Is it pure coincidence that someone in Camden was illegally cutting trees by the waterfall at the same time House Democrats are trying to shove billions of dollars for “tree equity” in the mammoth, new $3.5 trillion spending bill before Congress? I don’t think so.

Seriously, though, what is “tree equity” anyway? Perhaps because we live in a state known for its pines, our tree privilege may be blinding.

But still.

Stepping back to see the forest from the trees, Washington’s lust for spending money we don’t have became a source of contention, and that’s a good thing. Progressive Democrats want the largest spending spree possible, while centrist Democrats are rightfully concerned this will backfire. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s cancelling a promised vote last night means progressives won that battle.

Earlier in the week, centrist Democrat opinion shapers resuscitated a 1973 National Lampoon cover, where a revolver was being held to the head of a canine and the caption read: “Buy this magazine or we’ll shoot this dog,” to describe the progressives negotiating strategy.

Evidently, it worked.

Such an approach might have been partially inspired by the fact Progressive House Caucus Chair Pramilya Jayapal reportedly broke down in tears during a meeting in the Oval Office last month in a tactic to which President Biden may be uniquely vulnerable. One wonders whether the crying was choreographed.

More importantly, though, than this split within the left over how far to go on spending, growing the dysfunctional behemoth we call the federal government, and other matters, there is now a bigger split out there that screams for our attention. According to a recent University of Virginia poll, 52% of Trump supporters and 41% of Biden supporters believe our country is drifting towards civil war.

Not good.

There was a time in America when folks put aside their narrow interests for some notion of national unity. Increasingly now, both sides are pushing harder to grab what they can while they can.

It would be no exaggeration to say these instincts tear at the national fabric. Right now, there seem to be only two U.S. senators trying to hold things together — Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). For their efforts, the two are catching more flak than whoever’s been cutting trees in the Mary Lea Park.

“Unless Manchin changes his position dramatically, he will be remembered as the man who, when the moment of decision came, chose to condemn virtually every living creature on Earth to a hellish future of suffering, hardship and death.” Rolling Stone forebodingly declared this week.

It’s always good to know where The Establishment stands. Whether or not the recently denuded trees in Camden agree is a separate question.

As the UVA numbers suggest, the intensity of these centrifugal forces is a little higher on the Republican side. Some of this can be written off to their current opposition status, but not all. My fellow GOPers need to be very careful about statements like “Pelosi is an enemy of the state”, or, as I read in a recent fundraising appeal by a Republican congressional candidate “there are only two kinds of people in Washington: Communists and Communist sympathizers.”

Ordinary people can do extraordinarily dumb things when the temperature gets too hot. Witness Jan. 6. As with the American Civil War, violence in our country begins with disenfranchisement.

Camden’s trees are chafing at extremism on both sides of the fence. So too should you.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.