Historian and sometimes Joe Biden advisor Jon Meacham voiced his thoughts on the future of self-governance in America during an appearance on MSNBC's "The 11th Hour."
Anchor Brian Williams directed Meacham's attention to a sign that appeared on a store in Nashville, Tennessee.
"You force a shot on us?" the sign asked, with a picture of a vaccine.
"We force a shot on you," it continued, with an image of a revolver pointed at the viewer.
Meacham said the thinking behind the sign was "not rational."
He described the divide in America is "not unprecedented in kind, but unprecedented, I would argue, in degree since the 1850s."
"And I use that analogy very, very advisably because we know how the 1850s ended, they ended in bloodshed, they ended in cataclysm," he said of the Civil War. "And I'm not predicting armed conflict here, but I do think we have to take a pretty deep breath here and think about the -- what's genuinely at stake."
He worried society was decaying into a state of nature.
"This is on us. This is on we the people. Because democracies are counter intuitive, because we're driven by appetite and ambition. That's what we are as human beings," he explained. "And democracy is about seeing each other not as rivals but as neighbors. We do not see each other as neighbors in America at this hour. And if we don't, maybe we aren't worthy of this democracy."
"And maybe that's a question we really, really need to stare in the face, not worry again about this bill and that bill. But are we, in fact, mature enough as a people to govern our ourselves?" he asked. "I think we are, but we're doing everything we can to prove the opposite."
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