We have become a society so blinded by our partisanship; we are slowly coming to a standstill. We spend all our energy preventing our perceived enemies from progressing that we no longer get anything done but debate.
We live in an “us vs. them” world—this isn’t a surprise to anyone. Nor should it be. The survival of one’s species depends on the ability to determine what is “friend” and what is “foe.” We wouldn’t be here if we couldn’t tell the difference between the “us” of friendly animals and the “them” of not friendly animals and sharks. Especially sharks.
Our social make-up results in the desire to associate with similarly situated people. Parents with small children gravitate to having friends who are parents with small children. The clubbing crowd hangs out with other clubbers. And, of course, Republicans with Republicans, Protestants with Protestants, etc.
By virtue of this associate, we create the “us vs. them” scenario. We team up on atheist blogroll to be an “us” of atheists as compared to the “them” of non-atheists. Baptists join Baptists churches to be the Baptist “us” instead of joining the Methodist “them.” There is nothing wrong with this; it is naturally part of who we are as humans. No matter who you are reading this blog, you fall into both an “us” or a “them” category as compared to others reading this blog.
You may be an “us” right hand dominant as compared to a “them” left hand dominant. Or vice versa. (Or some smart aleck who is ambidextrous who is a “them” to all of us who are not.)
I notice a common curious attribute developing. We view the comparative beliefs on a scale. As if everything bad that happens to “us” weighs us down, tipping the scale up for the “thems.” And, alternatively, anything bad happening to “them” tips the scale in our favor.
Therefore, we support anything bad for “them.” Because it must be beneficial for us, right? And we must oppose anything beneficial for “them.” Because that must be harmful for us, right? And anything those “them” want, must be something they think is beneficial—oppose it! If those “them” don’t want it—support it! It must be beneficial for us.
We spend our time watching the other side, countering their every move. Not because we have a moral mandate, or justified reason; but because we think if they want it/don’t want it—we must demand the opposite. To support “us.”
Slacktivist wrote a great blog entry regarding health care reform. His point, to summarize, was that taxes are actually down, and health care costs are up. Yet your average tea-bagger is screaming to high heaven how terrible their “them” is—how awful Pres. Obama is to America. Yet if you asked these simple questions:
“Do you want taxes lower?”
“Do you want health costs to increase?”
They would discover they actually support the proposed solution under the current Administration! (I know that is overly simplistic, but on these two points it is bottom line correct.)
See, they don’t think. All they know is their leadership, in the form of media personalities, is whipping them into a frenzy of how the Democrats want to do….something. How the President proposes…something. Because the Democrats and the President is a “them”—they must oppose it! Not for what it is; not for a certain ideology. But because the other side wants it.
I read Sarah Palin’s facebook page. She posts a note, and 1000’s of people file responses. Most are what you would expect. I often read a comment like this, “Boy, Sarah, you sure made the media angry. That shows how right we must be.”
Do you get it? Because the media (“them”) was unhappy, it validates the Palin crowd (“us) position. If the “them” was happy, the “us” must be doing something wrong! Likewise, if the “them” is unhappy, the “us” must be doing something right! We validate our beliefs on how unhappy the other side is!
Using the same logic, a murderer must be doing something right, because their victim is unhappy!
I see this all the time practicing law. All. The. Time. If one side wants Expert A to be chosen; the other side immediately objects. Why? Simply because the enemy—“them”—wants it, so we—“us”—must not. If I propose a former Judge to be a facilitator; the other side immediately rejects him or her. They assume my wanting it necessarily translates to them not.
I could tell countless stories as illustrative; I will tell one on myself.
I represented a woman who was looking for past child support due from an ex-husband. He was claiming he was too poor to have paid support. During the hearing, his attorney approached him with a document. It was a letter, sent by Social Security Administration detailing his reported income for the past ten years. (For non-Americans, we pay taxes from wages into Social Security, and once a year, the SSA sends out a notice indicating how much wages were taxed toward Social Security.)
Because the amounts were minimal, his attorney felt this was support for his being too poor to pay Child support.
His attorney moved for the admission of the letter. I objected. Because he wanted it in; I assumed I (the other side) did not. I knew he had not followed the Rules of Evidence, and could not get it admitted the way. I was right—the judge would not let it in.
The attorney tried to get it in another way. I smugly objected again; he was still doing it incorrectly. Again the judge ruled in my favor.
Look at me: winning because the other side was not getting what it wanted, right? Wrong.
It came time for me to present proofs. One basic element necessary was to demonstrate the ex-husband had received wages--any wages--whether it was $1 or $1,000,000 in the last 10 years. Now…wouldn’t that letter have been just the ticket to do that? Now I was stuck with going through complicated proofs, when all I would have had to do (if I hadn’t been so cocky objecting to that letter!) was point out that they had proved this element for me! The letter that they put into proofs would be sufficient.
I fought what “them” wanted, not because of the content, but simply because I was thinking if “them” wanted it; I must not. Luckily, as an epilogue, I was able to introduce the same information through the ex-husband by using the letter to “refresh” his memory. But it was still an unnecessary, extra step.
A basic rule of objecting is to FIRST ask yourself the question, “Does the evidence I want to prevent help or hurt my case?” Not, “Can I win the objection?” Not, “If the other side wants it, I must not.” I had forgotten this rule.
Certainly there are issues we oppose “them.” I support gay marriage for various reasons, not because the “thems” oppose it. But I often see, in blogs and debates and discussions, people so readily oppose what the other person says…blindly…almost instinctively…without thinking why they oppose it, other than the fact their enemy—“them”—wants it.