When tribes define us

For my viewpoint, there’s this trend, getting stronger and stronger in our country. My friend, Jeremy, pointed out that it’s called tribalism, defined as “the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group”.

I’ve seen people identify themselves in a people group, adopting all the views which encompass that identity. Their tribe represents whom they are and what they believe, and also whom they are not, and what they won’t tolerate.

I’ve also seen people identify others in people groups, not because they’ve asked to be pegged like that, but because of the assumption that if they share a belief with one tribe, that must mean they identify with the entire set of views or convictions.

Belonging to a people group is not essentially negative. A sense of community is healthy, promoting security and love. But I’m talking about the “us -vs- them” (as my friend Ashlee puts it) mentality.

This is not new. In our history we can easily remember how we hunted for witches or reported the communists. However, this trend seems to be more wide spread than I can ever recall in any American history book. Tribalism defines our society. One group against another, highly emotive reactions, little tolerance for others’ views, and destructive group-think ideology. Tribalism is not one idea versus another idea, one conviction against another; these are inevitable and a wonderful reality of being human and sharing the planet with other humans who think differently than one another. Tribalism is one group against another group: Republicans -vs- Democrats, Trump supporters -vs- Trump haters; political, religious, or moral conservatives -vs- liberals. Depending on the tribe one belongs to, the assumption is that one tribe loves while the other one hates, one is right and the other is wrong, one is rational while the other is idiotic. Stereotyping is not only tolerated, but fed into our minds through the wonderful world of social media. We call people names which are associated with tribes we persecute, like “the liberals”, “the media”, “the homophobes”, or “the tree huggers”. We put pressure on each other to not belong to this camp or that camp. How dare you believe this? If you do, I cannot associate myself with you, I will de-friend you (in social media lingo), I will not like your post, even if it seems reasonable (it can’t be reasonable, because it belongs to the other camp), I cannot be seen with you because others will think I agree with you…

Seriously, it is so incredibly hard to read real news! One newspaper is liberal, one TV channel is conservative, most report based on opinion, omitting certain news and emphasizing only the ones that fit the tribe. It takes hours of research to find out what really happened! Can a president I dislike do things I like? Not according to the tribe! Can one be a democrat and pro-life simultaneously? Nope, don’t think so. Can one believe in gun control and still hold other conservative values? What? Can a religious conservative hold a conviction of right and wrong and call certain behaviors “sin” and not be pegged as a bigot? Does love always mean tolerance of certain things and intolerance of other things? Or is it possible that we have just become a society that thinks that people who agree with us are loving and people whom we disagree with are the hating kind? Or that only our opinions are valid?

I would like to propose a change; not a big, societal change, since my little blog will reach only some. I would like to propose a personal challenge and baby steps. How about we make a pact to:

  1. Put relationships first. Get to know people, ask questions, refrain from making assumptions about what kind of people they are based on what they believe in, give others the benefit of the doubt, engage in civil and open minded conversation.
  2. Allow ourselves and others to not fit into one camp. Think outside the box. There might be something we’re missing. Analyze issues individually, not in packages.
  3. Approach each other with boldness and courage, not afraid or reluctant of good conversation, the kind that can get heated, yet not personal. Let’s not discourage one another from associating with “those people” who believe differently than we do. Our country is a great country because of discourse, engagement, and varied points of views. Let’s not cave into the peer pressure of needing to be like the majority or the group on the correct side of things. We might actually learn from each other!

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose

Dr. Seuss

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