Wednesday, October 12, 2005

American Union?

In reading about Marshall McLuhan, I found that he was close friends with, and influenced by, the painter/writer Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957). Dr. Eric McLuhan (Marshall McLuhan's own son, as well as research assistant), when writing about the source of the phrase "Global Village" in the elder McLuhan's work, points to Lewis' book, America and Cosmic Man, published in 1948 ('48 for the UK; '49 for the US):
If you look at North America on the map of the world, you see a very uniform mass. It is more concentrated and uniform than any other land mass. You see an immense area full of people speaking one tongue: not a checkerboard of "united states" at all but one huge State. "United States" is today a misnomer. And since plural sovereignty anyway--now that the earth has become one big village, with telephones laid on from one end to the other, and air transport, both speedy and safe must be a little farcical, the plurality implied in that title could be removed as a good example to the rest of the world, and the U. S. A. become the American Union. [Ameria and Cosmic Man -- Chapter Two, paragraph 11]
If he was that impressed with the connectivity afforded by telegraph and telephone, what would Lewis have thought about the Internet, email, and instant messaging? Now, I don't know if the above excerpt proves anything about the origin of "Global Village," but I am fascinated with contrasting Lewis' late 40s view of the US with the deeply divided country I live in today. I suppose in many ways, we are still the one huge State that Lewis observed.

But look how divided we are in the wake of the 2000 and 2004 elections. And it didn't start there. It goes back. In the 1990s, House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) regularly referred to Clinton as "your president" when talking to House Democrats. In the 1980s, President Reagan divided not only Republicans and Democrats, but the Democratic Party itself; the so-called "Reagan Democrats" threw in with the Republican Party, electing Reagan and aligning their interests with those of the Fortune 500. (Note: Reagan was once a Democrat, but switched to the Republican Party before the 1964 elections).

I could probably find examples of disunity every decade or so back to at least 1900. Is there any way we can become united again? Are there too many differing voices, all of which will lay waste to any plans that try to realize sane economic development, energy independence, and secure borders (but with open, global relationships)? Will rampant individualism and petty greed grind this nation down to a mere memory? If we cannot work together to achieve common goals that are in America's best interest, will America drop from world power to world history footnote? I don't have any answers here ... just alot of questions.

Update: Interesting to note that George W. Bush campaigned on the premise of being a "uniter, not a divider." Well, right now folks are a whole lot more united ... that is, united in disapproving of the job that the Preznit is doing, but I don't think that's what he was aiming for.

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