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Accused of “Us-Versus-Them” Thinking, I Responded

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Where my “The Trolls Have a Strategy, What’s Ours?” piece appeared on Huffington Post, a reader wrote:

This post just adds fuel to the fire of a shameful, hateful cycle of Us vs. Them. Don’t focus on belittling people who don’t agree with your views; seek common ground and understanding. Liberals cannot claim to be compassionate if they can’t find compassion for their detractors. Be the change!

And here’s how I replied:

The first entry in my series had the title, “#1 Many Liberals Don’t Like the Idea of Battle, But the Alternative in America Today is Much Worse.” You, [reader’s name], are an illustration.

Yes, it would be nice to be able to have a decent world while always being “nice,” but not every situation allows for that choice. Unfortunately, history sometimes gives people “the undesirable choice … either to fall under the domination of aggressors, or to match their power in order to defend what is held dear.”

One tool does not fit all situations. So it is necessary to have a diversity of tools in one’s toolbox: tools for building bridges, and tools for waging battle.

Seeking common ground is a good thing, and I’ve already told the story of my background in doing just that throughout the 80s and 90s. (See that history in the second part of this second entry.)

But when you’ve got a political force that is expressing itself by having its instruments (the Republicans in Congress) vote even against their OWN ideas — health care reform, cap and trade, etc. — to make the other side fail and lose power to them, then you know that this is not and cannot be about “finding common ground.”

When one side insists on making politics into war, there is no good choice but to recognize that “us-vs.them” is the reality. That recognition is what made Churchill perhaps the greatest British Prime Minister ever (that was the opinion that a biographer, himself aligned with the Labor Party, came to), while Chamberlain — who bent over backwards to see any “Them” that might require “Us” to stand and fight, is seen as one of the most hapless and disastrous leaders in history.

  • Jim W

    “The question should be kept in mind: what kind of discussion will advance us toward our goals?”

    Will a “seek common ground and understanding” advance us to our goals.  I doubt it.

    Our goals are better advanced by welcoming like minds and those who have not heard our message.  

    Our tool box needs things like a candidate in every election, a voice on every issue, a friendly neighbor on every block.  

    Ignore the troll.  Educate the like minded.  American values are strong.  The trolls are noise.