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Tribalism in America, & Ferguson

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Throughout much of the world, tribalism—loyalty, above all else, to the particular clan, ethnic group or race into which one is born—has caused devastating harm.

In Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and of course, the Middle East, tribalism has wreaked havoc. It is the direct antithesis of modern society, and rejects concepts of objective law, impartial and fair government, and most importantly, individual rights.

Given the clear and abundant evidence of tribalism’s horrific impact on so much of the planet, why are so many in the U.S. Progressive movement increasingly wedded to it? Evidence of this disturbing trend can be seen in recent disturbances, the latest example being in Ferguson, Missouri.

In the aftermath of a shooting of a 6’3”, 300 lb. robbery suspect who, according to the latest reports, acted agressively towards a white police officer, (indeed, latest reports indicate that he crushed the officer’s eye socket) all the evidence of tribalism came to the fore. Before a single fact was ascertained, the leading proponents of this discredited practice proclaimed the matter to be a racial incident.

Granted, the United States, like most other nations, has had a terrible history of past slavery, segregation and racism. But those prior conditions have long been legally abolished. It is counterproductive, before any evidence has been examined, and inherently incorrect to point to any particular incident and proclaim it to be racially motivated.

The tribalistic mindset of the agitators in Ferguson can best be illustrated by the almost total silence on their part concerning the horrible conditions of black-on-black crime in places such as Chicago, where the death by violence rate for young black men is greater than that for American military personnel fighting in Afghanistan.

Although referring to political preferences, not race, Robert Reich noted in a Salon article that “We are witnessing a reversion to tribalism around the world, away from nation states. The same pattern can be seen even in America – especially in American politics… Nations are becoming less relevant in a world where everyone and everything is interconnected. The connections that matter most are again becoming more personal. Religious beliefs and affiliations, the nuances of one’s own language and culture, the daily realities of class, and the extensions of one’s family and its values – all are providing people with ever greater senses of identity.”

Why is tribalism occurring in America?

In an insightful comment, Don Zapsic Jr, writing in the Columbus Dispatch, noted:

“A not-so-surprising source of tribalism in America comes from the federal government…Affirmative-action programs and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have done more to divide and distance the U.S. citizenry from one another than prejudice and bigotry acting alone arguably ever could achieve. As a result, we tend to think of individuals in terms of race, religion, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation and even culture. The following questions serve as a litmus test for tribalism: Is America more of a pressure cooker than a melting pot? Do political operatives generally acquire and maintain positions of power and influence through principled leadership or more by appeasement of critical-mass voting blocs? Is group entitlement and privilege promoted and embraced at the expense of national security and long-term economic stability?”

Far more disturbing than the individual acts of rioters, publicity seekers or provocateurs in Ferguson has been the reaction of the White House. It is inappropriate for the President to intervene in this matter, just as it was wrong to comment on the Trayvon Martin tragedy. There is no indication that federal jurisdiction is warranted. The mindset that a civil rights issue arises any time there is an altercation between an authority figure that happens to be white and a person who happens to be black is tribalism at its worst.

It is worthwhile to recall that the bringing together of peoples from a number of different nations, cultures and races into a “melting pot” society has made America a far more united entity than other nations. Even our closest neighbor, Canada, has at times been close to breaking apart due to the tribalistic differences between French and English speakers.

In his 1991 book, “The Disuniting of America,” Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. endorsed the concept of a melting pot rather than ethnic identity politics. As he saw it, the alternatives were stark: a single, united country, or a tribalistic society in which different groups constantly quarreled with each other.

America’s founding concept of a melting pot worked magnificently, but tribalism, whatever excuse is provided for it, has been proven to be disastrous. Actions by politicians and agitators that seek to gain from incidents such as Ferguson do a great disservice to our society.

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