pádraig ó tuama on understanding: sectarianism is belonging gone bad (part 4)

last thought inspired by pádraig ó tuama’s on being interview (really this time).

sectarianism is belonging gone bad.

pádraig cited this line from a book called moving beyond sectarianism by cecelia clegg and joe liechty. i’ve been thinking a lot about the notions of community and democracy and decision-making and culture, all as they relate to the size of the united states. although i think many different forces can encourage sectarianism, i think one that we’re experiencing is a mismatch of scale. i’m pretty firmly in the camp that the u.s. is too large to have appropriately scaled decision-making processes.

there are many impacts of that mismatch, but at least one of them i think is an inability to make empathetic decisions with someone in mind you can’t relate to. lack of relateability in the u.s. context i think is caused by being too socially and/or physically far apart. given this, i think we could totally push for mechanisms and tools to close gaps of understanding so that we could make empathetic decisions. but if we don’t intentionally do that, i think sliding into sectarianism is an obvious risk.

this idea, about belonging going bad, also connects (for me at least) to john a. powell’s work on belonging. belonging, done well, can be a beautiful thing. however, belonging too discretely to one community over any (or all others) makes collectivity difficult.

so i guess one question is how to reverse the forces of sectarianism and strike a balance between individual, community, and “country” (if country is even a thing we should be thinking about)?

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