The Illusion Is Gone

by Ben Irwin

Tearing up President Trump’s speech may have been the most honest thing Speaker Pelosi could have done.

Refusing to shake Pelosi’s hand, if it was an intentional snub, may have been the most honest thing Trump could have done.

We are finally able to see ourselves as we are.

For years, the State of the Union and other moments of political pomp and ceremony projected at least the illusion of civility, a carefully choreographed image of a country rising above partisanship for the sake of common cause—or at least common courtesy.

There were occasional cracks in the edifice, like the time a congressman shouted “You lie!” during a speech by then-President Obama. But for the most part, the illusion held. Decorum was maintained, the edifice preserved.

During last night’s State of the Union, there was no such illusion. The customary pretense of civility gave way to what was, if nothing else, a more honest reflection back to us—of who we are, and how deeply divided we are.

We’re not going to offer any hot takes on whether ripping the speech was a bold act of political defiance or a petty display of partisanship. Both perspectives are held by members of our team and our wider community. We are not unlike the divided nation many of us belong to.

What last night’s State of the Union made painfully clear is that we can’t escape or ignore our current situation.

Yes, we really are this divided. Yes, 2020 really is going to be as polarizing as many of us fear.

So what are we going to do about it?

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