written 2 May 2021
published 9 May 2021
As I have said before, the belief in the illusion of separation, within a unity reality, is the fundamental dysfunction plaguing human civilization. The apparent dichotomy starts at the individual level, experienced as self-versus-other, and expands from there. Society demands extending trust and cooperation beyond the solitary self, first to the family, and then to collections of families cooperating as a tribe. The history of our species is an evolution of increasing spheres of cooperation, arriving at our current situation of nation states operating within global structures. However, this evolution from tribal to global has been continually hindered by fear of the other, and the perception that expansion involves loss: the illusions of separation.
I started writing this column four years ago, in response to the tribalism promoted by the Trump administration. Trump, a deeply flawed individual, but master salesman, peddled fear of the other, appealing to the limited concept of American exceptionalism. This was not new in the world, or in American history, but his personality disorder allowed him to say out loud what had mostly been kept secret before. He catered to the narrowest tribal aspects of our population, promoting extreme nationalism, misogyny, racism, and religious bigotry, while operating one of the most self-serving, corrupt administration on record.
Again, this political orientation is not new, but the magnitude was jarring, coming at a time when the global, inclusive nature of our reality is becoming more apparent. Our economy has become more globally interdependent over the last half century, and America's economic dominance, which shaped the world after the Second World War, is fading, demanding global cooperation. The supply side economic model of exclusive gain benefits the very wealthy, but produces destabilizing wealth inequity. Women are becoming more empowered, running for office, and getting elected, demanding equality. Civil rights and voting rights, established decades ago, empower people of color, and immigration has shifted our national demographics. The rise of the Internet, with ubiquitous smartphone video, makes public the racial injustices that have endured for centuries in relative secret. The climate issue has broken into larger awareness, particularly among the young, who know they will have to live with the dire consequences. In addition to all that, we are experiencing the largest global pandemic in a century. The demand for holistic, inclusive action is undeniable.
Trump and the Republicans, preaching nothing but divisive, hateful tribalism, lost power, and the country is now experiencing what competent governance can do. America leads the world in vaccines administered. The American Rescue Plan, to address the economic costs of the pandemic, was popular with the public across the political spectrum, but no Republicans leaders supported it. The infrastructure bill, and even the new voting rights bill, are also publicly popular, but solidly rejected by Republican leadership.
An increasing majority of voters realize they are no longer served by Republican programs, but rather than evolve, Republicans have decided to make war on democracy itself. Their justification is Trump's big lie the election was stolen from him by voter fraud. Despite losing every court case, and numerous recounts and audits, Trump's personality can't admit losing. Thinking that they could control him, the Republican party allowed an insane man to lead them, and now chooses to support that insanity rather than address reality. Republicans believe their tribe is supposed to be in power, so they want to unilaterally change the rules, making it harder to vote and creating extreme partisan gerrymandering.
Democratic governance rests on the inclusive perspective that ALL citizens have a right to decide our collective fate, not just the wealthy and powerful elite. Republicans may succeed in destroying democracy, and temporarily maintain their exclusive power structure, but the inclusive forces of reality, in the form of the virus and the climate, don't care about such suicidal tribal posturing, and the whole world will suffer. There are now more than 700 identified Covid variants in India, risking the emerging success of the current vaccines, and financial institutions everywhere are realizing that climate change is an economic threat.
These realities demand a coordinated global response, recognition that we are all in this together, not as a progressive agenda, or a democratic ideal, or even a Christian virtue, but because it is the real world we inhabit. Republican tribalism fears democracy because it fears reality.