Us vs. Them


. . . A former truck driver and neo-Nazi skinhead, Pawel, 33, has since become an Orthodox Jew, covering his shaved head with a yarmulke and shedding his fascist ideology for the Torah.


On Jan. 12, 2010, a massive earthquake struck Haiti, reducing much of its capital to rubble. It was the worst earthquake in the region in more than 200 years. A study by the Inter-American Development Bank estimates that the cost could be between $7.2 billion to $13.2 billion, based on a death toll from 200,000 to 250,000. The devastation created serious obstacles to those attempting to deliver promised foreign aid.


State Department: 15 Americans Killed in Haiti Quake

We seem to live in a world of “us” against “them,” and it seems to start from the youngest ages, with kids forming packs on playgrounds and chasing the kids from “Other” packs away from Our tree or Our fort or Our soccer field.

These struggles seem to be genetically programmed into us; to find our place in the hierarchy, to find which group we belong to and then to plant our flags and stand our ground. Remember high school (shudder) and the compartments you had to try to fit into? The cools the geeks and the stoners and the jocks; who dressed “right,” who didn’t; the few who managed to forge their own path but also still managed to be considered “ok” by those who were qualified to make such fine distinctions. The pressure to conform while being very careful not to look like you were conforming. [Ugh. Wouldn’t go back if you paid me.]

But the problem is bigger, and much, much more sinister than that.

If I define myself in terms of which group I belong to, then I draw a circle around this group, and the rest of “you” are outside of it. There. Now I don’t need to care about you, about whether you have health insurance or an opportunity for a decent education or enough food in your cupboard to feed your children. I can even decide I hate you, that you represent evil incarnate or that your beliefs are a threat to my narrow, self-righteous view of the world, and give myself permission to hurt or demean or destroy you. And if I happen to go to church myself I have people, set off from me by their position and their attire and their title, telling me all of the reasons I’m right and those of you outside MY circle, are wrong. (Notice that one of the sources of evil on the twistedly confusing but popular TV series Lost are known merely as “The Others.”)

On a global scale, we Americans live proudly by what has been carefully determined to be humanity’s inalienable rights: that we are all created equal, that we have a right to free speech and free press and freedom from the fear of lawlessness and tyranny and a fair trial before our peers. Oh; but only if you’re an American. And as long as you’re NOT, then I can feel free to incarcerate you endlessly or torture you deport you or villify you by nature of your color or country or creed.

I think, instead, we should all live by the 4 rules outlined by Anne Lamott:

Rule No. 1: We are all family

Rule No. 2: It is immoral to hit first

Rule No. 3: You reap exactly what you sow

Rule No. 4: Don’t be an asshole.

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