Someone Like You

About fifteen years ago or so, when I lived in the Town & Country area, I would regularly go to the movies after work.  Having a good job and perhaps a bit more money to spend than I could sensibly deal with, I watched a lot of movies, some of them good and some of them terrible, and admittedly my standards for choosing which movie to see were somewhat random and often involved seeing something that I had not already seen.  So it was that one afternoon I found myself sitting in a movie theater watching the film Aquamarine, and I found it to be an uncomfortable experience.  This was not because the movie was bad–it was a perfectly decent movie about growing up featuring a young Emma Roberts and JoJo.  What made it uncomfortable was going to the movie in the theaters as a single man in my twenties.  Context matters a great deal here, and my enjoyment of the film in the theater was somewhat limited by my general awkwardness of being a part of the audience.  Context matters, and sometimes people are more comfortable being around others like them, and being that sort of person myself I can empathize when others feel the same way.

Earlier today I saw someone post a link to an article that talks about how many sincere and not particularly extreme Christians feel vastly more closeness with our current president than with his political opponents.  I have commented on this tendency before [1], and it does not surprise me that in a political universe that is torn between right wing and left wing populism that those who are not particularly fond of either side should find themselves choosing the lesser of the evils, because it is very clear which of the evils is lesser, but also clear that we are not dealing with ideal circumstances.  Not everyone who has read this message and agreed with the basic premise about contemporary relations has been very sympathetic.  Indeed, some have wondered about the opportunities people had to vote for those who were like them.  But looking around, I can honestly wonder who would be like the majority of Christians who care about political matters without themselves being particularly politically ambitious.  Even those leaders in American history whom I greatly respect have not been particularly people I consider like me.  Admittedly, I am an odd bird in general, but I suspect that a look at political leadership on the national level will demonstrate that few people at present and throughout the course of American history have been people who are like the ordinary citizen.  After all, national politics have always been something pursued by elites, and if there is one thing that is true of elites that is that their lives and attitudes and personal experiences have always been different from that of ordinary and obscure people.

When various subaltern groups complain about the struggle to find people like them who have been successful, such qualities have always been a problem for humanity.  The issue is that we all have many identities, and we tend to assume that people like us are going to meet a great deal of those qualities and not only one.  The more self-aware and the more sensitive we are about matters of identity, the more and more difficult it becomes to find someone like us for whatever purpose that happens to be.  Personally speaking, I find it richly rewarding to be around those who are different enough from me that they can provide me with a perspective that I lack and with insights that I would simply not be attuned to, but this appreciation is limited to those who are different enough in perspective to provide something new to me within the context of mutual respect that allows those insights to be shared without causing offense.  I tend not to expect leaders to be like me in terms of sharing my prejudices or experiences, but I do expect them to act in my interests, and if they fail to do so they will be informed about my dissatisfaction in no uncertain terms.  Sometimes that is the most we can expect, and it is certainly more reasonable to hold people to the standard of being respectful and also seeking what is best for those whom they serve, rather than to demanding that they check all or even most of the identity boxes we share.

That said, it is much more comfortable to be around people who are like us.  This comfort matters a great deal, and tends to lead us to not be particularly diverse where we are free to choose who we prefer to be around.  The sort of people we tend to find ourselves around tells us a lot about ourselves–we can find a great deal of common interests, such as hanging around people who are very involved in music because one is, or hanging around people who appreciate one’s wit and are kind about it, and so on and so forth.  To the extent that we desire to be comfortable ourselves, it is easy to understand how others might be comfortable in the same ways.  It is not always the superficial qualities of our appearance or age or ethnicity or gender that would govern the choice of comfortable company, but also such matters as those subjects we find interesting or those worldviews we appreciate and respect.  Most of us are complex enough people that we can fit in a variety of different groups to an extent, so long as our experiences in that group are tailored around what we share with them, but no matter who we are, it can be a challenge to find people who are like us if we are in any way people whose thoughts and experiences are outside of the circles we find ourselves around.

[1] See, for example:


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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1 Response to Someone Like You

  1. Pingback: Book Review: In Defense Of Elitism | Edge Induced Cohesion

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