Zillions of sociological and psychological studies have been done on the "Us vs. Them" mentality -- its benefits, its dangers, how it develops. The potential for evil and dangerous behaviors to grow from such a mentality is so great that people need to do some brutal fact-checking on themselves every now and then.
Us vs. Them isn't always bad, of course. It's great for building team spirit and motivating people towards a similar goal. People can be a part of a whole lot of "Us" groups, from their own families, to their sports teams, to their political parties, to their hometowns, to their nations.
The problem comes in when we start demonizing "Them," and deciding that those who are like "Us" have more rights, greater powers and are entitled to behave in ways that under any other conditions would just be flat out wrong.
The problem comes when we start deciding that anybody who definitely isn't with "Us" must be with "Them."
There is no room for differences of opinion, no tolerance for independent thought. It is the worst possible atmosphere for government.
Unfortunately, this "Us vs. Them" blindness is becoming stronger every week in Bellevue, where a few citizens and a couple elected officials have created an atmosphere of outrageous rhetoric and personal attack that has everyone on edge. It does not bode well for decision-making in the borough hall.
People need to stop and listen to themselves for a minute.
Did someone actually say that Bellevue doesn't have to take care of property because it is located in Ross Township?
Did a whole bunch of people say that those who live near the mess made by Bellevue don't have any right to ask Bellevue to clean it up, just because they live in another municipality?
Did a Bellevue elected official actually say that the people of Bellevue were going to "suffer" because the borough is spending money on beautifying park property?
And how does the other side respond? By solidifying their position, tightening their ranks.
There is very little room left in the Bellevue Council chambers for the type of compromise that came from council president Linda Woshner and council member Lynn Tennant Heffley this week. It was Woshner who, after listening to arguments over free trees versus purchased trees, asked, "Why can't we do both?" It was Heffley who turned that idea into something concrete that could become a plan for action that was bigger and better than anything else that had been proposed.
Of course, that didn't make "Us" very happy. Or was it "Them"? Unfortunately, it was both, which only demonstrates how deeply entrenched both sides have become.