“In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.”
— Anne Bolin, anthropologist
The moment I heard Anne say that at Southern Comfort 1993, I knew it was my personal mission statement.
Democracy — and community — only works when we first respect what we share.
For those who want to build a separate power base, though, setting the focus on difference is their strategy of choice. By creating a common enemy, an us vs. them scenario, they let fear & separation dominate rather than leading with connection & sharing.
This assertion of correctness and incorrectness allows us to dismiss and demean other people who we know are just wrong, destructive and evil.
I am entitled to assert my beliefs because they are correct. My feelings tell me when my beliefs are being assaulted and mocked, allowing me to identify and lash out at demons around me. You are judging me, or mocking me or whatever, so I get to judge you! I reduce you to a symbol of what I hate, stripping you of your humanity.
To make this work, instead of just seeing the choices that people make, we judge the underlying drives and motives that we assign to them. By projecting an intention onto their actions we are able to identify our foes, the enemies who are causing all the problems around us.
The assumption of intention becomes gospel. I know what you meant, what you were thinking, how you failed me, and it is disgusting and immoral.
As long as the only context for understanding exists in our own belief structures, our views will be constrained by the meaning we cling to for comfort and for affirmation.
In a pluralistic society, we can’t assume that everyone else believes like us, that their choices are based on our expectations & assumptions. This is the essence of queer thinking, that everyone is an individual with wide range of influences so cannot be judged on how they are different from us, only on the kindness and morality of their own choices.
Today, though, we live in a world where snap judgment is not only accepted, it is encouraged. From the raucous world of internet commenting to the assessment of celebrities to the political goals of those who seek to create fear, uncertainty and doubt for their own power, there is an pattern where everyone gets to assert their opinion on anyone else, based on personal contexts and our projected assignment of motive & intention.
The blanket permission to judge from a position of assumed moral superiority is the hallmark of our age. While this has always happened in societies, never was it as easy to do as leaving a comment on the internet, or so affirmed by media who understand that sensationalism sells and responsible, deliberate choices are held to be a denial of the people’s perfect rights of instant and final judgment.
Anything that challenges our judgments can be dismissed as immoral manipulation, merely propaganda spread by those who have a motive to destroy what we hold dear, valued and sacred. Because we are sure of their intentions, either malicious, manipulative or ignorant, not only do their messages have no standing, they mark the messenger as corrupt or duped.
When everything that challenges our beliefs is either attack or noise it becomes impossible to build bridges. The walls we create to protect ourselves and our families become bigger and harder because we believe that they are real, marking the separations between us and the hostile forces arrayed against us out there.
This powerfully divisive mindset makes it very hard to remind others of our continuous common humanity. Dignity, respect and kindness are hard to offer those marked as other, as enemy, as the people who are causing us all our problems, the ones creating our pain and suffering.
Preachy preachers play on this mindset, speaking for separation and the obligation for others to change and become like we already are to be virtuous and worthy of respect.
Teachy preachers play against this mindset, speaking for connection and the obligation for us to change, dropping our own barriers and becoming more open to the fundamental dignity of all creation.
The most important reason that we don’t “fight like family“ is because we convince ourselves that we are not family with others who are mired in stupidity or evil. Until they apologize, get right with us and our beliefs, show not only respect but also fealty & obeisance to what we know to be true and proper, then what can they be but an enemy, someone to be put down?
From the White House down, assigning motives and then judging others on those projections seems to give permission to violate the Golden Rule, attacking others without the dignity and respect we demand for ourselves.
Us versus them defies the truth of continuous common humanity that I have found is the only way to respect the tender trans truth that lives in my heart.
That’s why, in this culture of instant and thoughtless judgment, my heart feels so battered and broken.