Othering and belonging seem to me to be the critical issues for our species at this point in our history.
I am recently retired. For the past 30 years, I worked in food banking. In that time, I have had a chance to observe and appreciate the way our species instinctively responds to learning that anyone needs food when we have enough for ourselves.
It is as if that knowledge of another's hunger creates a hunger in ourselves. I think natural selection must have favored the hunter-gatherer clans that shared their food, fires, and care for each other.
What makes the political situation so alarming and painful is knowing the crises we face can only be addressed by belonging and solidarity.
Pandemic, climate change, authoritarianism, economic inequality, and structural racism can only be addressed by almost universal belief that we are on the same team, and that all are entitled to the life and that which supports life, as well as liberty and pursuit of happiness, that we want for ourselves.
I see the appeal of othering like this: If I can convince you that others are othering you, then I can sell you a belonging with me. This is the logic of Trumpism. But it is not restricted to Trumpism. Versions of the same appeal apply to media, churches, and cultural institutions across the political spectrum.
Yet there is this hunger to belong. Hafiz wrote about it in a poem:
Everyone you see, you say to them,
Of course you do not do this out loud;
otherwise, someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this,
this great pull in us
Why not become the one
who lives with a full moon in each eye
that is always saying,
with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in this world
is dying to hear?
In times of disaster, Fred Rogers advised parents to tell their children to look for the helpers. And they are certainly there.
I think we need a "Declaration of Interdependence".
Editor's note: This reflection was submitted in response to the Othering & Belonging Institute's call to uplift important stories we want to be remembered about the Covid-19 era as part of our #PandemicTruths campaign. The ideas expressed in this post are not necessarily those of the Othering & Belonging Institute or UC Berkeley, but belong to the author.