The only way to put out the fire is to deprive it of fuel and oxygen.
The fuel, obviously, is the self-segregating social division that has defined modern America; arguably since Nixon, less arguably after 9/11. 9/11 in fact defined modern America in ways that most people simply refuse to think through: instead of being another instance of Americans’ famed ability to put aside differences and come together in a time of crisis, the differences instead defined whether one was a “real ‘Murican” or not.
That in turn led to two separate modern Sons of the Nullification Crisis; one where self-styled progressives said Bush was “not my President”, and the second when the reactionary pseudo-conservatives went certifiably batshit crazy against Obama. Both were aided, if not instigated, by their respective corporatist media bubbles, often reading different media outlets owned by the same corporations and/or investors.
I remember on 12 September 2001 hearing Bush say
We’re in a fight for our principles and our first responsibility is to live by them.
I thought the US, and the world, might just pull through. Over the next several years, it became clear that “responsibility” was something for the little people, no matter whether you had an R or a D in brackets after your name in media releases.
The oxygen, to finish the metaphor, is those media bubbles. Confirmation bias isn’t so much an aberration now as it is the foundational principle of American social and political (non-)interaction. By refusing to consider the opinion of or facts relevant to someone simply because that person disagrees with you, you become less aware of your own “principles”, abdicating agency over your own life and membership in larger society. The founding dictator of Singapore was famous for saying, inter alia, that “only family and clan matter, or can be trusted”. That such a flagrantly anti-civilised conceit has been allowed to infect, if not subsume, the American body politic is the moral and ethical disaster of our age.
We blew it.