You know the old playground rebuke, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me.”
Well, that’s a lie. Names do hurt you.
Calling other people names is the first symptom of genuine hatred and the first step toward violence against that person.
When I disagree with a person the worst thing I can do is to put him into a group and give the group a name.
Once he is in that group that I’ve devised he ceases to be a real person. He is now part of a group and it is easy for me to throw stones at a group while it is not so easy to throw stones at another real person.
So we put people into little boxes with names on them. In that way we can forget the individuals and slam the group all we like. Never mind that we are hurting the people in that group.
Once their in the scapegoat group we can pin stars on them and send them away.
I’ve done it on this blog. We all do it. We label just about everybody who is unlike us. We label the feminists and homosexuals. We label the Democrats or the Republicans. We label the blacks or the whites, the immigrants or the residents. We label the terrorists and the patriots. We label the neo Catholics, the traddy Catholics, the trendy Catholics or the radical Catholics.
Once we’ve assigned the label we next assign the blame, and it is in this assignation of the blame to others that our deepest, darkest side comes out.
This is the primal sin.
God “Adam. Did you eat of the fruit?”
Adam: “The woman you gave me made me do it.”
Eve: “The Devil Made me do it.”
So we shift the blame. We shift the responsibility. Like little children caught in our sin we cry, “But he did it first! He made me do it! It’s his fault!!”
Don’t get me wrong. It’s okay to criticize, but we should criticize actions and attitudes that have really taken place. Pinning labels on people along with generalized blame toward stereotyped groups doesn’t do one bit of good, and does a great deal of harm.
I’ll probably fall into this trap again, but I’m working on it.
I don’t much like being labelled and dismissed, so I’d better try not to do it to others.