This July 4th, let’s declare our unity by reclaiming our independence.
I am one of those stubborn political independents who believe that solving problems is more important than winning ideological fistfights, and I deplore politicians whose interest is limited to being a cult leader’s toady. I believe in empowering people to achieve their objectives, rather than oppressing others and bending them to the will of my particular beliefs. I have learned to see Americans as neither Republican nor Democrat, nor any of the other meaningless and often dangerous ways we try to classify people to break them down and treat them differently. Mine is a learned (and often dismissed) disposition in a political system that otherwise demands group affiliation. On the surface, it seems easier to classify people to wage a desired political agenda and affect public policy but, today, it often just inflames conflict and compromises success—especially at the national level. Perhaps it’s just my advancing maturity, but I find little affirming value in belonging to groups, and I wish folks would wave just one flag: the American flag, without changing its colors. Until and when we rally around one flag—with one set of colors: red, white and blue—we will continue on our current course: flirting with authoritarianism in the face of a democracy in chaos. Meanwhile, our adversaries throughout the world lick their chops. Our disunity is their opportunity.
The prevailing mindset in America today is Us vs. Them. Try and find a group today that is not beset by this condition. The other prevailing characteristic many groups share is that they believe they are the exception—that they conscientiously subscribe to inclusive consensus-building practices. But spend more than five minutes in their group discussions and the Us vs. Them mentality quickly percolates to the surface. It is astonishing how fast it rises and equally astonishing how blind participants are to its existence. And don’t dare call them out; you will be banished in a heartbeat. They are like alcoholics who believe that everyone but them are drunks; claimed with cocktail in-hand. As a scholar, I have studied the effects of Us vs. Them righteousness and certitude that historically emanated from organized religions—especially monotheistic religions. I have traced and illustrated religion’s effects on American foreign policy. However, in the last ten years or so, politics has supplanted religion as the locus of righteousness and certitude. There is no need to trace religion to politics; today, politics is religion.
My parents taught me that to exclude people in politics—or any other persuasive endeavor—is foolish if you want to win. Political parties call this the “Big Tent Strategy”; something they give lip service to when attempting to feign inclusion. Candidates today love to judge, shame, and condemn others in a feeble attempt to bolster their standing—especially with donors. They rarely address the needs of their constituents. To me, we are all just humans trying to find a secure, predictable, and fulfilling path to live our lives. Many would call me an outlier, and I […]