Guest view: A divided America cannot stand

  • America, confronted by its divisions, is still in the long search for that more perfect union.

    America, confronted by its divisions, is still in the long search for that more perfect union. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

  • Frank G. Splitt

    Frank G. Splitt

By Frank G. splitt
Guest columnist
Posted8/24/2020 1:00 AM

Much happened in America before and after the year 1619 that was highlighted by Nikole Hannah-Jones in her Pulitzer Prize-winning paper "The 1619 Project" on the history of the sordid treatment of American Blacks.

Recent research indicates that the first Americans came from East Asia some 30,000 years ago.


These indigenous peoples were the ancestors of today's Native Americans.

So, from that perspective, "The 1619 Project" covers less than 2% of humankind's history in America -- albeit a small but important piece of a complex mosaic of human behavior in America.

To be complete, this historical mosaic must also include the ignoble treatment of Native Americans during the era of Manifest Destiny and the ongoing prejudicial treatment of racial, ethnic and sexual minorities, as well as immigrants and women.

History, evolutionary and socio biology, as well as the physics of entropy tell us that the arc of human behavior bends toward disorder, tribalism, oppression and poverty.

America's liberal democratic republic, with all of its past faults and present imperfections, has proved to be somewhat of an aberration, the best known exception to this brutal course of human behavior and affairs.

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Nonetheless, America is a country still struggling to become a more perfect union -- attempting to live up to the ideals expressed in its Declaration of Independence, Constitution and to the system of laws, liberties, rights and obligations that flow from these documents.

It must be understood that these documents were written by imperfect human beings who were subject to the mores and political pressures of their times.

Almost daily news accounts tell of disordering factional forces such as illiberalism and revisionism that are hard at work -- leading to a potential political crackup feared by our Founding Fathers in Federalist No. 10, when in 1787, James Madison wrote: "Unrestrained factionalism may do significant damage to the fabric of government -- warning of impetuous mobs or factions united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community."

The revisionist faction challenges the work of America's Founding Fathers -- attempting to wholly rewrite American history as a litany of racial transgressions.


For example, "The 1619 Project" challenges America's founding on principles of freedom -- rather considering it a founding designed to maintain a system of slavery without mentioning that it was a painful compromise made to secure ratification of the U.S. Constitution.

The illiberal faction does not respect free speech.

It apparently has its roots in America's academic institutions that ostensibly claim to have a mission primarily focused on the creation, preservation and dissemination of knowledge, all based on freedom of inquiry.

Instead we see strong evidence that these institutions are being roiled by cancel-culture and speech-code enthusiasts.

Something is amiss when non-faculty administrators expand their school's mission by placing over-the-top emphasis on social justice issues such as diversity, inclusion and equity, as important as these issues are and always have been.

As a consequence of this inordinate and distorting emphasis, faculty hiring based on disciplinary merit is bound to diminish -- leading to a further dumbing down of higher education in America.

Where is the outrage and where are the governing boards?

What to do?

We can begin by restoring intellectual honesty in our educational institutions, from K-12 through higher education.

It could be an important corrective action that would reverse the fragmentation of America by political factions by providing an honest account of history at all levels -- with the aim of understanding both its good and bad parts in the context of those past times.

For example, see John Oliver's video "We need to upgrade the way we teach our history," at ( Also see "Educational Opportunities Lost When Schools Ban Native American Symbols," and "The Cherokee Nation: A Story of Survival against All Odds," on pages 7-8 and 46-47 in Reflections: 2016-2019 at (

We find ourselves at a defining, if not perilous, moment in America's history -- bringing to mind the memorable line from Abraham Lincoln's June 1858 address right here in Illinois at the Republican State Convention in Springfield.

To wit: "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Lincoln also had this advice concerning leadership: "Be with a leader when he is right, stay with him when he is still right, but, leave him when he is wrong."

Come November, hope for a viable future of America's democracy will rely on a well-informed electorate that can help place experienced as well as competent and trustworthy men and women at all levels of government no matter their political affiliation.

Moderates from both political parties will then have to work to find common ground to reunite America.

A divided America cannot stand.

• Frank G. Splitt, author of the book "An Odyssey of Reform Initiatives: 1986-2015" and its sequel "Reflections: 2016-2019," is a former McCormick Faculty Fellow at Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and was a Vice President Emeritus of Nortel Networks.

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