October 11, 2012 Redux in 2016

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Oct. 11 ~ Allow the other to self-identify: Muslim, Christian, Atheist, Democrat, Republican, etc… #civility

It is basic courtesy and also civil to allow the other person to self-identify. It’s very common these days to hear things like, “She’s not really a liberal” or “He’s secretly a socialist.” From politics to religion, re-identifying people is a tool to isolate and motivate.

Isolate? Oh yes, this is a way that candidates or people are “cut from the herd.” If you don’t like what someone says, then remove them from the “group” so that their voice is minimized. It’s really a step beyond winning an argument as you assume the role of arbitrating who is even allowed to participate in the discussion. In a religious context you strip someone of the self-identifers of Christian, Muslim, Evangelical, Catholic… and in a political discourse the person becomes less than or simply not a Conservative, a Liberal, a Republican, a Democrat or even an American.

Motivate? Oh, yes this motivates! Few things can motivate the masses to rally to your cause than exposing the “wolf among the sheep,” the one who comes in under another guise and is set to attack and devour. Re-identifying the other person can motivate the mob and rally the troops. It can also incite the mob when we use loaded labels for the other person! We all know what it means in certain contexts to call someone a “Socialist” in our country, or a maybe a “Muslim” a “Liberal” or “Un-American.”

Civility allows the other person to self-identify. This is not the same as ignoring the substance of their arguments or abdicating your own convictions. The civil person may still challenge the substance of a statement or an argument. The civil person may still ask questions about and respond to the content of the other person’s words and actions. But the civil person will not take the other person’s ability and right to self-identify. In a real way this is living out the “golden rule” of “doing to others as you would have do to you.” What a great rule for guiding our discourse!

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