I appreciate difference of opinion, even in politics. But there are words that, when I hear them, shut my ears. One is “enemy”. The people who hold opposing views are the enemy, especially (today) if it is those who hold political office. I can only speak for myself, but the only enemy I am aware of is the one inside myself. That is the part of me that somehow keeps me from doing God’s will in my life. I call it my ego. As for other folks, I think their tendency to hurt others without concern is driven by their ego as well. When I pray for them, I pray that they will wake up and come to see truly who they are and what their Higher Power has in store for them.
Another is “liar”. This word is a judgment word, at least how I hear it. It implies intent to deceive, not allowing for one to simply have a different agenda or to envision a different solution to a problem. Now, I want to be clear. It isn’t that I think people in leadership don’t lie, but I don’t think it is up to us to determine another person’s intent or purposefulness. We can, however, examine the facts and discern whether something said is accurate according to the facts. If a politician or anyone else for that matter, misrepresents or distorts the facts, I think we have a responsibility to name it as best we can. The intentions of the person who did so is not ours to decide. It is theirs and God’s alone.
Finally, there is the use of the word “they”. This always causes the hair on my neck to raise up in protest. Whether one is talking about the rich or poor, members of a particular ethnic or religious group, or people who hold a particular ideology like liberal and conservative, any time one speaks about “them” one is wrong. People are more complex than any one group or idea set can define. When people generalize and talk about the poor taking advantage of the welfare system, my thoughts go immediately to friends who work hard but are victimized by the system. When Christian people generalize about Muslims, my thoughts go immediately to the violence in Christianity. When people make negative statements about homosexuals, I think about those I know who are normal, loving people.
Why people use these divisive words is a question I have pondered. I suppose any answer to the question is a judgment on my part, but I will take a stab at it. I think the tendency to put people into categories has its source in fear. To allay their fears, they need to think there is order to things, a way of figuring out the world, a predictability about life. If one can know who the enemy is, one can keep one’s self and loved ones safe by avoiding that the enemy. Some of those who are against any gun control talk about simply keeping guns out of the hands the “bad guys”. They seem to think they know who the bad guys are. But, in my belief, we all have good and evil within us and any number of circumstances in our lives can stir something within that can lead to harming ourselves or others. The categorizing of people as “good guys” and “bad guys” is absolutely useless. But it does give a person an illusion that things can be kept under control.
Call it grey thinking, but I don’t think the world or the people in it are black and white. For every person if ill intent among the liberals, there is a person of ill intent among conservatives. The same holds true of those who are saintly in their approach to life. Each person who claims to be pro-life or pro-choice has a different life experience and different reason for believing as they do. Even the intensity with which people hold a position varies. Some people’s opinions are very informed and deeply held, some people hold an opinion simply because it is the position held by a person they admire or by the group with which they identify.
Many words spent here, but I needed to get these thoughts off my chest. Acceptance of the diversity of ideas, intentions, beliefs, lifestyles is a path to peace and inner happiness. We should not accept when people harm others. We do need to protect our fellows. But judging others and putting them in boxes never, never results in changing them. It only tends to drive people more deeply into their misconceptions and into the protection of their groups.
2 thoughts on “On Divisive Talk”
I just came across your blog from the reference in Jeubfamily.com. I just had to find out who “Judy Jeub” is. Now I know. You have such a lovely family in Monument, Colorado! I love them!
I appreciate your thoughts on divisive talk, and find so much to agree with there. There is a peacemaker side to me that wants to let others disagree with me in peace. But then there is a side of me that bristles when someone wants to force me to support their agenda, by using coercion, force, or even violence against me. Many of my good friends and I disagree strongly on politics, religion, etc. Yet we remain friends.
I confess that there are times I use terms like “they” and “enemy” (or at least “opponent”) and “wrong” to describe some people, or at least their “positions.” Those times are when “they” want to force me to support them, or when they want to use coercion/force to control my choices. Often this “force” is found in laws they propose. If someone supports a law that will tell me to oppose my faith convictions in my daily life or commerce it gets my dander up. Here’s the acid test for me. If I refuse to educate my children they way they dictate, or tell me whom I must rent my house to, or tell me how to pay for my healthcare what will “they” do to me? If the answer is that they will fine me, or send men with badges and guns to my house to take me away from my family then I think it is pretty reasonable and accurate to call them “the enemy” or “wrong.”
I try not to use force against any person, as long as they are not thieves, charlatans, or presenting a clear and present danger to the safety of another person. I try not to support legislation that would confiscate the savings of others (i.e. fines), or send men with guns (police) against people who disagree with me. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems reasonable to me that using force against people who present no harm to others is “evil” and “immoral.” Some things are worth opposing with strong language.
Thanks for your very thought provoking post, and this lovely blog. Your family is beautiful.
I hope you don’t mind, Ron. I wrote a response to your comment and decided to make it a blog entry. Thanks you so much for writing. It really caused me to think.
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