Fear and Tribalism

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.” 

~Marty Rubin~

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.” 

~Marilynne Robinson~

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?

31 responses to Fear and Tribalism

  1. Joanne Sisco says:

    I find it interesting that Nature has provided us with boundless uniqueness in all things …. animals, plants, birds, fish, etc. We marvel and accept these differences.

    Different does not equal wrong.

    Yet humans have rejected different-ness in each other.

    The mantra has become ‘if you are different from me then you are wrong’. Even worse, that ‘wrongness’ has transformed into contempt and outright condemnation of each other as ‘evil’. This has been a legacy of man since the dawn of time and right now it’s being played out in a major tableau in the US.

    I fear for what’s coming if the American people don’t start to course correct. Yes, fear is dominating right now in more ways than one.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      That’s a good analogy about nature and the animals on the planet – how we willingly and easily accept them and their uniqueness of being, but we can’t do the same for our fellow human beings.

      I’m hoping for some course correct in November, but it’s only if what I believe is the majority gets out to vote. It’s been difficult for me to witness and believe that the majority of Americans choose to follow (and cheer…OMG, the cheering) the hateful rhetoric of our President. I do not want to be a part of this or the so-called Nationalism that only serves to divide us more.

  2. Dan Antion says:

    This is a wonderful, well-thought, well-reasoned and much needed post, Mary. I, too have wanted to address some of these issues, but not knowing where to start and how to finish has kept that post in the drawer. You tackled the problem head on, and you put us on the spot.

    I try not to give into fear, and I absolutely refuse to give into the insult to my intelligence that is spewed across the “news” these days. Whether it’s alleged informed opinion or people in office who are masquerading as leaders. I can make up my own mind about who and what is a treat, and it’s not a group of people practicing their faith and worshiping God.

    Thank you for being brave, for working through the challenge and for putting this out here for us.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      You’re welcome, Dan. I simply can’t stand by and be silent and, yet, I also want to be respectful of everyone. Otherwise, I’m no better than the leaders currently in charge of the White House. I will not sink to the level of spewing hate and falsehoods, or of treating people unkindly. I will not be a member of that tribe.

      If only the people of this country would realize what could be accomplished if we all became community and worked somewhere in the middle of the divide to resolve our issues that help most everyone…then it would truly be a great America.

      • Dan Antion says:

        That’s so true. When you see how people come together in a crisis, it shows that the spirit is there. It’s just sad that it takes a crisis to bring it out.

  3. Dearest Mary . . .
    You know how much I love you to pieces. You and I have many similarities, and we have an understanding of those things we have in common.

    I normally have something to say about things I’m leaving a comment on, and strictly speaking I DO have an opinion on the subject matter spoken so eloquently about in your blog post.

    BUT (please note it’s a big but)… I am aware of being not of your country, and therefore not entitled to vote for any man/woman/bear or mouse to be the President of your country. And it is because of this, that I’m [perhaps over] cautious of speaking my mind frankly on what has happened and what I see happening in the USA on our news channels here in the UK.

    I have no right to speak good or bad about any President of any country, to the people of that country – be it:
    1) Xi Jinping – General Secretary, Communist Party of China
    2) Vladimir Putin – President of Russia
    3) Donald Trump – President of United States
    4) Angela Merkel – Chancellor of Germany

    See …. so [over] cautious am I that I even listed these people according to the Forbes 2018 List of The World’s Most Powerful People. (Yes truthfully).

    There’s a saying which goes: “Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t” … and I know that whatever I said about any of the people on that list (above), someone would get cross about it and even possibly fall out with me about it. So rather than cause offence on a public platform such as a blog, I shall keep it buttoned.

    However …. know that I do have an opinion, and I will freely share it, here in my country, about all of those people. ALL of them.

    I will share though that some of them scare the living snot out of me. Not because of who they are, but because of what they are. Of how they portray themselves. Of how dangerous some of the things they say, and don’t say, could be to world peace.

    I don’t want a woman or man of another country, selling my country down the river. I don’t want some chap or female sprouting untruths about us, on a world stage, in order to try and score points. And I fear greatly that someone has put something in motion which is now picking up speed and could end up beginning the end of something very precious to us all.

    The men and women leaders of all the countries of the world over, need to understand a valuable lesson before they even open their mouths each and every day that they’re lucky to be alive, that being: They have a duty, not to just their own country, but to all the people of the world, to ensure that PEACE is what they’re striving for, for all of the world. So talking with well chosen words is the way forward. Not shouting. Not spouting. Not saying things in anger or a moment of aggression. Not ‘posturing’ or trying to ensure that a photograph tells a story from his/her point of view, but that the story seen from a photo is the true version of events. And most certainly no ‘bullying’ strategies by one person or country as a whole, towards another country or leader of a country.

    Ultimately (for me at least) I’m not going to be the final judge of these people. Someone far higher up the chain is going to be their judge. But … we all have the right to our opinions and I LOVE you Mary for having your opinion. Won’t offend anyone by saying if I agree or not, but I love you, even more than I did yesterday, for sharing your opinion. I think you’re brilliant. And … you have animals and care greatly for them, so to me, your name is being put on the list as next President of the USA. 🙂

    GREAT POST Mary.
    Sending squidges ~ Cobs. xxx

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Cobs, I have tears welling up again, but not because of fear. It’s because of the truth that there are still wonderful human beings, such as yourself, that understand the message of love and community. Thank you, my dear friend, for that.

      And thank you for your outstanding comment. We do need leaders who focus on peace, but it seems there are those that find more value in power and money and ego. I was thinking the other day of the good that politicians and their groupies could do by spending their money and effort in helping constituents rather than the negative ads and enormous amount of flyers I’ve been receiving in the mail. I hate it all as it’s such a symbol of the divide that haunts the country.

      Sending much love to you Cobs. I would say more, but I think you’ve taken care of it. 🙂🧡🧡

  4. This post is thoughtful and well-written, Mary. Thanks for putting yourself out there and acting on the courage of your convictions.

    You have reminded me of a quote by Ken Wibur, “A boundary between self and not self is the first one we draw and the last one we erase.” As a nation, we are stronger together than we are apart. My hope is that we all start to set aside petty differences and look at the bigger picture facing us today.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thanks Allan. Your quote is so appropriate and so true of our country’s current culture. We are so wrapped up in self and being right that we can’t cross the boundary to a peaceful coexistence. I know we are all messy humans, but there’s a time to clean up our crap.

  5. Fandango says:

    I really appreciate what you had to say in this post. It’s true and it’s disheartening. I wish we, as a country — as a community of citizens — could recognize the value of diversity. But as long as there are those who shout about how it’s a zero-sum game and if the “other” wins, you lose. And that is the message that Donald Trump is preaching from pulpit.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      It’s amazing to me that people follow the fear out of whatever it is that makes them believe it’s a good thing. How does fear and hate and lying and a constantly dour face equate to anything great? How can one be truly happy when enmeshed in this kind of behavior?

  6. conspicari says:

    It’s becoming very similar over here in the UK, there seems to be no middle ground, neither side seems to want to compromise. I am so glad I have my cats, they keep me grounded, and there’s no shame in being in fear of June bugs 😀

  7. I wish there was a Love button. This is a powerful piece, Mary, and so sensitively written. The Middle Son and I are avid watchers of US politics and we feel your fear. And I say that within the context of watching our own political situation with not quite the same level of fear but with awareness that this divisiveness is seeping into many places. Recently, a group of LNP senators (Liberal National Party – the current governing party (oh, and Liberal here means conservative just to confuse you)) voted in favour of a motion put forward by an outwardly racist senator that “It’s OK to be white”. I kid you not. And here’s the thing. One senator actually acknowledged that he walked into the chamber not knowing what the vote was about but could see the Labor Party on one side of the chamber so he stood on the other. The tribalism is that bad.
    My boys sit at the higher end of the intelligence spectrum and when we were looking at high schools for our eldest, we were pushed to send him to one with a gifted program. Against that advice, we sent him to a school with a strong pastoral care program. He thrived. And made many friends. And not all of them were nerdy and gifted. We do have a natural tendency to seek out ‘like minds’ but if we open ourselves to the full gamut of humanity, we might just find some wonderful friends outside that tribe and in the process, broaden our worldview which can only be a good thing.
    Thank you for this thought-provoking piece. Peace to you, my friend. xx

    • bikerchick57 says:

      You and middle son probably know more about US politics than I do at the moment and this is why: A friend and I were talking and we agreed that we have difficulty watching the national news or reading politics online. We’re tired of the negativity and outright hate that comes from the President and his followers. My roomie, Natasha, had the national news on tonight when I came home and there was Trump at a rally declaring, “Those Democrats!” which received a round of boos. Then, in response to the recent violence with the pipe bombs and people saying his rhetoric is fueling this type of behavior, he says to the crowd, “I’m going to tone it down a bit. Is that okay with you?” To which the crowd loudly cries, “Nooooooooo.” Sorry, I’m going to swear here: WTF is wrong with these people? Seriously? Do they realize how ridiculous and hateful they sound?
      It doesn’t surprise me about the LNP and their “it’s okay to be white” declaration. Not at all because I see it here too.

      Good for you and for your eldest that he entered a school that welcomes diversity and truly cares about its students. I’m still holding onto the belief that the majority of Americans are not of the Trump Tribe and I hope all of them get out and vote next week Tuesday.
      Peace to you as well, H. And hugs!

      • I’m sorry to judge but one thing we’ve learned is that your electoral system is broken. I mean, seriously f#$%ed (excuse my language). Georgia is a case in point. The man running for governor is the man overseeing the election? What the…??
        Things are not perfect here but at least we have an independent electoral commission that draws all the boundaries and manages the elections. And we just register to vote. We’re never asked for our affiliation. It’s also compulsory to vote so a politician can’t pander to a small base because he/she will piss off the majority and they all vote.

        I really hope this period in the US is taken as a lesson and the right people step up to make some much needed reforms.

      • bikerchick57 says:

        No need to be sorry. Our electoral system truly is a mess. Yes, I know about Georgia. We need an independent electoral commission, but it would also help to get rid of the lobbyists and special interest groups that throw money at the politicians so that they vote in their favor. We are seriously f#%ed up, that’s for sure.

  8. joey says:

    Very well composed. I agree, of course, but I like to let off steam from time to time. I think it’s important to remember our experiences shape us, and we don’t all have the same experiences. There’s somethin to be said for raisin, how people got the outlook they did, and then there’s accountability for not even trying to to stay that path, or get right. Still, at the end of the day, it’s not what people believe or think, it’s what they DO.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      You are correct that what people actually do makes more of an impact than their beliefs. And I understand about how experiences and family influence people. I don’t have an answer in how negative and hateful beliefs or actions are turned around, so I’ll continue to be a kind person and hope that runs off on at least one person.

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