Protester waves U.S. Flag through "Black stays Matter" spray painted on it, Washington, DC, June 19, 2020.

You are watching: Has the country ever been this divided

Americans mark this independence Day throughout a time of turmoil in the unified States.

While many controversy whether to wear a mask in public, the COVID-19 pandemic is surging in most U.S. States. Outraged black color Lives issue protesters have taken come the highways after the fatality of George Floyd when in police custody.

A staggering 42.6 million human being have filed for joblessness benefits throughout the pandemic. The existing political divisiveness that was heightened by the 2016 choice of chairman Donald Trump continues to rage into the last year the his 4-year term.

But the united States has faced good unrest, uncertainty and divisions before, and also even in quiet times, discord is continuous rippling beneath the surface, according to sociologist Todd Gitlin of Columbia University.

Myth of unity

“America has always been divided. I think the legend of a unified nation is a myth… American beliefs have been challenged ground indigenous the start,” Gitlin says. “I mean, pick a minute in history when we have always not been deeply divided.”

In she 244-year history, the U.S. Has endured deep divisions in between its political parties, and also over industrialization, the polite War, immigrant in the late 1800s, women’s suffrage, even if it is to get in the very first and second world wars, civil rights and also anti-war protests in the 1960s, happy rights, abortion rights and also numerous various other battles.

“When have actually we no been deep divided?” Gitlin asks.


One reason for that disunity can be found at the very foundation of America, a melt pot of people who perform not re-superstructure a typical origin story.

“We"re not just a normal country founded on commitment on a nationwide story or a national consensus, which space usually installed in a story of nationwide origins,” Gitlin says. “America is combined by an ideology system doctrine. Together a declare of belief, rather than a statement of identity.”

Common beliefs

America’s identity comes v the common beliefs laid the end in the explanation of Independence, i m sorry is commemorated on the fourth of July. And using the holiday to air out one’s grievances is not uncommon.

“People in the country who have actually felt marginalized or oppressed or reduced out of the American Dream have always used the fourth of July as an occasion to insurance claim their membership in the nation, to insurance claim their freedom and also liberty and their equality v others,” says Timothy Shannon, professor of history at Gettysburg College.

In July 1848, suffragettes released the women’s rights motion with the drafting of a “Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances,” a writing modeled on the declaration of Independence. And, before there to be a job Day holiday, the 4th of July was central to the job movement. ~ above July 5, 1852, American abolitionist Frederick Douglass provided his now-famous speech the asked, "What to the servant is the fourth of July?"

Founding fathers’ ideals


In praising the nation"s founders’ ideals that freedom, the former slave-turned-prominent-activist pointed out the hypocrisy of your ideals because of the existence of slavery.

"Are the great principles of political freedom and also of organic justice, embodied in the Declaration the Independence, prolonged to us?” Douglass asked.

For part observers, today’s black Lives matter protests against police brutality and also injustice recall the rough 1960s, when world marched for civil rights, women’s rights, and against the American war in Vietnam.

A background of protest

“In the 1960s, we observed protesters marching in the streets and people boycotting racist companies,” states Jamie Goodall, a staff historian at the U.S. Military Center the Military background in Washington and also a former assistant professor of background at Stevenson college in Baltimore, in an e-mail sent come VOA.

“Today, we have actually protesters taking to the streets and also individuals selecting to purchase from Black-owned companies, boycotting providers that add to racist and also bigoted causes. We deserve to look to these protesters together a authorize of American resilience in the face of adversity. They’re delivering the torch of your predecessors, continuing the fight for freedom and equity,” Goodall added.


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“Are us freestanding, isolated individuals who room self-made and do not owe cumulative responsibility to those much less lucky?” Gitlin says. “Or are we linked in methods that call for some kind of coordinated an answer to avoidable separation, personal, instance suffering?”

Towards a more perfect union

In part ways, this 4th of July — mired through a faltering economy, COVID-19, polarized politics, and protests against police brutality and also for society justice — reminds America the although she hasn’t quite fulfilled she promise, the occupational towards afford those ideals continues.

“It"s kind of our annual reminder the the nation was started on a nice radical politics principle: all males are produced equal,” Shannon says. “That was no obviously the fact in 1776, in a nation that had actually slavery, in a country where women were refuse the ideal to vote… But, together a nation, we have actually been referred to as to live up to that ideal, and to do our finest each generation to promote and also preserve that notion of equality.”