Tribalism Is Killing Our Country...
Americans, "drop your buffs..."
I'm not one for pop culture. I don't enjoy modern, "music," and I most definitely do not enjoy most modern "shows." As a conservative I see most of it as completely rotted to the core with liberal and morally relativistic philosophical nonsense. Sorry, but that's how I see it.
Yet, for the sake of our country, I have to resist the desire to tribalize against it, as comforting and welcoming as it may be.
You see, there are reasons why we tribalize:
1) It's Easier - Let's face it, people don't like to sit and think. Most people would rather take a sharp stick to the eye than to sit and ponder the philosophical outcomes of their actions and beliefs. It's just so much easier to find a group that generally thinks like us, who is led by a thinker who generally thinks like us, and who will digest things and tell us what to think and how to apply it to our lives (which what groups like Fox News and CNN/MSNBC count on).
2) It's Quicker - We have come to believe, in this country, that the fastest way to achieving our ends is not to convince people that we're right, but rather to take control of the political leviathan and then to use it to impose our will on others who disagree with us. The problem is that while this may be quicker, it only increases the tribalistic tendency and makes the problem worse. The width of the pendulum swing is the bigger problem than the swing itself.
3) It Offers Security - Why have humans, since the time after Cain killed Able, always sought out like minded individuals and attempted to form groups or "packs?" Simple, one person is easy prey, but a group is harder to hurt. Political tribalism offers a certain security, whether it's online, in person, or on Facebook (separate from online because it's a beast unto itself). Having others who, "have our backs," makes us feel safe and at ease. Yet, it creates an us vs. them scenario and mentality. It creates territorialism and it harms our national unity.
Yet, for all of these benefits, we give up a lot as well:
1) Tribalism distances us from those who do not think like us - It makes "them" the bad guys, and it makes "us" the good guys. At least in our own minds. Once you have assigned moral terms to things, it becomes disturbingly easy to justify all kinds of abhorrent behavior. Like, say, throwing a Molotov Cocktail into someone's business with them inside or hanging someone from a tree vigilante style. The moral certitude that comes from tribalism, and the creation of Echo Chambers, is not only dangerous, it's also potentially disasterous.
2) Tribalism closes us off to new ideas - When you are a part of a political tribe, you often refuse to even consider new ideas and perspectives that haven't been filtered through the group already. You come to depend on the group to tell you what to think, and many times, people will suppress their own thoughts, feelings, and ideas to fit those of the group. Instead of becoming an entry point for new information, tribalists become the opposite, they become walls that keep out new ideas until they have gone through the gatekeeper, often the "thinker" or "thinkers" of the group.
3) Tribalism naturally leads to conflict - When things become us vs. them, protectionism, recourse hording, and distancing become the order of the day. Humanity is predisposed to self-preservation, and those who we see as the "other," are a "threat" that we have to protect ourselves from. Thus, two or more groups begin competing for resources, dominance, safety, and territory. These conflicting goals bring them into a natural state of conflict not unlike those we see in the world of animals. These base instincts, when surrendered to, lead to that same animalistic behavior.
So what then is the answer? Well, for starters, we have to begin to look at ourselves as countrymen again. It's not left Americans vs. right Americans, it's Americans against the world (not in a militant way, but in a all for one and one for all type of way). We are stronger together, but together appears to be untenable because of our tribalism and echo chambering.
Abraham Lincoln famously quoted the Bible when he said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." His quote is as true today and it was then. If we cannot heal, if we cannot listen, if we cannot compromise, then we've reached a point where the only thing left to us is to have a war in which one side will impose its will on whomever is left from the other side. 400,000 Americans already paid for that lesson with their lives, but I guess it's all the tree washing in blood that is necessary right?
How many will die this time? How many innocent people will lose everything? How many times will entire communities have to lose everything in a "Grant's March" scenario?
There is only one solution that staves off a war at this point, and that is for people to break the grip of their political tribe, to step outside of their own group think, to stop demagoguing, and to actually do something that we've been unable to do since the 1980s, stop, talk, and more importantly, listen.
It's time to drop your buffs. It's time to think for yourself. It's time to break out of the political rut. It's time to engage in conversation with others. No, NOT THEM, YOU.
"Them" is tribalism, "I" is not. We have to reclaim ourselves, we have to redeem ourselves, we have to break these tribalistic chains that are holding us captive to violence and violent rhetoric.
It's time to walk away, drop and leave your buff, and embrace your own thoughts.
It's scary, but it's worth it.