America is Being Killed by Labels

I am not a liberal or a Democrat but I have been labeled as such and it is because of those labels that my insights or contributions to conversations have been shut down.

It is because of that label that in my conservative community neighbors keep our relationship distant or warn their kids about us by explaining that we think differently and do not share the same morals and values. This, of course, is an assumption based on the label I have been given.

I once identified as a Republican but today that is not a party I can embrace. So if I am not with them I must be with “the other.”

In order to gain power, to gain votes, to build their tribes, our politicians have mastered the messaging of labeling “the other.”

“The other” is a powerful label that has led to wars, genocide, tortures, terrorism, slavery, and every other nightmarish event you can imagine. And now we have turned the label of “the other” onto our fellow neighbors and fellow Americans. I fear if we do not realize what we are doing and change quickly we will witness the fall of this great country and if we do witness the fall, the biggest blow that took us down is the label of “other.”

As children we learn to label things so that we have a broad understanding of our world. We have labels such as family, friend, neighbor, authority figure, boss, teacher, and so forth. These labels allow us to immediately know what role that person plays in our life and what we should be able to expect from that person.

We also learn to apply labels to ourselves such as good student, Christian, Southern, Conservative, and American. This is the beginning of creating and defining our personal identity. Anyone who shares these labels becomes part of “us”. Anyone who does not share these labels becomes “them” — the “other”.

For humans who have banded together over millions of years to survive, “the other” is naturally scary, a threat to the group. In the minds of many, “the other” is coming to destroy their way of living or to destroy them. The idea that different types of people can live side by side is a relatively new idea. It is something that many people have not really tried yet when you consider how many people who do not live in cities but in communities where their neighbors vote, pray, and look the same as everyone else in the community. The heightened fear of “the other” in this country is due to continuous, real-time, mass media where the stories of “the other” are on your phones and televisions even if they are not happening in your neighborhood.

Since many people only have information about “the other” from their news sources, the media of choice that is part of their tribe has been the channel that has defined everything about “the other.” It is a narrow lens and is fed with ideas and words that are used to construct a way of thinking about “the other” so that certain leaders within the tribe can hold on to positions of power.

Here are a few examples of what is assumed about me with the “liberal” label vs what is true about me.

Assumed: I am pro-abortion and do not believe that life begins at conception

Real: I am pro-choice because there are a variety of circumstances that leads to abortion. Life, as in the scientific definition, does begin at conception. However, outlawing abortion will not end abortion it will just kill more women. If we want a workable solution we need put our energies toward preventing unwanted pregnancies. That is something both pro-life and pro-choice people can come together on. But again, no political party is looking for us to come together. By calling “the other” baby killers, we are kept from working together and the pro-life party has a guaranteed voting block.

Labeling Democrats as baby killers is the same tactic as when Nazis referred to Jews as Rats.

Assumed: I want to get and give everything to everyone for free via taxes paid for by the rich.

Real: I don’t want hand-outs for anyone. However, I do see certain programs as investments and think that government programs should be evaluated as to whether or not they are good investments. Education is a great investment because it provides higher paying jobs which results in more tax revenue. It also enables us to stay globally competitive, so yes I am for free education. Healthcare is an investment and I do want a single payer solution. I do believe there is waste and hand-outs that should be eliminated, such as government investments in outdated energy sources such as oil and gas or bank bailouts.

It is all about perspective. I see government programs as investments but they have been labeled as hand-outs. By labeling these programs as hand-outs many wealthy businessmen and politicians are able to funnel money into investments that primarily benefit themselves and their friends and not the country. This is probably why America is not leading in many areas. We are #1 for having the most prisoners, though.

Assumed: I am fighting a war against Christianity.

Real: I am not Christian but I was raised Christian and have lots of respect for Christians. I still celebrate Christmas, but we focus on some of the Pagan traditions. On top of my tree is a female doll holding branches. I have nicknamed her “Megan the Pagan.” I also have lots of respect for Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhist, Atheist and so forth. The Atheists I know are just as caring than any religious person I know because they believe we are all in this together and can only count on each other. I do not want a Muslim forcing sharia law on me and I do not want a Christian forcing their biblical laws on me. I am fine when people say Merry Christmas to me, but if I do not know you well I will say Happy Holidays because I am not going to assume what you celebrate or if you celebrate anything at all.

The idea of “the others” are against our way of life is a tactic that has been used to make anyone who does not pray like you a scary threat that should be fought. Because they do not conform they are in a war against your ways.

This is true of both sides by the way. The extremist who complains because their child had to sing Silent Night in the school choir is also playing the “us” vs “them” game.

Many people assume that the changes in this country away from the Puritan values is because of the diversity of immigrants that we have let in. Maybe. In my case, my family has been here since before the Mayflower on my dad’s side and long before the Civil War on my mom’s side, so I have roots here.

When we are confronted with different ideas and ways of doing things and we listen and learn, we will change. I am not the same person I used to be because of the people I have met and learned from and I hope I will continue to grow and change because of expanded perspectives.

Growth and change are not dangerous. What is dangerous is labeling different as a threat without taking a moment to try to understand why it is different. What is dangerous is assuming you know everything about a person because of the label you have assigned to them. That shuts down communication and dehumanizes groups of people. That starts wars and leads to disgraceful legacies. That stops progress from happening. Ultimately, that is what could be the downfall of us all.

You can find me at www.sherryheyl.com