Us versus Them

I got an e-mail from Democracy For America yesterday asking me to sign this pledge.

I signed it immediately and responded by posting it to my status on Facebook.

Another woman I know who does not share my views on politics or theology, quickly posted this link. The personal status she wrote to accompany it was “Because it’s a slap in the face and not a question of freedom of religion.”

I’m really tired of the “us versus them” mentality in this country.  I’m tired of those who feel that the Second Amendment is more important than the First.

I’m tired of those who feel that freedom of religion only applies to their own narrow views or beliefs.  Like it or not, the right to worship or the right NOT to worship as we see fit is one of our fundamental rights as U.S. citizens. 

Our Constitution is a very, very old lady.  It’s the oldest constitution in the world, currently. While there are mechanisms in place to make amendments, in this current political climate the idea that any amendment can actually pass is slim to none.  Because currently, our legislation is not about making change of any sort.  It’s about us versus them.

This country was made strong by our working together, but it’s always been divisive.  To say that there were “good old days” ignores the most vicious war in our history (The Civil War, or the War Between the States, depending on which “us” you’re part of), ignores the European settlers’ abominable treatment of both Africans and Native Americans, ignores the early laws of Boston, which shunned any Christian who didn’t follow the narrow tenets of Puritanism, ignores the treatment of Italians, Irish, Jews, Chinese and more recently Koreans and Iraqis as they made their way to our shores for a better life.  When we have worked together, we’ve accomplished some extraordinary things (albeit groups were still harassed and denigrated throughout many of  these projects): holding together and making it through the Great Depression and World War II; building our extraordinary, original railroad and telegraph systems; setting foot on the Moon; creating the largest early network of air travel; and providing free public education and libraries for all.

We’ve always been a cobbled-together country: pieces of states, regional beliefs and laws, prejudices, and, yes, us versus them.

We can’t continue to afford this mentality, though.  We can’t pay the low (yes, low) taxes that we do and expect free public education, good highways, police protection and the world’s most expensive military.  We can’t demand Medicare and also say that a government-run healthcare system will necessarily be a disaster.  We can’t expect the freedom to worship and not let everyone worship where and when they want to (or harass them for choosing not to worship).  We can’t call the Constitution card about carrying arms and knock it out because those who’ve chosen the right to peacefully assemble say something that we don’t want to hear.  We can’t pass laws that give only some of our citizens rights (because, you know, we did manage to amend this creaky document and the 14th time we did it, it became the law of the land that every citizen is blessed – or cursed, depending on how you look at it – with the same rights and responsibilities).

Buck up, Folks.  You either support our Constitution or you don’t.  If you want to make amendments, elect Congressmen and Congresswomen who will have the courage to take a stand and truly fight for their constituents, as opposed to simply fighting the other party.  Who support your beliefs.  Who will cross party lines if necessary.  Who will think beyond “us versus them”.

I work in an environment where almost all of the other people there think differently than I do theologically and politically.  I’ve learned a lot from them over the years.  Lately, however, many of my earlier prejudices have been reinforced, rather than shattered.  The more I become a “them” in this environment, the less likely I can find common ground to join them in an “us”.  The fact that they all supposedly ascribe to a religion where one of the basic tenets is to “turn the other cheek” seems particularly ironic.

We live in a very big world.  The citizens of our country and our planet are going to have to learn to work together in order to solve the extremely complex environmental and economic challenges of today.  We can no longer afford to be isolationist and selfish, whether in our neighborhood, our place of work or school, our state, our nation or beyond our borders.  It’s time to include everyone in the conversation.

Whether we like it or not.

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18 Responses to Us versus Them

  1. anno says:

    A hearty amen to this. Interesting to me, though, that in my daughter's AP government text, politics is described as the art of determining who gets what; kind of establishes a winner/loser mentality right from the start.

  2. Jen says:

    That's interesting, Anno. What text is it? I'm curious.

  3. April says:

    I would like to believe that we could, but more and more, I'm having to bury my head in the sand because I just can't stomach it. I don't understand why people would rather spend more time and energy yelling about things that DO NOT AFFECT THEIR LIVES than demanding quality public education. And the really hard part is, when we were trying to discuss a very serious issue that DOES affect us all (health care, of course), they managed to turn that into an us versus them by just lying. It's always an election year.

  4. Jen says:

    This is all absolutely true, April. What I'm not sure about, though, is how we get unstuck. The way things are now we're spending too much energy on fighting and not enough on solutions. You'd think we could unite on issues such as well-educated, healthy children (and adults). Sigh.

  5. yes. thank you.the whole slap in the face argument is RIDICULOUS. it's only a slap in the face because the talking heads made it a point of contention, and then TOLD you it was a slap in the face. These people have paid no attention to what Park51 actually hopes to accomplish. Slapping in the face is not on the agenda.

  6. Jen says:

    Amen, PM. In fact, it's a huge gift to the city. NYC desperately needs more centers of the type that Park51 is building. Many community centers in NYC are connected to a religion or ethnic group and they tend to be open to (and used by) all. It's a gracious gesture and should be seen as such.

  7. anno says:

    Keeping the Republic (Christine Barbour; here's the review on the AP site Will agree that overall, the text seems well-written and engaging, but something about it — maybe the feeling that it encourages a kind of Machiavellian tendency in people, that it invites people to "work" the system — raises my hackles. But then, I hate politics: open the gates, let anarchy reign…

  8. Acedog says:

    It is indeed frustrating to hear the near constant din of fear mongering hysteria. I don't recall any outcry regarding the proximity of Christian churches to the Oklahoma bombing site, and I'm pretty sure Mr. McVeigh identified as a Christian. As for slaps in the face; I hear this from those whose religion appears to embrace a virulent patriotism which in the Cold War produced slogans such as "Kill a Commie for Christ." The current demonization of Muslims would only change the victim of the preceeding formula. It is a challenge to have a heart large enough to love those who espouse such reckless extremes. Peace.

  9. Lilacspecs says:

    sighPeople suck in general.American people are often, as a while, close to the top of the mountain of suck.

  10. Lilacspecs says:

    while=whole.I suck too…at spelling.

  11. Jen says:

    Anno – thanks for the link and your view on the text. I look forward to perusing it more deeply when I have time.Acedog – That's the thing – to try to keep hearts large and practice compassion. Which is very hard to do in the face of such verbal violence. I've often thought of the McVeigh analogy myself. There's also the factor that apparently it isn't a slap in the face to have an OTB office, a sex toys shop, bars and other mosques within a two-block radius of the site. Again… sigh.Lilac – I figured out the typo. 😉 I'm hoping we can find a way to move above suck. It's very disheartening these days.

  12. Diane says:

    Finally got here for my vigin visit and as usual, well worth the time! I am totally with you on this and have NO IDEA how to change it…I do know that one place is teacher preparation programs. When I taught, I would practically go on the warpath in supporting the idea of both the first and seconf ammendments FOR EVERY LIVING PERSON in the country, period. THis would generate some rather hearty discussion, but that is good. Our TEACHERS have to teach this from preschool-college…you know that the children are certainly getting the opposite message way too often at home and in church on Sundays!I am with you on this one!

  13. Jen says:

    Hi Diane, thanks so much for stopping by! Teacher preparation would help – so might seminaries. What happened to sowing love instead of hate-mongering. Sigh.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    When you turn the other cheek, you stop looking at the other person. Maybe that's the problem.

  15. Susan says:

    Well, Jen. You know I agree with you. I have some thoughts about people deciding to bury their heads (they do so at their own peril…it’s just a bad idea in personal life & public) & that all people suck (they do not) & people who “do not like politics.” But that’s for another time. I do recall hilarious riposte to the “politics” thing…man, I keep thinking it’s George Carlin, but I believe it’s Craig Ferguson. When I could still stay up late, he went on a wild riff (even for him) about it. He finally just faced the camera & said that if you’d ever put on pants & walked outside…ever…you were involved in politics. It was an excellent show & I’ll try to find it. And then find out it wasn’t Craig. But it really sounds like him.


  16. Elizabeth – perfect. Perfect.

    Susan – I love that quotation by Ferguson. Just spot on. My latest rant today is Bristol Palin on DWTS. I don’t watch the show and I really don’t care, but seriously??? Maybe I’ll have to do something about it, post-wise.

  17. Widneywoman says:


    You know what I liked most about 9-11? It made us an ‘us’ for a couple of months.

    Ive been on the other side and now I’m in the middle. It makes me appreciate both sides and dislike both sides as well. I wish we didn’t have to take sides but could have a buffet of the best.

  18. jeanie says:

    Thank you for saying LOW taxes. I get so frustrated when I hear people complain. I view taxes as our tithing, in a way. For this tithe we may not get everlasting life but we will get better roads (well, OK — but at least they’re continually being repaired!), a health care system for ALL, so many benefits. I get very tired of hearing people complain about it.

    Now, I’m reading way down, waiting for a new post! Soon?!

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