Thursday, March 7, 2013

Us And Them

To my son Tommy,

Nearly every man made problem of the world has an us and them involved.  Every form of racism, sexism, nationalism, political fighting, bigotry, prejudice, and hatred stems from someone defining us and them.  "They are not like us",  "We are better than them...", "Don't talk to them", and  "If they were more like us..." are just a few examples of how people misuse us and them.

Now there is no escaping some type of grouping.  One of my favorite jokes in life is "There a three kinds of people in this world, ones that can count and ones that can't!"  Though meant to be ironic and funny, it does point out that grouping and categorization is somewhat natural.  The trick is knowing when it is okay to be part of an us.

Beware of people asking "Are you one of us?"  in any form of the question.  It is usually a trap.  Groups of hatred feed on people who wish to belong.  "You think like me on this so join my group...then I can tell you how we think on things you don't really care about".  Then they tell you who you can be seen with and who the enemy is and other such things.  You think we would grow out of this clique attitude after high school, but instead it just grows more adult and devious and treacherous and dire.

If you are part of an "us" then ask yourself some basic questions.  The first being. Is the difference between us and them worth a distinction?  We need to focus on the similarities rather than the differences.  We need to find what makes us brothers and revel in those aspects rather than highlighting what makes us strangers.  If you look deep enough every person has the same desires in life.  We all desire love and purpose and other such basics of life.  Just because we have a different skin tone or live on the opposite of some imaginary line on a map or have been classified as a red or blue political resident, it doesn't mean our core being is not the same.

Then you have to ask, do we try to include them?  Do we hope they become one of us?  Look for a group that includes rather than excludes.  If your group's welcome mat is next to sign that says "Us Only, No Thems" then you might not be in a good group.  If your group has no path to acceptance, than you probably should not be in that group.

Finally, you must ask yourself does your group have the courtesy to let them be them?  Do I force my thinking, my ways, or my life upon others?  This does not stop you from teaching or explaining or even arguing for your position.  But in every exchange with someone we should be open to the fact that we could be wrong and have it be a true exchange.  If your group forces your ideas down the throat of others through brute force and intimidation, you might once again have found yourself in the wrong group of "us".

All this came rushing to me as I heard news reports on public radio of the refugees of Syria.  Here people have the same skin tone, speak the same language, have the same customs and religion, and have so much in common. I struggle to understand how the people in this country have distinguished an us and them and how they determine who the enemy is.  I wonder who picked the teams and how they decided who is shirts and who is skins, because some arbitrary distinction like shirts or skins is the only distinction I can find.  I can only think that some evil men have somehow convinced enough people that they are part of an "us" who has to annihilate "them". And as I struggle to understand how brother can be turned against brother, I am saddened that this isn't the first time it has happened in this world and won't be the last.  Heaven help us if we as a society don't soon realize that both us and them are part of the same group, with the same goals and same desires and same inalienable rights as everyone else.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

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