November 6, 2008

Us&Them Community

Posted in personal at 11:15 pm by jimazing

fblogo.pngI remember the day I joined Facebook.  In the beginning, FB was for students only.  The only way you could get an account was to have an email address that was in a .edu domain.  On September 26, 2006, I woke up to NPR telling me that that restriction had been lifted effective that day.  So I joined.  Although I didn’t do anything with it for a long time, I just have to try out all the new stuff.

One of the FB features that I find myself getting into are the Status Updates.  This is a one liner that is ostensibly there to tell people what you are doing or how you feel at that moment.  FB gives you a page where you get a running list of the statuses of all of your “FB friends”. It can be quite fun to just read through them and add your comments.  I find it fun and fascinating to “keep up” with details about people I know.

Another unexpected feature for me is the ability to connect with old friends.  I have many FB friends who I knew in Boone back in the early 80’s. Other FB friends are from our time when we were in Charleston.  Watching their statuses tells me about what’s going on in their lives in a way that was never possible before.  Think about it.  Before internet social networking tools like FB, the only way to “catch up” with a friend was to write them, call on the phone or visit.  All of these take a fair amount of effort.  I could never keep up with what hundreds of my friends think is important or what they are feeling at any given time.  I suppose we could use public access TV or a newspaper to publish what is going on in our lives, but that would be weird. My friend, Mark would say the transaction cost is way too high.

Enter FB.  Now by virtue of the ease with which I can post my status and knowing that my friends can see it instantly, I put things up like, “Jim Anderson is sad” or “Jim Anderson is writing a blog about FB statuses”.  In fact these are my latest statuses.  A dear FB friend asks, “why sad, Jim?” I’ll tell you…

The Election
election-2008.gifWatching the posts and statuses of my friends as the election approached, I was struck by the polarity of it all.  I have some friends who were nuts about Obama and others who were fearful of Obama.  I may be wrong, but I did not see many posts that were pro McCain… just anti-Obama.  I recently wrote about how I chose to be much more involved in the political process than ever before.  To a political junkie, it was nothing, but compared to years past, I was way more engaged and informed.

Now that the election is over, my overall feeling is sadness.  Some of you will automatically assume I am sad about the outcome of the presidential race.  You would be wrong.  I am sad because of the lack of personal awareness that I see in people and the lack of respect that people show for others who disagree with them.  I am sick because of an “us” and “them” (us&them) mentality.

One of the greatest things about our nation is the freedom that we have to express ourselves and our ability to vote for whomever we want to for whatever reason we want to.  We don’t need to hide our feelings or express them. That is a wonderful privelege.  Although it is one of the most natural behaviors in the human race, I detest the polarization of us and them.  It happens so quickly and easily.  We gather together and find our commonalities over time and others who share that join us.  Before you know it we are an “us”, which automatically means there is a “them”.  Politics is fertile ground for us&them.  I am sure it always was, but I did not realize it as much as I do now.  Add to the politics the us&thems of religion and race as in this election and it’s like freshly composted manure to grow a “healthy” crop of us&themism!

As I sorted out my own feelings about the issues and attempted to process who was the candidate that I aligned best with, I realized it was a study in futility.  Neither of these guys represented my ideals.  Some of the issues I feel strongly about were a complete wash.  It did not matter who I voted for.  As I tend to do, I used the opportunity for self examination.  What was the process showing me about myself?  Here are a few items that I feel very strongly about and which guided my vote for the highest offices (President, Governer and Senate).

  • I hate lies and inuendo.  I received so many scary messages about Barak Obama that I was almost ready to totally unsubscribe from email. They did help me come to a decision, although probably not the way that was intended.
  • Looking across the landscape of my FB friends, I was reminded that the assumption that Christians vote Republican is alive and well.  From what I have read recently and my own experience with the Emerging Church, I think that more Xians have recently abandoned that paradigm.  News flash! Many committed Xians hold liberal political views and vice-versa.  While politics can certainly be influenced by our faith, it doesn’t alway add up to the same thing in every person.
  • Fear is alive and well.  At each of the debates, I saw the candidates on both sides deflecting the questions.  Rather than telling us what they would do if elected, they told us how bad it would be if the other guy got in.  This clinched it for me.  I decided that I would not vote out of fear.

There were a few other factors that guided my decision in a positive way, but I am sleepy and the post is too long already.

Let me close with a paraphrase of the words of Jesus.  When asked what was most important, he replied, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself”.  My hope and prayer is that we can all move to a place where we respect and value the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of those who disagree with us.  Who knows, it might be the beginning of something big.


  1. Marti Green said,

    I love this post. I particuarly agree with the bullet points you make. Fear is indeed alive and well. Our country is a great one and though flawed, I believe our process works.

  2. ded said,

    The beautiful gift of a wife in my life clerks at the front check out of a nearby drugstore.

    She interacts with a wide variety of people. Just prior to the election, she engaged an older couple in conversation. She used over-heard comments about Obama as her lead-in for personal conversation.

    Before long she knew the two people as US citizens, though the man’s accent and brief story placed him in Europe much of his life.

    He commented he really didn’t understand the American political reaction across our society. In contrast to our polarization, elections in Europe produce much open but usually congenial debate over issues. People’s differences are accepted as natural. The give and take of disagreement are an accepted social discourse. Whereas here, speaking positively for an issue or candidate causes immediate ends to conversations.

    Even allowing for some faulty memory on his part, the point is obvious: we fail our own value of freedom of speech. Why? Perhaps we are so spoiled that being emotionally able to handle disagreement is beyond us. We are selfish in this country to want everything to be like we think it should be including the way others think. And, we are very willing to use a cold-shoulder or worse, condemnation and shunning, to enforce our view as the correct one.

    It is ironic and pitiful to hear people on the one hand espouse the wonder of a political system which guarantees freedom of speech and religion–intended undeniably by our fore-fathers as a protection of the right to function according to one’s own conscience–and on the other to berate the choices of others in demeaning and disrespectful terms.

    For those who espouse Christ and mouth words of being an alien here to do such strikes me as much more than irony, but a deep lack of faith and a large infection of hypocrisy.

  3. jimazing said,

    Marti-Thanks for your comment. While I think our political process is less than perfect, I think it is a good one. I cannot imagine a better way to consider the desires of everyone in the country. I am glad to live here.

    ded-When I went to France in 2004, I saw how they love to argue, but it wasn’t fighting, just a lively discussion (there’s a word I am looking for and it will not come to me). There is a great value in being able to truly hear someone you disagree with. I want to keep getting better and better at that. Thanks for showing me yours (and your lovely, lurking wife’s) perspective 😉

  4. mjh said,

    I am extremely pessimistic about what can be accomplished by the government – either republican or democrat. As a result, I find our (the U.S.) system of government to work best when it’s fighting the most. What happens then is political stagnation. Nothing gets done. And when the politicians can’t do anything, they can’t do harm. I’m of the opinion that when politicians are effective at making change, they always make things worse.

    So bemoan the political fighting if you must. Personally, I see it as a good thing.

  5. jimazing said,

    mjh-Thanks for responding. I value your thoughts about government and economics more than you know. Seriously. You make me think.

    However, I think you missed my point. I do not want us to all agree. Even if I thought that were possible, it would not be healthy. What I am bemoaning are the pockets of cliques that end up defining who we are. We seem to be unable to disagree and still get along in community. That’s not about government. It is about community. I want my government as well as my friends to have diversity of thought.

    When I have friends like you who are passionate about things (like economics) in a way that I am just not, I can appreciate those things and learn about them in a way that would not otherwise be feasible. When I have friends around me that see the world from a different world view, I can “share” their world view, just by listening to them. By share, I do not mean “agree with”. What I am talking about is hearing without regard to agreement whatsoever; valuing the other person’s thoughts not because they are right but because they are a creation of God just like me.

    I see the world through my own eyes and I may be projecting my own struggles on others. Maybe this topic is really about my struggle with co-dependency and wanting to be liked by others. Somehow though, I don’t think I am alone in this struggle.

  6. Judy said,

    I wonder what this world would be like if everyone was as open-minded and forgiving as you are, Jim.

  7. mjh said,

    Thanks for the clarification, Jim. When it comes to normal people, I agree with you. Getting along in community is important. It’s part of being civil.

    But when it comes to congress critters, I don’t want any of that. I want them fighting. The less bipartisan-ship, the better. I don’t want any efficiency in debate amongst them. I want nasty partisan arguing. The nastier the campaigns, the better.

    But I get your point. You’re more interested in the people you interact with. And there I agree with you.

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