Who among us doesn’t have the fear emotion?
Fear of spiders, swimming in the ocean (sharks!), angry clowns, scary movies, speaking to a large group, dark basements, being alone, etc.
I have a fear of June bugs, leeches and failure in critical situations.
Who among us doesn’t equate ourselves with a tribe?
Tribe of artists, philanthropists, religious leaders, doctors, lawyers, athletes, TV enthusiasts (couch potatoes), chocolatiers, sommeliers, etc.
I am in the tribe of government employees, as well as the tribes of Star Trek nerds, crazy cat ladies, and bloggers.
Neither fear nor tribalism have to be a bad thing. Fear can keep us safe by staying clear of what could harm us (don’t go near the chainsaws; stay out of the dark alley). Being part of a tribe can be passive when considering a piece of Wikipedia definition:
“The word ‘tribe’ can be defined to mean an extended kin group or clan with a common ancestor, or can also be described as a group with shared interests, lifestyles and habits. The proverb “birds of a feather flock together’ describes homophily, the human tendency to form friendship networks with people of similar occupations, interests, habits.”
We all tend to stick with our own flock, don’t we? Whether at parties, in the workplace, or on social media, people enjoy being comfortable with like-minded individuals.
Here’s the rub, though.
The wrong kind of fear, the wrong kind of tribalism can create hate, division, incivility, biases, bigotry, and many disrespectful conversations on social media.
“Tribalism is really a form of egoism. It’s all about my people, my religion, me, me, me.”
“This world of ours… must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”
~Dwight D. Eisenhower~
I wonder if President Eisenhower would appreciate the current U.S. community? We seem to have become a tribe of fear that lives life based on what could happen in the future, what’s happened in the past, our preconceived ideas, the voice of bigotry, what we don’t understand, not being informed, unwillingness to change, and unwillingness to consider that we might be wrong.
I rarely watch the news these days because I often see a leader who instills fear in his tribe and angrily disrespects anyone who opposes him or is not loyal to him. He claims he will make our country great again, but I don’t see it. He wants us to be part of the Nationalism Tribe when the world has become global in almost every way. He wants me to see white America when I see many colors of the rainbow. He wants me to help ostracize people when I’m used to welcoming all of God’s children at church. He wants me to cheer and clap at rallies when he makes fun of disabled men, women who have been assaulted, and anyone he doesn’t like. He wants me to believe in fake news when his words and actions have been recorded in truth. He wants me to do these things based in fear as I do not understand how else this tribe has been formed.
No thank you. I will not drink that kool-aid.
“Someone told me recently that a commentator or some sort had said, ‘The United States is in spiritual free-fall.’ When people make such remarks, such appalling judgments, they never include themselves, their friends, those with whom they agree. They have drawn, as they say, a bright line between an ‘us‘ and a ‘them.‘ Those on the other side of the line are assumed to be unworthy of respect or hearing, and are in fact to be regarded as a huge problem to the ‘us‘ who presume to judge ‘them.‘ This tedious pattern has repeated itself endlessly through human history and is, as I have said, the end of community and the beginning of tribalism.”
To be fair, tribalism and fear is prevalent throughout politics these days. Both sides. We’ve become divided as a nation because we choose to be part of tribes that don’t always reach toward the middle or connect as a community. We’re members of the Republican or Democrat or Independent or I-Don’t-Vote/Care Tribes and we dig our heels in, not listening to each other, not working together, not respecting differing viewpoints.
In light of yet another shooting in Pittsburgh, where eleven people from a Jewish synagogue died, it’s more important than ever that we begin to put aside our illogical fears and negative tribalism and build a cohesive, peaceful community. A place where it’s no longer “us” vs. “them.” A place where everyone is loved and respected and the fear of a June bug is the worst fear anyone has to realize.
“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”
~Harry S Truman~
President Truman is correct.
As a community, not as differing tribes, America has to show its courage in ways it may not be comfortable. Courage that creates cohesiveness, not divisiveness. Courage to not follow leaders and politicians blindly. Courage to not abuse or hide behind religious faith. Courage to speak out in support of the human race rather than unethical representatives. Courage to turn off the television and social media and make up our own minds about what we truly believe in.
“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh~
Focus on today. Focus on what we, as individuals, can do to make this a better country and world without tribes and borders and hateful fear. Focus on the reality that a God wants us to not only love Him, but to love people as well. We can’t love people if we stay in our tribes. We can’t have a healthy community if we fear leaving our tribes.
I realize this post is on the political side, but it’s due to my own fear. It’s a fear that makes me cry, then get angry, then cry and get angry again. I fear our country is losing itself in a rhetoric that is not kind, with a leader who is not kind. I fear our country is headed to less than great because we support a false idol rather than the teachings of our God. I fear that our tribalism is creating huge rifts, not only in politics and religion, but in diversity and community. I fear that love is having difficulty with overcoming evil.
I have wanted to write this for many weeks, but kept getting bogged down in what to say, how to reflect what I’m feeling, without being self-righteous or disrespectful toward anyone’s beliefs. I care deeply for all of my friends, no matter their faith, political preference, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. I simply want us all to be a community that practices mutual respect and has fruitful conversations that bring us together, rather than writing angry diatribes on Facebook or feeling the need to shoot someone.
So, do we move ahead in community with love and respect? Or stay in the same damn tribe and feed the flame of hate and fear?
Which question will you answer?