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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Label Makers

Some people might say that I think too much. Another, larger, group might say I think too little, or not at all. But I see and hear things, and my mind becomes like a cow with its cud - I ruminate. I keep on chewing things over. I don't think it is a reflection of a lack of, or an abundance of, intelligence. It's just the way my mind works, I suppose. It's one of the reasons my blog is called "Ravings of a Lunatic." I tend to think deeply about things, and often think and feel passionately about things. I think it has to do with the way I had to learn to think when I was a child. I needed to be able to quickly come up with different courses of action and figure out what the possible outcomes of the actions might be. I needed to plan and prepare for the "worst-case scenarios" of my life. Who knows, perhaps this made me the type of thinker that I am today.

Anyway, I have had an unusual twenty-four hours or so. No, nothing bizarre happened. It just seems that last night and today have followed a theme. Kind of like Shark Week on tv, but without the teeth and the relentless biting. It started last night. Trent and I watched the movie 42, the amazing true story of Jackie Robinson becoming the first African-American to play on a major league baseball team. For both of us, the story was both inspiring and infuriating. Robinson was a great ball player and a great man who had to swallow the hate that was thrown at him on a daily basis. There were players who refused to be on the same team with him. He received numerous death threats, and was called ugly names constantly. But he persevered in spite of the ignorance and hate. I admire him greatly for it, and my heart breaks over the indignities he endured.

Today, I saw several things in my internet browsing that seemed to be tied in to this same theme of hate and ignorance. The first thing that I saw was shared by my friend Will, and was a post from someone else that he knows. It stated, fairly simply, that name-calling is childish and hurts one's credibility. He gave some examples of terms that people use when disagreeing on politics, all of which I find irritating, and which cover the spectrum from left to right. The advice given was to either think for a few seconds before just calling names, or to just keep one's thoughtlessness to oneself. Sage advice. Later on, Will shared something else that really resonated with me, and many others. It included a list of insults that many of us may have been subjected to during our lives. They weren't what you might have expected. Included in the list were words like ugly, nobody, gay, freak, and unwanted. 

It seems to me that some humans find it all to easy to think that they are superior to others. Although none of us is perfect, many of us continue to put others in categories that signify that they are less than the person who has put them in that little box. I know what it feels like to be called ugly. I have been beaten to a pulp while I was told that I was nobody, a freak, and unwanted. When I saw every female of my generation in the family get married and divorced, I decided to approach marriage with discretion rather than go through that pain myself. Because of this, some members of my family discussed whether this odd (single) duck might not be a lesbian duck. And whose business was it anyway? If I had rushed into marriage like my cousins (and suitors weren't exactly breaking down the door, remember the ugly category) and sisters, I'd have been labeled as a loser when my marriage failed, just like they were.

The point of all my ruminating today? Why do we have to put labels on each other? Does there have to be a pretty sister and a smart (read: ugly) sister? Do we need to categorize one another based on our looks, including race, weight, eye-appeal, and age? Do we have to call each other ugly names based on our sexuality, politics, or belief systems? Can't we say something like, "Don't you remember Susie? She's the woman I work with that has such a killer sense of humor," rather than, "Don't you remember Susie, that really fat lady three cubicles over from mine?" 

We will always be able to see the differences in one another. If we didn't, we couldn't tell Ralph from Larry. Here's the thing, though. Whether we are fat, tall, ugly, pretty, smart, gay, African-American, political, or whatever, we are all basically the same. Maybe if we tried harder to remember that, there would be less pain in the world. We all need food and water and safe shelter. Many of us would like to have people we care about, and who care about us, to share our life's joys and sorrows. We'd like to be valued for who we really are, not for any made-up distinctions or categories. I don't want to live my life as a Label Maker. Labels are for cartons and boxes and mailing things to the right address. Aren't people much more important than that?