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If it is one, then it is all…

April 14, 2016

When I was in elementary school, one of my pet peeves was if someone in class acted up, the teacher would punish the whole class.  Someone would throw a paper ball or a pencil and since no one wanted to confess, we all were made to miss recess or endure some other form of punishment.  Because one person was “unruly”, we were all considered “unruly”.  In high school this mentality morphed into a dress code that said a male could not wear a tailed shirt untucked. If you did you were considered a “hood”, because hoodlums dressed that way. My father had obtained a couple dozen white dress shirts for cheap and I wore one most days, untucked. Daily, I would have discussions with my teachers as to why they thought I needed to tuck in my shirt. My grades were good, I was not a hood, and to me the rule was pointless. I lost most of the time. It was either tuck in or go home. In the Army it was as bad. If one guy in the platoon did something wrong, we all suffered, usually by doing push-ups. This thought process of making the majority suffer for an act by the minority surfaces time after time.

Our world today is filled with examples. Someone jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge, solution – put up nets and ruin the view for all of us. One guy tries to light a shoe bomb, we all suffer the hassle of taking off our shoes when we go through airport security. Someone doesn’t want to pay for car insurance, our rates are higher. Someone shoplifts, we pay more for products.

Sadly, this mentality is also the basis for prejudice, hatred, and misconceptions. Oh, you’re a Muslim, then you must be a terrorist. You’re a Christian, then you must be an extreme fundamentalist. You’re a Democrat, then you must be a far left winger. You are a Republican, then you must be a far right winger.

We have become a nation of label makers. If we can slap a label on someone, then we think we  know who and what they stand for. While this is an easy solution to dealing with each other, it is not only lazy but promotes ignorance, bigotry, and hate.

Yes there are Muslims who are terrorists, Christians who are extremely fundamental, far left Democrats and far right Republicans. For some reason we want to put one label on a group. I guess that just keeps it simple and comfortable for us, keeps us from having to think.

The homeless are a perfect example. The reasons for being homeless are as varied as the number of people on the streets. Yet, we would like to think they are all drunks, and addicts. If we believe that they are, then we can excuse ourselves from helping them, have a clear conscience when we just walk by them, ignoring their existence. Not that this is the right attitude, as we should be doing more to help any person who finds themselves homeless. But, when you sit down and actually talk to someone on the street, look into their eyes, listen to what they have to say, you find an actual human being.

Apply this process to anyone. If you are a Christian, sit down with a Muslim and have an intelligent discussion. A Democrat, sit down with a Republican. On the far left, sit down with someone on the far right. Somewhere along the line we lost the ability to hear each other out, and actually find out what someone else stands for, what they really think. Maybe we have never had the desire.

Facebook has widened the divide, enhanced our ability to just label and carry on as usual. I constantly see posts putting down liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, Christians, Muslims, gun owners, anti-gun owners.  The ability to say something derogatory about a group is made all the easier by not having to be face to face.

All of this reminds me of the Buffalo Springfield song, For What It’s Worth, that says, “There’s battle lines being drawn, nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”  We all can’t be right, we can’t block out ideas that we may disagree with, we can’t ignore a person or group that might think just a little differently than we do, we can’t live in a constant state of fear of other people.

Behind every label we may use, there is another human being, not that different from ourselves. It is complete arrogance to think that we are better than someone else because of those labels. As long as we stay comfortable with our narrow views, the issues and problems that face all of us will just keep getting worse.

Imagine if we had a national reconciliation day, where each of us had to sit down over a meal with someone we labeled as different from ourselves. Would we all be better off? Would hatred diminish? Would the world be a better place?

What would happen if we all accepted one another, acknowledged and respected our differences, realized we are all in this together?






























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