If you've watched a full season of the show Survivor, then you know that moment when they have decided that the competitors left will be moving on to the final stage. They bring them all to the beach, early in the morning, and you hear those fateful words, "survivors, drop your buffs."
At that moment, everyone left knows that they have made it through the most random part of the game. Their dependence on the performance of others is generally gone, they are not tied to being voted out because someone else failed as part of their challenge. It is a great moment for them, even if the harder work of individual competition has started.
The reason I have chosen to use this analogy is that in many ways America today looks like the early rounds of the show Survivor. Multiple "tribes" competing for their right to move on and much of their success being tied to figures and events outside of their control.
I.E... most Conservatives were mortified by the January 6th riot, and most Liberals were heartbroken while watching cities burn during the ANTIFA riots. The tribe that they belong to did something colossally stupid, and they knew that they were going to be painted with the same brush.
This leads us to today's point... why are we in tribes?
Is it time for us to "drop our buffs?"
The rigid tribalism that we see today is disastrously harmful. People have come to believe that they NEED to belong to a political tribe in order to get their agenda to advance. They sacrifice their individual views in order to win what they view as a greater good, and in the end, it leads to extremism and polarization.
We no longer have a spectrum of political views held by individual people, we have two tribes of people who are each racing to the most extreme positions that they can.
For instance, I am a Conservative, however, I believe in environmental responsibility. I do not believe even one iota in man made global warming, but I do not want to live in a cesspool of a planet. This puts me on the outs with many Conservatives who want unrestricted energy production and manufacturing. Tribalism says that I must give up what I believe here in order to get the rest of my agenda passed by adhering to the group's tenants.
That's no different from a cultic religion.
Yet this is the political reality we see today. Pro-Life Democrats, Pro-Environment Republicans, Pro-Economic Growth Liberals, and Pro-Social Services Conservatives are all in the same boat today. Get out of line with the main orthodoxy of your tribe and you will be put back in line by that tribe in order to advance "the whole of the agenda."
Our politics have become a two sizes fit all system and not a collection of individuals who have a myriad of views who sometimes form coalitions to achieve common goals. This is only making our centrifugal political reality worsen, and it is doing it quickly.
Pick a topic and you will generally find only two narratives today. Proof?
Star Trek vs. Star Wars
It does not matter what the topic is anymore, we as a country attempt to "build a coalition" to fight against the other side, yet in doing so, we lose our individuality and our nuance. We surrender our ability to have a SLIGHTLY divergent view as the groupthink that takes over will force both orthodoxy (right thinking) and orthopraxy (right actions) by whatever means is necessary.
I am purposely using religious terms to make it hit home how political tribalism is becoming a type of religion unto itself.
The other thing that dies with tribalism? Civility.
You see, tribalism creates an "Us vs. Them" situation. It paints the proverbial "them" as the enemy, and as we have learned from physiological warfare doctrine, there is no better way to dehumanize a political "enemy" then to turn we into "us" and "them." We are seeing the results of this in society today.
I wish I had a better answer for how to fix it than, "gee, we should just stop doing this," but there really is not a better one... if there is even another one at all.
Until we find an ability to detach ourselves from the lockstep groupthink that we have fallen into as a country, we will continue to race to the extremes. We have seen it before, twice in fact, and both times the result was violence. Once was in 1776. The other was 1861.
That is likely where we are heading if we cannot resolve our differences with civility and dialog.
Yet dialog does not seem to be what anyone wants, it breaks the "tribal bonds."
Maybe that is exactly why we need it...
So we can once again realize that we are not each other's enemy.
I continue to hope that it is not too late.