Why do we do this and why is it so darn difficult to fight against this dividing tendency? It can be relatively easy to see folks to whom we are connected in a positive way such as family, friends, coworkers, and strangers with similar interests in an understanding light. Yet we too often create in others what Tara Brach calls the"unreal other," a two dimensional character that represents something separate and outside of our self and little else. This is where stereotypes and generalizations enter and often remain keeping us apart and ignorant doing much damage in the process.
This applies often to those we think of favorably as well. Our favorite athlete, politician, movie star, crush, teacher...are often seen as an amalgam of flattering qualities that does not exist for anyone in reality. We unfortunately idealize those we like and demonize those different. Of course once we get to know people better we come to see that even the most annoying co-worker can be funny and kind at times or that the most beautiful perfect woman ever is not entirely without flaw and even gets upset sometimes. The tough thing is that it is impossible to familiarize ourselves with every human being that we come in contact with. Thus it remains a wonder, as Henry David Thoreau said "Could a greater miracle take place then for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?"
(my friends never want to pretend to be a bowl of oatmeal with me either)
Humans are social creatures. We need real human contact. Socially we have evolved as individuals in how we interact. Our sphere of concern and identity ideally moves from self to family to neighborhood to larger community to state to nation and then to the world. Yet more often than not we get hung up along the way picking out whole groups of people with whom we definitely do not identify. We must overcome this. To be clear I am not asking that we immediately agree with every single human being in their life choices, politics or music preferences but rather that we realize that yes we are each unique but in a multitude of ways we are the same. We long for companionship, love, respect, and joy. We have tough days, heartaches, anxieties and weaknesses.
It is in my best interest to reach out with compassion to tea partiers, Raider fans, Call of Duty players, and other folks from whom I tend to separate myself. We all know what it is like to be left out, alone and alienated. Every time we reach out with kindness to those that are different than ourselves in a meaningful way the world becomes a better place. You and I are inseparably connected as living beings on this planet, as children of God. Mother Theresa knew this when she said "The problem with the world is that we draw our family circle too small." When we truly remember this the artificial divisions we create melt away through divine light and love.