Tribal Thinking & Myths

Our culture is headed in the opposite direction of my own journey toward inclusive belief now. I’m not talking about the small stuff, like the Mariners’ season, but anti-intellectualism, violence and lack of moral compass.

This list is imposing and deserving of more than one post, but now I’m thinking of the symbols, myths and legends that ought to be giving us a shared sense of right and wrong.

“A true religion is precisely one that can teach you how to recognize and honor God everywhere, and not just inside your own group symbols”. – The Perennial Tradition, Richard Rohr.

American culture appears to be getting it’s shared sense of right and wrong in the post modern era from sources unencumbered by the thought process. The foundational myths of the United States have been co-opted by tribes, despite what  our president repeats about us all being Americans. The community sense of “We the people” and the belief that our republic would survive only if virtuous individuals came together for the common good have been pushed aside in favor of the rugged individualism and lawlessness of the Wild Wild West.

So where do we get our shared sense of right and wrong? What are the myths that drive our identity today? Seems like the strongest one is the military. “Army strong” has become [fill in the city where a tragedy has occurred] strong. “Boots on the ground” objectifies the reality that those boots are filled with human beings who bleed and die. The US flag has replaced the Constitution as our source of national identity. Saying thank you to those who serve in the military has become attached to every national day and event we have. Those who serve now include many more who wear safety services uniforms. The words honor and hero are so loosely used as to include everyday actions that belong in the category of job descriptions. “Protecting our freedom” is a tagline, but nobody ever asks how exactly that is happening in places like Irag and Afghanistan.

The paragraph above does not mean any lack of respect on my part for members of the armed services, or police and fire departments. This myth began with our government and the media. It instills crisis mentality and black and white; or red, white and blue; thinking.

More American myths include rugged masculine individualism, the gun culture, the Lost Cause movement after the Civil War, the belief that technology (and money) and solve all of our problems, American exceptionalism, the rights listed in the Bill of Rights have no limits or responsibilities, rampant capitalism and companies have the same rights as individuals. Quite a list, and certainly not exhaustive.

Where do thoughtful people look for relief? We remain thoughtful, we vote, we keep the issues in front of our friends and we give to the election campaigns of women and men who understand where these myths are taking us. Perhaps we can reach a point where the shared sense of right and wrong becomes civil and inclusive.


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