American political discourse has devolved into two tribes: liberal and conservative. These tribes provide their members with strong views on just about everything: tax rates, charter schools, abortion, trial lawyers, gun control, bathrooms, affirmative action, health care policy, immigration and everything in between.

The tribes dominate politics, academia and the national media, which give predictable reactions to any new event, based on the tribe they represent. No one asks, “I wonder what the editorial board of The New York Times will think about this?” We know what they will think.

The only variable is how the predictable support or outrage is conveyed. Ditto for The Wall Street Journal.

This is all very silly, of course, and boring. Why isn’t it acceptable, for example, to be for religious schools, for gun control, against class-action lawsuits and for universal health insurance? Similar mixtures of opinions and values are common among real people, but heretical to the tribes.

Tribal membership has its benefits. Among these are the joys of certainty and a ready excuse for righteous anger. Indeed, a case could be made that the entire tribal structure is fueled by a need to express scorn and anger in a socially acceptable fashion.

The 80 percent of us who aren’t card-carrying tribal members have become somewhat inured to tribal warfare. It’s destructive, certainly, but can often be ignored.

But now it becomes serious. Now the tribes are taking sides on COVID-19. There are liberal and conservative strategies for dealing with the pandemic — even liberal and conservative treatments.

Everything I’ve learned in my 40-plus years as a physician tells me that wearing masks in public and not touching other people will greatly reduce the infection rate. But not wearing masks may become a badge of tribal membership.

Meanwhile, the other tribe greets any uptick in COVID-19 cases in red states with near-celebratory derision. For people with secure incomes to pontificate on the necessity of stay-at-home orders for those who are without the means to support their families is obscene.

Local officials everywhere are struggling with exceptionally difficult choices and limited information. They’re doing the best they can. Any path they choose will include continued deaths and fewer jobs. To critique that process from a tribal perspective is demeaning and destructive.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a human challenge, not a tribal one. It’s not going away soon. It will continue to cause great damage to human health and livelihood. Each of us has an obligation to face those issues honestly and not flee into the comfortable, destructive embrace of tribes.

It will be a tragedy if we don’t wear masks in public places. The temptation will be to blame one tribe. But in reality, both tribes have contributed equally to create a poisonous environment where such stupidity can flourish.

James S. Goodwin is a physician who lives in Jamaica Beach.


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(15) comments

Bailey Jones

[thumbup] Spot on analysis.

AJ LeBlanc

Perfect. Thank you.

Ray Taft

“This is all very silly, of course, and boring.” Of course it is to those preachy elites who look down on the masses as morons. You know, those who think: ‘can’t we all just get along.’ Apparently, they’re blinded by their self-proclaimed know-it-all isms to see reality.

No one can get along with Democrats. There’s no reasoning with them, without them exploding into name calling. Compromising with Democrats means doing it their way. Democrats are notorious for accusing others of the very crimes they committed. And of course the orange man is so very bad. No one can get along with Democrats, not even if you were one but strayed off their plantation.

If you want to wear a mask, wear it. If you don’t want to wear a mask, don’t. Either way mind your own business, because you really don’t know what’s good for every individual.

jimmy winston

lol you are proving his point exactly.

Charlotte O'rourke

Wear a mask or don’t wear a mask are being discussed all over the world and not just in the US. Nary a Republican or Democrat in sight.

That’s Reality.

Covid 19 is kicking our butt economically and health wise. It’s killing people. It’s killing first responders, old people, and even children.

It is EVERYONE’S business. If the White House isn’t a safe working environment with all its testing and protocols, how are other work environments safe? Many businesses require workers to wear masks to protect each other.

No politics .... just common sense in taking precautionary measures.

Put away the “it’s your party’s fault” philosophy.

Carlos Ponce

"the White House isn’t a safe working environment with all its testing and protocols, how are other work environments safe?" That's why they catch many at the White House because everyone is tested. When this is all over they will discover most Americans caught COVID-19 but never knew it because of a lack of symptoms or had mild symptoms thinking they had a cold or hay fever.

Charlotte O'rourke

Isn’t the President important enough to have employees wear a mask. They will take a bullet, but not wear a mask?

I hope everyone will not get the virus. That will mean a lot of unnecessary and preventable deaths. The death numbers are too many as it is. We need better treatment protocols and more available testing. Identify the asymptotic carriers so they can be isolated. Wear masks in case .... I’m not understanding the reason to resist that approach. Enlighten me?

Carlos Ponce

Chances are most Americans had it but didn't realize it.

Ray Taft

Democrats have lost any common sense they had left. It’s nothing but politics for do-nothing Democrats. They live and breath just to take down President Trump no matter the cost to America. Democrats are only focused on political gains and nothing else.

That’s the real Reality.

Charles Douglas

[thumbup][thumbup] Mr. Taft> You are correct! They are just like China, not satisfied with shared power, because like China they want absolute power! "Absolute power corrupts, absolutely!" ( For those who loves it,...Power is lke Money. The root of all evil!!!! )

jimmy winston

Did you even read the article above?

Charles Douglas

Are you a China Loving traitor to this country?

jimmy winston

> Charles. Yes I am a traitor to this country because I have a brain and am able to think rationally. If you want to see REAL economic depression in this country go ahead and cut all ties with China and see where that gets us.

Charles Douglas

Winston> Thank you for admitting to the truth. I never thought any of China's supporters would openly admit to selling their own country out for money. My attitude is I'd rather have nothing than to get on my knees and kiss China's ($#**).. for anything! Only time I'll sell out is to God Almighty, ..not to money and NEVER to China over America! I got to give you your props!

Terri Abraham

I agree with you, it's too bad so many people do have that "them or us" feeling, and not the old "one for all" I was brought up with.

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