We live in a world ruled by fear.
We are constantly reacting to that fear.
We are taught to fear. We cling to stereotypes because it helps us feel safer. We are told to fear the unknown because it is out of our control. We think those who “look like me” are safe, so we demonize those who act, talk, worship, and dress differently.
We now know what to fear. We must fear the “Other.”
The non-American (or whatever country you might call home).
The one who doesn’t speak MY language.
The one who dresses weirdly.
That one who prays differently.
They are the “Other.”
We consider them untrustworthy, violent, hate-filled, unschooled, and barbaric. We throw labels at the unknown and wish to believe that everyone who is like the “Other” falls into those labels. We want to believe that the stereotypes are real.
But, heaven forbid, if they dare attempt to label me as “Other.”
It always baffles me when people get offended by stereotypes that they themselves use. I’m not saying that stereotypes and labels are good, not by a long shot. But, we as humans are delusional if we think we can use these “tools” with impunity and not expect to have them thrown back at us.
We need to humanize our demons. Or, more correctly, what we have deemed to be our demons. The boogeyman that haunts our ideal world. The simple fact of us not trusting those who look and act differently than us.
In our actions of demonizing a culture that we don’t understand nor make any attempt to understand, is in fact demonizing US to THEM. We become the demons of their fear.
Honestly, how can we expect the world to care for the blight of a people group, if we cannot even care to shake the hand of someone who looks nothing like us?
Because we fear, we attack a person rather than an ideal.
The reason I started to think about this, is due to something that really should not have been news. It should have been common decency, but instead it went viral.
A man in the UK made the decision to sit next to a woman in full Muslim garb on a crowded train.
The reason this is so important is that on that packed train, people were making the very distinct decision of refusing to sit near this woman. There were empty seats around her. People were standing because they were choosing to demonize a woman with the stereotypes that have been put on her religion and culture.
This man on the other hand, vocally denounced this demonization by saying, “I’ll sit here!” Even though no other words were exchanged between them for the ride, this man declared that woman as “human” despite the actions of others.
When that woman got up for her stop, she supposedly said a whispered thank you to the man who ignored the mob mentality and rose above it.
This should not have made the news! But, it did because of how rare it is in today’s society for someone to go against the group and against fear based hatred.
What do you think Jesus would have done if he was on that train? Do you really think that he would have been standing in the group of people attempting to ignore the covered woman?
We want to believe that what we know is right. That nothing can be wrong with our stereotypes. That these ‘safe’ labels are truth. And that no one is harmed by them, but rather protected.
It’s time to start humanizing people again. No matter what religion a person professes, they deserve to be seen as human. When we place labels on someone, we remove our ability to see them as human. We no longer see them as a child made by God. A child that God loved so much that he sent his Son to die on a rough wooden Cross to save. We no longer see God’s love when we look at those who we refuse to see as human.
While drastic comparisons are sometimes hard to swallow, it’s also easier to point to instances that have gained historical perspective: One of the most effective actions of the Nazi regime was to dehumanize their enemies. The Jewish people were seen as lesser, in some propaganda they were equated to rats.
The same thing could be seen in the slave trade. Beasts of burden and the lesser race were all labels placed on the kidnapped Africans. These are the same labels that are being placed upon those pressed into hard work under atrocious conditions even today.
We live in a world where placing labels on others gives us power. It makes us feel a pseudo safety that disappears like vapor when people refuse to cave under the pressure of the stereotypes.
In many ways, when we dehumanize others we are in effect demonizing ourselves because we deny the image of God in those we are dealing with.
When we refuse to release our labels and assumptions regarding someone else, we devalue them. We make them lesser in our eyes. We become elitist in our ideals.
We also make it easier to not reach out a helping hand when they are in need. We don’t see them as worthy of our time and money. They don’t belong.
Sadly, the stringing our safety nets of false thinking can devalue the personhood of another person so much that we find their deaths to be acceptable. Perhaps slightly sad, but to be expected because they were “Other.”
It is much easier to kill someone who is nothing like you. To kill a person who is so vastly different from what is considered safe, is easier than realizing that he is just a man who works hard to provide for his family. Or she’s just a woman who is worried about her mother who is in the hospital.
It’s time to start seeing God when we look at each other. It’s time to start humanizing humanity again. We must not let fear rule us.
The world is only going to change when we start seeing that something worth fighting for, can be found in the eyes of a stranger.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind.
~~ 2 Timothy 1:7