I was reading a friend’s Facebook page and I saw they called someone who is against gay marriage a “bigot” and I immediately felt disappointed on a number of different levels. The first one being that I wish more people would begin to see gays and lesbians from a more realistic and scientific viewpoint rather than these religious views that tend to ignore the humanity of those involved. I was disappointed my friend was driven to the point of anger that he had to write someone off as a label. The second reason I felt disappointed is that I have grown to very much dislike the word “bigot” because the way I see it, you need to become a bigot to call someone else a bigot.
You see, the dictionary defines a bigot as “a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.” I would take that to mean that in order for me to label someone else a bigot I need to stubbornly be devoted to my opinion that this person cannot or will not ever change their opinion. In other words, I need to be a bigot towards them to call them a bigot towards me. This relentless cycle of name calling wastes a good deal of time that could actually be used to create some meaningful change rather than increased animosity on both sides.
I don’t want you to think I don’t understand the where and why people call each other bigots. I do understand that to reach that point in our anger means we have written off another person as a person and now deemed them a thing that is unchangeable. We have put their humanity and viewpoints to the side and deemed them nothing more than a label. I am a little concerned that writing people off as a thing is a valuable way to create the world in which we are hoping to reside. It reminds me of that famous quote from Einstein:
“You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.”
I find it hard to believe we can solve the problems of intolerance from an energy of intolerance. I do think, if we dig down deep enough, we can find the strength it takes to face all intolerance, bigotry and hate with a relentless compassion and empathy. I know the concept sounds radical and I realize some have not even read to this paragraph without rolling their eyes and deeming me as naive. Either way, I think Einstein was on to something.
When President Obama made the decision to send more troops off to a war with which I strongly disagree, more than a few of my peacemaking friends took to calling him a “war monger” and a “hypocrite.” Again, I understand the anger that drives such name calling. I share that anger. I believe this war is “unwinnable” by current means. My thoughts on the war, of course, are an entirely different post. What surprised me is that many of those who deemed the president a “war monger” are people who I respect for the peacework I see them do. It surprises me to hear them use such labels because they too have been studying the ways of Gandhi, King and Nonviolence. It saddens me to see them slip from having compassion and empathy to the use of verbal violence and labeling.
To conclude my little tirade, (I think I am mostly venting) I guess I would request that we rethink our approach toward those with whom we disagree. That we really use the message of King and Gandhi to fight intolerance with tolerance, hatred with love and fight violence with nonviolence. That we rethink this idea that we can name call others into seeing our point of view, our needs and our hopes is in anyway going to make the change we seek. More so, that we rethink the idea that we can make change without truly seeing the roots of people’s bigotry and changing it rather than writing them off as a label.
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"Be the change you wish to see in the world"
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Martin Luther King Jr.
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