The country is divided. The political atmosphere has never been so divisive. Civil society is falling apart, and our democracy is in peril.
This is what we've been hearing for months in the lead up to this week's midterm elections. It's the picture being presented by pundits in both the mainstream and fringe media and what politicians from the top on down have been spewing. While it may be true that Congress is dysfunctional and that the convention-busting nature of this administration has thrown a certain segment of the population into turmoil, from where we sit, we don't see the division. We don't see the divisiveness. Society and government seem to be working just fine at our level, thank you very much.
National policy is important and impacts us all, and there is clearly disagreement about the direction our country should be headed in many areas among the policy wonks and legislators who make those big decisions. But on the local, and even state level – at least here in Massachusetts – there are far fewer divisions, and these are the things that impact people the most: local policies that raise or lower property taxes, decide which roads are paved and the teacher to student ratio in classrooms. Sure there are disagreements locally – witness this week's discussion at the Chatham selectmen's meeting regarding the impact of seals and sharks – but the discussions, for the most part, are civil and respectful. People of apparently divergent political affiliations often agree on these issues. Democracy, locally at least, is robust and functional.
Is it the media's fault for playing up the divisions at the national level, making it seem like they infect every aspect or our lives? The pervasive cacophony, from both sides, is surely a factor. It's nearly impossible to ignore. But down here at the local level, where the issues – development, the year-round vs. seasonal economy, erosion, housing costs – don't change much from year to year, we are removed from all that mishegoss. And happily so.
This is being written before voters go to the polls Tuesday, and frankly, the results, while obviously important, are not relevant to this argument. Whoever wins, the toxic political discourse will continue, even as folks down here in the trenches continue with our neighborly ways. Doesn't make for incendiary headlines or gripping chyrons, but it sure is a more healthy and happy way to live.