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By Robert A. Vella

The 21st century is still new, but it hasn’t been very kind so far to good ole U.S. of A.  The 2000s began with an economic recession as the 1990s dot-com bubble burst.  Then in quick succession came the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the subprime mortgage crisis, the Great Recession, the Gulf oil spill, the electoral rise of right-wing extremism, international turmoil particularly in the Middle East, political scandals galore (too many to mention), racial violence, the specter of catastrophic climate change, the ascent of anti-establishment populism, and the unexpected election of President Trump.

Amid all this tumult, an increasing number of observers began seeing the very fabric of American society – its culture – splintering into divergent factions.  Lines of polarization became distinct over politics, economics, the purpose and role of government, class, ethnicity, religion, immigration, region, war, and other issues.  Some asserted the internal divisions plaguing the nation rivaled that which had triggered the Civil War.  Many others wouldn’t go that far, but knew the country was far from unified.  Most could intuitively feel that something was amiss in their daily lives.  All were aware of a growing distrust of America’s large social institutions.

Now, we can add more weight to the idea that American society is fracturing internally with a new opinion poll suggesting divisions over sex.  From:  It’s Not Just Mike Pence. Americans Are Wary of Being Alone With the Opposite Sex.

Attitudes reflect a work world shadowed by sexual harassment. In recent news about Uber and Fox News, women see cautionary tales about being alone with men.

In interviews, people described a cultural divide. Some said their social lives and careers depended on such solo meetings. Others described caution around people of the opposite sex, and some depicted the workplace as a fraught atmosphere in which they feared harassment, or being accused of it.

“When a man and a woman are left alone, outside parties can insinuate about what’s really going on,” said Christopher Mauldin, a construction worker in Rialto, Calif. “Sometimes false accusations create irreversible damages to reputations.”

He said he avoids any solo interactions with women, including dining or driving, as does his girlfriend with other men. When he needs to meet with women at work or his church, he makes sure doors are left open and another person is present. Others described similar tactics, including using conference rooms with glass walls and avoiding alcohol with colleagues. “Temptation is always a factor,” said Mr. Mauldin, 29.

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15 thoughts on “Drifting apart: New study adds weight to belief that American society is fracturing internally

  1. Robert, I also read the article quoted and was surprised by the findings. Since my days in Brazil, I continue to navigate numerous relationships among my male counterparts.

    Over time, violence, exclusion, and hate corrode human relationships, and fracture our society.

  2. I think there’s a lot of truth to the fracturing issue. However, our societies have always had their differences in ideology, etc. What seems to be growing is emotional polarization, where people holding different views are demonized. Bitterness has become rampant – you see it in televised protests almost every day.

    As far as workplace sexual harassment is concerned, throughout most of my career in the classroom, we were cautioned to never meet with a student of the opposite gender alone – or if we did so, to keep the door open. It makes perfect sense to be cautious in this way with adults in the workplace.

    • Simple question, difficult answer. Much damage has been done to American democracy which will require a determined, concerted, and sustained effort to rectify. Such a monumental effort would seem implausible, at best, given the current social and political climate. However, here’s where I’d start:

      EDUCATION REFORM

      The only way to restore a healthy, functional democracy in America is by getting the public well-informed and engaged in civic activities as Thomas Jefferson prescribed. This means a massive commitment to secular education from preschool through higher ed (post-secondary schooling). It also means decoupling occupational training from college and university curriculums (businesses can train their own workers). Public education should be the mechanism for developing well-rounded citizens, and it should be free from private sector influence.

  3. Ahhh, and THIS is why I’m really starting to like you Robert!!! No. Not in that way. Get your dirty mind outta tha gutter sir! 😉 😛

    Seriously though, you probably know I’m an educator myself — well, FORMER public educator in Texas 😦 — and for the last 20-years minimum, particularly since 1995 inside Texas public education, our state has consistently ranked in the lower half of schools nationally. We fell to 43rd last year! Should I explain how greatly Texas affects federal politics AND the White House!? And how does the U.S. rank in all comparisons to the rest of the world? Most of us know that too. Therefore Robert, you NAILED one of the critical problems/consequences we have had the last three-generations. Bravo! Very sad, but true. I won’t go into the causes of this fall or (at best) stagnation.

    For some comical relief of this painful educational state, let me offer a perfect example of how well we’ve educated our youth for 2-3 generations now…

    Second, is removing the public stigma of mental-illness as well as corporate insurance’s prejudice and discrimination against its diagnosis and quality (long-term?) treatments. Law-enforcement was never meant to be psychological interveners which is why most/many of our federal, state, and municipal prisons are way too full… all the time!

    • Barney’s hair goes back and forth between combed and messy – lol! Yes, America’s education problem lays at the root of our current problems; and, you were on the front lines watching it happen in slow motion. That must have been an exasperating experience.

      On your mental illness point, I couldn’t agree more. It seems that as education has declined in America, so too has the nation’s collective mental health. Are they related? Probably so.

      • That both absolutely go hand-in-hand Robert. And let me emphasize WHICH hands…

        The so-called “normal” sector of society is abnormally educated (if at all) about mental-illness: how to understand it, manage it, and improve it. It begs the question at some point… WHO is really the abnormal ones? How do you know that if you don’t really know mental-illnesses!?

      • Exactly. You should pop over to John Fioravanti’s blog. He’s got a post up on PTSD awareness (see: https://wordpress585519.wordpress.com/2017/07/03/ptsd-awareness-post-2017-part-ii/).

        The general issue of mental health opens up a whole can of worms. For example, studies have shown that certain professions (e.g. law enforcement and politics) attract people with distinct psychological traits and mental disorders. Trump, for instance, provides a textbook example of what is today called “narcissistic personality disorder” (a.k.a. sociopathy). I haven’t seen any studies on this yet, but it’s probably safe to assume that the incidence of mental illness in a population rises in proportion to social instability.

      • Oooo… that sounds like a great post! Thank you!

        PTSD isn’t just for combat veterans either. It is also in the social and domestic domains as well, in varying degrees of manifestations and symptoms.

  4. Sex has always been weaponised against women – many women, myself included avoid situations where we might be alone with a man after the experience of being sexually harassed/assaulted. But it seems to always be used as an opportunity to attack your reputation.
    What is only dawning on people now is that sex can also be weaponised against men. In Denis Lehaine’sauto biography “Unperson: A Life Destroyed” an upcoming journalist who refused to work for MI5 was viciously slandered by previous girlfriends who accused him of rape. By extension no normal heterosexual man who enters into any normal concensual relationship is immune from this type of attack on his reputation. For that matter any man working with children, such as teachers can also have their lives destroyed by false accusations.
    Women have customarily exercised caution with men, but when false allegations become widespread against men, – with women, or working with children – men back away from the situation leaving women and children more vulnerable and isolated.
    If our society was being run by pimps and traffickers this fragmentation would be intentional. Historically slave owners broke the connection between men protecting their families and women and children in order to maximise exploitability.

    • Your superb commentary is greatly appreciated, thank you! It provides exceptional insight and awareness on this worsening sociological problem. I had not considered the exploitation angle. Perhaps, we are all slaves now to the corporate state.

  5. Pingback: Where lays the fault of America’s failing democracy? | The Secular Jurist

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