Opinion: The Harm of Us Versus Them

‘Us versus them’ is a concept with which we are all too familiar. Right now, it is us versus China and Russia, us versus (opposing political party), and sometimes even us versus our neighbors. It is the essence of nature itself to compete- the eternal battle for the survival of the fittest. This instinct to fight for resources antagonizes our knack for community. We are, after all, social creatures.

But this conflicting habit of humanity creates dynamics even science can’t always predict. What it can foresee is a routine dependence on forming cliques of like-minded individuals. For instance, in high school, almost every one of us could identify as a prep or a jock or a band geek, etc., etc., based primarily on the activities in which we participated. And we, for the most part, probably hung out with groups of people with similar interests and values. Again, it is just human nature. Nevertheless, we tend not to realize how this manifests in adulthood. I consider this the source of the mentality of ‘us versus them.’ Our desire for community is satisfied by the magnetism of a social group, one where individuals come together with a common goal, a common interest, a common religion, whatever. However, just as stated in science texts, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Basically, for every group of people bound together by a commonality, there is another group of people bound together by the opposite of that commonality. It is that conflict that then, in turn, satisfies our need to complete.

Conflict, in moderation, is a good thing. It is through the resolution of a conflict that we grow and learn. But conflict without resolution is not healthy. Locally, there is a war between the culture of City Hall and the action-based factions of the community. Some skirmishes between the two have concluded with concessions and improvements for the betterment of Casselberry. But even within our few successful partnerships, there are supporters of each side who refuse to listen to the opposition. Instead, they antagonize representatives and assume hidden agendas. They are too wrapped up in their own frustrations to see that the thought of ‘us versus them’ makes no room for resolution and no room for improvement. They do not see the harm they do to Casselberry’s future.

From what I have seen and learned over the last few years, Casselberry is changing and growing. Its very identity has been stripped off like a butterfly from a caterpillar. But we are having a hard time emerging as a new entity because so many people cannot let go of the past. I do not deny the reason for such bitterness on either side: City Hall and the community both have had legitimate complaints against each other. But continuing to harbor old grudges and foster bad blood does nothing but hinder our progress.

Next time you instinctively view someone as an enemy, please stop and consider why you feel that way. What makes this person your enemy? Is it just their background or have their personal actions proven them as such? Your ‘enemy’ may be on your side.

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.”

G.K. Chesterton