Seeking Belonging in a Divisive Era - New York Magazine
Whenever my husband and I are on a flight together, we make a jok about the poet Robert Frost. “Good fences make good neighbors,” we tease each other, quoting from his poem “Mending Wall.”
The poem, which is about the real and invisible walls we build between ourselves and others, is a rebuke to people inclined to separate themselves with divides of any sort. I’m an immigrant of Iranian descent with Iranian family here and in Iran, and it seems to me that Frost’s poem has never been more relevant — and its message never more urgent — than it is today.
For me and my husband, the “fence” we’re referring to isn’t President Donald Trump’s border wall or immigration ban or anything like that. It’s much more local — the armrest separating our two seats on the plane. It’s usually up when we arrive, but after we settle in, one of us will inevitably pull it down, a signal that it’s time to work, to read — to retreat into our own private worlds. “Good fences make good neighbors,” we joke as we impose this barrier between us — not because we think it’s true, but because it’s uncomfortable to acknowledge that we sometimes prefer distance and division over connection and belonging. The joke relieves the tension caused by our small act of separation — it softens the blow that we, like Trump, sometimes want to hide behind walls of our own making, thinking they will somehow protect us from threats and even make life better.
Of course, as an airplane-seat strategy, this makes a certain amount of sense. But as a metaphor for life, this way of thinking couldn’t be more wrong.
I write about psychology, the field of study that traces the vagaries of the human condition. Though psychologists, like any group of academics, disagree about a great deal, one of the most indisputable and enduring findings of the last century has been that human beings have a profound need to belong.... continue reading at New York Magazine.