… in a decent, civilized country?

I used to think that the opposite of “love” was “hate,” and maybe it still is. You’ll remember that two weeks ago amid these posts, we contemplated the concept of contempt, which seems close to the opposite of love, although more contrasting with honor; contempt is a form of anger directed toward a perceived lower-status individual.

This weekend I had a conversation with my well-respected friend, Collin, who inspired me to wonder about how to love my neighbor a little more. How do I better love the people put in my path? … and not just those who think like me?

In this thing we keep calling “the year 2020,” is the opposite of love, therefore, something else? Has the opposite of love and respect digressed into something long perceived as a little more casual? …something maybe a little more socially acceptable? If we can be lured, no less, into believing a response is socially acceptable, we never have to wrestle with any potential foolishness we may instead be unintentionally fostering.

What if the opposite of “love,” then, was actually to “label”?

Hear me here…

There are two parts to the definition. Part one:

label | ˈlābəl | v.  — to assign to a category…

And two: to assign to a category, especially inaccurately or restrictively.

In other words, we are designating false divisions for entire people groups. For example…

Police aren’t “pigs.”

Black men aren’t “thugs.”

Democrats aren’t “Marxists.”

Republicans aren’t “racists.”

Millennials aren’t “narcissists.”

The only label accurately applied to all of the above is ”human.”

But let’s go one step further — because if we’re really transparent, we’ve each been guilty of saying something inaccurate. Why does it matter? Why does it really matter if we assign such colossal, indivisible categories?

We get entrenched in our opinion; we can easily, earnestly conclude at times that another makes no sense… So why does it really matter if I partake in assigning these mass labels that Twitter, social media rants, and opinion pieces vaguely veiled as “news” routinely project? After all, most of it’s in jest, so-to-speak. I know not every single police officer, black man, Democrat, Republican, and Millennial is that way. Just well, most of them…

Hear me once more… allow me a startling question…

How does a genocide begin?

… The Holocaust… Rwanda… Cambodia…

Approximately 67% of the Jewish population in Europe… 70% of the Tutsis (a Bantu speaking social class) in Rwanda … 99% of the Vietnamese Cambodians… 

Notice the entire people groups.

Friends, years after the Holocaust, scholars continue to ask how in the world such could actually happen. How could the intentional annihilation of an entire people group occur in a decent, civilized country? How could we kill classes, ethnicities, or people simply because of what they looked like or believed? How, too, could millions more stand by and watch?

Allow me to soberly suggest it begins with labels.

Labels make another lesser. Labels dehumanize.

And there’s one more sobering question… if we’re transparent enough to ask it…

How do we guard against a genocide happening here — a current, decent, civilized country?

We start by stopping with the labels… recognizing to label is not only not to love; it’s also to be wholly inaccurate.



2 Replies to “… in a decent, civilized country?”

  1. Agree! Makes me think of the ditty we use to say on the playground, “Sticks and stones….but words can never hurt me.” Sounds nice, but words matter. Words put out there in the universe for all to hear matter and labels are an in accurate and childish way of communicating with others. We all need to be thoughtful and think critically before we speak.
    I’ve had neighbors say on FB that all (fill in the blank) are mentally ill, crazy, wicked, evil, on and on. Hurtful, harsh, ugly words …..
    We compartmentalize people for convenience and in ignorance and forget our commonality and that we are all human beings before we are anything else.
    I’m a person, a human being, a wife, daughter, mom, grandmother, lover of life, fierce friend, child of God.
    Maybe some days I am a bit crazy! But that doesn’t define me.
    Words matter….

  2. So beautifully said. All of us have become so comfortable playing in this verbal pigpen. We have lost sight of the fact that our similarities overall as human beings greatly outweigh the differences we are creating through our “viewpoints” and “opinions”.

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