Tuesday, February 01, 2005

us & them

In thinking about the ethnic slurs I heard today, it occurred to me that the world view of the woman who uttered them is the polar opposite of my own.

It's always the same kind of specious argument from her about why she could or could not do something, because of the customs of some other ethnic group. She couldn't name her son Joseph, for example, because it always made her think of all the Italian (of course she didn't say Italian) Joeys she knew growing up. (She told me this upon hearing that DS2's middle name is Joseph.)

What's she's really saying is, I can't do (whatever) because they do it, and they are alien. I'm not part of their group, I'm not like them; I'm better than they are, because they are (fill in the nationality of your choice), and I'm not.

DS1's name is actually quite popular among Hispanics. Honestly, it's not something we even considered in choosing it for him. Who cares? I'm as adept at recognizing nationalities as the next person. But where this woman sees differences and inferiority, I see so many similarities, and equality.

I really do believe that there is a universal human nature. (If your parents don't help you start getting it under control by the time you're three, you're doomed, but I digress.) We all want the same things, regardless of where we grew up. Customs change; language, food, dress -- that's all fluff. The heart of the matter is, we each have a soul, created by God, and that deserves respect, at the very least.

There's a spectrum of people who hold opinions like this woman's; there are many, like her, who are essentially harmless except for the fact that they are poisoning the well for everyone around them. But at the other end of the scale are people like al Zarqawi and bin Laden, whose disdain for "the other" is so complete that they can justify mass murder of innocents.

For the past 2 days, every time I think of Iraq, my heart is lifted, and I remember all the photos I've seen of smiling people holding up their ink-stained fingers. I can share their joy, I understand (a little) how they must be feeling. One thing I'm sure of is that they deserve it. I'm pretty sure this woman would disagree with that.

Oh, she wouldn't come right out and say that -- even she is not that politically tone-deaf. But for people like her, democracy and freedom are things that "we" understand, that "we" deserve, that "we" have. To her, the Iraqis are "them". She, like the leadership of the Democrat party, doesn't understand that the Iraqis are us.

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