Early in his primary campaign Barack Obama urged that there wasn’t a blue America and a red America, but one America. His exhortations toward unity, transcending a split country were inspiring. His was a fresh mindset that seemed to catapult the divisions of us vs them, right against wrong. Recent events have caused me to reconsider this belief.
The crowd baiting by McCain’s surrogates, including Ms. Palin, stirring egregious charges that Mr. Obama is alternatively, a terrorist, a communist, a Muslim and a traitor glaringly speak to the fervent ideological and culture division of the two Americas. More fundamentally, I have come to consider what may be at the core of the potentially explosive divide.
It is one’s worldview that informs their opinions. To that end, people tend to see reality through the filter of either being co-operative or competitive. In other words, people are inclined toward being competitively or cooperatively driven. These are the prominent motifs of how we see interaction.
Democrats, given their penchant toward humanism and the optimism of the human spirit, incline toward cooperation. If you believe that humankind is potentially good you see through the prism of cooperation. It moves you toward the common good. This mindset more inclines people toward internationalism, whereby there may be sufficient national pride, but one’s relationship with the larger whole is apparent.
Alternatively, people who envision reality as informed by competition tend to be more individualistically oriented. It’s more of an us against them, a me and against you attitude. From this perspective the world is divided into good and evil, right and wrong. You’re either pro-American or anti-American. There’s less tolerane for shades of gray. You’re with us or against us. Hence, battle lines are drawn and realities constructed.
These points of view are basically influenced by the nature of one’s ego state. A healthy and evolving ego doesn’t need to define or characterize itself by it’s opposite. It’s well-being is more self reflective and the cooperative spirit isn’t challenging to such an ego. The less mature ego requires an enemy or an opposing point for its self-reference. It literally defines itself by its opposite. I’m good since I can point my finger at what’s bad. As such, it is driven by the competitive mode, which defaults to us against them, right and wrong.
The two Americas can be characterized by differing states of ego maturity. The cooperative ego can engage paradox and welcomes complexity. Good and bad, blue and red tend to retreat from prominence. The competitive ego is allergic to complexity and reduces phenomena to simplistic matters. The enemy has to be maintained to secure and balance the less evolved ego. The debate between McCain and Obama as to whether the President should speak with nations like Iran or other stated enemies illuminates this difference. The threatened ego cements the enemy status and thus forces the oppositional confrontation; sometimes culminating in violence or warfare.
The more mature ego believes that dialogue can move the parties into a more cooperative experience, resolving dispute or at least ameliorating it. America—and perhaps much of the world—divides into differing ego states and thus sees reality from starkly different views.