On this Fourth of July we find ourselves a nation divided. Not since the years leading up to the Civil War have Americans been so polarized. I hesitate to use that comparison considering that some still feel that many Americans are essentially enslaved by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference or just their physical appearance.
Indeed, these days we find ourselves divided along the lines of group identity. There are groups who believe they are oppressed and groups who are seen as the oppressors. Postmodern theorists make the case that those who are marginalized and oppressed own the high moral ground from which Truth may be spoken. Therefore, they get to define the groups, who gets membership, how those groups rank in terms of being oppressed and which groups most clearly intersect with other oppressed groups. Likewise, they have defined the oppressors who are, for the most part, those who have attained the most power and privilege in Western Civilization.
That groups exist is a fact. How they interact, how we ended up where we are in the 21st Century and what we are going to do about it are issues that must be resolved. And history tells us that there will be resolution at some point…peaceful or otherwise.
History also tells us that human beings are inclined toward grouping. So groups are never going to go away. We are tribal. We form groups on purpose and usually for more than one purpose. Essentially groups form for protection, production and power. Groups must evolve to provide all of these, otherwise they fall apart and new groups emerge.
And this formation always begins simply enough: Birds of a feather flock together. As much as we may try to deny it, this is part of our survival instinct. The challenge for us today is to decide which feathers matter the most or do any of the feathers matter all that much. Will we continue to define ourselves by the color or shape or function of our feathers? Or will we look beyond the feathers and accept one another as individuals? As a group, as Americans, as citizens of planet earth; we all seek protection from harm, productive lives and the power to choose and control our lives.
So maybe the Fourth of July might be a good time to un-ruffle your feathers, look each other in the eye and stop fighting. Ain’t none of us getting out of this thing alive, so we might as well learn how to get along.
"Once you're in the circus you're all in the circus, and of course it turns out that they are real people too." - Eric Idle, former member of the Monty Python comedy group