Tribalism and a Way to Common Ground

Source: 2017, Christine Hohlbaum

One nation. Indivisible. For liberty and justice for all. And yet we’re pretty darn divided. In what we believe. In whom we support. We are so torn apart ideologically that many of us, including myself, have forgotten what we have in common. We have become married to our misery, seeking comfort in those who think like we do.  And we are getting nowhere fast as we forge distances from those who do not.

In a recent Newsweek article, Deepak Chopra spoke of the hateful brain in which tribalism, our inherent need to belong to a group, can dull our ability for empathy. And yet empathy, that great emotion of connectivity, is what helps us feel others’ pain. Our human mirror neuron system (MNS) is the part of our brain that is responsible for helping us experience another person’s point of view as if it were our own. Compassion is a precious human characteristic, one that can help us find a way back to each other.

What we have in common is a lot more than you think. And as I got to thinking about it, I realized seeing common ground helps me see more possibilities. And seeing possibilities makes me hopeful. Which makes me grateful. And where there is gratitude, there is no fear, which is at the root of our collective problem. You see, we have a collective problem. You and I. That’s one of the things we share together. Our problem is the separateness we feel about people who don’t think like we do.

By any measure, it is incomprehensible for me to accept a set of beliefs that excludes an entire race or ethnic group or a group of human beings who love differently than I do. And yet neo-Nazis and white supremacists truly believe they are better and hold the exclusive right to existence. They wish to obliterate the „other“ and have literally eliminated their ability for compassion or empathy for anyone whom they perceive to threaten their beliefs. It’s ludicrous. It’s backward. It’s tribalism at its absolute worst. And it appears to be as prevalent today as it was before the Civil Rights movement.

The United States is in trouble. Its political leadership is in trouble. Civil society is facing challenges it hasn’t seen since the 1960s. And yet a crowd ten times as large as the alt-right rally in Charlottesville convened on the UVA Lawn to take it back from the vacuous vitriol the alt-right had sprayed across the grounds just days before and chanted "Love wins." To regain the dignity of the town in which I grew up. Where I first saw the movie Star Wars. Where I got my ears pierced at the mall. Where I bought my first Levis. Where my family resides to this day.

Hatred lives in the brains of those disconnected from the greater good. How can we draw them back into the fold to seek the light and the love that will overcome the deleterious acts of the uninformed and angered?

It starts and ends with one simple thing: love. When we can see commonalities with others beyond their political or spiritual beliefs, we have a hard time finding hate in our heart for them. It offers a possibility to rethink our entrenched belief system and open a door to listening to a different point of view.  Below is a brief list of things every one of us on this planet shares.

Oxygen. We all need it to survive. Every one of us uses it. That’s something we #ShareTogether.

A birthplace. Every one of us was born somewhere. That’s something we #ShareTogether.

Skin. It’s the largest organ we have. Every one of us has skin. That’s something we #ShareTogether.

Time. Every one of us has time, even if we live like we don’t. Most of us measure it by the 24-hour clock, others by the rhythm of the Earth. Either way we measure it. That’s something we #ShareTogether.

The planet. Unless you’re an astronaut currently in space, you’re on it. That’s something we #ShareTogether.

Technology. If you’re reading this, you have access to technology. That’s something we #ShareTogether.

Death. You may have never experienced it, but you will one day. That’s something we #ShareTogether.

A belief system. Even if you don’t believe in a Higher Power, you believe in something, even if it is nothing. That’s a belief system too. That’s something we #ShareTogether.

Childhood. Every one of us has (had) one. Good, bad or indifferent. The fact is every one of us is a child at some point, typically chronologically from the start of life until the end of our teens. That’s something we #ShareTogether.

The ability to cry. We have all done it at least once. There is salt in every one of our tears. That’s something we #ShareTogether.

The need for sleep. While the amount can vary, every one of us requires sleep to survive. That’s something we #ShareTogether.

The need for drinking water. It is an essential life force. Without it, every one of us would perish. That’s something we #ShareTogether.

I am for the winning team. I am for love. Are you?

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