Be the greater fool; talk to neighbors


Surely the foolish individual who believes they are the exception to the rule resides in the penthouse of naivety.

But, if this is true, we need to build more skyscrapers because we all fit the description.

We all believe we’re unique. We all believe we’re different.

No one understands us because no one has walked our path. No one has carried our burdens. No one has cried our tears.

The Facebook page Humans of Rexburg posted its first story Feb. 6 and has since shared 29 of our neighbor’s stories here in rural Idaho. In less than two months, the page received more than 1,200 likes.

Diversity is one of our country’s greatest strengths. Why, then, have we become so divided in recent years?

A 2010 Pew Research Center study found 28 percent of Americans have never met their neighbors. In 2016, a follow-up study found only 52 percent of us trust them.

The problem of our generation is that the world terrifies us. Our own country terrifies us.

We hold ourselves back from one another because we fear our own neighbors — and this needs to change.

Many have blamed politics for this division. We dive into the world of social media and ignore people who are different from us.

But social media has created new neighbors; people with similar interests, beliefs, experiences and goals. Many divisions have been repaired by the internet and many connections have been made.

In particular, minorities and marginalized groups view the internet as a godsend — a way to connect with others and discover they are not so alone in an oft lonely world.

We certainly should not scapegoat the internet, nor blame our neighbors for being too politically different from us. In my opinion, we need to be the ones who are brave. We need to be the ones who talk to those around us and see them as people first.

No matter how foolish we feel, our neighbors will become our friends if we just talk to them.

We will regain the trust we have lost to our perceived differences and our nation will reconnect as a truly indivisible one.

In the Aaron Sorkin drama The Newsroom, a financial analyst, played by Olivia Munn, turns to the anchor played by Jeff Daniels following the conclusion of a news broadcast and explains to him the concept of the greater fool.

“Most people spend their life trying not to be the greater fool,” Munn’s character explains. “We toss him the hot potato. We dive for his seat when the music stops.

The greater fool is someone with the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think that he can succeed where others have failed.”

Munn’s speech is largely ignored by the headstrong character played by Daniels, but her last line piques his interest. She concludes, “This whole country was made by greater fools.”

We are the ones who need to be the greater fool. Each of us needs to be the exception to the rule we have always believed we were.

As a nation that has overcome revolutions, famines and wars, can we not also be friendly to those around us — even to our neighbors?

We need greater fools who are willing to move beyond the differences. We need to befriend our neighbors again and rebuild the trust that once made our nation exceptional.

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