Us and Them

Polarization is the new normal—so normal we don't question its validity. Two sides facing each other over the desolation of "no man's land." Implacable enemies. Irreconcilable differences. The only victory unconditional surrender. I'm not just speaking of the US government shutdown over building a wall, or the political and social disaster of Brexit. These two fiascos are mere symptoms of a deeper malaise. 
The phenomenon is everywhere ... countries, political parties (between parties and within parties) families, workplace, religions (on a big scale), congregations (on a small scale), we have divided all into "us and them." 
An "us and them" attitude is not new—think of the world wars—but currently it does seem more pervasive, encroaching on every aspect of life.
I've been pondering insight from two spiritual traditions as I've wrestled with this.
St. Paul, in his first letter to Corinthians, gave us a wonderful metaphor of the "body and its members." It seems he was facing an "us and them" situation in one of his churches. He addressed it by telling them that far from being "us and them," and not needing each other, that they were all members—head, eyes, hands, feet, "less honorable" bits—of the same body. All connected, all needed, all fulfilling different functions. We can borrow St. Paul's analogy and apply it to nations, families, political parties—every set of human interactions—and to humanity itself. There is no "us and them," there is only "we." To say "we" is not to say that all are the same, that all share the same viewpoint, that all share in a mushy grey sameness. It is to recognize that in the differences there is likely truth, and all must be listened to, and compromises reached for the good of the whole.
In American terms, the Democrats need the Republicans and the Republicans need the Democrats. In British terms, the Brexisters need the Remainers and vice versa. Deep listening is required by all. Non are written off as beyond the pale, beyond redemption.
Here's just one possibility. In the debate over "the wall," border security, immigration and hospitality, humanity and compassion for refugees, all voices need to be heard. All hopes and fears laid bare. None ignored. All valued. Untruths need to be challenged, for sure—but with compassion, clarity and humanity. "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you.'" Such will likely bring us back closer to the middle—neither excessive or deficient, as Aristotle might say.
The second spiritual insight is from the Buddhist tradition (Thich Nhat Hanh) and interbeing. It's a different way of looking at things to St. Paul's body and members, but equally as thought-provoking. In truth, we are all deeply connected. "We inter-are with one another and  with all life." "Everything relies on everything else in the cosmos in order to manifest—whether a star, a cloud, a flower, a tree, or you and me." (See link below.)
Both St. Paul and Thich Nhat Hanh return us to the center. Both refuse the polarities that divide. Neither is an "easy fix," but both perspectives are better than our current intransigence of "us and them."
Be well today,
+Ab. Andy

The Insight of Interbeing by Thich Nhat Hanh.