As I was considering the state of politics and society today I remembered a movie made in 1970 titled “Tribes.” It was about a Marine Corps drill instructor who was disgusted by a draftee who was a “hippie.” The movie explored how difficult it was for people who were so socialized into a closed group that they couldn’t tolerate those who weren’t part of the same “tribe.” Ultimately, the drill instructor came to accept the recruit as a human being and worthy of his beloved Corps. Well, that’s Hollywood. We are experiencing the much more immediate reality of Tribalism. If only our reality could end as satisfying as the movie…
We despair at times about the tribalism of the Middle East which has resisted every attempt to reconcile Jews and Muslims, Shi’a and Sunni, etc., etc. etc. Generations of blood feuds that have translated into a modern world of international conflagration. In our country of immigrants and the rule of law, we have largely escaped the curse of tribalism so prevalent in the world. Of course, every new wave of immigrants was met with resistance, but ultimately our country accepted every ethnic, cultural and racial wave. There has always been a bit of tribalism in our history, but our foundation of the Constitution and the rule of law reigned in the more critical effects. The Constitution guaranteed individual rights and the reality of Blacks, Catholics, etc. living next door – with their children going to school and playing with ours – mitigated the hatred and led to acceptance. When we have civil relationships with people of other religions, races and cultures because the law would not allow anything less, it neutralized the stereotypes and hostility. Until now, I’m afraid.
The election of Trump marked a time when tribalism rose to the level where facts and reality are less important than emotions and loyalty to identity. The resentments, fears and tribalism of many white people became more important than relationships, or reality. Whether the resentments are the result of years of Liberal judgment is irrelevant now. The resentments have spilled over into an acceptance of behaviors that would never have been tolerated before by otherwise decent people. It has translated into an acceptance of the possibility of treason by the Trump Campaign, even acceptance of a pedophile as an alternative to electing a member of the other “tribe”.
Citizens United created a government that has become corrupted by money. The Legislative and Executive Branches of government are, arguably, now a function of a few rich families and corporations and not the common good. The continuing acceptance of Trump – no matter what he says or does – has also hardened the attitudes of the other side and created a vacuum of dispassionate reason. It’s hard to accept the real possibility that our society is becoming as impossibly divided as the Middle East. While the Executive and Legislative Branches of Government are largely controlled by the same monied interests and therefore unwilling (if not unable) to put County over Party, there is hope that the Judiciary will save us from a corrupt Trump Administration, it may not be able to save a United States.