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Safety in Numbers

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The reasons we come together and fall apart

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Whatever gives you heart can bring you together...
Whatever gives you heart can bring you together...

Safety in Numbers: the hypothesis that, by being part of a large physical group or mass, an individual is less likely to be the victim of a mishap, accident, attack, or other bad event.

(you guessed it, this is very hardly about the Denver Nuggets. Proceed at your own risk.)

It’s an ancestral thing, if you listen to certain psychologists. We gather together to feel more safe. At home. Amongst our own. To be with the people with whom we feel more alike than different. Because different makes us feel weird. Different can even be scary.

We gather on Denver Stiffs, or at the Pepsi Center, because we have a shared love of the Denver Nuggets. As we chat about that similarity, we often find that we have several others. We become friends because we take a moment to talk and learn. We also find differences, and sometimes those expand the way we see the world. Sometimes we find ways to deeply celebrate those differences, or at least respect them. Sometimes, we just agree to disagree. And sometimes, we decide our differences are large enough to be unkind to one another. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

These days there are people in this world who feel so different from others that they attack us in the spots we feel safe, when we’ve gathered with those of a like mind. As you’ve heard by now, a coward and fool amongst us took the lives of 22 others in Manchester, England on Monday night following an Ariana Grande concert. Lives lost were of the most innocent among us, and the immediate rage I feel for the person who did this, and their rationale for the same, makes me quick to want to see swift and permanent retribution. That’s a very natural response to being wounded, and I’m certainly a proponent of punishing the pot-stirrers and perpetrators incepting this random violence. When you boil down most any of these perpetrators sick rationales to their barest root, the fear and hatred that starts most of these horrors lies in our differences and the injuries we feel from each other.. The same reason we always rationalize harming one another. In what we believe or how we look or how we behave or what we want to have. Or don’t want you to have. You’re not allowed to be different. Because different is…

Well, just how different are we?

Mathematically, not very, it turns out. Genetically, we share 99.5 percent of the same biological code, on average. But unique? Perfectly. Not a single one of us is made exactly the same way. Not friend or family, even identical twins. A lifelong friend and I often share an opinion. We see the world in very similar ways. It borders on annoying, we hear. That said, we fall narrowly on different sides of the political aisle, and he does this thing with a can of tuna, boil-in-bag rice, and Asian sauce that makes me want to vomit even as I type it. If I tried, I could make a list of our differences that was a hundred items long. At the end of the day, I love him more for those differences than I would if we we identical. I drive myself crazy sometimes.

No matter how similar any of us are, we are ultimately different, and that half a percent can make a difference. Look at it this way... if you come to find that 99.5 percent of the pizza you just ate was pizza, but... the other half a percent was ground toenail, you may still find the concept distasteful. You might respond poorly to that news. Maybe the people we’ve decided to hate are our half-percent toenail. It would have to be that dire to behave in the ways we sometimes do to one another. But

We seem to forget that 99 percent. How we are foundationally alike. Every person involved in Monday night’s tragedy, coward and hero, victim and perpetrator, had parents. Had internal organs. Had hopes. Fears. Dreams. Someone they loved. Hopefully, someone who loved them. Just like you, if you’re reading this.

And still, being 99% alike isn’t enough for us, at times. We peel apart those differences to raise ourselves to a level of hatred that allows us to become monsters, whether in word or deed. Oftentimes, the stupid and hateful action is done to specifically drive us apart. Make us feel alone and afraid.

I call the action stupid, because where these horrors have occurred, beauty sometimes blooms behind it. As awful and horrendous a moment as Monday night was, and so many other terrible moments that have preceded it, many are often followed by stories of an outpouring of love and hope from the majority of the world. The 99% of us who realize that there are moments so terrible that there is no difference we won’t overcome or overlook to make sure that those in need are cared for. I hope I respond with such grace and bravery someday if faced with such a thing. The incredible people of Manchester opening homes and vehicles, running into the face of possible danger to get everyone to safety. People around the world donated over a million and a half pounds in the first day to emergency support funds for the families and community in need. The exact thing the horror was meant to do reminds us that there are things more important than what team we root for, what party we vote for, even what god we believe (or don’t believe) in. They intended to drive us apart. Sometimes, they band us together even more tightly. It’s important we continue to respond to one another that way, even when there are such high stakes around us. Let’s hope that someday all of the places that endure these horrors are blessed with such love and compassion in their wake.

One of the many reasons I’ve always appreciated the Denver Stiffs community is one of its core values of being a place we can talk about something we love without turning our differences into something nasty. Something we mostly do well. And mostly is so much better than most others these days.

Emotions have gotten high everywhere you go, my friends. Every person you see is just like you, but not a one of them doesn’t do something you hate. No matter who is stirring, the people stirring the pot are banking on the fact that you can be pressured into separating yourself from the others enough to rationalize treating them with hurt or hate, knowing that in the moment they wound a group, there will also be at least a part of that group who respond with hate in kind. Sometimes, more than a few. And once you do, it certainly gets easier to respond with hate again. As the pressure rises, you’ll have to decide which response you choose… A choice for each of us to make in how we pass along who we are and how we are to those who will follow.

Come together. Or fall apart.

Be good to each other out there, all.

(the Denver Nuggets heart-shaped dog tag in the graphic at top can be purchased at VetScribe.)