Embracing the Other
Earlier this year, a young white male sat inside a church in Charleston, South Carolina, USA and waited for whatever moment he considered to be perfect before revealing multiple firearms and shooting at members of the church. 9 were dead and many more injured by the time his rampage was complete.
Earlier this year, members of ISIL/ISIS were videotaped binding gay couples and throwing them from the tops of buildings.
Earlier this year, Buddhist monks in Burma lead a movement of oppressive laws and physical attacks against both women and against Muslims.
Earlier this year, LGBTQ families across the United States were threatened (and many attacked) when the U.S. Supreme Court declared that same sex marriage is an equal right.
Earlier this month, a Moroccan actress was attacked after starring in a film about the exploitation of sex workers in Marrakech.
Earlier this week, students at The University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, USA were threatened with bombs and guns for having the bravery to stand up to racist slurs and threats.
Earlier this week, suicide bombers kills dozens of people in Beirut.
Yesterday, attacks in Paris killed hundreds.
I could go on, but the patterns, the trends, they repeat into perpetuity. Across the world people separate themselves — Christian vs non-Christian, Catholic vs Protestant, Shi’a vs Sunni, Shinto vs Taoist, Israeli vs Palestinian, Black vs White, American vs Mexican, British vs Irish, Straight vs Gay, Men vs Women, Police vs Civilians, etc. — using labels that enable one group to define any other convenient group as The Other. The Other is dangerous! The Other is to be feared! The Other must be fought! The Other seeks to take our land, our women, our jobs, our freedom! The Other must be made to go away! Protect us from The Other!
Why are we so quick to define and then retreat from The Other? In the United States, why the ever increasing rhetoric to fear people from across the wrong border, or people who use a different house of worship, or people who love differently? In the world writ large, why the ever increasing fear of those fleeing from violence, those crossing borders in hopes of living, those who wish only to live in peace? Why the fear of women being seen as equals, or LGBTQ+ people being treated with genuine respect and honor? Why the fear, disgust, intolerance, and even outright hatred of The Other?
Living with The Other requires stepping outside a pre-established comfortable space, in which The One is not challenged by foreign ideas. The One has a manufactured reality; normality is fabricated, molded, shaped into something that most resembles The One. The One may be in comfort, communing with others who resemble The One in body type, skin color, religious or philosophical ideals, leisure activities, and cultural representations. The One does not have to question if reality outside the small space occupied by The One differs from the reality The One has built, for the outside does not impugn nor encroach upon The One. The One is secure.
Introducing The Other into the comfortable space of The One dissolves that reality. The Other does not conform to the expectations around which The One has built daily life, and The One, often as a result of this self constructed minimized reality, lacks the coping ability to recognize The Other as being a valid part of reality. While from the perspective of The Other the constructed reality of The One is limited and minimal and could use a refreshing expansion, from the perspective of The One the arrival of The Other signifies destruction and rejection of all that The One has built. The Other sees expansion and inclusion, whereas The One sees conflict and restriction. Lacking the foundation upon which expansion can be built, The One lashes out.
This lashing may be verbal. It may be subtle, in the introduction of policies, regulations, or laws that prevent the acceptance of The Other, thus forcing The Other back away from the falsely maintained reality of The One. Should — nay, when — The Other refuses to regress, The One responds with more fervor. Regulations become threats. Threats become violence. Violence becomes murder. Not always, but often, for The One is accustomed to being heard and followed, and does not understand why The Other does not comply.
What I hope — indeed, for what we should all hope — is that we will learn how to stop being The One and recognize that we are all The Other. In this world of ever-growing connectedness, let us learn how to become connecting. Let us, instead of fearing and rejecting The Other, open ourselves to learning and adapting and expanding. We can learn from The Other. We, as The Other, can teach. We can be examples. We can embrace.
Do not reject The One, nor reject The Other. Destroy the limitations, yes, but only to build bigger and better through expansion. Reject fear and vitriol, and do not tolerate the spread of things based on hate, but act with love. Act with kindness and openness and respect. Demonstrate compassion.
Start with an embrace.
Stay SINful, friends.