'He's with me'

I am saddened by the profound lack of civility in society.  It has not always been that way.  It is not that our society has become more hate-filled or coarse.  In the past, there were just as many bigoted and hateful people as there are today, and maybe there were more.

Instead, we are being divided into increasingly smaller identity groups.  Groups defend the ground on which they stand with ferocity.  These groups are on both sides of the political divide.  They exist in our religious groups, communities, social media, and politics.  We are divided along lines of race, ethnicity, income, and the places we choose to work.  Politicians and divisive leaders in business feed the division to increase their power.

We allowed this to happen.  There is a fix, but it will not be easy.  It is something we used to do, something that took both courage and kindness.  It was the defining characteristic of many of the great social movements.

Many years ago, I took a Black friend from college to a local barbecue restaurant.  The place was as redneck as they come, and they would have worn that label proudly.  I thought nothing of it, but my friend was instantly uncomfortable.  He sensed something of which I was not even aware.  He got my attention and told me he was uncomfortable and that he did not think Black people were welcome.  I told him I would take care of it.  When we went to order, I told him to go first.  I said to the order-taker, "He's with me.  Put the order on one ticket."  All was well.

A few days later, we went to one of his favorite places, and the tables were turned.  When I walked through the door, one of the people there stepped in front of me to stop me from coming in.  My friend stepped between us and said, "He's with me."  The situation was instantly defused.

I have thought about that through the years.  The simple act of bringing a friend with us to those places where they might be an outsider is an act of courage for both people.  Friendships should be held in higher esteem than group affiliation.  It is family first, but then friends.

We need to return to "he's with me."

It is a powerful statement.  It is a statement of unity and not division.  It creates bonds across the visible lines of division.  If you accept me, you accept him.  If you want to hate him, you must hate me.

The left has done great damage to our society by a policy of "we are not together."  Group members do not have permission to be outside the group.  Exclusion is actively promoted.  We see this along racial lines, in religious preference, and certainly in politics.

We can fix this one person at a time.  We may not fix the world, but we can change our little corner of it.

Image: Mixed race friends.  CC0 Public Domain.

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