Get the Label Machine Out….

Lots of things happening all at once — all of it draws attention in one way or another. Depending on the person, and what they are interested in, the degree of noticeability will be greater, smaller, or nonexistent. If you go back a few years in my previous podcast “From the Edge of the Circle” – you will find a period where I paid a lot of attention to the politics of the day. Over time, my attention for this has waned a great deal.

Now, stopping the narrative here, I typically get accused of not caring about my government or the legislative process. In other words, some folks draw a conclusion that since I do not have a marked interest in incessantly reading, parroting, or discussing/debating politics that I do not participate in the election process. This is not true. I monitor when my local polling location is open, read up on the topics, make my own decision, and proceed to my polling location and vote. In fact, when I last checked with my county’s head of elections – we went to college together – I fall in the roughly eight to ten percent of the county population that does vote in what is termed “off-cycle elections”. These are the elections that do not have a Presidential race (every four years), or a Governor’s race (four year cycle as well, but done in the two years between the Presidential cycle). So the assumption made about me is not true.

A corollary manner of assumption comes from my chosen manner of “discussion” in online forums — such as Facebook. In the past, many of my friends from back in my BBS days can attest to this, I would lustily step into any battle on politics or religion. I would roll up my sleeves and prepare for a message after message after message battle on a topic. Some of these back and forth debates took place over the course of several months. Now, in today’s internet communications model, these “debates” can take place in a matter of minutes – even when the participants are separated by oceans, mountains, fields, and rivers. Another unfortunate side-effect of the internet platform is that it is rife with conversations that turn into debates and quickly devolve into insult events of a nearly festal nature. Maybe I am growing old and weary at an age of nearly fifty; however, chatter of this nature tends to drive me away rather quickly. I just have no desire to wallow and party in an atmosphere of personal negativity. Thus, my adoptive posture in “conversations” of this nature is to state my point a single time, and potentially clarify it with a follow-on statement. Then to just leave it at that.

I can actually see where certain assumptions would be drawn from this chosen form of “tossing my two loonies in the well” – so to speak. Its the overly quick manner in which (seemingly) everyone jumps to a quick conclusion of another person’s state of mind without trying to explore more in-depth through more genial, amiable conversation. Rather, there seems to be a proclivity towards immediately applying labels to other people based off of a single sentence, and sometimes that sentence barely achieves the state of a fragment. I have talked quite a bit previously about labels here in the blog. And yet, I use labels in my job every single day. Students can be labeled as male, female, white, black, hispanic, multi-racial, international, American Indian, Pacific Islander, Asian, First-time, Transfer, Continuing, Full-time, Part-time, Degree-seeking, Personal Development, Certificate-seeking, and many, many more labels. This all helps me to classify various students in various manners for the many State and Federal reports that the college has to submit. But when you wipe all that away, students are better known by other labels: Jennifer, Eric, Mom, Dad, Grandmother, Grandfather, Uncle, Aunt, Sweetheart, beloved….all perfectly good labels, and far better suited to each individual person.

Recently, there were a lot of folks talking about a panel or meeting of some sort at Pantheacon where various Pagan folk talked about how racial aspects affect them within the Pagan community. Furthermore, talk was brought about on Paganism being dominated within the United States by European traditions (predominantly white). Some folks decided to lampoon the idea of this panel, and some offense was taken to that measure. Now, before I go much further, I was not there. Nor, have I kept up with the discussions, blog posts, debates, and such concerning this. I am a white male, following a framework of religious belief, ritual practice, and ethical purpose combined from many different ethnic areas. I work with the Crow in my meditations, and have dedicated my service to Him through my podcast (Crows being messengers). I utilize meditation techniques that I have garnered from Far East traditions. Granted, I might not be utilizing these completely in a correct manner — but I am utilizing these in a manner that works for me. I follow a religious and ritual Path from the aforementioned European mode. And to be perfectly honest – I have no desire to have others follow in my footsteps, unless they desire to do so. I completely grok where folks are coming from with their point that Paganism is seemingly “too white” — but until I think about it from that perspective, I don’t really see the skin color. In my normally, everyday life — I deal with students from all walks of life, all economic levels, and all racial aspects. I see people. Skin color, economic status, gender, sexual orientation — does not even enter into the equation. At least until the State and Federal reporting comes in — and to be honest, creating those reports makes my skin crawl. Its part of my job, but one that I find to be extremely distasteful.

Coming back to the point — we, people collectively, seem to be predisposed to being offended. We are quick to label, quick to disagree, quick to judge, slow to listen, slower to discuss, and slow to comprehend from another perspective. And before you think I am pointing my finger directly at you – this finger is also pointed directly at MYSELF. I am not pompous or self-centered enough to believe that I am outside of this equation. I sit directly in this with everyone else. I will find myself judging someone without talking to them or reading their perspective on something. And when I do find myself achieving this status with nary a blink, I have a tendency to harshly criticize myself. Mostly internal, but sometimes I will state my displeasure at myself out loud.

So I am left to wonder, just what kind of world we would live in today if we just stopped to think about things from every angle? Sure, there are decisions that have to be made at a split second – not lending to the idea of exploring all angles. But what about other decisions that are not so life threatening? What if you stepped outside to get the paper at the end of the driveway, looked across the street and saw the new neighbors moving in. On the bumper of one of their cars is the “coexist” sticker. How do you feel about your new neighbor now? What if there were another sticker on there instead that said “Proud member of the NRA”? Or a “McCain/Palin” sticker? Or a “Ted Cruz for Senate”? Or would you disregard the stickers, walk across the street and offer a hand to help your neighbor move in?? I do wonder how different the world would be, if we dismissed all the labels and spent some time digging a little deeper under the surface of who people are.

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