This may be the one part of human nature that baffles me the most, even though I have many instances of the same thinking and behavior running throughout my life.
Until Harvey, and now with Irma and Maria, wildfires in the western US, an earthquake in Mexico, and other major disasters that I am probably overlooking my news feed had been completely dominated by politicians calling each other names, riots based on race, and debates on every possible position that someone can take.
It’s like we are wired to thrive on this idea of “us” and “them.” The mentality is an ever-present theme throughout human history. When the Europeans overran the American continent, the Native Americans were branded as savages and treated as being far less than human. Very few people in that day took the time to get to know their neighbors who were so different from them. They were different, they were to be shunned, and wars broke out between “us” and them.” It makes me very hesitant to ever celebrate cultural progress.
Enter the natural disasters.
Suddenly, we forget that we have been calling each other names and trying to find ways to use the government to put the other side in its place. We stop rioting and threatening. Suddenly, there are real people — not all that different from you and me — whose lives have been destroyed. Real people with whom I have a connection need help. It’s like we are collectively pulled up short by the cliche “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
We roll up our sleeves and work side-by-side with people that we were disparaging just weeks before. We do our good deeds, go home talking about how awesome the experience was and how we need to be more like this every day, and then return to our former pursuits of bashing those who don’t fit our personal definition of acceptability.
What is it about us humans that we can be so blind to our failings? Why is it so easy to turn people who hold other views into objects to be destroyed? Why is it so scary to sit down and have rational discussions? Why aren’t we trying to at least get a glimpse of other points of view to see what validity is there?
When those few American settlers bothered to understand Native American culture and traditions, they didn’t necessarily embrace this lifestyle that was so new and foreign to them, but they did find much that was good in these people who were so different from themselves. They found families and traditions and knowledge. They found real people.
So, is there anything stopping you from listening, considering, and responding rationally?