Americans are fundamentally similar despite traits
- November 7, 2006
- Christian Ashlar, Staff Columnist
- Section: Opinions
For as long as there have been differences among people, there has been discrimination. We see it in the world around us on a regular basis. The Native American was the first to suffer when they found themselves driven from their homes. Imagine being a woman not allowed to vote or own property and to not be allowed to speak out at public assemblies. Think of how an African American must have felt being told they would have to use separate public utilities and transport systems.
There is a truth that often gets lost when looking at humanity. Most people see only the things they believe their eyes tell them. Walking from one end of campus to another, we are faced with a barrage of people on a daily basis and many of us see only frat boys, sorority girls, geeks, teachers, jocks, and “other”. Our perceptions of one another are surface-oriented and rarely do we pass someone and wonder what sort of person they are beyond the external. We make instantaneous mental judgments based on what our eyes tell us and apply the appropriate mental label.
Strip away the Greek letters, the clothes, the education, and social class and you are left with a human being who cries, smiles, hurts, laughs, thinks and feels. It is only those who wish to make themselves feel just a bit better than the next human being that invent imaginary boundaries of class, race, gender, creed, nationality, and orientation because in the end, all of those things do not matter.
It would be juvenile for me to think that we can ever get over these imaginary boundaries that separate mankind. The labels we love to wear and place on one another are myriad and are very hard to get rid of once placed. In this flawed world, we will always look to one another with the labels of black, white, male, female, rich, poor, gay, straight, Jew, Muslim, Democrat, Republican, old, young, and amid all of these labels, the one that unites us will be the last on the list – human.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a column on what it is for a gay man to live in this country. At the heart of this column was the sentiment of some to apply only the label of “gay” to a specific person, issue or civil matter and when that happens, the person involved almost completely disappears. The label then translates into something “moral” or becomes a matter of “decency” or some other social construct and again, the person involved gets lost.
Last week, Mr. John Johnson responded very eloquently and succinctly to my column and for that, I must applaud Mr. Johnson. His column was very well thought out, quite articulate, and he addressed each of the topical issues I raised very well. This being said, I do believe that Mr. Johnson completely missed the point that there are people involved in the issues I addressed and that those people were lost behind the label we attach to them.
Addressing the military issue, it is easy to forget that the people labeled as “gay” in the military are only “gay” or only “soldiers”. Barry Winchell, Kyle Lawson, or the many men and women in Randy Shilts’ book, Conduct Unbecoming are simply “gay” or simply “soldiers” and their humanity gets left behind. The issue of whether or not homosexual men have the right to marry other homosexual men is at the very heart of the “loss of a gay man’s civil rights” and the ongoing reality that this is not possibly under the Constitution is hardly an imaginary “figment”. Once again, the label takes precedence and the people under it are lost.
Hopefully, my copy editor will not assign a title dealing with “labels” for that is not at the heart of this column but rather it is the sentiment with which we address one another. Minimalizing one another by labeling them is cheating both parties.
I would hope that someday in the near future that we can put aside words that only describe the exterior and look deeper into one another to find a word that not only describes but that entitles, empowers and uplifts one another. I realize this last statement sound incredibly idealistic but it is the opinion of this writer that idealism is a commodity sorely lacking in the world.
Hoping to lead by example, I would add an apology to Mr. Johnson (and any others who felt as he did) for the use of the term, “Bible Beaters”. My reference was to be directed toward those who use a supposed sacred text to facilitate and defend a discriminatory stance against others and not toward those who use the Bible to enrich, empower and uplift their own lives and the lives of others around them.