Don’t Waste Your Life Matching Socks


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One of my all-time pet peeves is trying to find the match for a single sock.  I think it would be easier for all of us if socks came in just one color and one design, but of course that is not who we are as a people, is it?  In fact, the fashion trend now is to wear mismatched socks.

Identity politics is a lot like matching socks.  People with similar interests and perspectives are matched together and identified politically by those interests.  In other words, their politics are molded by those social, religious and cultural perspectives that most resemble their own.

Race, gender, sexual orientation,  religion, nationality, social class, culture, and positions on everything from soup to nuts create our political identity, and like a mismatched sock, we look for others with identical interests to match with.

We must find the right match because, like socks, our political identity is essential to our comfort.

Walk into any coffee shop in America, on any given weekday, and you’ll find matched socks sitting around a table, talking with one another (in  group speak) about similarly shared political views and perspectives, while disregarding, or worse, ridiculing all others.

The table becomes a safe zone – safe from debate, reason, or opposing thought. We get comfort from our tribal associations around the table, because comfort is what socks are all about after all.

We’re a country that resembles a laundry basket full of matched and unmatched socks.

I used to have breakfast once a week with a group of Christian men at a local cafe, and although I enjoyed and looked forward to their company, I knew everything that was said on Fox News the night before, by the talking points shared around the table that next morning.

Needless to say, I was the mismatched sock in that basket, because I watch MSNBC.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

How do we know if our political and religious ideologies pass muster, when we sequester ourselves into our own little tribes, harbored from any free exchange of thought or viewpoint?

How can iron sharpen iron when we’re always preaching to the choir – never challenged and never having to face the scrutiny of reason?

A train ride 50 years ago.


Photograph by Paul Fusco / Magnum / Courtesy Danziger Gallery

The last time we came together as a nation (black, white, working class, middle class, left, right, Protestant, Catholic, etc., etc.) and found ourselves, not as many tribes, but as one,  was quite possibly along Robert F, Kennedy’s funeral train route in 1968.

funeral train

Unlike our present day polarizing president, Kennedy was a coalescing voice to the many tribes we found ourselves segregated into as a nation at the time – a nation facing peril and strife – not from the outside, but from within.

The respect shown Kennedy during his final train ride, authenticated that voice, and should serve to remind us all 50 years later,

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that it’s okay to have mismatched socks in our laundry basket.