Masculinity is a tough topic to discuss in an open forum nowadays. Invariably, within the first few sentences (which makes up the preview seen on most social media platforms), everyone that takes the time to scan the headline above will place me into one of two categories: the man’s man (or purveyor of toxic masculinity) or the ally (the self-loathing apologist for the patriarch).

I’m neither of those things.

As our society continues to strive for progress and a more universally accepting culture, we’ve yet to overcome one of the fundamental tenets of humanity: our inclination to gather in like-minded tribes. That instinct drives us to seek out others that share our cultural sensibilities, but as our numbers grow, the effort turns toward omission rather than inclusion. Soon, it’s no longer about finding others that are like you, it becomes about keeping out the others that aren’t.

So, the role gender plays in our society becomes as polarizing as the roles of political parties, religions, and anything else we can find it in ourselves to gather pitchforks and light torches over. While there are real and legitimate grievances at the core of each of these societal debates — those grievances aren’t the ones we discuss most often. Instead, we participate in skirmish after skirmish, squabbling about semantics or about a perceived offense that occurred at another time, in another place, to another person we feel aligned with. Republicans and Democrats, atheists and believers, gay and straight, men and women — every line we can draw between two groups in our society comes with an argument about how each deserves to be treated, but more importantly, each comes with its own list of social ques deemed acceptable by the tribe(s) you belong to.

Speak out against Conservative leadership and risk being called a “cuck.” Speak out against Liberal leaders and you’ll find yourself labeled a fascist. Speak up for women and you’re virtue signaling, but speak up for men and you’re just a run of the mill sexist. Like a scared new guy in prison, you can try going it alone, but more often than not you find yourself backed into a group that’ll support you with the same force used by the one that attacks you. I’m not a religious guy to any extent, but I had the audacity to write the line, “there are no atheists in foxholes” in an article recently and found myself engaged on multiple social media platforms by folks insinuating that I don’t respect people who aren’t religious — as in people like me.

First of all, guys, Marines don’t dig foxholes, we dig fighting holes. And second, you’re so sure I’m out to offend your team that you didn’t bother to read the article and see that I’m one of those “free thinkers” you claim to be defending. The problem is independent thought, truly independent thought, doesn’t easily fall into the neat categories we concoct with our straw man arguments. If you offer something your support, you’re immediately saddled with the worst elements of it in a public lashing — say Trump did a good job in North Korea and you’ll be inundated with tweets about his immigration policies. Say you like Glocks and the 1911 guys will come out of the woodwork to tell you that your gun is made of tupperware. If you’re a conservative that’s pro-choice, you’re not conservative enough. If you’re a liberal that’s pro-defense, you’re practically a traitor to your party.

You’re either with us or you’re against us.

I’m inclined to tell you that these imaginary lines we draw aren’t real but the thing is, they are. We manifest them into reality through sheer power of will and their realness is demonstrated in the ways they enact legitimate and lasting change in the world around us. Careers end, lives are ruined, friendships dissolve and as we grow more and more polarized, we find ourselves where we are today: in a nation where high ranking members of the opposing political party are held in a worse regard than the dictators we recently feared would launch nuclear missiles at us.