…the ‘them’ are those who believe in extremism.” This is a statement just made in closing by a participant in a discussion of American Muslims on “This Week,” discussing the anti-Islamic ferver in America today.

More generally (and currently even less attainably), I would argue, the “us” are those who are global humanists who strongly identify with no other in-group/group distinction, and the “them” are insular “tribalists” who live in a world most saliently defined by the intersection of their various in-groups (racial, national, ethnic, socio-economic, religious, sexual orientation, etc.), and all of the out-groups against whom they stand in opposition.

Of course, as with all such things, it is not really such a tidy dichotomy, but rather a set of interacting continua, with individuals falling at different points along different continua, some being quite nationalistic but not very racist, or quite classist but not very concerned with sexual orientation. However, those who tend to be “in-group/out-group” oriented in some spheres tend to be so oriented in others, because it is a way of viewing the world more than it is a set of positions on discrete issues.

Being committed to a non-tribalistic orientation does not mean being ignorant of current realities: We live in a world divided in many ways (politically, religiously, culturally, socio-economically, etc.), and those divisions have real consequences, and real implications for what kinds of public policies we can and should pursue. We can’t legislate globally, because we have no global government. We can’t magically create universal non-tribalism by embracing non-tribalism ourselves, as individuals. The question we should always address is, “What decisions, among those that I can make, best serve global humanity, given the current realities of the world?”

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