“I think there is just one kind of folks. Folks.” – Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)
It’s common to seek out our “tribe”. Perhaps it’s family, religion, ethnicity or birthplace. We want to belong to a group with a shared identity – the same values, backgrounds and beliefs. We want to feel comfortable and safe.
This natural tendency has been part of our biological and cultural evolution. Our ancestors protected each other from predators. They joined forces to hunt prey and gather resources. Together, they faced down competing groups, attacked other tribes to expand territory, and defeated enemy forces.
The “enemy”. Once understood as a combatant who wanted to cause physical harm, to kill you. In some cases, they were the invader, looking to take over land and property. Or, they were defending their homeland. In either case, they were identified as “other”, “wrong” and “evil”. They must be defeated.
Most of the time, identifying the enemy was easy. Men and women wearing the uniform of an opposing nation, with the intent to hurt you and your community. A person or group who openly state that they want to kill those that disagree with them. Clear division about who is right and who is wrong.
“Division” seems to be the goal of too many people today. While they may not use the word “enemy”, they define others as how they’re different – family, religion, ethnicity or birthplace – the same elements that brought us together. More characteristics are added – age, where you live, political party, the music you enjoy.
People make or post seemingly benign statements about why one generation is “better” than the other because of what they experienced as children. Declaring people who live in the “real America” are better than people who live in a different state or city. Using the worst traits of the worst people to define anyone who belongs to that group.
Is there a way to come together, to gain the strength from our tribes, without excluding others? Without demeaning others? Without declaring anyone who is different is our enemy?
I don’t have a global solution. There’s no panacea or universal truth that everyone will agree upon. I can only attempt to not add to the problem.
That means I need to recognize that a person’s religion, or lack of religion, doesn’t make them better or worse than me. I should acknowledge a person’s age doesn’t define who they are, their ability or wisdom. That a person’s gender, gender identity or sexual preference doesn’t determine whether they are good parents, children, siblings or fellow citizens.
I need to appreciate that while a person’s race has impacted how they’ve been treated by others, it shouldn’t impact how we treat each other. And I should use my address and your address as tools to connect us, not divide us.
Instead of excluding others, I need to find ways to bring them into my groups or find ways to belong to their groups. We are more alike than different. We share the common identity of being humans who are alive in 2020. In the end, we all belong to the same tribe.