“I hate people,” posted a friend to Facebook recently.
“People suck,” I replied.
What prompted this venomous spew?
Was it in response to the Orlando shooting? The Stanford swimmer, or his imbecile father? It could have been either or both, or an infinite number of other bits of news, but instead it was in response to a post on May 31 by a Fort Bend County sheriff regarding a dog, abandoned by her owner and found tied to her dog house, as floodwaters lapped around her collar. The post was accompanied by a photo of the dog being rescued via boat.
In fairness to my friend, I started it. When that photo of the dog rescue caught my eye, and I read what transpired, I got pissed and shared the story to my 400+ Facebook friends with a snarky comment, “This slays me. C’mon people.”
In an instant, I lumped the whole human race – “people” – as the enemy of the canine species, and condemned the former for our stupidity.
We do this. When something strikes a chord with us, we immediately look to band together with likeminded people. Then we identify a “them” to blame. And then we share. Oh, how we share.
Just about the time the floodwaters began to recede, the unthinkable occurred. A man walks into an Orlando nightclub and kills 49 innocent people. The worst mass shooting in American history. We are stunned. We are scared. We are outraged. And we need someone to blame.
Of course my heart went out to the victims of this tragedy. But what really got me was what happened next. Social media lit up with “us” versus “them” stories. A good friend of mine, a gentle, kind man who happens to be gay, went off on his Facebook, threatening to unfriend his more conservative “friends.” Gays felt persecuted. Anti-gun activists blamed guns. Democrats blamed Republicans (and vice versa). Trump blamed Obama. Everyone blamed ISIS.
How about one man, of his own free will, did a really horrible thing, and leave it at that?
We spend so much time putting labels on people by virtue of their beliefs, skin color, sexual persuasion. Black, white, purple. Gay, straight. Liberal or Conservative. Christian, Jew, or Muslim.
When in fact, each of us is unique – in our appearance, beliefs, speech patterns, talents. Why do we have to group and label? The more we cling to these labels and prejudices, the more we lack true perspective. It seems so self-defeating, from both the individual and societal perspectives. Every time we associate ourselves with a group, we disassociate ourselves from another.
One individual, Omar Mateen, made a horrific choice, resulting in the deaths of 49 other individuals. How about we all band together as survivors, agree to blame him, and not let him, through his atrocious acts, divide us?