Political Dehumanization – Creating the Other

Political Dehumanization - Creating the Other

Derek, volunteer first responder, showing a Jaws of Life device.

As 2017 comes to a close, we find America dangerously divided. There are powerful currents at work, trying to deepen the fissures that threaten to fragment our nation. I have not been immune to this disease, even though I know better and, like many Americans, I have gotten into the habit of stereotyping people as one-dimensional characters, editorial cartoons. To combat this dehumanization of my fellow Americans, I need only look at my family to remind me that beneath the politics and emotions there are warm loving people.

Take for instance my nephew-in-law Derek.  Derek has a wonderful family, is a great father to his two children, and a loving partner to his wife.  He is respectful to others. Also he is actively engaged in his community as the Captain of the local volunteer fire department.  Lastly, he believes in the US and is actively engaged in being a good citizen by studying the issues. I am proud of Derek, he’s a good man.

From the picture above and what I’ve told you about Derek, can you tell what political group he supports?  Do Derek and I share the same politics and/or social values?

That’s my point. You may guess but you can’t be certain unless you get to know him.

It’s easy to get caught up in the tribal emotions of Red-Blue state rhetoric. The media on all sides cover the news like a sporting event with winners and losers. This encourages simplistic thinking about people and their values.

Now is not the time for simplistic thinking. Life is complex. We face unclear situations that contain both threats and opportunities. We need a nuanced approach if we are going to  solve the problems facing us. Stereotyping people and their concerns undermines our ability to get to the heart of the matter and peacefully sort out our differences.

There is no subtlety in black and white.


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