if you aren’t familiar with recent post-election violence in kenya, try a google search for: odinga luo kibaki kikuyu nairobi, kenya is perhaps the most modern city in africa.  its businesses and shops would fit in comfortably were they suddenly transplanted to europe or north america.  but the recently erupted tribal violence is nothing new or unique.  it’s merely been avoided these last few decades because the kikuyu tribe has had numeric dominance and better access to the tools of power.

americans are certainly least qualified to understand this.  we are a nation of immigrants – less than one percent among the u.s. population identify themselves as native american – but we are more than that.  we are a nation that tries to believe, and to propagate the notion, that tribe should not matter.  we say so regardless of evidence everywhere to the contrary.  there are few urges stronger than the need to be identified with a group.  distinguishing groups and categorizing things as in or out is a basic mechanism of human thought and intelligence.  we apply it to people just as we do to musical genre or fruit.

one major distinction between modern and traditional society is that we, in fact, have a choice about the group with which we identify.  that is a choice unavailable in much of the world today and in most of human history.

and choose we do.  as well as the traditional family, cultural, and economic lines, we self-divide based on the most subtle consumer choices.  spectator sports exist primarily to sell eyeballs to advertisers – driven by the distinction between us and themgo! go! go! conquer the other guys! we’re number one!

as a christian i’m painfully aware that god makes a tribal distinction as well. though all, save one, of his children are adoptees – he keenly distinguishes between those in his family and those outside.   from the garden of eden to the garden of gethsemane to your rose garden out back – satan works to blur that line.  it won’t really matter.  god knows you need a little fun.  it’s just a white lie.  eat the fruit – it’s yummy!

we have a choice!  more than that, we have a duty to let others know that they have a choice too!

[originally posted: 1/29/2008]


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