Tribes in a Time of Partisanship

There’s been a remarkable rise in visible tribalism and localism in the past decade or so.

Heart stickers, “Home” stickers, area codes, airport call letters, and all kinds of subcultures have all gone (locally) mainstream.

And, of course, now that we’re connected to everyone on the internet, we’re rapidly using that connection to find and align with the people like us.

In many ways, this is a good and joyful thing. Taking pride in our places and finding our people (without flying all the way to Australia on spec) is a fun and often fulfilling part of modern life.

But, like anything, it can be taken too far: we can forget that the world is full of lots of people not like us, or that we are also inevitably sometimes on the same team as people we don’t like, or who aren’t from here.

Globalism — pretending everything was basically the same everywhere — didn’t work. Hyper-tribalism isn’t going to be a good replacement if we try to reorganize ourselves with no respect for existing national borders.

The next move needs to be a 21st-century recovery or reinterpretation of E pluribus unum: California, Iowa, Texas, and Massachusetts really are different places (and each has sub-regions and subcultures of its own), but we need to find ways to really celebrate that without acting as if the others aren’t also us, too.

It’s fun to be in the tribe. But we’re also all in it together.