The Common Denominator Is Not So Common

The Venn diagram is barely meeting, let alone fully overlapping.  Image by Audrey N. Glickman, used by permission.
The Venn diagram is barely meeting, let alone fully overlapping. Image by Audrey N. Glickman, used by permission.

It was an odd confluence.

I had a large pile of mail to sort through; my son was taking an online university course; and we were in the middle of the trial of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter.

The mail comprised requests for donations from various organizations.  Most led with “The future of our democracy depends upon…” “Our rights are under attack…” or words to that effect.

The causes in my mail that day had to do with civil rights, civil liberties, separation of church and state, religious freedom, women’s rights, book bannings, LGBTQ+ rights, and so on.

I might just as well, though, have written that I had a pile of mail that read “Our values are under attack,” “Our country is being taken over,” “There is an invasion going on.”  The issues might as well have been gun rights, anti-abortion, Christian values, anti-“woke,” school choice, and “entitlement” reduction.

All of these causes are now in the forefront, and are currently what drives our elections, our political motivation, our news feeds, our social actions, our wars.  None of these matters is directly causing the economic struggles, the climate imbalance, the social insecurity, various health care inequities, and so forth, that we really ought to be focusing on.

These incendiary matters in turn intersect with the synagogue shooter trial.  They have been mentioned in testimony, evidence, and news reports.  These and other themes come together in the overlapping causes adopted in the push for racial supremacy and religious nationalism.  Various buzzwords pretend to unite them all, often tenuously.  They helped motivate the shooter to hate and blast apart Jews in prayer, and testimony says he is still expounding about them over four years later.

This is where my son’s class on Spying in the Cold War comes in.  According to the professor’s teachings, for the past few decades we have been being manipulated by foreign and domestic operatives who very much want us focusing on extremely divisive matters.

The thinking is that if they get us fighting over what divides us – abortion, guns, gay rights, racial equity, diversity, whatever works – they will be free to own us.  While we are looking the other way, fighting about banned books, say, China and Russia are buying up our farm land, consolidating our businesses, owning our debt, diluting our ability to gather and disperse untainted news, and weakening our resolve, all the better to attack and consume us.

For relatively little expense, they can continually feed us inciting memes to keep us at each others’ throats.

We – in the U.S. or whatever country you live in – are being coerced into handing over power to those who will pledge to espouse each individual cause that has been raised in front of us as a banner to fight for, while those who hold the power go forth and enrich and further empower themselves and their buddies, and hand over pieces of the world to the highest bidders.  How does Putin get away with simply launching an unprovoked attack on Ukraine?  How does Trump become the darling of the religious right (of many religions)?  How does Netanyahu get away with planning to control the judiciary and take more and more power?  How does China suddenly own the production of electric cars and other electronics, while freely killing the Uyghurs?

We seem happy to turn over anything to the autocrats and theocrats and plutocrats and allow them to become total authoritarians with more and more unilateral control – if only they promise to support our one irrationally current most important divisive issue.  And they keep the feed flowing for provocative scrolling to keep our minds numb.

I am not saying that these issues are not important.  I am saying that their importance and immediacy is being manufactured, and we are guilty of allowing it to happen.

Am I calling this a conspiracy?  I guess this is a conspiracy theory about conspiracies.

If they can keep us fighting with each other, across stark divisions, without a glimmer of hope for finding a middle ground, we are lost.  It seems to be working.  The Venn diagram that unites the people of the world seems never to fully overlap.

We are a global society, not a bunch of battling brotherhoods.

The citizens of all countries must stop bowing and ceding and giving unilateral control to those who want to become total authoritarians.  And, too, we must stop falling for divisive rhetoric.

The common denominator should be – must be – more diffuse, to encompass everyone.  The common denominator for us common people has to be common sense.

About the Author
Author of POCKETS: The Problem with Society Is in Women's Clothing (, Audrey N. Glickman has experience as a rabbi’s assistant, in nonprofits, government, advertising, and as a legal secretary. A native Pittsburgher, Audrey has served on many boards, organizations, and committees, advocating for many causes, including equal rights, civil rights, secure recountable voting, preserving the earth, good government, improving institutions, and understanding and tending to our fellow human beings.
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