Us versus Them

imageDualistic thinking leads to seeing the world in terms of Us versus Them.  But in reality, there is no Them…only Us.  We are all in this together.

If this is true, why do we divide ourselves according to race, gender, nationality, religion, and other differences?

It is natural to compare ourselves to others.  But this often leads to condemning or looking down on others who are not like us, and therein lies the problem.

In Richard Rohr’s book, “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,” he describes dualistic thinking as “the well practiced pattern of knowing most things by comparison.”  He goes on to say that “for some reason, once you compare or label things(that is judge), you almost always conclude that one is good and the other is less good or even bad.” (p. 146)

Rohr says that there is a sequencing that leads us to a dualistic mindset: “it compares, it competes, it conflicts, it conspires, it condemns, it cancels out any contrary evidence and it then crucifies with impunity.”  (p.147)

This dualistic thinking is being blatantly played out in this year’s presidential politics.  Politicians are pitting us one against the other.  It is now getting ugly.  Violence is breaking out at rallies, and there is talk of riots across the country if certain events don’t go the way some would like.

How then should we respond?  With fear?  With cowering?  With hatred?  Or, with confidence, strength and love.

I have been studying the life and work of Margaret Mead, a world famous anthropologist, who lived through two world wars.  Her insights are important for us to remember during our own troubled times.  On her website interculturalstudies.org she reminds us that cultural patterns of racism, warfare and environmental exploration are learned behaviors, and that members of a society can and should work together to construct new institutions that will serve all of humanity, not just one segment of the population.

The slogan on her website reads: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.”

It is time that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens rise to leadership positions and call for an end to the hatred and violence that is dividing our country .  I don’t think that we can walk back the rhetoric that has been thrown around this year.  Perhaps it needed to surface to reveal the deep divisions that still keep us separated from one another.  However, it is time to stop and really listen to each other and to find common causes that will bring us together.  This will only happen if we accept that we are all in this together, and that what happens to one happens to us all.

One of my goals this month has been to reach out to others who have very different political opinions than my own, and to really listen to them.  What are their concerns?  What are their hopes and fears?  This has helped me to see that we can overcome the divisions that keep us from working together for the common good.  Its a start.

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