Last week I wrote one of the most impassioned and succinct summations of my worldview… on Facebook. It got three likes, and my ego fell apart a little. This felt like one of the most important things I’ve ever written and fewer people cared than when I made a souffle. (Granted, I was pretty proud of that souffle, but still). I distilled my perspective down into a couple of paragraphs, and because it was so tremendously personal- I still feel vulnerable as hell about it. Here’s the exchange, for context:
Firstly, I feel like I should clarify that I didn’t mean to attack or belittle the person who disagreed in any way. They’re family and have one of the biggest hearts of anyone I’ve ever known. I consider myself lucky to be related to them. My original post came as a response to a number of images people had posted to their own timelines with Islamophobic, or generally hateful rhetoric. And with election season heating up here in the US, there’s an even more inflated sense of “they’re an idiot and I’m right”. Sometimes it’s true. Sometimes they are an idiot & you’re right, but being an idiot does not inherently make someone less than human. I felt like my little corner of the universe needed a reminder that all people are people and worthy of respect. Just a small shout into the void, and hopefully a few ears would hear me.
These may not seem like radical ideas, but I’ve had folks get very upset with me over them- mostly the thought that respect does not have to be earned. Perhaps I should explain what I mean by respect. This is not the same respect you afford a doctor, an artist, or a soldier. The kind of respect these people get is merit-based: ‘You have done impressive things, and are afforded a higher level of admiration because of it’. This kind of respect has to be earned. I tend to use the word ‘authority’ when talking about this kind of respect. We revere a person for having authority on a subject, but all people should be afforded civility whether they’ve done anything to earn it or not. What I’m talking about is a basic respect for human dignity. Every person you meet deserves to be looked in the eye and treated like a real person. This is something a lot of people, including myself, sometimes forget. It’s easy to think of people as ‘other’ when they don’t agree with you. It’s easy to convince ourselves that when we don’t have to see people as our equals, we don’t have to see them at all.
So, here I am again, attempting to shout into the void. All people are people.