Stop Categorizing Each Other

I find myself inspired to write today after stumbling upon an editorial in the Star Tribune. The title of the piece, “Why same-sex marriage affects my marriage,” certainly is an attention-grabber and I took the bait and read the opinion of Riley Balling, who is listed as an attorney from Prior Lake.

There are so many aspects of this piece in which I disagree considerably, but instead of listing each of them individually, I’m more concerned with the discussions, debates and arguments going on in our country lately. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinions, as that is one of the countless aspects of the United States which makes us great, but my issue is with how these opinions are displayed and shared with others with greater regularity.

Quite simply, the over-generalization of people in one group by people in another group or way of life has gotten completely out of hand.

Here are a few examples I have heard recently and I’m sure that you have heard similar…

“Republicans are money-hungry, with no concern for the average middle-class American.”

“Democrats are all Obama-loving freeloaders, who have no desire to take care of themselves or their families, but rather rely on the government to take on that job.”

“If you don’t support a war, you are incapable of supporting the troops.”

“Homosexual couples are incapable or raising children who are well-balanced, productive members of society.”

With great certainty, I know each of you who read this post would be able to give another example of sweeping generalities to add to this list…and that is the problem. We all have dogmas by which we choose to live our lives and it would be impossible to count the number of differences in opinion out there in the country, but what happened to civil discourse? What happened to tolerance? What happened to respectfully disagreeing?

The question that gets me steaming the most is what happened to seeing each individual as an individual, rather than finding ways to lump them into stereotypes or categories?

I’m sorry, but I refuse to believe there has never been a Republican who made their money, then turned around and used that money to help their fellow man. I guarantee I could find you many who have done exactly that out of the goodness of their heart.

I’m sorry, but I refuse to believe there has never been a Democrat who found themselves without a job for an extended period of time, but absolutely hated the fact they needed to use unemployment insurance, food stamps or welfare. I guarantee I can find you many who take great pride in their work, yet have been a part of unfortunate circumstances in today’s economy.

I’m sorry, but I refuse to believe it is impossible to respect and honor those who give so willingly for their country by putting themselves in harm’s way, yet oppose the country’s reason for being a part of the conflict. I guarantee I can find many who have given money or time to help returning veterans in their transition back to normal life, yet opposed the war in which they fought.

I’m sorry, but I refuse to believe homosexual couples are incapable of raising a well-rounded, wonderful contributor to society. I guarantee you I can find many…because I know many.

Every single day, we are bombarded with “facts,” yet—whether they come from right-wing or left-wing supporters—many  times those figures are based off faulty information. Rarely do we see sourcing from empirical research that is peer-reviewed. We look for sound bites, rather than reading the entire study or, more importantly, knowing where the study even comes from in the first place.

Be careful when categorizing your fellow man. For every category we put someone into, I’m sure there are just as many categories they would also fit into that would not go along with stereotypes.

I’m well-aware that this may be naïve of me to believe this issue can ever truly be “fixed,” but I will do everything in my power to raise my children to think outside the box, rather than placing everyone different than them into said box.

What do you think? Is there a way to stop the sweeping generalizations of each other or have we passed the point of no return? Let’s hear your thoughts!

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4 thoughts on “Stop Categorizing Each Other

  1. I’m a beyond-Democrat lefty. In 1993, when I was honorably discharged from the navy, I couldn’t find work for a few months. I had the option of filing for unemployment, and even went so far as to drive to the unemployment office. But I couldn’t do it. I knew I was capable of work, and so I kept looking for a job. I finally got one–two months later.

    That doesn’t keep me from supporting unemployment for others. It doesn’t keep me from trying to protect social safety nets. Your twelfth paragraph resonates with me.

    This is a solid post. We need to empathize with, rather than demonize, one another.

  2. Excellent post; I agree with all of it. I think it’s part of human nature for most people to feel more comfortable as members of groups than as loners, and we all of course believe that our group–make that groups, for each of us is, consciously or not, members of many– are superior to others, elsewise we’d switch groups. Antagonism ensues I think, due to inherent human competitiveness and the need to feel we are right. If we are right, we reason, the other guys must be wrong, and–this unfairly–they must be bad-hearted or unintelligent. It’s all quite sad, I think, and yet I am often guilty of this kind of emotional knee-jerk thinking–no, non-thinking. Although my professed goal in life is to do good when possible or at least avoid doing harm, I often forget that.

    As to whether things will get better–whether civility and tolerance will replace agry ranting and the even more common passive aggression–I can only hope, and the optimist in me believes, that they gradually will. Thanks in part your excellent piece, I’ll try harder to “be the change I wish to see in the world.”

  3. Bravo! I don’t think we can completely avoid categorization just because we all long to belong to a certain group. However, when it comes to those different from us, we can make a sincere effort to listen and put ourselves in their shoes. This is something I’ve been convicted of lately…that I don’t listen enough and it communicates to people that I don’t care about them or that they are an agenda. Especially as a Christian, I’m pretty concerned about that…so I’m praying about growing in this area. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Pingback: 10 Thought Provoking Dad Blogs | voiceBoks - The Voice of Parenthood

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