First of all, the featured image has nothing to do with this post. I saw the photo. I liked the photo. The photo was free to use. That’s it. It’s from Stella Tzertzeveli on Unsplash if you want to see more and support her.
With that said, I have a lot of friends. Okay, let me rephrase… I have a few friends and a crap ton of acquaintances. Some of them are people that I went to high school with and some are old college friends with whom I’ve lost touch over the years but still get updates from in my Facebook or Twitter feeds. Some are old co-workers, and some are from old cities and churches where I’ve lived and been a part of. These people have a lot of differences — race, gender, socio-economic standing, education, and nationality (to name just a few) — but they also have a lot of things in common. Obviously, they all know me so that’s one point of commonality. Some are the same race and/or gender. Some are old and some are young. Some are rich, some are poor. Some are super-progressive and some are very conservative. Some have a college degree, some have a PhD, and some dropped out of high school. Some are American but others are English, Canadian, Colombian, Kenyan, South African, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, and the list goes on. I say all of this not to point out how many friends I have, or to pat myself on the back for whatever someone might think is worth of that from this list of people. I bring it up because I recognize that my friends reflect the cultures around me.
I’m not saying it’s a perfect one-for-one comparison, but I am saying that as I watch these friends interact with others on social media and in person, I see certain trends that reflect much of American society. Likewise, on the rare occasions when these friends disagree with one another (usually as a result of something I’ve shared or posted) I see a lot of the culture in those interactions as well; so don’t take this as a criticism of my friends, but as a critique of what I’ve identified of our American culture in 2018.
I’ll be brief with these, but am happy to speak more on these if anyone is interested in hearing more.
Stop Picking Teams
First things first: Stop picking teams. Somehow over the last thirty years we’ve stopped being “fellow Americans” and have started self-segregating along intersectional lines. Not sure what intersectional means? It’s refers to “the complex and cumulative way that the effects of different forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, and yes, intersect—especially in the experiences of marginalized people or groups“.
Wikipedia is a bit clearer defining it as:
“…an analytic framework which attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society.”
But even if you don’t want to consider the intersectional left as divisive, we can’t deny the divide between the American right and left. I swear, if you watch the news you’ll get the impression that the American population is broken up as progressive democrats and alt-right conservatives with maybe 5% sprinkled between moderates from both sides. However, the truth is that the American public is a lot more diverse than that. What about libertarians? What about environmentalists? What about people who just want to leave you alone and be left alone to live their lives?
I understand why we trend toward this type of neo-factionalism (yes I made up a word). It’s because we are, at a fundamental level, tribal creatures. It’s why we congregate in cities and towns. It’s why we celebrate team wins and national athletes. It’s why we bet on sporting events. We want — no, need — to be a part of a group or community. Some of you might disagree with that statement, especially you introverts and I get that. I enjoy my quiet moments away from crowds, but even in our introvertedness (made up another), we still want to be a part of something. If you want an example, look to the internet. Are you a part of any message boards or online communities? Do you follow any channels on YouTube or Twitch? Do you actively follow any podcasts, but especially the smaller ones? All of those are examples of gathering around mutual interests.
However, as with just about anything, we can take it too far. Just because we are wired to be a part of a group doesn’t mean we must pledge sole allegiance to that group. For instance, my family heritage is roughly 50% Fijian, 25% Scottish, and 25%Austrian (I haven’t done anything like 23&Me, nor do I plan to but what I know is from family). I embrace my heritage, but it’s not what defines me. I love America, but that’s not what defines me. I’m a libertarian but that’s not what defines me. My love for Jesus defines me, and directs me to try to love and serve others well, but the title “Christian” as society understands it does not define me.
If things are going to get any better, we have to stop picking teams as we address social and political issues and start loving one another — which leads to the next point.
People You Don’t Like Aren’t Nazi’s
If you’ve called someone you don’t like (especially a politician) “Hitler”, “Literally Hitler”, or “a Nazi”, go repent. I will wait. Unless, of course, that person is a self-avowed Nazi or is actually named Hitler… then you get a pass.
In all seriousness though, people need to stop it. Just because you don’t like Donald Trump doesn’t make him Hitler. Just because you didn’t like Barack Obama didn’t make him Hitler. Just because you didn’t like George W. Bush didn’t make him Hitler — and in case anyone has forgotten, we’ve seen that claim for (at least) the last three presidents.
Conservatives who don’t agree with abortion or open borders aren’t Nazis, and neither are progressives who want those things. Historically speaking Antifa is pretty close, what with using Brown Shirt intimidation and violence, but they’re a pretty extreme example. Just stop calling people Nazis… it’s not helpful and nobody takes you seriously when you do it.
Everyone is Wrong (to a degree…)
For some reason we like to pretend that relativism is a net good. While it’s a complex topic, the core of the belief is that every perspective can be true.
Some people and ideas are wrong. In fact, I would say that we are all wrong, at least part of the time. We need to learn some humility and accept that we, and our respective groups, are not the bastions of all truth and knowledge. Having learned to accept that over the years, I close with the following…
Everything is Complicated
In America today we are dealing with a lot of major social and political issues. These issue cannot be solved or resolved through a share/retweet an a sentence or two (or ten) of your off-hand commentary. Major (and even minor) social and political issues are extremely sophisticated. There are seemingly endless examples of subtle nuance and anecdotal exceptions. Does that mean we should discount those for the majority narrative? No, that’s stupid. But do we also throw out the majority narrative for the minority exception? No. That’s also stupid. As reasonable people, we should be analyzing them together in order to find actual solutions.
But that’s all for now. It felt good to get that out. Until next time.