I recently wrote an essay for “The 49th Shelf” about what happens when we think in terms of “us versus them,” a subject close to my heart, since it’s the theme of my recent novel, OUR DAILY BREAD.

Here’s the beginning of it:

At a dinner party recently, someone brought up the topic of Israel and Palestine. Within moments, an educated and well-traveled individual I’ll call Joe stated Israel is a much-maligned island of moral purity in a sea of barbaric, immoral hatred. Israel, he said, has committed no atrocities, done nothing illegal or unethical, whereas the enemies of Israel have slaughtered children in untold numbers and desire only to drive Jews into the sea.

“And what,” I asked, “would Israelis like to do to Palestinians?”

“They have to go,” Joe said, eyebrows bristling in my direction.

I asked if it wasn’t possible both sides had more in common than not. After all, they are descendants of Abraham, they believe in the One God, they consider Jerusalem a holy city, and they would perhaps even like to live in peace, to tend their olive trees, to laugh with their children.

“No,” Joe insisted, “they are not like us. It’s a fallacy that if people get to know each other they like each other better. Often they like each other less.”

“Familiarity breeds ferklempt?” I asked.

If you’d like to read the rest, you can do so by clicking here.  Thanks very much.

1 Comment

  1. Wendy on April 22, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Again, Lauren, I so appreciate your eloquence in speaking to the issues surrounding the concept of one group of humans being superior, more perfect, and others less than, in various ways. I wonder if that is the superego, ego speaking rather than the inner heart-speak voice of our souls.

    For myself, there have been a few occasions socially when another person in the group has given up their own sense of prejudices against a ‘named’ group. It has always astonished me how most people will not speak up against such views, despite often not agreeing with the overt derogatory comments.

    I recall hearing of such a social situation, at a holiday dinner party, when a comment was made two days after the devastating earthquake/tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004 in the Far East. The comment made by a middle-aged single Caucasian woman was so heartless toward the victims of the devastation that I expected to hear the the hosts and other guests had asked the person to leave their home. To hear the only response was a silence after the comments honestly shocked me even more. I have to wonder about the quality of that silence. For that I have no answer.

    For myself, I’ve never seen this woman since but do know that her comments offended my sense of the humanity of our lives needing greater understanding and love. Our world certainly doesn’t need opinions about a righteousness of the massive loss of lives of another cultural group as she inferred. I did make my thoughts known to the individual who related this happening and interestingly, I heard a rather bland reaction to my opinions. Again, for that I do not have an answer.

    As a former RN, life to me is precious from our births to our deaths. Each and every person on this planet is worthy of mutual respect and appreciation for differences. If we take the time to know and try to understand differences, we find that our lives were lacking a little of the riches of ‘theirs.’

    Are there exceptions to this expansive acceptance?

    For another discussion, considering the thoughts of those who are trained to commit acts of violence against even their own people as in Syria, Afghanistan and many African countries. Is that one end of the spectrum of this topic of them and us? Will the ‘other’ ever be eliminated? Even media is promoting the concept of them and us with the movie, The Hunger Games. Such a complicated, convoluted issue as your essay explores, Lauren.

    But without thought and dialogue, opinions can’t be challenged and changed. I do appreciate your essay as it does give others pause to think about such issues.

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