Us versus Them by Dana Williams


It’s the classic dichotomy.

It’s the essential basis of any system of rule.

It’s the natural order of the “ideal” State and authority.

It’s the tendency stemming from paranoia, xenophobia, insecurity, manipulation, and ignorance.

And, it’s the ultimate desire of those who would create the world’s agenda.

Everywhere through out the United States, people are split. Into two or more parts. There is always a “good side” and a “bad side”, we’re told. There’s an ally and an enemy. No matter who we are, this exists. Invisible and very visible borders and walls separate us. Society is at war with itself.

We have prisons, suburbs, ghettos, corporate headquarters, crack houses, country clubs, universities, courthouses, and gated communities. All these things stem from one simple “truth”: there is an “us” and a “them”. This is where “we” are, and that is where “they” are. And it’s best to keep it that way, of course.

While we build Star Wars, minimum-security prisons, and higher and higher borders on the Rio Grande, we neglect our schools, communities, and health. Instead, we allow them to be taken over by “voucher systems”, Wal-Mart, and HMOs. Amen.

We point towards every boogeyman we can find: the Bolsheviks, the Nazis, the Cubans, the Chinese, the Viet Cong, the Sandanistas, and Saddam Hussein (oops, I mean the Iraqis). Those are the enemies, we are the good guys. Our bombing sorties are righteous, their bombing is cowardly and illegal. Even if these boogeymen used to be our friends or later become our friends, we’ll always be able to find substitutes to satisfy our need to fear others.

Focusing on the “bad guys” makes us not notice what our fellow “good guys” are doing to us right here at home. We miss the connection between the defense budget and our decaying schools. We suffer with crappy health care, because the alternative, of course is the evils of Communism. We grumble about taxes, yet rally ‘round the flag when war “breaks out” (or is created by our “leaders”).

If only we knew that most of our taxes were being used to wage war, and the minority was being used for our schools and decaying social safety net. But, those leaders still make us think we need fewer and fewer taxes.

Those same leaders define these terms. They indicate to the “good people” of the US (stock-brokers, dot-com cowboys, and soccer moms), who the “bad people” (single moms, immigrant workers, rap musicians—and practically anyone else black for that matter) are. The “ideal person” and the “less-than-ideal person” are defined by these leaders and their media. Is it any surprise that the legacy-holders of Hiroshima, My Lai, Kent State, and Desert Storm deny the existence (at least in this “enlightened age”) of sexism, racism, xenophobia, classism, etc.?

The same kids would rampaged at Columbine and the same man who bombed Oklahoma City were not influenced by Marilyn Manson, Tupac Shakur, or video games, but by the US military, specifically its actions in the Persian Gulf War.

Most of us don’t know about this. But, if we didn’t know this, what better way to tell us that “good people” aren’t Goths, don’t listen to rap, and don’t play computer games (like “bad people” do)? Never mind that the violence embedded in our culture is a tradition that goes back way before rock-n-roll, hip-hop, and computers existed (not to mention TV and the hippies). It’s part of the long-standing American tradition of slavery, forced relocation, imperialism, class warfare, machismo, and greed. Violence is as American as apple pie. Too bad we don’t understand this.

Thus violence is something that happens in “those neighborhoods” in the “inner-city” or the “ghetto”. Never mind that those streets are a lot safer than many households in the suburbs, where drug abuse, domestic violence, and stress and cultural-paranoia-created rampages reign. Most drug users are whites. There are more on-the-job deaths than there are due to handguns in the US. Most people are more likely to die from car accidents, heart attacks, and falling than they are by attacks from other people.

Even so, we create this idea in our heads of what “we” are and who “they” are. We are the ideal, no matter how imperfect, and they are the undesirables, not matter what humanity and honesty “they” possess.

We're told: Don’t talk to people on the streets, drive to work everyday all by yourself, go through the “drive-thru” for lunch, and then spend the rest of the night plopped down in front of the TV. Hell, all those other people in the world are out there just to get in YOUR WAY!

It’s no wonder our society is so atomized and fragmented. We don’t make social connections any more. People don’t sit out on their porches and talk to each other anymore. There aren’t local “hangs”, or town-squares, or melting pots where people give a damn about defending their communities (heck, some neighborhoods don’t even have sidewalks anymore)! Instead we have freshly mowed lawns, strip malls, urban sprawl, and liquor stores. The media tells “us” that “they” are out to get us. To rob us, mug us, rape us, and most likely kill us. We shouldn’t talk to people we don’t know, because they will harm us. We shouldn’t treat others with respect or kindness, because they’re probably assholes.

In the rare case that we ever do talk to someone that we normally wouldn’t, we’re amazed (if not down-right astounded) that they’re normal, too. Damn, they have feelings, goals, desires, intelligence, humor, and passion. Sort of like “us”, in a way, hmm?

This is what those in power truly fear: we’ll one day realize that we don’t have any natural enemies, except our own fears and once we shed those fears, we come to the realization that everyone around us is really our brothers and sisters, just a few dozen or so times removed.

Then we wouldn’t believe the lies, the distractions, the hate speech, the scare tactics, the threats, or the shady platitudes that the few and powerful elite tell us. We need to call them on their bullshit and say, “we want a world full of love, compassion, cooperation, and freedom. And we want it fucking now”.

Divide and conquer is the goal of those who are afraid of the power that we of the “unwashed masses” have. But, we can’t be conquered if we are no longer divided. If there are real people out there, a lot like us, we’ve gotta create empathy for them. It’s not only us that matters. Individualism just sucks our souls dry. We should care about others. And we’ve gotta stick up for others; not just those that look like us, but those who don’t, too.

Finally, we’ll be able to consider the big questions: where is humanity headed? Where should it be headed? Shouldn’t we all arrive there at the same time? Isn’t it more fun with a bigger crowd?

Well, it sure is a helluva lot more interesting that way. Especially when we realize that “us” means all of us. And the “them”? They’re the people who don’t want us to realize this wonderful truth.