Labels

I'm on Facebook, and Instagram, and Twitter. Guilty as charged. I toyed with the idea of removing myself completely from all social media, but all my friends with whom I don't see face to face on a daily/weekly/yearly basis reeled me back in. But, there are things posted on The Face that can't be unposted. There are thoughts and opinions, and angry swipes and pessimistic turmoil. And it got me thinking about things, which can be dangerous.

There's a new (perhaps it isn't new) trend that's floating around social media. It's the act of painting all people of one particular set of beliefs with the same brush. It's saying that since one conservative believes being gay is tantamount to murder, since one liberal out there believes that being pro-life is treachery of the highest degree, then all people of those beliefs must also feel the same way. Which is what brings me to my point. We have become too concerned with labels.

Conservative, Liberal, Libertarian, Green Party, Gay, Straight, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transexual, Feminist, Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, Nerd, Bigot, Fascist, Neo-Nazi, Racist, Populist, Marxist, Cat-Lover, Cowboys Fan. Each of these has adopted a connotation.

A conservative is a mean, fat, old white guy, smoking a cigar lit from the fires of hell.

A liberal is a tie-dye clad, bandana wearing hipster who protests the sight of a dog on a leash.

A libertarian is a secluded, gun-toting, flag waving conspiracy theorist who eats all organic because the GMOs will devour our brainsuntilweallbowdowntotheproleteriatilluminatiwhorulethemarkets!

If a person speaks out against gay-marriage he or she is automatically labeled a conservative bigot homophobe bent on the destruction of the working poor.

And the list goes on and on.

So, I'm proposing something here, something radical. How about we begin to label people human. How about this: if someone says something that is so diametrically opposed to our own thought, we bring them into a conversation to appropriate some sort of human understanding.

Instead of tossing a person into a bin designated for a certain belief system, we should abdicate ourselves from the saddle of the enormous horse we rode in on and speak to one another civilly. Our belief system is no more important, correct, or self-sacrificing as another person's belief system. We should strive to remove phrases like "neurotic tea-bagger" and "twisted liberal baby killer" from our vocabulary and opt instead for phrases like "Ted believes the Second Amendment was established as a precaution against a tyrannical dictatorship" or "Regina's opinion is that women should have the right to choose whether or not to keep a child to term." In this way, we remove ourselves from the perception of categorizing people based on a label.

This practice of tossing all people into the same bin is, at its core, an egregious logical fallacy anyway. We call this the "categorical claim." One of the examples I taught my middle schoolers was "all middle schoolers are self-important brats," to which I always get a rebuttal. And that gets the conversation going. When we're in elementary school, and on through our school years, we are taught that acceptance of other beliefs is what fuels discussion and progress. And then a shift happens. I don't know when or why, but we become confrontational and blind. Perhaps we are still trying to figure out who we really are, and the only way to express our discomfort is to lash out at those who are trying to express a different viewpoint.

How and when will it change?

It changes with us. It changes with the people on the ground. It starts as a groundswell. Instead of protests with demeaning, blood-red, hastily painted letters on poster boards demanding retribution for something or the repeal of this, that, or the other, we begin a new dialogue, where we sit in coffee shops, and take our ideas to our city leaders. We participate once again in townhall meetings with members of our communities and the members of other communities.

We need to start treating everyone as mirrors of ourselves. We all have our best interest in mind. What would happen if we started to simultaneously take everyone else's best interest to heart? We have to begin somewhere.

So, the next time you get the urge to bite someone's face off, I encourage you to take a step back, take a deep breath, and try to find the discussion.

End of rant. Good night.   

Comments