It could probably be said that political tensions have been on the rise since the economic crisis of 2008, but I was twelve at the time so I have no idea. Certainly, over the past five years, matters have only escalated further. Whether it be the Brexit referendum or the 2016 US general election, families on both sides of the Atlantic have been divided by politics. I should know; my votes and the votes of my extended family often oppose each other, and this has caused conflict. As such, it is no surprise that calls for unity are beginning to dominate the media.
Humans are social creatures, and society has developed countless sayings highlighting the importance of collaboration. Two heads are better than one (I would argue that this depends on the number of other organs present), teamwork makes the dream work, share the load, divide and conquer, united we stand… Most significant achievements in human history have been a team effort, even if only the white penis-haver in command got any credit. We’re built to work together, & this level of division goes against our natural instincts.
On the surface, calling for unity is sensible. Unfortunately, looking closer exposes an ugly truth, particularly if you pay attention to where most of the calls for unity are coming from. The ideas of putting political issues aside for the sake of friendship are veiled attempts to shirk responsibility. If our political decisions do not matter then we are all equally responsible for what happens no matter the power we hold, and that ultimately means that no one takes the fall.
For example, you may have noticed how, since the attempted coup of the senate on January 6th 2021, people who have been close to Donald Trump throughout his presidency have suddenly begun to distance themselves from him and even resign from their positions. A lot of conservative political figures have also gone onto social media to plead for unity in the face of such conflict. In the majority of these cases this is not the result of a crisis of conscience, but simply an attempt to save face. Frankly put, they are exploiting one of our most deep-routed instincts in order to cover their own asses.
It is also not just the politicians calling for unity and shirking responsibility, but members of the public too. Sadly, the decisions taken by those in charge have led to countless deaths due to poverty and disease, something which was predicted leading up to elections and when making decisions about how to handle the pandemic. Simply put, I do not wish to be friends with someone who is more than happy, either in denial or wantonly, to put my queer, disabled, pagan life at risk before their own, whether that be in who they elect or whether or not they wear a mask.
Humans are undeniably better when we work together, making the best of our individual strengths and covering each-others weaknesses, but that should not come at the cost of accountability or responsibility. Until society is ready to face-up to it’s racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and so much more, we can never be truly united.