This statement (made by Dubya in late 2001) has been mocked by just about anyone to the left of Genghis Khan, but in 2005, I came to realize how often we all slip into that mentality...myself very much included.
For example, in the 10 years Ive been vegan, Ive often enforced the youre either with us or against us mindset. In 2004, during the presidential election, I publicly mocked anyone who tried to find a reason to vote for Kerry. To the Anybody-But-Bush crowd, I ranted: youre either with us or against us. Or, in a more general sense, Id see someone driving an SUV into a McDonalds parking lot, smoking a cigarette and yakking loudly on a cell phone...and Id have that person judged, categorized, pigeon-holed, and lined up on the other side. (And these are only a few of far too many examples I could list.)
In turn, Ive had variations of the youre either with us or against us tactic used on me...and its both disconcerting and frustrating.
If we call ourselves left or liberal or progressive or radical or any other similar label, I believe the path towards creating social change involves the realization that we can sometimes differ strongly with our allies and comrades on certain issues but still remain allies and comrades. If a disagreement or difference of opinion results in a person or group reflexively being written off, we all lose.
Howard Zinn sez: As dogma disintegrates, hope appears. Because it seems that human beings, whatever their backgrounds, are more open than we think, that their behavior cannot be confidently predicted from their past, that we are all creatures vulnerable to new thoughts, new attitudes. And while such vulnerability creates all sorts of possibilities, both good and bad, its very existence is exciting. It means that no human being should be written off, no change in thinking deemed impossible.
Which wolf will we feed in 2006?
Mickey Z. is the author of five books, including 50 American Revolutions Youre Not Supposed to Know: Reclaiming American Patriotism. He can be found on the Web at: http://www.mickeyz.net.