents about a quarter of the population. These are people who believe in American exceptionalism in every way. We get to play by different rules, they say, rules that include killing each other at the drop of a hint, letting the poor die in the streets, destroying nature, and worse. They want god in heaven, guns in schools, blacks in chains, women serving men, and gays in hell, no matter what. They are Tea Party pure, convinced beyond a shadow of doubt that they are right about everything. God is on their side and they know it.
The second America, also about a quarter of the population, represents those who believe America could be a great nation if we would only step forward and clean up our act. They decry our culture of gun violence, our senseless wars, the omnipresent Big Brother, and our drift toward feudalism. These people support higher taxes, national healthcare, safety nets, and environmental stewardship. They are socialists at heart, but afraid to admit it.
The third America is everyone else. People so disgusted and fed up by the dysfunction of our partisan system that they have purposefully chosen to be uninformed and disengaged. If they vote at all, they are low-information voters, driven by a shallow understanding of policy and the cult of personality. These are the people who decide who gets into office.
As long as we have elections contaminated by the stench of big money, with news media perpetuating the practice of false equivalency, we'll continue to find our government swinging wildly from one extreme to the other. And it won't be long before our inability to act on strategic issues like climate change and income disparity puts us up against the wall with no way out.
Will we then act like civilized human beings and cooperate to create a new future? I doubt it. More likely, the three Americas will become even more extreme and dysfunctional, breaking down into warring factions where a violent minority of savages wreak havoc.