As a country we face a host of wars. Are you for gay marriage or against it? Are you for gun safety measures or against them? Are you pro choice or pro life? Are you for raising the minimum wage or for eliminating it? Are you for fixing the immigration system or are you for building a fence?
There is a common thread in almost all of these considerations, and that is inclusion versus exclusion. This seems to be a systemic problem that America has always fought with. Our primary tenant is freedom and liberty for all. We publicly state that all people are endowed with the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that all people are created equal. On the shore of New York is a statue that boldly states, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Yet, with all that bravado about equality and acceptance, we, as a people and as a nation, have always seen ourselves as us versus them. It was us against the native Americans. Us against the slaves we brought here, and once we freed them it was still us against them. If it wasn’t the African American, it was the Irish or the Germans or the Amish, or women. Battles are waged. Some are won, at least on a legal platform.
But it seems there is something inherent in the American that keeps them wanting to hate something or someone, not a single individual, because that kind of dislike is natural, but some need to hate a group without even knowing them. Pro war hawks told the hippies of the 60’s to Love it or Leave it. Either you were with them, or you did not belong in this country. The pro gun lobby is saying the same things today. You are either for completely free gun access, or somehow you are anti-American. You either believe that marriage is between one man and one woman, or you are part of some sickness that is destroying the country. You either want to control immigration and keep those people out, or you are supporting some secret takeover of our country.
The odd thing is, from the other side the arguments are different. If you are for gun safety, you want to protect American lives as well as protect the Second Amendment. It isn’t seen as us against them. It is seen as a desire to include your gun rights along with some measures to help save lives. If you agree with gay marriage, you are not against traditional marriage. You simply want to broaden the scope or marriage. If you are for paths to citizenship, you stand with the Statue of Liberty and the idea that we are a country of immigrants, as opposed to seeking ways of shutting the doors and posting “Keep Out” signs.
At its worst, it is this inherent nature that causes the brutality of this country. It is why a young black man carrying only a bag of Skittles is shot to death. It is why two youngsters feel it is okay to shoot an infant in a stroller. It is why politicians feel it is okay to obstruct anything or are willing to cut everything, even if it hurts people, so long as it hurts more of them, and not too many of us.
Grover Norquist, a white, conservative male, states that he wants taxes to be cut, and cut, and cut. That he wants to shrink government until it is small enough to be “drown in the bathtub.” He is declared some sort of leader and virtually all GOP representatives in our government sign on to his pledge. Suppose the person who had made those statements was a Black man with power? What if President Obama said that he wanted to shrink government until it was so small it could be drowned in a bathtub? Would he be declared a leader, or some revolutionary radical that was totally opposed to America? After all, he would have stated that he wanted America dead.
It is a sign of how deep our feeling of us versus them run inside us. As long as things go your way, you are happy, even if your approach hurts or exclude others. When will we learn that allowing the other side their happiness does not eliminate our own?