Yesterday, I was peacefully sitting in Dunkin Donuts, sipping my coffee and doing some writing (working on yesterday’s blog post and fooling around with some character development for a short story) while waiting for my daughter’s dance class to finish. I had the misfortune of having my quiet morning interrupted by two men discussing their political views.
I use the term “discussing” loosely. It was closer to one of the men exploding, while the other sat silently (except for the incessant ringing of his phone). I was mostly able to tune it out, until the one man said, loud enough for all of Dunkin Donuts to hear, “Anyone they put up has a chance to finally get that a**hole out of there.” Having heard the rest of the conversation, I was already aware that the “a**hole” to whom he was referring was President Obama. He followed by offering his opinions on the best candidates, emphasizing that the few women he mentioned were, in some way, either too stupid or too weak for the job.
I found myself, besides just feeling irritated that I had to be in earshot of the conversation, upset by the tone. It’s true, I don’t always agree with whatever those in government say or do. But to resort to name-calling? That doesn’t help anyone.
When we resort to name-calling, we reduce people to no more than the things about them we dislike. We separate ourselves from them by reminding ourselves that we are not those things. It makes it easier to fuel hate and anger when we are able to think about someone else as less. Not only that, we justify ourselves. We tell ourselves that it’s okay to call someone an a**hole if he’s acting like one (or, at least, what we think one acts like). And let’s be clear on this, Christians are no better about this than anyone else. Sometimes, we’re worse.
It’s no wonder that our children call each other names at school. It’s no wonder that our youth are depressed enough to commit violent acts against themselves and others. When we, the adults, cannot set a better example, then what hope have we? We can institute anti-bullying rules, campaign against name-calling, and even blame the victims. None of it does any good if our children are hearing us dehumanize others.
One thing we need to keep in mind is that no matter a person’s behavior, he or she is still a person. That carries with it the necessary understanding that even “a**holes” are created in the image of G-d and loved by the G-d who became flesh and died for us. We can still dislike things a person does; but we must separate that from who the person is and teach our children to do the same.