There is a famous slogan here that you can wear proudly on t shirts that declares “Detroit Vs Everybody”.
If you ever bring up the fact that you live in or work in Detroit to someone who hasn’t visited the city recently you get either a sympathetic “That must be very difficult for you” or a look like you’ve just declared how your are to live in a hole in the ground, eat scotch eggs and support Arsenal for the rest of your life.
There are perhaps very good reasons for those reactions but as anyone who lives in Detroit can attest, it’s a city rising again from bankruptcy and a symbol of what can begin to be achieved when you hit rock bottom.
There is still a lot to work on and improve on with the burnt out neighborhoods serving as a visual reminder of the past and what still needs to be accomplished in the future.
Still, the reactions we receive can begin to cause an attitude of us V them.
This week at a meeting for the company I work for now in the city, one of the CEO’s answered a question from the audience. I can’t remember the question but the answer got me thinking. He essentially laid out the trouble he has with the idea that if someone, place, group, company is winning that automatically must equate with someone losing.
But why is this true? Why does it need to be Detroit Vs Everyone?
Coming from Northern Ireland I’ve seen this played out in a similar manner. If the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist community is striving then how can the Catholic/Nationalist/Republican community also strive.
If we give in and allow an Irish language act to be implemented then of course this will be followed shortly by the eradication of Protestant values.
If we decide to only fly the Union Jack on certain designated days; in line with many councils in England, then of course this is a sign that Loyalist communities are becoming second hand citizens.
If we allow cyclists ample and safe environments to commute in the city center, then drivers will immeasurably suffer, by having to be a little patient.
The problem with this way of thinking is that it can only lead to winners and losers.
It makes sense that as human beings we react this way. We are hardwired I believe, to desire community and a feeling of belonging. If we feel that is being threatened, even if that belief is unwarranted, we will be weary of the other side. We view life as a inverted chart, where the decline of one group must automatically equate with the rise of another.
Or the statement of agreement with one set of beliefs, must automatically equate with the denial of other beliefs. If you are Christian then you can not on any account see the beauty and hope that arises out of the Islamic faith. If you view white people as being a superior race then every other color of skin is a threat to your very existence.
All the while ignoring the shortcomings of our own groups.
All the while, because we want to ignore the shortcomings of our own groups.
It’s pretty clear how this can and continues to get us into trouble.
Immigrants are taking our jobs. Gay people are going to destroy the institution of marriage. Allowing Muslims into our country is going to lead to the death of white, middle class Americans.
We shouldn’t underestimate the power of beliefs in community and a sense of belonging.
This fear is what causes normally, rational human beings to carry our extreme acts. Or why many people I think voted for Trump. Trump supporters are not horribly racist people. They are parents and grandparents who work hard for their families. But fear is a powerful motivator.
Another powerful example of all this happened back home recently when three local politicians were suspended by their party for not following the party line to support a motion brought forward to condemn harassment of women who seek advice on a number of health issues but most notably abortion, at a particular clinic in the city.
The problem for these politicians and many others was that by condemning the harassment, they could somehow be seen to justify abortion. Something they feel very strongly about.
It’s not these principals themselves that are a problem but rather when the safety of vulnerable and frightened women is at risk because of them.
How have we gotten to a place where we see being pro life and anti harassment as mutually exclusive? Why do Liberals view Conservatives as the enemy? Why does being a Christian mean that we can’t sit down for a meal and agree with our brothers and sisters of other faiths? Why as heterosexual people in happy marriages are we so afraid of gay people being allowed to marry the people they love.
At the heart of a lot of it is insecurity. If I’m insecure in myself or my faith then it’s better for me to condemn others of other faiths. That’s the only way I can feel like my life holds worth. But all this does is drive them away and creates more and more division.
Our job should be to react with a little more time and consideration and to quietly ask ourselves where we are holding fear in our lives. Fear is a powerful motivator, sometimes for good and sometimes for pure horror. But it exists and until we start to dance with it, we will remain stuck in a perpetual watching of the other from opposite sides of the school gym, waiting for someone to make the first move.
We do not need to put others down to feel strong. This is pretty much antithetical to the way of Jesus. Who showed us that power does not come from violence or pressure or a show of strength but through a humbling position of Love that subverts power and encourages others to draw near.
What convinces someone to our way of thinking?
I’m not sure, but I’m pretty positive that connection begins with being ok with our weaknesses and listening to those who are different than us. Like most things that are worth creating, it’s incredibly simple and extremely difficult.
In this seemingly dichotomy is where we need to sit.
Because if us winning, means others are losing we’ve lost something incredibly important about God and what it means to have faith.
We’ve lost Love.
We’ve lost ourselves.
And the only people who lose then, is everyone.