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I used to belong to an organized group of mothers. A so-called mothers’ group. Until I attended an organized meeting of the group. A meeting designed to help steer its future. A delicate topic was up for discussion: the need and desire for more night groups. There was a dilemma: In order to be a group leader you had to attend a group leader group with a social worker. At the time, that social worker group was only held during the day. This meant that working moms, some of the very people who needed and wanted the night groups, couldn’t lead night groups. At the time, night groups were led by two or three stay-at-home moms who were willing to come out at night, and attend the daytime social worker group. The working moms were asking for a nighttime social worker group so they could lead the night groups and possibly have more than one night group every other group cycle.

The discussion quickly got toxic. Some of the stay-at-home moms were VERY upset, and didn’t think that they should be required to come out at night for meetings. Some of the working moms couldn’t understand why the stay-at-homers weren’t being more inclusive. Vitriol spewed. Angry, harsh judgments flew. People, including me, got angry. There was no middle ground. There would be no compromise. It was a mess. I dropped my membership soon after that meeting.

It reminds me of what’s going on in America today. Left and right stand against each other just like the working moms and the stay-at-homers. There’s no willingness to see the other side’s point of view. Each side thinks that, of course, THEY are the ones who are right and that if they give even a little, they will lose. Us against them mentality reigns. Unfortunately, that type of mentality in all likelihood contributed to the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 other people — five of whom died — in Colorado. In that case the stakes were a little higher than a night discussion group, but still. Does a discussion about illegal aliens and health care reform need to lead to such violence?

This is one of those instances where I absolutely don’t have the answer because I have seen firsthand how quickly things can get out of hand. I have been riled by topics. I have become irrational. I have said things to others about “the other side” that were unkind. I have dug my heels into the sand. Really, you can say that my leaving the mothers’ group I belonged to was a form of extremism. If I can’t get my way, I’m taking my marbles (and in this case my excellent raffle solicitation skills) and going home. Rather than sticking around, trying diplomacy, and using my communication skills to make real change and help others, I bailed. Not the best move in retrospect.

On a positive note I can say that there have been many other instances where I have behaved better, and I got better results. Using logical, calm words, and letting the other party know that I understood where she was coming from really changed things for the better. We were able to find middle ground and a solution that was right for both of us. And we ended up respecting and liking each other. It was better for everyone all around.

Since I don’t have any answers, I’ll end this post with sympathies and condolences for everyone involved in the Colorado shooting. For the victims who lost their lives or who lived and will never forget. For the shooter, who must be mentally ill. For our country, which has been torn into pieces over the past decade. (When one half of the country says it isn’t part of the other — “I’m not an American if I have to be lumped in with those people.” — you have a problem.) And finally, for everyone who lives on this planet, since there isn’t a country on this Earth that doesn’t have its own divisive issue.

One Response to “The Problem with “Us Against Them””

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Karen Bannan, Karen Bannan. Karen Bannan said: The Problem with “Us Against Them” http://ht.ly/3AMMS KB: What do a mothers' group and Republicans have in common? #shooting #Giffords [...]

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