We have a color problem in America. I read of the enmity that can still exist between the races and I realize this. I hear the red state vs. blue state arguments and that makes me realize it as well. Only it is not just America. Saturday night I am listening to the Irish Rovers forgetting it is The Twelfth. Amusingly Jim Ferguson sings of being caught between being orange and green. It is a humorous song and one that always gives me a little chuckle, if only for a personal reason. Only this last week, it was not so humorous as some arse placed a statue of the Holy Mother in a Belfast bonfire that marks this annual ritual of Protestant pride. Fortunately, the organizers of the so-called festivities retrieved it and handed it over to Father Gary Donegan of Holy Cross parish, though not without damage.
I am not one to concern myself with statues. My theology has changed, but it still does not include statuary. A statue is not a person I think, though it is much like a book giving credence to the truest things that a particular people believe. Besides it was Mary. No matter how much you believe a thing to be idolatry, you should still be able to recognize the heinousness of this action. For some reason, some idiot was so concerned about his Protestant pride, he (and it was probably a he) thought it appropriate to watch burn a symbol of the Mother of our Lord….of his Lord too. This I cannot understand. And even if one is not inclined to think that deeply on the matter, what offence could a statue possibly give you. None whatsoever. What was important to the perpetrator was not the offence of a belief or action, but that a particular people existed to begin with.
In all likelihood he did not know one Catholic in any deep sense of the word. This is sad because he must surly live in very close proximity to more than a few. I think of this then my thoughts turn to America. I remember the last election and the red vs. blue dichotomy. I remember the right and the left turning one another into fascists and Communists. And as I listened and debated my vote, I heard neither extreme from the mouths of the candidates and my struggle on the election led me to vote a split ticket, not being altogether comfortable with any of my decisions. It did not stop any offence from being given though and following November 2012, I gave up on my naivety of thinking I could create no particular offence when casting a vote and going in the direction of simply ignoring these matters altogether.
I was sad about this. As a pro-life Democrat, I was ostracized on two fronts. I could not be red or blue anymore than the subject of Ferguson’s song could be orange or green….a struggle I was also having and one that I best knew to keep to myself, outside of these posts that few will ever see. If politics could cause such ire, I did not want to even think of religion.
How did it come to this? The world was supposed to be getting smaller and we were supposed to be interacting more. But that is not the world I see. Rather I am witnessing the effects of what is called neo-tribalism. The internet is much to blame as well as our response to the world suddenly being more knowable. Now suddenly exposed to the array of belief and a diversity of opinion, we cannot handle the thing, so we tribalize and once we do this we disengage every person who does not belong to the tribe. If anyone stands removed from the formula, they have only two choices. They can sacrifice the beliefs they hold that stands outside of the tribe they choose to be with or they can be alone.
I wonder if we can ever get back to the other world….the one that was emerging where diversity of opinion and civil discourse meant something. I hope so, because the course we are on is a two-fold tragedy. First when we tribalize we succumb to a prejudice that makes the one outside of our tribe a lesser person and when we do this their association becomes unnecessary leading to the greater tragedy. That is the one where we disengage. When we do this, we give up on another and forsake any righteousness had by the tribe we live in.
You see there is objectivity to the world. There are things that are right and wrong. But when we go the route of disengagement, we lose that. Rather than engage the next person in dialogue seeking to convince them of what is right and listening to them when they may be right, we isolate ourselves with those who will nod at everything we say and making the person with whom we may disagree a lesser being.
Only I do not think the world is made of lesser beings, though I can be wrong. I have seen too many good people join the tribe and give up on the likes of those like me. As I acknowledge they are good and decent folk, it is possible that I stand on the wrong side of things, though having no one to convince me will do nothing to change who I am, though if I am wrong and wallow in ignorance, the greater fault certainly belongs to those who will not show to me the light. In the meantime I will wait and muddle through the best I can. After all, not everyone gives up on you. A few will listen to you. You will change because of them and they will change because of you. When I find these, I think I will have found my tribe.
Image: This really has little to do with the post other than the fact I lifted the title from this. Note this image is copyrighted by Elektra Records, though it is of low resolution and believed to be fair use.