Dear Derek:

I have kind of a conundrum I'd like to ask you about. The other day, I was talking with Elissa about some issue or other – I think it was the president's border freeze, but I can't really remember. Anyway, we were arguing about it, and suddenly she got up and went over to the computer printer, got a sheet of paper and a pencil, and wrote something down and brought it back over to me. "Okay, I think I've figured out the problem," she said (or words to that effect). "Look at this, and tell me if it couldn't be your motto."

So I looked at it, and what she'd written was, "The world is divided into two kinds of people: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don't. I am one of the latter." (Those words I'm sure about: I have the paper in front of me as I'm writing this, and anyway I've gotten them pretty much memorized over the last couple days.)

That pretty much ended our conversation, since I had to take some time to think about it before I answered her. So she went home, and I spent the evening looking at the paper and thinking about what it said – and the more I thought, the more uncomfortable I got. Of course I saw what her point was – that the statement didn't make sense, because if I could say that the world was divided into two kinds of people, I had to be one of the people who did divide it, not one of the ones who didn't – and of course I wanted to just laugh it off and say, "No, Elissa, don't be silly, that's not what I think at all." But the awful thing is, I'm not sure that would be true. Even though I know what she wrote can't possibly be right, it really does feel like something I want to believe about myself.

Because I have always felt like it was important not to be one of the people who divided the world into Us and Them. I mean, that's where the Holocaust came from, right? That's what bigotry and prejudice and discrimination are all about, and I definitely don't want to be someone like that. –But, if I know there are people like that, and I'm trying not to be one of them, isn't that dividing the world into Us and Them?

So I don't know what to do about this. Is it okay to divide people into categories, after all? Maybe it's not so much thinking about people in groups that's the problem, but hating or being unfair to them because they're part of the group. –But what's "fair", then? I always thought fairness meant treating everyone the same; how can you do that, if all the time you're thinking that they're not the same?

I don't know. I just know I'm lost. So I know things are pretty busy right now where you are, but, still, if you could find a little time to help your poor cousin out of an existential crisis, I'm sure you'd be doing a good deed. Lots of love, and I remain,

Yours till the ocean waves,