The scary NRA video is about how “they”re” hurting “us” and taking away what’s “ours”. Scary because the teachers, reporters, young people are being made not part of a “we” with the video’s audience. And they are — fellow citizens, members of the same family, people trying to do a job, trying to understand the world and share their understanding of it, trying to help us all get by. How did they become a “they” different from the NRA’s “we”?
John Bowlby founder of attachment theory and Mary Ainworth figured out that the two things we worry about as infants, and must worry about if we are to survive, are being violated and being abandoned. Is someone going to burst through our boundaries and hurt us? Or is someone going to leave us alone in a defenseless state, so we die of neglect?
The demons that haunt our childhood are human beings who threaten to abuse/rape/or otherwise violate us or abandon us to die. They seem like demons because they awaken primal fear. Of course they are not demons they are actually just other human beings.
The basic pathology or simplest version of it therefore is “I” vs. “You” where you are a demon who will either in fiery fashion burn me up, or in icey fashion do your own thing while I perish. We get beyond “I” vs. “You” thinking when we have enough security to see that the potential abuser or neglecter is a human being too who has her own fears of violation and abandonment.
I propose we understand the pathology of “us” vs. “them” that is on display in the NRA video on the model of “I” vs. “You” thinking but with a few more wrinkles. We fear that the other group — the plural group of “them” — will either laughingly go on their way while we suffer, or will push through the boundaries of our group, killing, enslaving and raping us. That is such a primal fear that it prompts irrational responses, such as we see in the video.
The solution is first of all the same solution to “I” vs. “You” — to see that that nasty arrogant group of liberals, college professors, and reporters is vulnerable too. Every reporter and college professor is afraid of getting hurt and abandoned. Just like us, the NRA.
The additional wrinkle is to see that within the group people are being manipulated by “I” vs. “You” thinking. The leaders have different agendas than the followers, and pursue them by stoking the same primal fears of abandonment and violation.