This statement (made by Dubya in September 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 I’ve been vegan, I’ve often enforced the “you’re 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: “You’re either with us or against us.” Or, in a more general sense, I’d see someone driving an SUV into a McDonald’s parking lot, smoking a cigarette, and yakking loudly on a cell phone . . . and I’d have that person judged, categorized, pigeonholed, and lined up on the “other side.” (And these are only a few of far too many examples I could list.)
In turn, I’ve had variations of the “you’re either with us or against us” tactic used on me . . . and it’s both disconcerting and frustrating.
My personal resolution for 2006 is to not let this mentality recrudesce . . . to check myself before I so readily “identify the enemy,” so to speak. Of course, there are times when one can genuinely — and perhaps justifiably — feel “you’re either with us or against us.” But I submit that those instances are few and far between . . . much less frequent than we’d all like to believe.
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.”
An elder Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride, and superiority. The other wolf stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside of you and every other person too.” The children thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied: “The one I feed.”
Mickey Z. is the author of several books, most recently 50 American Revolutions You’re Not Supposed to Know: Reclaiming American Patriotism (Disinformation Books). He can be found on the Web at