Friday, August 20, 2010

A Prejudice held by the majority is still prejudice

When I was a young'un growing up in the 80s and waiting for the bombs to fall and end this charade we call civilization, lots of people talked about a certain group of other people, calling them evil and godless and intent on our destruction.  Back then it was the people of the Soviet Union that was the enemy du jour. Today, it's Muslims.

Back then, the Soviet Union was the godless Evil Empire and all its people somehow less than human because of the politics of their leaders. That was no more true then than calling all Muslims terrorists is now.  I took a particular interest in Russian history in high school and college. I'm no historian, but what I learned led me to believe that the Russian people were and are not that different from ourselves.

Back then, it was harder to see this essential truth. The images and words we had to tell us about average Russians were limited. Today, we have the Internet in all its unseemly glory. It's one of the great strengths of the Internet age that it allows us to meet ordinary people from all over the world, to hear the news through the filter of another culture and to see through the vicarious lens of video the lives and struggles of people on the other side of the planet.  It's not perfect by any means. We are still limited by language and cultural differences when we try to meet average Muslims residing in the Middle East. The sheer amount of information available is daunting. Yet, it is worth the effort.

When we choose to view those on the other side of an ideological divide as inherently wrong or evil we deny our common humanity. No matter where we are from, what language we speak, whom we love or what faith we follow, we all share certain traits with our fellow travelers on this planet Earth - we all love our children, we all worry about providing for ourselves and our families, we all grieve the loss of loved ones. We have more in common than we realize.

When we label anyone as less than human because their faith is different than ours, because they love differently, or because they look different than ourselves, we do ourselves and them great harm. A prejudice held by the majority is still prejudice and no less wrong for the numbers that hold it true.

We are a young and immature species. And like most children, we fear what we do not know and what is different.

We need to grow the hell up.

H/T to Zen, Texas for the inspiration.

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