Unfriending became a hot topic on my Facebook feed. The Gaza Wars didn’t cause as much anger between my friends as the reactions to the Charleston massacre and recent Supreme Court decisions.
I see three tribes, each defined by their outgroup
Tribe A defines itself by how it differs from people of other races, religions, nations or genders.
Tribe B defines itself by how it differs from (what it perceives as) the hateful intolerant sanctimonious bigots of Tribe A.
Tribe C defines itself by how it differs from (what it perceives as) the hateful intolerant sanctimonious bigots of Tribe B.
In I can tolerate anything except the outgroup Scott Alexander writes
The Nazis’ outgroup was not the vastly different Japanese, but the almost-identical German Jews. …
If you’re part of the Blue Tribe, then your outgroup isn’t al-Qaeda, or Muslims, or blacks, or gays, or transpeople, or Jews, or atheists – it’s the Red Tribe. …
When members of the Blue Tribe … [yell] about how terrible the Red Tribe is, they make sure that instead of saying “the Red Tribe”, they say “America”, or “white people”, or “straight white men”. That way it’s humble self-criticism. They are so interested in justice that they are willing to critique their own beloved side.“
After every real (as in Charleston) or contrived hate crime perpetrated by a white American (or Israeli) Jew or Christian, there’s a snowballing escalation of righteous rage.
Tribe B is incredulous that Tribe A + C (they don’t recognize them as separate tribes) can’t admit the problem of bigoted religious white American straight men.
Tribe C is repulsed by white American Jews & Christians who exaggerate the real or imagined flaws of white American Jews & Christians, while ignoring their virtues and contributions to society.
In The Shameful Liberal Exploitation of the Charleston Massacre Heather MacDonald writes
The Democratic elites, from President Obama on down, opportunistically turned Roof into a stand-in for white America … Obama fingered virtually every white as a potential co-conspirator in the killings. “Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it,” Obama said. In other words, it took this violence for white America to wake up to its enduring racism, racism that is continuous with Roof’s homicidal mania. Obama cautioned “us” (read: whites) about other manifestations of “our” potentially lethal racism.
The president said “Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.”
Many conservatives (and African Americans) think that school choice is better for African Americans, but that liberal elites prefer increasing spending on public schools because that’s better for union members and government employees. Same regarding increasing the earned income tax credit as opposed to raising the minimum wage. And same regarding programs that help poor families stay together as opposed to programs where the government replaces the father. It is morally, strategically, and factually wrong to taint conservatives who hold these opinions as doing so because they’re racists with too much Dylann Roof inside them.
I think most of Tribe C is ambivalent regarding the Confederate flag. They just wish blue-state supremacists would spend a little more time fixing the mess they made in Chicago and Detroit, and let the good people of Charleston plot their own paths forward. The great people of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church seem more than capable of leading the way, along with South Carolina’s Indian woman governor and African American senator (both Republicans).
On a personal note, I recognize that having Tribe B as my outgroup means that I viscerally overreact to some of their statements. For that I apologize. I realize that most of you are primarily driven by a love of others and a desire to make the world better. And by the American and Israeli Jewish & Christian heritage that I think you sometimes underestimate.
The hashtag for the celebratory reaction to the same-sex marriage ruling was #LoveWins. I hope we can make that true by moving forward together with greater goodwill and mutual respect.