Remember the Sesame Street song to teach the concept of same and different? Perhaps Sesame Street is the source of all our troubles--teaching that some things are different. I don’t really think so. After all the song didn’t end with the lyrics “so let’s shun it.” Or worse, “Let’s shoot it.”
Our societal problem with those who are different is much, much bigger than we think at first. We tend to pull-up images of rioting or dead black boys or dead white boys when we think about problems with prejudice. Let me widen your horizons.
Vegetarians. Now most vegetarians won’t understand why they are an example of prejudice, but anybody who eats meat understands. Many vegetarians make certain everybody knows they don’t eat meat, and they spread the word with missionary zeal while barely tolerating those who eat meat. They shudder at the very idea of omnivores. Some vegetarians get rather rabid on the topic and blame all the violence in the world on the meat eaters. Sigh. Meat eaters are still human and vegetarians are still human. Our job is to learn to love each other.
Another group similar to the vegetarians are those who hate football. Again all the violence in the world gets laid at the football fan’s door for liking such a violent sport. More than once I’ve heard someone say, “I think football should be banned.” I’m talking here about either US football or International football. Some people don’t enjoy the game, but instead of enjoying the oddities of sports fans, they assume a superior attitude and condemn the innocent sports fans. This behavior is not an example of loving each other.
Now, I’ve been talking about food and sports to underscore just how deep the concept of prejudice runs. Some people just have to take a morally superior attitude toward anything different including people of color, those of different religion, those from different countries, those who see different solutions to problems than those proposed by the observer.
Is this human nature or are we taught to hate? Where does this morally superior attitude come from? I know many fine people who work tirelessly for social justice until the moment someone mentions their pet prejudice. Suddenly, someone who has been a delightful co-worker turns into a ravaging monster because another on the team goes to church, or has a gay son. Suddenly, they forget to love.
Recently I was attacked for not saying homosexuality is a sin. I wasn’t shunned for being a member of the LGBT community--I’m not. I was shunned for not hating. I lost a long-time friend over that one. Yet, she was active with the civil rights movement in the sixties. What happened? Apparently, her tolerance only covered people of color. We cannot be truly free of prejudice if we cannot love everybody.
What is wrong with all this division, hate, and prejudice? The answer is simple, “United we stand. Divided we fall.” Every time someone complains about immigrants, or welfare cheats, or Christians, or Muslims, they contribute to the destruction of our society. Like my co-worker who pushed me away for my belief on a specific topic, we weaken our ability to solve problems when we shut out large segments of society. We cannot solve the problems in the welfare system as long as we judge and condemn without seeing how disability, mental health and low wages contribute to our welfare caseload.
As long as we make scapegoats of any section of our society, we will never be able to see the true barriers to prosperity and peace on our globe. Our willingness to hate and dismiss our neighbors allows true villains to go about their business of greed and destruction unhampered by the law or societal disapproval
So, my friends, I admonish you to clean up your act and love your neighbor even if they are vegetarian or eat meat, are a different color or religion, if they are artsy or concrete thinkers. Love your neighbors.