In a piece that I
suspect fear will be quite useful in examining the results of this election, regardless of the outcome, Cannon Thomas explores the dynamics of “us” vs. “them.” Here’s a bit:
- We identify people or groups of people who are a threat to what we value and begin to have intense automatic emotional reactions to them. These emotions are well-studied and arise before we have even mentally processed the content of what the other person is saying.
- That gut emotional response shapes and informs all of our opinions and attitudes. The reaction precedes any rational awareness of the content of the issue, and our attitudes are very hard to change from that point. We create very elaborate and convincing arguments for what we already felt. People are wired to assume what they see is all there is, so we fail to realize that we are becoming entrenched in a very limited perspective.
- We minimize or marginalize the other person or group. We process them as less human, more limited or impaired on a moral level, and as less “right” than we are. How else could they fail to see what is so obvious to us?
- We mobilize against them to protect what is “right” or “good.” Sometimes we do it with the sense of being engaged in a moral good; sometimes we do it with a frustrated defensiveness. Regardless, we fight for what we believe is right.
The result, in any situation where cooperation is required, is disastrous.
Remember, for Republicans, everybody else is a “them.”