By State Representative, Leon D. Young
Let’s begin by coming to terms with what “toxic tribalism” means. Toxic tribalism is defined as: A loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group to the point that dogma and dysfunction become the standard.
If this, at all, sounds familiar to the current political climate and discord in this country, well—it should. In fact, this topic is especially relevant to not only countries in the Western world but to countries the world over.
And, regrettably, we need not look any further than what’s happening right here at home to assess the fallout. With the advent of Donald Trump in the White House, our political discourse has become increasingly intoxicated by toxic tribalism and the group mob mentality. And sadder still, we have unconsciously been seduced by the idea that one group is “wrong” and “evil” while our own group is “correct” and “good.”
This mentality has led to a whole list of disastrous consequences and unfounded suspicions, which only serve to further divide us. The recent spectacle surrounding the Kavanaugh confirmation is a prime example of this now pervasive disconnect. Republicans and Democrats hastily retreated into their respective tribal camps and were unwilling to heed what the other had to say. Intractable in their positions: Republicans whole-heartedly endorsed Judge Kavanaugh and summarily dismissed Dr. Ford; while Democrats fervently believed Dr. Ford’s allegation and took major issue with Kavanaugh, in both tone and legal substance.
This specter of toxic tribalism has also shown its ugly face in the context of immigration and the need for border security. We should all remember that Donald Trump kicked off his presidential bid more than two years ago with harsh words for Mexico. “They are not our friend, believe me,” he said, before disparaging Mexican immigrants: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” In the months since, he has repeatedly promised to build a wall along the Mexican border and get Mexico to pay for it.
Trump’s toxic tribalism has manifested itself in other areas as well. His condemnation of Black NFL football players kneeling during the national anthem and his incendiary remarks following the Charlottesville car attack serve as vivid reminders of Trump’s constant need to appeal to his base, while stoking the flames of conflict. Not to mention, Trump’s never-ending put down of women who come forward alleging sexual assault. Just recently, he had the audacity to say he believes the reaction to the allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh makes it “a very scary time for young men in America.”
The upcoming Midterm Election, less than a month away, will provide yet another blatant example of toxic tribalism at its worse. Blue and red state voters will once again have the opportunity to square off, and then proceed to demonize the other faction for its “questionable” electoral choices.
Unfortunately, we currently have a president that’s totally engrossed in toxic tribalism who lacks empathy and conscious behavior. Unconscious behavior comes in many forms such as impulsivity, lying, not entertaining contradictory ideas, being closed minded, and the list goes on.
This “Us” vs “Them” mentality is not leading us anywhere productive nor appealing. It only leads down a path that leads to extreme suffering and destruction which nobody consciously wants. The Fight against toxic tribalism starts with yourself first and foremost because that’s all you can control. How can you fight toxic tribalism when you yourself act in a tribal manner and aren’t personally growing yourself as a human being? Start with yourself.