Us And Them

allegiance, us vs them

Ben said, “I never found allegiance to any group appealing and I’m skeptical of folks who do.”

I clicked the like button, scooped up my lunch bag, and headed home from work. I was on my way to a night of homemade organic beef egg noodle spaghetti, garlic bread, and Black Mirror. It was Mrs C’s day off, so she was preparing a big batch of the stuff to get us through the week. We love leftovers. Her spaghetti rocks.

I thought about what Ben said later, at 3:17 in the morning. I never sleep for more than 5 hours on a Tuesday, so Wednesday morning is a great time to reflect on the day that passed, the day to come. Mrs C was sleeping to my right, Ludo at our feet. Moxie was on the floor on her side, like he always is. She was asleep, I think, though my restlessness might have made her restless. Ludo got up and folded into my arms, as he sometimes does when he realizes I’m awake. He usually doesn’t stay for more than five or ten minutes. I suppose it’s his way of telling me that everything is alright. Or maybe his way of letting me tell him. He lay there for a good half hour, maybe 45 minutes.

I finally got out of bed at a quarter to five. My mind did a lot of thinking about that line in the 88 minutes in-between. I completely agree with it.

It reminded me a little of a piece I wrote recently, about how we are not but one thing. For some reason, we try to be. Maybe it’s safer that way, or easier. Easier to define ourselves if we can identify our group allegiance. We don’t have to think so much about life, I suppose. We can just do what other Republicans would do. What other Christians would do. You can blank out those words and put in your own party or religion, or the ones you despise, if you want. Just so you get the point. It’s all group-think.

This is why I can’t identify with jingoism. Blind patriotism doesn’t work for me. Like religion, it’s the ultimate in group-think. I believe that any flag that isn’t a symbol of freedom, first, is just worthless cloth. Colin Kaepernick did more to adhere to the ideals of America by kneeling before the flag than his detractors did by scorning him for it. If the American ideal, as presented by the founding fathers, is about freedom and equality, then he’s the better patriot. If your democracy forces you into allegiance you don’t have a democracy anymore.

So, like Ben, I’m skeptical of anyone who swears allegiance to any group over all people. In our political discourse, the Democrats get it wrong just as often as the Republicans. But in our little part of the world, which makes up less than 5% of the planet’s population, we divide ourselves into these groups, anyway. 31% identify strongly as Democrats. 24% as Republicans. 42% are Independent. We should all be independent. Not one of us should trust any of them entirely.

This is what went through my brain, this morning, between 3:17 and 4:45, while cuddling with a golden retriever. My conclusion was the usual one: we are too polarized. The enemy is not us, but the corpocracy that governs us. They take our gains to fill their coffers and send our poor and young to die for old man greed. Then they demand our allegiance to their flag in the name of freedom. And we buy into it and we point our fingers at each other and tell ourselves that the other is worshiping their greed wrong. In the meantime, our infrastructure fails. Our safety nets have holes. Tens of millions among us have inadequate health care. Millions in the United States do not have access to clean water.

We are, arguably, the richest country in the history of the world, and 45 million of us live below the poverty line.

Our problem is not each other.

I don’t swear allegiance to any group. I am skeptical of folks that do. Every problem has a unique solution. Not a Republican one. Not a Democratic one. A human one. A humane one. Let’s step out of our political rivalries, then – our allegiance to leaders whose only interest is their own – and build a coalition for a better nation. A better people. A better world.

Anything else is just plain lazy.

79 comments on Us And Them

  1. I had this run in the other day with a couple of guys spreading the word. They sat down at the table where I was having lunch and asked me if I “had a few minutes”

    They explained that everyone was dirty and evil and destined for hell and that I should repent. And I said ” oh, I uh…don’t subscribe to that thinking” and they said “why” and I said, “I’m just not wired that way.” and I think that might be the odd truth of it

    My wires want to know why and how they wind the way they do. Their wires like to follow the course that was set for them. What do you do?
    Another great post Tom, as always.

    1. Thank you, DG! And thank you for sharing that anecdote. I’ve had a few run-ins with the evangelicals, in my time, and I usually – very politely – let them know that it’s not for me. Sometimes, I’ll just nod and thank them if I’m in a hurry. What do you do, indeed? If they are willing to live and live, I am. 🙂

      1. I love the way you put that; am humbled by it. Considering the size of the premise, it made me laugh.

        Still, I accept your nomination and look forward to bouncing the “f’ing moron” out on his ear. 😉

  2. A wonderful piece. I’ve never ascribed to group think; if I did, I wouldn’t love Nickelback as much as I do. I’m also a Canadian Liberal, but I’m the first person to admit that I think Trudeau has fallen flat with some of his promises. The only group think we should ever all have is the common idea of treating each other well. If we did that, we wouldn’t have any factions. A girl can dream, I guess.

  3. Mixing homey activity with philosophy works well. You could cook, or mow the lawn, or ponder the universe with dog hair tickling your nose — any of these while interlacing reflection, I think, would work. And you do it so well, too.

    Reminds me of Travels with Charlie.

    We are on the cusp of collapse. When food and entertainment become all that entices us, civilization has peaked. Panem et circenses is a real and true thing. So, eat up and enjoy the bigtop show.

    1. Hey, thanks, AM! I didn’t realize I was creating a style, but I do think that could work. I appreciate the comment. 🙂

      I Googled the Latin but should have remembered the phrase. “Bread and circuses.” That sounds like a title of an upcoming post … 😉

    1. Ha! One of my favorite phrases. One of the first philosophers I ever met, as an adult, used to use that phrase all the time. Appreciate the feedback, supes!

  4. Random thoughts:

    -The first line ALMOST reminds me of Woody Allen’s famous: “I wouldn’t want to be a part of a club that would have me as a member.” I definitely feel that way, but suppose I should be skeptical of folks who throw their hat in a group wholesale. I think this is why I lean centrist (and also feel like a total pussy for doing so);

    -“Colin Kaepernick did more to adhere to the ideals of America by kneeling before the flag than his detractors did by scorning him for it.” Being critical of ANYTHING, but especially our country, is about improvement, not debasement. I hate to say it, but I’ll throw out a platitude: folks who hate on Kaepernick are just most likely racist. Anecdotal evidence: the few neighbors who’ve openly made fun of Kaepernick also freely use the n-word. It ain’t everyone, but it’s more IS than ISN’T in my personal experiences;

    -May I use this for a guest post (once the flaming awesomeness that is my last guest post dies down a bit)? It’s a very humane and balanced message, and one I’d probably try to hit more if I weren’t so busy making dick-n-fart jokes.

    1. I would be honored to appear as a guest on your show! I really appreciate the sentiment and offer, Jason. My words are at your disposal. 🙂

      As for Kaep, I agree but not wholeheartedly. I know many people, working in a NorCal redneck town, that hate folks like Colin Kaepernick (and hated Barack Obama) simply for their blackness. No doubt, those people exist. But I also know people who haven’t an ounce of racist sentiment in their body who despise Kaepernick for his action because they have bought into the nationalistic, FOX News, mistaken, narrative that kneeling during the national anthem is a disrespect to the troops. It is not; but facts matter very little in the face of jingoism. Like Colin Kaepernick, I have a great respect for the individuals who fight in the military, even if I have very little respect for our military actions and the crooked leaders behind them. In a way, I see the troops as victims of these actions and leaders. The nationalistic programming is drilled into them even more than us, and they are sent to kill or die for America. As a whole, that wouldn’t be a bad thing, if the fight was one for freedom or some such higher ideal. But it is not. Wars are fought for power and greed. These poor men and women die and kill for the money of the masters. The troops themselves are wonderful; their cause, unfortunately, misled.

      I don’t think you’re a pussy for being centrist. But I think a better term for that would be open-minded. On the political compass (https://www.politicalcompass.org/) I align far to the west and far to the south, but that is not all that I am. I have opinions all over the spectrum because I am a rational man. Though my plot point takes me there, I am center-natured. What I want is what is best for everyone. What I don’t want is a label.

      1. I have to say, if we just did what was truly best for our citizens first and debated the ideological shit second (sorry, we’ll never figure out the abortion thing; however, we could feed our hungry and poor), we’d all be better off.

        I absolutely do feel for the troops and pretty much in the way you mentioned. We do send our poor to kill and die, and it’s pretty despicable. I teach high school seniors, so I get to see a fair number of them sign up for various branches. I’m fortunate not to have lost anyone that I’ve taught, but I know the day is coming.

        Agreed on your non-label approach, too. I’d rather be a fucking weirdo than fit into a group. At whatever point I realized that, life got a lot easier. So few people see the game for what it is, or maybe they do and deliberately play it. Either way, “It made me sad.” -Count Orloff.

  5. Hi Tom. I agree wholeheartedly and you said it wonderfully (diplomatically). It’s a shame so many are so easily manipulated to look the other way…we can’t solve problems if we’re too busy creating more.

    1. Thank you, Karyn! It’s true. Keeping us fighting against each other (creating more problems) not only pays the bills (through entertainment media) but keeps us off their backs, those who are fleecing us, I mean. The corrupt elite are better off when we bicker. 😕

  6. You nailed it again Tom!!! I was working on something along similar lines, but it’s still mullling in my brain: How I came to dread Nationalism and Group thinking so much!

    For this very reason, campaign commercials make me cringe big time (it doesn’t matter what party). I remember during the Bush campaign, his team was really big on depicting hardworking farmers or factory workers standing proudly in front of rolling golden fields and American flags. Those commercials were a nightmare for me because the proud and smug people in them bore a striking resemblance to the racist customers I used to encounter who said things like “go home” and “I don’t think you can speak English since your Asian”. So I never could buy into any that Nationalistic rhetoric.

    Yet I wonder why this works so well and how to stop the madness, it gives people a false sense of security of belonging and of ownership, especially when they encounter the “other”/ anyone outside of the group. Suddenly jobs, streets and buildings that they have no attachment to are suddenly theirs and theirs alone.

    It all seems incredibly unfair, corporations are responsible for taking away so many jobs and taking advantage us all in so many ways, especially the poor. Yet, the majority are too busy finger-pointing and arguing about every supposed cent wasted on illegal immigrants to focus on the real big-time crooks.

    1. Campaign ads are the worst! They are simple propaganda designed to appeal to the basest and simplest natures of their observers. How I long for a day when we can leave the propaganda behind! Let’s be folks; folks that get along with other folks and want what is best for all folks. Forget flags, let’s be people!

      But, so far, that’s too much to ask.

      I understand the need for people to want to keep it simple; life is hard work. It’s so much easier, like I said, to belong to a group and go along with what the group is saying so we don’t have to rationalize our own behaviors so much. But it’s lazy. And it leads to the divisiveness we see. Somehow we have to flip the script on society and make the reward be knowledge and strong personal and interpersonal work instead of toil for money. Our values start screwed up. But, then, you can’t have ultra-rich people and great income inequality if everyone is wise, so those that have want to keep those that have-not down.

      We are not each other’s enemy. The enemy is the rich, fat-cat corporate slug and the idea of the corporation itself. But try selling that to someone who has already been programmed, since birth, to believe in one nation, under god, and to believe that anything that isn’t that nation or that god is the enemy. 😢

      1. A big ditto on everything you wrote, especially your last paragraph!! It makes me sad too!😭 Maybe it’s a matter of a simple imagination exercise: Imagine every person on the planet is as complicated and valuable as you are. It’s not so hard is it?

      2. That’s a wonderful way to look at it! Let’s start there and, maybe, in the gens to come, more folks will latch on. 🤞

        Here’s to the complicated, valuable you, MP! 👏👏👏

      1. We’ll think of something…

        How come you don’t drink beer?
        Tom, how can anyone not like beer?

        So, I’m sharing my beer with Tom and having brandy with you, right? Or you like champagne more?

      2. I used to like and drink Pilsner Urquell. BTW I do also love good champagne with Perrier Jouet fleur de champagne being my favorite.

      3. I like that one as well. Especially the White Star.

        It feels more like me is the best way to describe the reason. I am glad you like it.

      4. Stella’s a good beer! I drink a common light beer most of the time, but I’ll pick up Stella, Shiner Bock, Alaskan Amber, or Red Trolley Ale or Killian’s Red, when I can find ’em. Most beers I’m good with, but I don’t prefer to high IBU (bitter) beers. Crisp tastes for me!

        Sorry I was out of touch all afternoon, Bojana, work pulled me in and wouldn’t let me go!

      5. Abita is our local, and they do some amazing ones as well using Abita Springwater. They also do a killer root beer. 😁

  7. I agree completely with your perspective on the situation we are dealing with. If people thought more about policy and not party it would be allot more productive. But with so much disinformation from Fox and other sources, both right and left, it’s hard to get people together to talk in a sensible fashion. Until better minds come together we are going to struggle. Great piece!

    1. Thank you, Joe! There is no question that today the polarization of the party over country, or party over people, is as bad or worse than anytime I can remember. A good friend of mine likes to point up that this is just another sign of the “failing American empire,” and then references similar paths by other imperial powers before. Is America failing? If pressed into a corner I would agree that it is. It is the most powerful nation on Earth, with its military and political might, but we’ve seen (with the USSR) how quickly a mighty political and military empire can crumble. And with the poor leadership and isolationist/protectionist agenda we see today, this can usher an even quicker end.

      Is that our fate?

      I like to think that it’s not too late. That sounder minds, perhaps led by folks like you and I, can begin to bring back – or finally bring forward – rational thinking, complementary politics, and true empathy for the plight of humans and the habitat they call home.

      We got the numbers, right? When it comes down to it, who doesn’t want a better life for everyone?

      Thanks for checking out TBT, and for joining the conversation. We need more musings like those of old man Joe!

  8. I wake up early too (sometimes due to the dog snoring so loudly it’s lije thunder) but I can’t say I’ve had thoughts like these recently. A thought provoking and interesting read however Tom.

  9. Wow, Tom. You knocked it out of the park with this one. What is happening right now in the world of politics is too much for me to process. It causes me enormous amounts of anxiety because hate has been given a license to run rampant out in the open, and it is terrifying. I wish more people thought like you do, and would see that this is a human problem, not a political one. I am not entirely out of hope, but it is fading.

    1. Thank you, Tanya. 🙂

      Hate and ignorance have won the day, of late, but I keep saying that this is a bump in the road. As we build a bridge to a better world, the one we see on the other side of the shore, it scares the hell out of those (few) who think this side of the shore is better. Those who have taken too much, at the expense of all others, will fight to keep what they have unduly gained, and will whip the ignorant into a frenzy to keep it.

      Stay hopeful. In this world of instant information, the right information is out there and will filter through to those willing to hear it. Our job is to make sure more and more are willing to hear it. ☺️

  10. Thanks for caring and articulating your perspective so well Tom. I agree with so much of what you wrote. I’ve have a visceral response to patriotism, flag waiving and dividing into groups. I know small groups feel and work better, but somehow we need to operate within a larger framework of being one human family living in an interconnected world.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Brad. As we expand our reach and spread that message, I hope to see a day when more and more people will think outside their isolated borders, both personally and nationally. We can learn to live in greater harmony together in this shared space we call Earth.

      Thank you so much for stopping by; good to add you as a friend!

  11. Yep, Mrs. C was right. This is brilliant, Tom. I have goosebumps.
    I’m reading about 5 books right now (Call it A.D.D, call it ‘I want to consume everything at once’…whatever the reason, it’s an inconvenient and burdensome quirk to have when one does most of her reading in coffee shops).
    Anyway, all of them have this theme running through them in some shape or form, or at least the theme I’m extrapolating here.
    We are all fighting, taking up arms to protect our ___ (insert whatever thing we are scared of losing: money, love, safety, control). We’re all so terrified of losing these illusive things that have come to define us that we’re building impenetrable fortresses to protect ourselves, our family, and our things.
    We then identify a common enemy and surround ourselves with people who are as scared as we are. Strength in numbers, right? Someone convinces us that once this ‘enemy’ is conquered, our problems will be remedied. So we band together, build stronger walls and channel all of our frustrations for what is ‘wrong or missing’ in our lives into defeating the enemy…and we are lonelier, angrier, more frightened and miserable than we ever have been.
    I think it’s human nature to want to connect, to have a community of like-minded people who support us. But our standards for what ‘like-minded’ means have become so strict, there is little room for tolerance, diversity, or even individuality. We start to conform, morph ourselves into a label or identity that’s no longer our own, but one someone else made up to ward off THEIR enemy or declare THEIR superiority.
    Although I’ve never been one to fall in step with the herd, I am guilty of falling prey to the us/them mentality as a result of the past election. Am I Democrat? Well, yes, a registered one, anyway. Do my views align and do I agree with 100% of what they do, not necessarily.
    It’s simply ludicrous to think benevolence or malevolence can be determined by a person’s political views, religious affiliation, skin color, on and on. We know better. Yet, here we are again.
    My point is, at the end of the day. I just want to do what I can to make someone’s day or week or life better. I want to surround myself with people who want to do the same. I want to have the courage to hold people who are hurting or disempowering others accountable for their actions.
    I think this is what most people want. We just have to remember to peel back the layers- ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’- lean in, look closer. Democrat, Republican, Muslim, Mexican, Transgender…we all bleed the same. We all feel pain, fear, love and joy the same. And we all get the same choice as to which we will use to fuel our actions.

    1. I am current reading the book “Tribe,” by Sebastian Junger, almost exclusively. (I wander from book to book, too, often having several partially read at once — another kindred attribute we share 😎). He speaks about the desire for community, as well, and how the modern world has thrust into this sort of solitary independence that was missing in the tribal days. We feel we don’t need each other; we fear relying upon one another. We build these walls.

      I started reading this book because of a recommendation from Dylan (www.dylan-andersen.com), but I wasn’t supposed to read it (in the order I originally chose) until May-something. I jumped it up in line because of you, and all of these people in our circle that have become, well, a tribe. We connect. We feed each other. Inspire one another. Listen. Share. Try to make sense of this world, and create a better one.

      The world today is more connected and more polarized than ever before. Instead of the power of the information age bringing us together, it is emphasizing our differences. Enough of all that. Like you say, we are all the same, bleed the same blood. We feel, we love, we hurt, we get so damn angry sometimes. We’re all made from the same stuff.

      I get “accused” of being a Democrat or a Liberal or a Snowflake sometimes and my response is always “I’m just a person who wants what’s best for people.” All people. Dogs, too. The whole damn planet.

      Labels mean nothing to me; character is what counts. We are led by some awfully bad characters right now.

      Brooke, thank you for taking the time to read and respond to this post (my wife’s favorite 😉 ), in such a thoughtful and beautiful manner. This is why the tribe matters. I need your help; I’m offering mine. No walls necessary. Just people, making things better, for each other.

      When that platform starts taking hold, it could change the whole world. 😊

      1. Beautifully said, and I couldn’t agree more.
        This era of having access to people and cultures all over the world, of participating in selective/selected exchanges and images with the privilege (or curse) of sitting far removed, protected by a screen to keep us at a safe vantage point from which we can judge or condemn…it can fuel are prejudices or justify our narrow stance on issues we are too lazy or scared to investigate on a deeper level. It can encourage us to disconnect from the full human experience and acknowledge only the parts we want to or hide the parts we choose to.
        But this shield can also incentivize us to be vulnerable, to offer up how we feel and what we believe. It provides a forum for like-minded people to come together, offer support and perspective and learn from each other- a place for us to form a tribe with those we would otherwise never know.
        And yes, it offers us a launching pad needed to band together and change the world for better or worse. I think we’re off to a running start toward achieving the prior. ;o)
        Okay, enough with my rants. Just know you succeeded in what every writer strives to do: you made me feel and think and want to engage. So thank you.

  12. It would be nice to not always be searching for the simple answers to every problem, wouldn’t it? Great post. I wish I were that philosophical at 3:17 in the morning.

    1. Thank you, Traveler. 🙂 Hey, I dig the tile layout of your site; I’ll dig in and check out more. Thanks for stopping by! Often I wish, at 3:17 in the morning, that my philosophy was “sleep til 5; feel more alive.” 😉

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