The former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, last week made a fracturing statement by saying in a public forum “Obama does not love America… he wasn’t raised the way we were.” This kind of statement is the expression of what I call tribalizing. Tribalizing is the use of language, power, or position for the advancement of your own group’s interests, sometimes at the expense of other groups. Tribalizing is not always a bad thing, but it becomes fracturing when comments or actions are taken that trivialize, marginalize, or harm another person or group and lead to the avoidance of the real issues that people must come together to address to make progress. The fracturing speech, for example, is divisive and exclusive rather than uniting and inclusive. It perpetuates the myth that “We are good and the other is bad.” It exploits the group’s noble traditions, sacred values, and cultural pride to promote a sense of preeminence or uniqueness. It appeals to your own group’s narcissism and sense of superiority. It assigns all the bad stuff to an outside person or group and the good stuff to your own group, and thereby allows people to avoid dealing with their own group’s deficiencies and maladaptive practices.
No one can deny the extraordinary leadership Giuliani provided New York during and after 9/11, but just because one provided leadership in one context does not mean you will provide it in another. These days, everyone is feeling a little anxious given the troubling events in parts of the Middle East and the political fights at home. There certainly is no shortage of problems that demand our attention and demand real leadership. At a time like this, when boundaries must be crossed and bridges must be built, and when you are such a prominent individual, it is silly to contribute to the fractures that already exist by questioning the loyalty of your own president. Giuliani should know better, after all in 2002 he wrote a bestselling book called “Leadership”!