October 1, 2019: Tribalism
The essential dilemma of my life is between my deep desire to belong and my suspicion of belonging. Jhumpa Lahiri
Belonging to a group can be a different kind of loneliness. Hoo-nōs
In times of uncertainty and feelings of being forgotten, it is easy to forget democracy and easier to embrace a “leader” who tells us what’s what. A country based on democracy—there isn’t only one way to form a democracy—may not feed an individual’s desire to belong when things are not going the way “it should be.” In such times, the loyal opposition simply becomes the opposition—and democracy becomes something else entirely. Every institution has those who see the world as their oyster for the taking instead of a stewardship to watch over. And when there is a fracture in belongingness—in feelings of inclusivity and opportunities—such exploiters are like predators who see things to rule over instead of seeing opportunities to create inclusion.
And so it seems such a time has arrived, though really, it is simply another storm cycle with the usual cast of exploiters ready to grab the pearls for themselves. The swamp is swampier and it is not simply because of Republicans or Democrats, it is because we the people are still fractured and voted to Amerexit or Constituexit. It is not wise when one feels lost to throw away the democratic compass in favor of tribalism—which is tantamount to giving up the larger belongingness to belong in narrower ways. A family consists of individuals, yet is still a family—a trinary interaction involving an “I,” a “you,” and a “we.” Tribalism as it now stands, is about the “I” first, the “you” maybe, and the “we” narrowed into subsets of belongingness, pitting one against another.
We are the human family and our home is the earth. We will never completely agree with each other, but to take advantage of others just because one can is not what defines the great experiment of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the rule of law by co-equal parts of a government. Ironically, the Declaration of Independence was not about enshrining tribalism, but about divesting ourselves from the rule of one in favor of the rule by many. We can bless the mess or we can revert and give it all back to the exploiters and blame them for us getting lost.