“Once in a golden hour I cast to earth a seed. Up there came a flower, the people said, a weed.”
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Whether you know me personally or not, you might have certain preconceptions of who I am. If you know me currently or knew me from our respective past, your conjecture of who I am might but might not be more realistic. If you know me only from my written word, you could imagine me in another more speculative fashion. Or the thought of who I am is inconsequential to you beyond the binary code of O’s and 1’s and that is just fine too.
Looking across our diverse societies today I am finding that we are generally a more polarized people than ever before. Now, I was not around during the McCarthy era of the early 1950’s to judge or compare that time to the present, but I am alarmingly concerned with the social order I observe today. I see this heightened state of separateness harming us immensely. For example, debates rage concerning a woman’s right to choose or the states. Regarding faith, a believer or an atheist? Clinton or Trump, Democrat or Republican? Are you pro NRA or against? Is global warming real or bad science? Do Black Lives Matter to you or do All Lives Matter? It is a veritable ideological mine field today.
But ever since Adam and Eve we have had differences of opinion. Today however, the oratory of opposition has often become toxic and respect has vanished. When one sides with a liberal, the conservative is apoplectic and gauges the opponent as having an IQ under 70, and just so no one thinks I am aligning politically one way or another, and vice versa too! There is no clearer example of this than to observe the blood sport called Primary Season in the USA. Whether it is Cruz vs. Trump, Clinton vs. Trump or even Trump vs. Trump (yes I jest on this last one), not only are the daggers out amongst the electoral gladiators but amongst their respective devotees as well.
And oftentimes is gets very personal. What would you think of me if I were to back someone who you never thought I would (or should in YOUR opinion) and a candidate you could never support like Hillary Clinton? It wasn’t so long ago that I ceased being friends with someone whose political taste was too much for me to handle – and I am not talking about an extremist position at all! I was very wrong then. Should the support of a political candidate call into question one’s judgement, their mental capacity or the values of that person? I myself have been called out for not supporting a political party and prime minister here in Canada. I can only imagine the upshot for some on a decision about getting a tattoo.
I wish we could just stop judging one another. You have not walked in my shoes. I have not walked in yours. I have never been stopped by the police because of the colour of my skin. I can’t imagine what that is like and I won’t blame the supporters of Black Lives Matter for saying enough is enough. I may question their tactics at times but not their frustration with the status quo.
I seek answers to our collective separateness and how as citizens of the world we can move beyond it. The real issue is why can’t we try and see another person’s perspective with respect, understanding and in some cases empathy? And if we are still so bothered by an individual’s choice of political leadership, or a personal preference we can’t comprehend, then I suggest the issue is yours to own.
“Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” John F. Kennedy
The ability to not judge oneself or others is the quintessence of all wisdom. It is also very, very, very hard to do, because we are taught to label, to box, to pigeonhole, and then put a value on each of these categories.
I continuously fail in being non-judgmental; it is so very hard.
Excellent article, Stuart….
Of course it is hard Gan, for all of us – that is how lessons are learned.
Thank you as always dear Gan,
It is impossible not to label and value – and we should not try to completely eradicate this behaviour even if we could. It helps us understand our worlds, helps us make choices and helps us survive. However, like you say, taken to an extreme it can be divisive and dangerous. Perhaps a healthy approach is to identify our own biases and blindspots and try to shift to a new paradigm of relating to difference. At first, try an understanding of difference with an ultimate goal of a celebration of difference.
Hi Karen and welcome.
We don’t disagree at all. I am suggesting that as it was in my case, I had an open discussion with my own rigid thoughts and began to see things differently. I have written before on “labels”, see http://lettersandwalls.com/?p=27, and while I know they can’t be illiminated there is still much we can do to give them a firm kick in the ass. But that again is our choice.
Thank you for your participation in the discussion.