YOUGHAL, IRELAND – We warned readers. This week would require a little extra effort. We are challenging one of our most deeply held instincts – the drive to take sides.
As expected, many readers sided against your editor yesterday. They were generally in agreement that he is an SOB.
But they couldn’t agree on what kind of SOB he was. Red? Or Blue? Few could believe he was colorblind. (See below…)
Protect the Union
Catholic. Protestant. Yankee. Rebel. Anarchist. Statist. In the War Between the States, Americans got so fed up with each other, they started shooting.
South of the Potomac, there was hardly a young man in any Middlesex, village, or town who didn’t rush to suicide to protect his homeland from Yankee invaders.
So determined were they, that as many as a million people had died before they finally gave up.
But it was what happened next that was most astonishing. Who today signs up to protect the Union? Who flies the Stars and Stripes on the Fourth of July? Who calls themselves “patriots”? Southerners!
According to data from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), nearly half of all army enlistments come from the South, despite the region only having a third of the country’s population of young men.
The same thing had happened after Scotland had been crushed by the English in the 18th century. The Scots became the backbone of the British army.
And had the Germans won WWII, today, young men from Alabama might be angling for places in the Wehrmacht.
How is it possible? How can people be so sure that they are the side of right, justice, and truth, fighting against the Devil Himself, that they are willing to die for it… and then, later, join up with the Devil… who has somehow become a saint?
Us vs. Them
We don’t really have any way of knowing good from evil. Nor do we choose sides after careful thought and logical reflection. Instead, it is simply a matter of us vs. them. We back the home team.
It is very unlikely that the home team is always the best choice. It is merely the software we are born with.
You can easily see how this “software” evolved. Monkeys are protected from predators by trees. They scramble up at the first sign of danger.
But trees receded from what became the African savanna a long time ago, leaving proto-man on the ground. How could he protect himself?
The “us” back then was a small group of humans. The “them” were better hunters – faster, stronger, and more deadly – big cats, big dogs, jackals, hyenas, and other ferocious beasts.
In a small group, each guarding each other’s back, the bipeds could probably drive off the predators with sharpened sticks and stones. Alone, they were dead meat.
Then, too, the “us vs. them” instinct worked to protect the group from other tribes. Those groups that lacked the software – the instinct to stick together, unquestioningly, especially in times of danger – were probably killed off or taken over by more aggressive, more cohesive groups.
“My country, right or wrong,” is an expression that intellectuals hold in contempt. But almost no one has the cold-blooded courage to stand against his own kind.
How many Americans do you hear saying, “I’m with Iran!” Or, “I think Putin is right on this one.” Or, “terrorists aren’t bad people; they’re just fighting for freedom.”
You don’t hear it because few Americans are capable of thinking it. And they can’t think it because they’re programmed not to think it.
That is, they’re programmed to rally together, against the threat, whatever they imagine it to be. And they are programmed to think thoughts that develop, amplify, and justify the rightness of their cause and the evil of their enemies. That is the sense of practically every State of the Union (SOTU) address… and every campaign speech… ever given.
Even if they don’t really have a cause… Or enemies.
Red vs. Blue
Which brings us to the difference between Republicans and Democrats. The press acts as if the two were like lion and lamb – one ready to devour the other if it gets the chance.
Most of the public, too, feels that the future of the Republic hangs in the balance. “Four more years of Trump… and it will be the end of us…” they say. Or… “I hope those Democrats don’t get into office; did you see those taxes they’re proposing?”
We are programmed to see the world that way. It’s “us vs. them.” You just have to decide which “us” you’re part of.
But what if you’ve chosen the wrong “us”? What if neither the Republicans nor the Democrats will save the Republic?
What if, instead, they are like professional wrestlers, thrashing around on stage for the benefit of the groundlings… but working for the same company?
What if there is a larger “us vs. them” going on, in other words? What if the Republican-Democrat contest is really a feint and a distraction? What if it doesn’t really matter much who wins elections or which party has a majority in Congress?
There are only two things worth fighting for. You are either protecting your stuff or you are protecting yourself. But against whom?
Those devils in the Republican party? Or those SOBs, the Democrats?
The Democrats are vying with each other to see who can come up with a new tax, to take away our property; we surely don’t want them in charge.
But wait… the Republicans increased spending by some $500 billion over two years… and added $2 trillion to the federal debt. Where did they think that money would come from?
Where is the “us” worthy of support? Where is the “them” that should be annihilated?
As Groucho Marx might have put it, we’re deeply suspicious of any “us” that would allow us to join. As to those that wouldn’t, we hate their guts.