“Us” and “Them” - Can We Talk Without Being Enemies?


I try to stay out of politics on this blog. That’s intentional. I don’t want to be on one side or the other and push anyone out of the conversation. Mental health issues and parenting struggles (the primary subjects of my blog) don’t discriminate. Your political leanings don’t matter much when it comes to weighing your risk of a family or personal mental health crisis.

I’m careful to watch my remarks and stay out of the divisive “us” and “them” identifications. Our minds are vulnerable to “us” and “them” categorizations as a shortcut to identify allies and enemies. Unfortunately, too many Americans have begun to see enemies when they look at their neighbors.

Because “us” and “them” thinking has become so divisive, I’m careful not to (accidentally) categorize myself by using the political speak of any particular group. If I say I think people with mental illness need better funding and parity (aka: equality) with other medical conditions, I have to take care not to lapse into political talking points on universal healthcare- in case you and your party are opposed. I don’t want to step on a land mine by implying that businesses should shoulder more, or less, of the cost of healthcare for their employees who cannot afford mental health treatment. There are a lot of topics I feel the need to avoid altogether, in case they lead to misunderstandings or misinterpretations that make “enemies.”

The land mine topics are everywhere in mental health and parenting. It can be hard trying to keep up with all the buzzwords to avoid.

But here’s the thing: we are all going to have to stop divvying ourselves up into categories of “us” and “them,” and start talking about problems and solutions outside a 2 party worldview. Because none of us fit neatly into a box when it comes to our beliefs.

If I want fair treatment for the patients in my care, does that make me a Democrat or a Republican? What if I’m upset after a racially motivated shooting in a place of worship? Then am I pigeonholed into one group or the other? What if I favor individual freedoms, and also want to live in a culture that lifts the impoverished, the mentally ill, and disabled up with love and support? What if I don’t want violent people to be painted as simply “mentally ill” because that fuels fear and discrimination for the people who cope with mental health conditions?

If I disagree with you, does that mean my allegiance is to your enemy? Is there really an enemy in every debate? If I agree, am I reliably on your side about everything? Or, what if it’s not that simple? For me, for you, for anyone? What if my opinion is not that of Democrat or a Republican? What then? Can you consider my opinions for a moment if that’s the case? Can you consider the opinions of your neighbor or your sister?

What if I’m neither “us” nor “them?”

What if neither are you?

What if I’m not your enemy and neither is anyone else on you Facebook or Twitter feed?

We’re going to have to stop seeing others as enemies and work together. All of us have some change, some improvement we’d like to see in the world. Can talk about that without becoming enemies?

Posted on October 29, 2018 .