Column: Tribalism is killing American ideal

By Mike Somers

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

This line from the preamble of The Declaration of Independence presented to the American people in 1776 could not be any truer today. It profiles for us what we need to always remember; we are of the same body, the same people, we are Americans, our American Spirit. The challenge is, we need to keep reminding each other that we are one of that same spirit.

During different periods throughout the history of our country, we found ourselves divided and separated into tribes, just like today. Tribalism is killing our American ideal. America always has been a melting pot. People of the world have for several millennia settled here and continue to do so today. Our strength is found in our diversity of thought, culture, traditions, food, customs, history, and the list goes on. The celebration of all of these makes us who we are, our American Spirit.

Unfortunately, the self-proclaimed tribalist leaders both locally and nationally would rather see us fighting each other. Their overwhelming attitude is one of “my way or the highway.” They do not have it in them to seek common ground with those who would disagree with them. 

The tribalist leaders are leading a growing movement that is engineered to tear down the very essence of who we are as Americans. They disregard the Truths in our Declaration of Independence and work to tear down our American Spirit by dividing us into “tribes” and pitting us against one another. Ironically, they are using our own diversity against us—the diversity that makes us true Americans.

I have dedicated my columns to writing about everything and anything with a local connection. Being American is local. If we cannot live as Americans in our own community, but instead bow to the tribalist threats and demands, then what happens in the larger context of America becomes rather unimportant. Our American Spirit must begin here, at home, in our own community for America to survive.

Those who subscribe to this tribalist mentality would have us divided into free speakers v. censors, and so on. To the tribe, the division is good. They claim equity but do not believe all people are created equal. The sad part of this is it precludes any space for common ground. If you do not agree with the tribalist, you are the enemy and a person that no one in the tribe can talk to or live with. This is not the American way. This is not who we are. Where to go from here? What are we to do? No easy answers. 

A few days ago, I found myself with friends in a local Stevens Point establishment among dozens of others enjoying some locally brewed adult refreshment. Conversing, laughing, and just living the American dream. Putting our personal differences aside and finding common ground to be happy with each other was the theme for the day. Our American Spirit.

Don’t let the tribalists suck you into their black holes of singular thought. We have seen this before in our long human history and the outcome of everyone blindly following “the man” was never good. Live your American Spirit and encourage diversity of thought. Accept diversity of thought. Exercise your rights of life and liberty every day. Do not be afraid to call out those who would condemn your right to do so. 

Country music star Aaron Tippin sang in his song, “You’ve got to stand for something, or you will fall for anything… never compromise what is right.” This is our American Spirit. Put those tribalist tendencies aside. Be more open-minded. Agree to disagree when you have to but find that mutual interest and respect in your opposition. Declare your values of faith, justice, and family unapologetically. Hold and protect the rights our constitution affords us. 

There have been and always will be tribalists who wish to tear down and change the America we know. Do not let them destroy our great country. Many fought and many died to keep America and our American Spirit alive. Stand up and continue that fight.

Our lives as Americans are woven into what we do each and every day. Our work, our schools, our churches, and our community are who we are. Unfortunately, the tribalists do not appreciate the American fabric, the American way of life. They think America is evil, racist, supremacist, and wrong. We know it is not but are unsure how to respond. The solution to tribalism: Live your American Spirit.

Mike Somers is semi-retired and lives with his wife in Custer.

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