It starts young. Your father probably watched football with you and encouraged you to scream for a team. You had no idea what was going on. You liked screaming, though.
You enjoyed being with your family. Those team colors were pretty nice, too. You loved painting your face. Then, you found out that your team had an enemy, someone standing in the way of its glory. Suddenly, you hated the colors the other team used. You couldn’t understand why anyone would support them.
Somewhere around junior high, your school teams start playing other schools. You must cheer for your team, support them in their pretty meaningless endeavors. Why? Just because. You must hate your opponents with a passion. Why? Just because they aren’t you. Although, more than likely, they are very similar to you.
You go to college and the cycle repeats. Suddenly, you have an alma mater to cheer for. All those other schools suddenly suck. What if you had been accepted at one of those schools? Well, your loyalty would’ve been swapped. Suddenly, that blue and gold painted on your face would’ve been scarlet and grey, and for no good reason whatsoever. It apparently doesn’t matter who the “us” or the “them” is, as long as there is the contention between the two.
Humanity likes to divide and subdivide itself into tribes. Sports are just a minor affair. Go City Name Sports Team! Until, of course, it turns into a riot because your city-name sports team won the championship. Religions are lovely divisions. All those denominations and sects make for wonderful subdivisions. Sunni or Shiite? WDWJB (what denomination would Jesus be)? Tibetan or Zen Buddhism for enlightenment?
National divisions are another thing that starts young. Why did we start saying the pledge of allegiance so young? We didn’t even know what the words meant, and they had our hands over our hearts swearing allegiance to a piece of cloth. How many times did we whisper “invisible” instead of “indivisible” and giggle? Why are they trying to instill a national division so early? “You see children, there is this imaginary line we drew in the ground. It is called a border. And if you are on this side of the border, you are so much more important than those silly people on the other side of the border.”
Well, I for one don’t agree with any of the divisions or subdivisions. My sports teams are as equally meaningless as your sports teams. They are for silly entertainment, not a Braveheart-like obsession. Soccer riot, anyone? Religions are wonderful as personal, private things. There are many past and present examples of religions that suggest that on a large scale, religion tends to only breed intolerance.
Nations are an obvious necessity, since six billion people cannot agree to all live the same way. It is nonsense that we are somehow better because we live within a little imaginary line. America doesn’t have as much to be proud of as we once did. Our voter turnout is poor. Our schools aren’t the best. Our health care situation is a serious problem. American babies are three times more likely to die in their first month as children born in Japan. These facts are meant to be sobering. This is not an America-bashing article. We have strengths. We have flaws. Other countries have flaws. My problem is when we arbitrarily decide that any one group of people is suddenly better then another.
At its worst, this “us vs. them” dichotomy has led to countless wars, slavery and cruelty. Bigotry needs to become a thing of the past. We need to stop this “us vs. them” mentality. Too many of “us” are willing to kill “them.” We need to remember, there is only “us.” Humanity is one tribe trying to survive ourselves.