Tuesday, August 19, 2014


THEY are really the problem, aren't THEY? People around the world agree on that. They just don't agree about who THEY are. Some point to the police and say, "THEY are all a bunch of racist thugs on a powertrip." Others point to the poor, and say "THEY just want to lay around and take handouts." Right now there are people looking at Ferguson, Missouri, pointing to African-Americans who live there, and saying, "THEY just need to settle down and stop tearing up their own community." Over in the Middle East, there are Jews looking at Arabs and saying, "THEY are a bunch of terrorists who want to wipe Israel off the map." And there are Arabs looking at Jews and saying, "THEY are Zionist extremists who won't stop until the Palestinians are dead or driven away." Whoever THEY are, THEY are to blame for most of the society's ills. WE certainly aren't.

The problem is, THEY is just a word, and an inadequate one--even a deceiving one. "THEY" takes a whole group of individuals, each one different, and tries to fit them all under an umbrella that can never cover fully cover them. When people rant about THEY, they seem to see THEM as a sort of faceless, homogeneous mass. But that's a cartoon view of reality, and an ugly one at that. THEY aren't like that. Some of THEM, are, sure. Some cops, for example, are racist thugs on a powertrip. And many of them aren't. Some of them are good, brave people doing their best in a hard job. I've known both kinds.

Same goes for all the other THEYS. Take the African-American community in Ferguson. To hear some people tell it, you would think THEY could do no wrong. To hear others tell it, THEY have only themselves to blame. Both views are ridiculous, because there is no THEY. There are just many different individuals, with many different points of view, acting many different ways. Some of them, obviously, are looters and rioters (though many of those are from outside the area). But some--I would say most--are horrified and embarrassed by the looters and violence. I would think most of them are angry and feel like they have every right to protest (and I think they're probably right) but they're horrified and embarrassed by the violence and looting. Many of them are calling for calm and peace, and some of them have even taken to guarding stores from looters. As in any group of people in a volatile situation, there are all kinds of reactions. Cooler heads are trying to keep the peace, but there are always a few hotheads (usually young men after a few drinks) who they may not be able to control. It's always been like this, in every community under pressure and composed of...well... human beings. And the rest of the community sees the violence break out and thinks, "People are going to blame us all for that. They're going to think we're all that way."

And they're right. People will do just that, saying, "See, just look at how THEY act." Whether THEY are poor, or rich, or black or white, or Arab or Jew or Christian or atheist, or liberal or conservative, or police or protesters; people will look at the worst elements and say, "Yep, that's how THEY are." And people need to stop doing that, because it's just stupid. It's a simplistic and jaundiced way of looking at other people, and it's done untold harm in the world--maybe as much harm as those few hotheads and thugs that cause most of the violence. After all, they're are thinking that way too. And if the hotheads are the spark, the widespread THEY attitude is the fuel. And that fuel is inside all of us, if WE let ourselves slip into lazy, cartoonish, cynical habits of thought, and start thinking THEY are all alike.