So…the loudest screamer of, “I AM THE MOST TOLERANT!” is the winner. Is that the logic we’re going with now? I suppose that labeling groups of people helps our swelling brains fit amorphous lifeshapes into neatly wrapped packages. It’s a great coping mechanism. And sometimes the memes are funny. But labels are completely false. False. FALSE.
I can go along with the term “Baby Boomers” or “Generation X” or “Millennials” if we’re talking only about birth years. But that’s not where it ends. Journalism, market research, social sciences tend to generate things this way:
Step One: Group the individuals into an oversimplified category.
Step Two: Proclaim the label. Use Super Glue.
Step Three: Attach the adjectives, mostly derogatory.
Step Four: Place the bottled-up groups on a display shelf to “help us understand.”
Well, I don’t understand. In my experience, people of all colors and all ages and all genders and all beliefs are individuals. And the more I hear about the Millennials this or the Muslims that or the LGBTQ this or the Conservatives that…I want to scream, too. I want to scream, “STOP IT!”
My connection today, my heart hinge, comes from a bridal shower I attended last Saturday. It was held for a beautiful friend of mine who also happens to be my daughter’s age. Her parents are my friends. And my daughters’ friends are my friends. And we were so excited to be together! Gee, I guess it was a multi-generational gathering. Multi-racial. Multi-religion. Multi-everything. I hadn’t noticed! I think we’re called a Human Race for a reason. That’s the race we belong to. We each have unique childhoods and backgrounds that make up who we are. We each have a heritage to be proud of. We have preferences and challenges. We have goals and dreams. For all the 120,000, 000 American voters in 2016, there were 120,000,000 reasons for voting the way we did. Can’t we just accept that as fact?
Free me! The pursuit of liberty is what we crave, what we live for and die for. And while we’re chasing down more freedom, whether it’s financial or geographic or a day-off-work or something else completely, how about we work together to retain the freedom we already have? The freedom to work toward becoming the person you and I want to become? Or the freedom to change our minds? The freedom to say, “I made a mistake” without vicious finger-pointing. The freedom to return home from rehab without the family whispering, “She’ll always be an addict; just wait.” Is the term, “What a loser!” in our vocabulary? Why? What a wonderful, free-ing experience to make amends with an old friend who welcomes the New You! How about fighting for the freedom of labels by refusing to use them?! Are we supposed to be born knowing everything? With an overdose of labeling, we rob ourselves of vulnerability and innovation and creativity and change and relationships.
My (awesome) sister volunteers for her son’s high school band. She’d noticed a young trumpet player who braced his ribs at every water break, and eventually had the opportunity to speak with him. “The marching band is my family,” he said, and even though he suffered with the pain of a broken rib, he did not want to let his “family” down. I love how my sister took the time to say, “This kid gives me hope for our future!”
In an uncertain world, a basic human need becomes more and more Certainty. Maybe labeling people fills that need. Maybe it’s instinctive to define The Enemy. I would never underestimate a young person’s ability to succeed in life. Nor would I overestimate a young person’s life experience in knowing how to deal with very real fear. And that’s where anger comes from–fear. So let’s address it for what it is. I don’t see Millennials or Snowflakes or Losers or Riff Raff. They don’t exist for me. Can’t we claim our individuality by throwing off labels–?
Let’s step back and remember that a heart at peace does not wage war. My race is the human race. Isn’t yours?