As many of you know, my employer is a small manufacturing company based in Mason City. We produce all kinds of asset tags, many of which we refer to as labels (NOT stickers. I joke that “stickers” is the naughty “s” word in our building). In this sense, labels are great- they keep me in gainful employment, which keeps me in the finer things in life – like food and electricity! Yay for labels!
However, in other meanings of the term, labels are not so great. Specifically when the term is used to describe an ideology or characteristic you assign to another person or group of someones. Even more specifically, when that characteristic is construed as something negative about that person or group.
You can’t turn on the news without hearing about “the evangelicals say this” or “the left thinks that” or “millennials are ruining something”. You can’t go on social media without seeing “the right wing this” or “the socialist that” or things WAY more insulting that I refuse to repeat.
I suppose it’s human nature to want to give everything a name and put everyone into neat groups. But quite often it’s over simplistic or just plain wrong.
Take me as an example. I am quote vocal about my beliefs. There are issues I feel strongly about that I will stand up for. Mental health is probably the issue I’m most passionate about, but I’m also deeply concerned about education, LGBT rights, sensible gun control, and women’s health. Because of my positions on these topics I have been called such fabulous names as libtard, feminazi, lefty (in a negative connotation), and virtually any insult to my intelligence you can think of. 9 times out of 10 the people calling me these names only “know” me by a comment or two on one very specific post on one very specific topic. But that doesn’t stop them from deciding they know ALL about me and all my feelings on every subject under the sun. And, 10 times out of 10, they are wrong. I, like everyone else on Earth, have a set of beliefs based on my own experiences. And while yes, I do tend toward a more liberal view on LGBT issues, gun issues, and a couple other topics, that does not mean I lean that way on every topic. There are a couple- immigration being a big one- that I am pretty conservative on.
Now take this on a grander scale. If we all make snap decisions about each other and slap on negative labels based on a scant amount of information what happens next? We argue. We point fingers. We stop listening and start shouting.We decide your entire value as a person from one sound bite or 15 word statement. We rally with others who we’ve given positive labels to and band against “the enemy”.
We need to stop hiding behind a political party or any other kind of group label we identify with. We need to stop labeling each other. We need to talk to each other one and one and then work up to small group to small group. We need to realize that everyone is a mixture of ideas and experiences and that there is no one else on the planet with the exact same vantage point as yours. We need to stop letting social media or the TV or the radio tell us how to think and actually THINK. And most importantly, we need to realize that, 99% of the time, BOTH sides truly believe that they are advancing a position they feel is the best for their nation, for their state, for their family. With very few exceptions, no one wants to “destroy America”. We used to be able to, as a nation, disagree but remain civil. We need to get back to that, or we will ALL destroy America with our hate and our labels.