I want to try here to explain our current cold American civil war to the younger readers. Tribes can form around any special interest: political, religious, socio-economic, racist, sexist, sports team loyalties, etc. Every in-group, or every team, produces an out-group, an opposing team. Wherever there is division, there is fear.
Why? Favoritism. For example, social cliques that include supervisors in the workplace create favoritism, generate second-class employees and kill morale. In sports, favoritism by a coach angers the players. One can argue the recent Supreme Court case over the praying coach in Bremerton was actually about preventing the possibility of favoritism by a religious enthusiast.
In politics, many dishonest candidates are lazy and rely entirely upon tribal favoritism, “nepotism,” rather than on working hard to earn everyone’s respect. Imagine if your surgeon relied only on favoritism to get his job.
Mild forms of favoritism create bitter feelings and bad reputations. When it comes to lawmaking, however, favoritism that results in fear or hatred or unfairness will tear our nation apart. Lawmakers must legislate fairly.
Religion is a particularly dangerous form of tribal division. In the disturbing New Testament chapter, Matthew 10, Jesus predicts his future fan base will reject their own families, and that violence would result. Jesus admits, “you will be hated by everyone because of me.” Jesus may have guessed a subset of his future followers would not love their neighbors as commanded but would instead cheat their way into power. We, Americans, have learned the hard way that how you win and what you do after you win, matters. Actions have consequences.
Overzealous Christians are not the only guilty tribe here. Yes, if your favorite slogan is “America is a white Christian nation,” people will justifiably yell at you. If, however, your favorite slogan is the exact opposite, “separate church from state,” people will still yell at you. Whichever slogan, whichever side you picked, you have just announced to everyone that should you ever obtain lawmaking power, you will form laws to marginalize your opponents and reduce them into second-class citizens. Don’t destroy the possibility of making peace. Take the time to act like an adult. Get your facts straight before making laws. Build a reputation for fairness, not zealotry. Don’t just debate, engage in conversations. Make room at your table for the other tribes because you may need their help someday.
Sun Tzu in “The Art of War” said, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” He was probably talking about surveillance. He could also have been explaining fairness. Think about what you are actually saying when you claim, “all lives matter.” The American cold civil war today is fueled by dogma and tribalism. The results are nepotism, bad lawmaking, mistrust and violence. The solutions are to legislate fairly and to rebuild trust. This will take time.
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