Monday, February 11, 2013

Short-cuts to thinking

Name calling (1)
During the election months, and more recently during the Sandy Hook horror, I saw an awful lot of name calling and finger pointing. I thought that it might die down after a while, and that people would go back to grousing and protesting depending on their personalities, and that the nasty stuff would peter out. I was wrong. I was very wrong. Since late October (2012) I have seen an uprise in people using insult terms and grouping together people as Them. I find it disturbing.

I was taught very early that such tactics are not means of fighting, but instead are short-cuts to thinking. It's a lot easier to point a finger and call names, or to stick fingers in your ears and yell, "Na na na, I can't hear you!" Actual engagement in communication and conversation can be disturbing, uncomfortable, and life-changing.

Today, the Pope announced that he is resigning. I found out about it through a pagan acquaintance, who posted it online, then went on to read more about it. The result of that posting was a string of comments that were less than flattering. I wasn't offended by the posts, but I was disappointed. I tend to expect co-religionists to be people who share the high morals and ethics that I have. While I have no reason to love the current Pope, I have no reason to tear him down, either. Nor do I have reason to malign his faith or his office. Just because I disagree with some of his religious decisions doesn't make him an object for mockery.

I see Christians mocking or reviling pagans, and vice versa. I don't know how many times I've heard about how "they burned us!" My response has become rather curt. "Funny, you don't look burned. Perhaps some miracle of the Goddess cured you of the horrible scars?" I used to point out that the early Roman pagans burned Christians, too, but that had fallen on deaf ears, and frankly, I don't think it's a lot better than the original cry. Neither has anything to do with the people living here, today, in North America.

Angry protesting (2)
Politics is another arena where name calling and finger pointing seems prevalent. I've made no bones about disliking Obama as president, but I have not called him names. I don't tolerate that kind of nonsense from those around me, either. The plethora of nasty names out there is astounding. I don't even want to repeat them for educational purposes!

What is the purpose of pointing at someone and yelling invective? Its purpose is to take the attention away from the actions of the target, and focus that attention on some real or imagined flaw. By elevating the flaw to epic proportions, the person taunting manages to block out the actual person underneath it all. It is a short-cut to thinking.

It's so much easier to yell out bad words, than to formulate coherent arguments. Yelling requires no research, no time spent organizing, no thought on the part of the protester. Catchy rhymes and badly spelled signs are much easier and much less emotionally stressful to create than reasoned arguments.

The bottom line is, facts speak for themselves. They need no one to name call for them. If you find yourself calling names (and we all do it, trust me), it's time to take a step back. Ask yourself: What am I yelling about? What am I fighting for? Words can wound as surely as bullets, and as painfully. They aren't fatal in the same way, perhaps, but they're a lot longer lasting. Words are more like a slow-acting poison, inching deeper into a person's psyche. And unlike bullets, words hurt both the aggressor and the victim.

Watch your speech. Watch what you say to and about others. Where do you fall into name calling? Where do you make short-cuts to thinking rather than working to find the better method? It's time to own those mistakes, and to work to better them.

For those who celebrate, Lent is only two days away. Perhaps giving up name-calling would be an appropriate and fitting thing for this Lenten season. Consider it!

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1) Image by EmmiP / morgueFile
2) Image by kconnors / morgueFile
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