In a recent interview with Sean Hannity on Fox, Eric Trump said that those who oppose his dad “are not even people” and then proceeded to criticize those who are calling his father names, and making all sorts of vile accusations against him.
I’ll have to admit, it’s really hard for many to take such ire seriously. After all, no one has ever accused our current president of being a high-minded politician. And, all of us (even his most ardent supporters) can easily recite quite a long list of derogatory phrases he has used to label those he sees as enemies. He’s a master at the craft of name-calling and the memorable insult, we all know it.
But, does that justify our own insults of him in return? And, does our own insulting of him justify his supporters (and him) re-insulting us back? And, does their re-insulting of us in response to our insulting of them after they insulted us justify our re-insulting them back again? And, does our re-insulting of them for re-insulting us after we insulted them for their insulting us justify their re-re-insulting us again? And…
Slapping a label on someone is a defense mechanism, it distances “the other” from us: making them seem to be “less than” in our minds. Labels can make others seem inconsequential or less than human, and so easier to dismiss, or ignore, or exclude, or oppress – or hate.
Not that this isn’t uncommon; but I’ve recently encountered quite a string of people who, being frustrated with my (admittedly) Progressive views, labeled me with various terms, including: “Anti-Jew”, “Palestinian Lover”, “Left Winger”, “Commie Extremist” (really?), and (my favorite) “sheep scattering GLORY SEEKER!” (A close relative of this is the tendency some have to use phrases that reveal the unspoken labels they’ve applied to you. Some of the most galling of these – for me – are when such phrases are used in a patronizing way, such as: “Your heart’s in a good place.”)
These attempts to make me into something other than I am got me to thinking: I was slapped with a label; then condemned or belittled for being (in their eyes) that label. But, they know almost nothing about me beyond their label. So, they are condemning a label, not me – a phantom that has no reality. There is no reason why I should accept such labels – or any label – as reflecting the “real me”; and in fact they say more about the person who bestowed the label upon me than they do about who I am (or who you are).
We all have a tendency to label people and things – it’s a perfectly natural thing to do. In fact, we are far more likely to do it to someone we don’t know than with someone who is close to us – and I’ll tell you my theory as to why…