Red Team vs. Blue Team: Toxic Tribalism We Must Transcend

We’ve all experienced it.  You log on to Facebook and scroll through your timeline – and there it is: a fiery argument where insults are flying freely on a subject that charges you.  Though you may aim to steer clear of the sludge and toxicity of social media comment sections – perhaps you decided to lunge into a particular topic that you care deeply about.

Almost inevitably – an argument takes place where emotions reach a crescendo and the “debate” devolves into sophomoric insults where both sides are trying to tear each other’s character down instead of engaging in discourse on the merits of respective viewpoints.

Often, we find ourselves scrambling to score points by reflexively reacting to current events based on agenda and cultural identifiers, (nationality, orientation, race, creed, religion etc..) arguing over semantics, using trigger terms, stereotypes, and gross generalizations to stir the pot of frantic frenzy.  There is a primordial root to this way of interacting with each other.  From the very beginning of our history on this planet, we were thrust into a world where “the others” were viewed as an imminent danger that must be defeated, lest we be invaded and taken over.  In modern times, this tribal notion of “the others” often manifests as an idea, viewpoint, or perspective outside of our own, and it is often perceived as a threat that must be beaten down.

This has come to typify our state of discourse – whether it’s in corporate media, in Congress, on social media, or elsewhere – it has become abundantly clear that we are feeding into endless argumentation that features polarized “sides” of an argument – and there are often only two viewpoints presented as acceptable to latch onto. We anger quickly, posit ourselves in a reflexive defensive posture, and prepare to debate with one another in a way that perpetuates conflict instead of fostering education and cooperation.

The quest to be “right” or to “win” the argument takes precedence over actually listening with an open mind to an alternative viewpoint, robbing us of the opportunity to learn something new, expand our perspective, and integrate new data into our thought process to assist in evolving our consciousness.  Scientists call this motivative reasoning: a phenomenon where our unconscious motivations (beliefs/desires/fears) shape the way we interpret information.  Some ideas resonate with what we identify with – and we want them to win.  Other ideas sound like the “other” side – and we want to denigrate, defeat and banish those ideas out of the discourse.  When we apply this to our world we see how the polarizing power of partisanship and deeply held belief-systems influences our perceptions of the world around us.

“Motivated reasoning theory suggests that reasoning processes (information selection and evaluation, memory encoding, attitude formation, judgment, and decision-making) are influenced by motivations or goals. Motivations are desired end-states that individuals want to achieve. The number of these goals that have been theorized is numerous, but political scientists have focused principally on two broad categories of motivations: accuracy motivations (the desire to be “right” or “correct”) and directional or defensive motivations (the desire to protect or bolster a predetermined attitude or identity).” ~Thomas J. Leeper

Even when we think we’re being objective/fair-minded – we still can wind up unconsciously arguing for something with mechanical repetition – even when the empirical evidence shows that there is no sound basis for our argument.  We’ve become more adept at crafting and presenting an argument than conducting an actual investigation and critical thinking into the truth of the matter at hand.

But shouldn’t our motivation to find truth be more prominent than our motivation to be “right” or to cherry-pick arguments and articles that reinforce our own views? How can we cut through our prejudices/biases and motivation – and look at data and information as objectively as possible?

Making A Change
Perhaps it begins with shedding overly rigid identities and boxes that have been created for us in order to herd us into predictable boxes.  How often do you find yourself parroting a viewpoint or argument that you feel is aligned with your primary identity?  Perhaps you identify primarily as a Democrat.  If so – should your entire viewpoint be defined by this identifier to where you only agree with policies and/or ideas presented by those on your team (Team Democrat)?  If you identify as a woman – is that all you are?  If you consider yourself a Christian – must your perspective only be aligned with a narrow prescription of popularized Christian “values”?  If you consider yourself part of the “conscious community” – must everything be understood and reasoned through that filter?

This isn’t to say that identity isn’t important.  Expressing a sense of who we are is paramount – but that expression is unnecessarily limited when we aren’t open-minded and don’t allow for a full-spectrum experience. Identity politics is always an ever-evolving realm, and many of us attach more value to certain identifiers than others, be it race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.. It’s respectful to be supportive of an individual’s universal right to self-identify (or even their right not to identify at all), but it is also helpful to exercise a level of suspicion about the ability of rigid identifiers and social constructs (like race and gender) to accurately portray the multi-dimensional beings that we are.

“There’s a dangerous corrosive side to identity politics, ie: making one’s gender/skin color/religion/sect/sexuality one’s *defining* trait. Between groups this can divide people rather than unite them, promoting rather than reducing group stereotypes, and therefore increasing discrimination.

Within groups this can lend itself to reinforcing a hegemony for those individual members who refuse to conform to what being a member of that group is *meant* to mean, as defined by that community’s internal power structures. This is like the old trope “You can’t be a true Muslim/black man, and be gay”.  ~Maajid Nawaz

Breaking down these constructs and constrictive identifiers will usher in a new framework for discourse.  Currently, major media and news outlets rarely put forth effort in facilitating an open-range discourse, and are capitalizing (and in many instances feeding) the toxic tribalism where only two-view points are presented without any real effort to find intersectionality or genuine exchange. We see the phenomena of “both sides of the same coin” playing itself out again and again as it pertains to a polarized duality of public opinion.   Thus, the vast percentage of the populace are unconsciously bombarded with polarized view-points that unseat their own ability to find the neutral and to explore new thought-forms outside of the limits of dual categorization.

“An unknown ‘something’ has taken possession of a smaller or greater portion of the psyche and asserts its hateful and harmful existence undeterred by all our insight, reason, and energy, thereby proclaiming the power of the unconscious over the conscious mind, the sovereign power of possession.”  ~Carl Jung

It would be prudent for all of us to examine whether our own psyches and intellects have been unseated by an unknown, unconscious force. We are now tasked to get back in the driver’s seat of our own consciousness, turn off cruise-control, and navigate our own vehicles.  Just as the fleshly body must be cleansed of parasites and toxins such that they don’t become hosts for worms that weaken the body’s vitality, the mind must go through its own filtration process to clear out intrusions and predictive programming that wane our original core vibrational thought patterns.  Otherwise, we are often just passive receivers of whatever the TV is downloading into our minds.

The Need for Innovative Narrative
So who are the new story-tellers who can create a more progressive narrative of universality?  A narrative where we seek to understand each other by coalescing in multi-sensory empathy and cosmic commonality?  A narrative which rejects that humanity is a simple, basic species that can easily be divided into boxes of artificially devised social constructs.  A narrative which recognizes that we are coming out of an age of spiritual amnesia – and many of our societal problems are related to our universal yearning for meaning, truth, and a desire to be connected, balanced, and whole in our relationship with each other and our selves. The need for a new narrative is upon us – and we each bring a unique gift that is required to comprise the tapestry of our immediate position in this time/space.

The Untold History of Hillary Clinton’s Vitriol for Tulsi Gabbard

In January of 2013, Tulsi Gabbard (then just 31 years of age) was being promoted as the next rising star of the Democratic Party.  At the time, Representative Gabbard was everything the Democratic Party alleges to care about as a walking embodiment of cultural diversity.  Gabbard was one of the first female combat veterans elected to Congress and a member of both a religious and ethnic minority (as the first Hindu and American Samoan ever to sit in Congress).  Being from Hawaii, Gabbard is also an avid surfer and is active in both physical conditioning and martial arts training.  As a young, fit, and socially dynamic progressive woman committed to public service and ending wasteful regime-change wars, she was showered with praise from party leaders as she was unanimously elected to serve as Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee:

“Congresswoman Gabbard’s story is an inspiration and her dedication to public service showcases the best of our party’s values.” ~Former DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

“She’s an emerging star.” ~House Leader Nancy Pelosi

“I think she’s wonderful. She’s been in combat in a leadership role, and she knows how to lead. She deals well with men and women, young and old, Republican and Democrat. She’s got an extraordinary political talent.”  ~Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer

So what changed?  How and why did Tulsi go from DNC darling to Establishment enemy #1? (Well, maybe #2 behind Bernard Sanders). To understand the vitriol that Hillary Clinton and Establishment Democrats hold for Tulsi Gabbard, it’s imperative to put her trajectory in its historical context.

It was on the morning of February 28, 2016 that Tulsi Gabbard’s political life would forever change.  I remember that day perfectly.  It was a crisp, sunny winter morning in Kittery, Maine where I found myself drinking coffee at one of my favorite local cafes, when a headline buzzed across my phone:

“Tulsi Gabbard Resigns as Vice Chair of the DNC to endorse Bernie Sanders.” 

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders wave to supporters during a campaign event in Miami at the James L. Knight Center on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. (Pedro Portal/El Nuevo Herald/TNS via Getty Images)

In relinquishing her prestigious position as Vice Chair of the DNC – Tulsi did the unthinkable:  She stood up to Hillary Clinton and the Establishment behemoth that controls the inner workings of the Democratic party.  But why?  Why was Tulsi Gabbard willing to do what no other high-profile Democrat had the integrity to do at the time: put her political life on the line and risk her ascendant star status within the party infrastructure to endorse Sanders, an outsider who was thought to have no chance of mounting a viable challenge to the Clinton machine. (Incidentally, Sanders would go on to win 22 states, prove to be a viable challenge to Clinton, and birth a soaring progressive political movement that continues to thrive to this day). Incidentally, Gabbard is the only 2020 Democratic candidate who endorsed Sanders in the 2016 primary.  Every other candidate opted to throw their respective weight behind Hillary Clinton.

Tulsi Gabbard actually has a conscience; a moral compass; an inner drive to speak truth to power even if it means risking her own advantageous position within the political elite.  After the revelations by Wikileaks (via troves of leaked internal emails) that the DNC was actively and pointedly conspiring to thwart Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Primary (to guarantee a Clinton nomination), Tulsi felt that she could not sit on the sidelines and perpetuate this injustice to our democracy.  Gabbard subsequently announced that she was stepping down as Vice Chair of the DNC, called out the inequitable adjudication and administration of the primary, and cited Bernie’s nuanced and strong track record on foreign policy as additional reasoning for her endorsement, calling out Hillary Clinton’s abysmal record as Secretary of State where she mirrored a war-hungry NeoCon foreign policy that is the delight of Dick Cheney, Henry Kissinger & Donald Rumsfeld.

And then all hell broke loose within the Clinton circle.  How *dare* Tulsi Gabbard buck party orthodoxy and refuse to fall in line to kiss the Clinton ring! Overnight, Tulsi went from future face of the party to a target for vengeance by Clinton and her proxies:

The above email was sent by Darnell Strom on behalf of himself and Michael Kives (with long-time Clinton stalwart John Podesta doing the cheer-leading by exclaiming, “Hamme(r) Dropped!”)  Both Strom & Kives are serious power brokers who command high-profile platforms that span Hollywood celebrities, Washington power-brokers, media giants and pop culture icons.  Both men also boast powerful clients in Washington, namely Joe Biden, Kamala Harris & Cory Booker who are some of Hillary Clinton’s most loyal adherents.

But this threat was just the beginning.  As soon as Tulsi announced her candidacy for the 2020 Democratic nomination, the smears came fast and hard.  Literally the week of her announcement, coordinated hit-pieces were queued up and reeled out by pro-Clinton outlets, like clockwork.  First, there was the bogus NBC article claiming that Tulsi was propped up by the Russians which relied on fabricated data from a now outed propaganda firm known as “New Knowledge.”  Thanks to the precision journalism of Pulitzer Prize journalist Glenn Greenwald, this disgraceful hit-piece was readily debunked, but the damage was done – and the hits kept on coming as smear after smear was polluting political media with unfounded, sensational conspiracy theories aimed to thwart any momentum that Gabbard’s candidacy mounted within a Democratic electorate starved for progressive champions.

Fast forward to this past week, and Clinton proxies were strategically deployed with ratcheted up intensity to denigrate Tulsi’s character, threaten her political life, and spin her personal story (a story which they once lauded as their inspiration) into a twisted tale of fiction whereby she is now a Russian asset, a Putin apologist, and even a magnet of white nationalism.

Just days before Clinton’s unhinged personal attack on a David Plouffe podcast where she hurled a baseless accusation of Gabbard being a Russian asset (a claim that could implicate the death penalty), Clinton proxies were peculiarly foreshadowing Clinton’s conspiracy theory, parroting the same old anti-Tulsi talking points, in formation.  First it was former 2016 Clintonista surrogate and AIPAC errand boy Bakari Sellers disgracing himself on CNN.  Then, of course Clinton crony Neera Tanden had to cape for her boss after Andrew Yang bravely and swiftly defended Gabbard in a tweet.  This cycle would repeat itself as legions of Clinton loyalists surfaced, fixated and obsessed with derailing Gabbard, willing to risk what was left of their integrity to bully and dog-pile on a young woman combat veteran who has risked her life to serve her country.

Note the timing of this smear:  It was coordinated and released into the viral cesspool of mainstream media just a day before Clinton arch-rival Bernie Sanders was set to host a historic rally in Queens, NY (which featured nearly 30,000 supporters).  Sanders had just received the coveted endorsement of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib’s endorsements to follow.  Clinton’s smear also came after recent polls showed Tulsi in a dead-heat with the new DNC darling, Kamala Harris, weeks after Tulsi obliterated Kamala (who has inherited a significant amount of Clinton staffers and infrastructure) in a debate.  Nothing is done at random in the Clinton world, it’s always done with calculation and coordination.

In what has been a somewhat surprising and telling development, many have to come to the defense of Gabbard in the aftermath of this dangerously reckless smear.  Fellow 2020 candidates Andrew Yang, Beto O’Rourke & Marianne Williamson  have all made strong public statement in defense of Gabbard.  Additionally, Bernie Sanders, Nina Turner & Ilhan Omar have also voiced their love and support in defense of Gabbard, dismissing the absurdity of Clinton’s baseless accusation on its face.  Even mainstream pundits like Van Jones, Jake Tapper & Chuck Todd have expressed their disgust at Clinton peddling this junk conspiracy – which illustrates that even some voices in the mainstream are not buying into the contrived Clinton claim that anyone who opposed her candidacy in 2016 *must* somehow be associated with Russian meddling.  Despite the many voices who came to Tulsi’s defense, there are others who have been noticeably silent in response to this hit-job, namely Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar.  Additionally, Elizabeth Warren has been nowhere to be found with regards to this issue.  Warren notably refused to support Bernie Sanders in the hotly contested 2016 Democratic primary – instead opting to endorse Hillary Clinton (despite being clearly more aligned with Sanders on policy) – which has since earned her brownie points with the DNC as she vies for the 2020 Democratic nomination with favorable positioning among her rivals.

In a time when the Democratic party needs to be as united as ever to defeat Donald Trump, the DNC has acquiesced to Clinton’s outrageous smear.  Democratic leadership has remained absolutely silent – that is – until Adam Parkhomenko (former National Field Director for the DNC and co-founder of Ready for Hillary Super Pac) decided to disgrace himself by venting his unhinged, vulgar anger at Bernie Sanders coming out to defend Tulsi against Clinton’s smear:

Clinton’s smear and the subsequent attacks by Clinton proxies against Gabbard and anyone who defends her is doing more to sew division and discord within the Democratic electorate than any Russian Twitter bot could ever achieve.

Undoubtedly, the most prominent rift between Tulsi Gabbard and Hillary Clinton features their divergent views on foreign policy.  Gabbard – a decorated veteran with a nuanced, first-hand understanding of the cost of war and geo-strategic power struggle – has been one of the strongest and most credible voices opposing reckless, offensive regime-change wars.  In contrast, Hillary Clinton’s track record on foreign policy is consistent: It is both hawkish and religiously pro-interventionist.  It was then Senator Clinton who enthusiastically embraced the Bush/Cheney position on the Iraq War in 2003, where she fervently advocated for the illegal war which led to the death and displacement of millions in what is largely regarded as the most disastrous foreign policy blunder in our nation’s history.  Even worse, Clinton failed to learn the hard lessons from Iraq, and doubled down as Secretary of State to spearhead the horrific regime-change usurpation of Muammar Gadaffi, which left Libya in ruins, overrun with extremists and violence.  This atrocity in Libya was cited by President Obama as the biggest mistake of his two-term presidency.  As open slave markets persist in Libya right now because of Clinton foreign policy, all Hillary could do was gloat like a psychopath, exclaiming, “we came, we saw, he died.”  If Clinton had her way, this grave mistake would’ve already been repeated in Syria.

Despite the shameful efforts of Clinton and her cohorts to wane Tulsi’s star, Representative Gabbard continues to shine and remains steadfast in her commitment to something bigger than partisan politics; bigger than a Democratic primary race; and certainly something much bigger than the twice-a-failure Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — and that is the impenetrable integrity of a truth-teller who fights for justice, love, and the people.  It’s fair to disagree with Gabbard on the issues and to debate her on the merits – but to smear her in this shameful manner means that either Clinton and the Establishment view her as a viable threat, or they’ve completely lost their minds.  Certainly, an unintended consequence of the Clinton smear has seen Tulsi Gabbard’s name recognition elevate, drawing more attention to her unique story and one-of-a-kind political trajectory to where she now finds herself navigating the sewers of our dark body politic with an incorruptible spirit strong enough to rebuke the seduction of powerful interests, committed to never abandon her hard-fought integrity in exchange for political expediency and Establishment trappings.

 

 

 

 

 

Defending the Amazon, Indigenous Rights & Planetary Integrity

As the Amazon Rainforest crisis persists, our inability to protect our planet poses an existential threat to all of Earth’s inhabitants. As the sky recently turned black over Sao Paolo, Brazil because of smoke (thousands of kilometers away) from the fires that is so thick it can be viewed by NASA space satellites, the world’s leaders were assembled at the G-7 summit in Europe, seemingly more interested in exchanging sophomoric insults than solving the world’s most pressing and urgent problems.  According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, almost 73,000 forest fires have been documented this year alone. That’s an alarming 84% increase from what was observed in 2018. 
As Indigenous groups and conservationists scramble to defend the lungs of our planet, Brazil’ President Jair Bolsonaro audaciously shrugged off the news and blamed NGO’s and Indigenous groups for the glaring uptick in fires in the Amazon. Since taking office in January, Bolsonaro has promised to roll back environmental protections and indigenous rights in order to exploit the Amazon for increased farming and mining, and he has made good on that promise.
Invasion of indigenous territories are on the rise in Brazil, and indigenous groups are increasingly under threat as titans of industry within mining, logging, and animal farming continue to encroach upon indigenous land and destroy precious parcels of the Amazon for commercial exploitation.   Bolsonaro has emboldened these invasions. Recently, a group of heavily armed miners invaded indigenous land in Northern Brazil and assassinated one of the community’s indigenous leaders.
Indigenous peoples in Brazil are once again on the front lines today of one of the most brutal attacks on their rights and on the forest in recent history. We’re now seeing the drastic rollback of 30 years of progress on human rights and environmental protection in Brazil under Bolsonaro’s regime, which romanticizes Brazil’s past when military dictatorship took helm and presided over wanton destruction of the forest. The Munduruku people have been resisting encroachment and destruction of their land for centuries, and their fight (along with other indigenous groups and the very spirit of the Amazon jungle itself) is more urgent than ever as Brazil’s government and commercial industries continue to violate with impunity.

The tragedy currently taking place in the Amazon is indicative of a broader cultural problem in regards to our relationship with our planet. 1/5th of all the world’s plants and birds and about 1/10th of all mammal species are found in the Amazon. Earth has lost half its wildlife in the past four decades. Based on an analysis of thousands of vertebrate species by the wildlife group WWF and the Zoological Society of London, our way of life has presided over the destruction of 60% of our animal populations since 1970. The report calculates a global “ecological footprint,” which measures the area required to supply the ecological goods and services humans use. It concludes that humanity currently needs the regenerative capacity of 1.5 Earths to supply these goods and services each year.

With the planet’s population expected to grow by 2.4 billion people by 2050, the challenge of providing enough food, water and energy (while sustaining planetary health) will be difficult. This should be the real “RED ALERT” placated all over the media, as the shocking and rapid decline of planetary biodiversity poses an imminent catastrophe that plagues all of us, requiring urgent and bold alterations to our way of life.

That being said, we have more than enough resources to profit food and shelter to billions of people. Solutions done seem to be the problem, it’s human consciousness, greed and ego.

Outrage is an understandable response to the Amazon crisis, but not sufficient to redress the problem.  We need to take individual action in our daily lives by altering our lifestyles. One of the most under-reported aspects of Amazonian deforestation is our addiction to consuming meat. Beef, soy, palm oil and wood drive the majority of tropical deforestation.

Animal agriculture is devastating for the Earth. Raising livestock for meat, eggs and milk uses about 70% of agricultural land, and is a primary factor in the proliferation of deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution.

“1.2 billion farmed animals are slaughtered globally every week for human consumption. In one week, more farmed animals are killed than the total number of people killed in all wars throughout history. Although these animals are treated as commodity, they are — in fact — sentient beings — like your pet cat or dog. We tend to assume that only vegans and vegetarians follow a belief system — but when eating animals is not a necessity (which is the case in much of the world today) — then it is a choice, and choices stem from beliefs. “Carnism” is a dominant philosophy — as eating animals is just the way things are — yet it runs contrary to core human values such as compassion, justice, and authenticity. And so — they need to use defense mechanisms that distort our thoughts and numb our feelings so that we act against our core values without fully realizing what we are even doing.” ~Dr. Melanie Joy  

The challenges that face our planet, our indigenous family, and our own imminent future are immense. It is easy to feel discouraged, angry, and hopeless about the state of the world, but the ability to harness humanity’s intelligence, creativity and compassion to steer the planet in a new direction is with us right now. We can take individual responsibility today, which can resonate immediately and create waves of influence that can lead to a collective change in behavior and attitudinal shift towards our relationship with nature and with ourselves.  This change starts from within, and this work begins with each of us making the choice to defend and protect this wondrous planet which has so graciously hosted our livelihood.