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Who benefits from division?

Divide and conquer — the strategy has been around at least since the days of the Roman Empire.

Divide et impera, divide and rule, was a strategy that allowed the Romans to subjugate adversaries with a minimum of cost and effort. Why fight a united foe when you can soften it up by sowing discontent among its people?

That’s how it feels in America these days, like our politicians are so intent on taking bold stands and bickering, the country is ripe for the picking. Rather than working together to address bellwether issues such as the rise of geopolitical rivals, our own social ills and the harsh environmental realities this country faces, they would rather tear each other apart.

At least that’s how it seems on partisan cable news and the conspiracy-laden internet. Crawl down those rabbit holes, no matter which side you choose, and you find that Republicans and Democrats are at each other’s throats 24/7. White citizens and Black citizens are at each other’s throats 24/7. Everybody is at somebody’s throat 24/7.

Really? Lucky we live in Hawaii then. We have our political disagreements, but they have not yet gotten so down and dirty, so personal. When speaking to Mainland friends in battleground states, they lament how polarized their communities remain seven months after the presidential election. Battle lines are drawn over vaccines, masks and even the color of your hat.

The question is, who benefits from this discord? Who stands to gain if American democracy grinds to a halt, if we as a country can no longer compromise? America used to have a saying, “United we stand, divided we fall.” We hope that is not replaced by, “If you’re not for me, you’re against me.”

We’re not into conspiracy theories, but it stands to reason that other countries, including China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, would see incentives in fueling America’s infighting. If they are willing to hack, or at least sanction the hacking of our businesses, infrastructure and political parties, then it seems possible they could promote disinformation like “Vaccines are bad for you.” Are people so distrustful of their own government they unwittingly play into the hands of its enemies?

It would be naive to think none of the problems are homegrown. Politicians who put personal ambition over the health and wellbeing of the country are willing to say anything to fuel their quest for power. Cable news must sell advertising to stay in business. To do that it needs viewers to tune in and stay tuned in.

Most Americans fall somewhere near the middle on the issues. Why does loudest dialogue come from the opposite extremes?

It is time for politicians to stop grandstanding and get to work. Americans need to step back from those who are trying to divide us and ask a question: Who benefits from hate and division?

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher

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