Labeling other people fosters human hatred

  • Follow Opinion columns

On July 27, a Sunday morning -- during a children's production put on by the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tenn. -- a lone gunman came through the back doors and opened fire on the parishioners, causing the deaths of two of the congregation, Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger. The gunman, Jim David Adkisson is said to have been distraught over not being able to find a job, and had an adamant dislike of the liberal movement and gays.

That last line I wrote is what I wish to speak about.

The labeling that we as a Western civilization have come to see as a commonplace occurrence has started to take a serious toll on our individual relations. Mr. Adkisson's motivations have been established to be a blanket hatred for an abstract idea. Labeling one another and making generalizations are a normal part of our psyche, but allowing these labels to dictate our actions to the point of violence, hatred and bigotry is intolerable.

WE HAVE BEEN made to believe that we can make rash judgments of others by the labels we put on them. We do this by blindly assuming traits that go along with these labels. We have seen this in our media's portrayal of Muslims, of illegal immigrants and of Europeans. But more importantly we have seen the media's blanket portrayal of conservatives, liberals, rural people, urbanites, Christians, Jews, humanists, agnostics and pagans. All of these labels bring forth images fed to us by our many different outlets of societal discourse.

The problem with all of these images is their inability to describe reality. As a Unitarian Universalist, I believe in seven principles. The first two principles are the most applicable here. They affirm "the inherent worth and dignity of every person;" and "justice, equity and compassion in human relations." These two principles, in short, assure the fact that every one of us is an individual, and allows for the reality that labels do not describe us. By using labels and believing in their representations we demean the worth and dignity of every person. By using labels and believing in their representations we fail to use justice, equity and compassion in our human relations.

THE ATROCIOUS acts by Mr. Adkisson appear to spring from his belief in certain labels; these labels do not completely fit the lives that he ended prematurely. By reinforcing and adding to the labels in our own lives we contribute to the social discourse which bring about the division, hatred and violence we saw that Sunday morning.

I believe that it is time that we become more conscious of how we structure our lives. We all use labels, but it is time that we refuse to let them run our lives. We must strive to treat others as individuals, as equals and as human beings.

(The writer is president of the Board of Trustees for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta.)

Comments (6) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
formatrix
0
Points
formatrix 08/10/08 - 06:32 am
0
0
This is a well-written

This is a well-written incisive article. So sad but so true. Labeling theory in modern sociology suggests that an individual may be lobeled as gay or a slut or deviant or wierd early in life and then comes to belive the label and define themselves as that kind of person. In a complex processes of personality development and through a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy,they become the deviant that they were labelled. But if we undrstand how this may have happened, the insight might set us free. Unfortunately by the time this happens, the behavior is so ingrained as to be intractable. If you got the name ,then you play the game. But really life,itself,is a game-an infinite series of game, and occasionaly the participant glimpses their own performance and tries to change. Winners and losers. There must be deviants for the mainstream to reinfoce their sense of solidarity and righteousness in the functionalist analysis. I'm not a sociologist, but I guess we're all gonna be what we're gonna be, so whatta ya do with good ol' boys like me?

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 08/10/08 - 08:18 am
0
0
Mr Keen? you seem to have

Mr Keen? you seem to have allowed yourself to be swayed by the MSM labeling of Adkisson as a Unitarian Church hater. I think your rant against radicalism is fairly universal, but your inclusion of all opinions as hate speech is just a little bit of a stretch. While you phrase this attitude nicely, you still come across as a polite, fringe perspective holder. There are radicals threatening individuals and our country. They exist on both sides of the spectrum. Not being able to identify, or label, these radicals makes it difficult to refer to them at all. Mr Adkisson was a man suffering from mental and emotional problems and he focused his problems on the Unitarian Church in his area. Making this incident a reflection of the universal problem of people having opinions is a self contradicting approach, because you have to have an opinion to write this column.

femacamper
0
Points
femacamper 08/10/08 - 11:38 am
0
0
Only a simpleton would

Only a simpleton would conclude that this author is stating that all opinions are hate speech. He wasn't discussing spinach. And the MSM's labeling of Adkisson as a Unitarian Church hater? It hardly takes much effort to deduce Adkisson's motivations from the actual letter which he left behind to explain his twisted actions. Those of us functioning with more than a brain stem were hardly awaiting PT's hand-fed interpretation of the events before we could appreciate the gravity of the author's letter.

Little Lamb
49260
Points
Little Lamb 08/10/08 - 12:51 pm
0
0
Let's see, first Mr. Keen

Let's see, first Mr. Keen says that "using labels" (1)demeans the worth and dignity of EVERY person, and (2)fails to use justice, equity and compassion in human relations. Then, he says, "we all use labels." I think there is a LOT of inconsistency in Mr. Keen's thought process and in his column.

Little Lamb
49260
Points
Little Lamb 08/10/08 - 12:53 pm
0
0
Boy, it didn't take

Boy, it didn't take FEMACamper long to label Patricia! He "grouped" her into the simpleton group. FEMACamper must not have taken Mr. Keen's advice to heart. There's not very much compassion in FEMACamper's heart.

Bizarro
13
Points
Bizarro 08/10/08 - 02:53 pm
0
0
The Universalist church

The Universalist church principals sound the same as that preached by Christ and the Buddha. The man was a wack job and I wonder if he picked the church at random. His dislike of liberals and gays doesn't translate to an attack on any church-even the universalist. Why not attack a gay bar or a Democratic political office?

fd1962
26
Points
fd1962 08/10/08 - 08:29 pm
0
0
Little Lamb, didn't take you
Unpublished

Little Lamb, didn't take you long to select yourself into the same 'group.' At least Mr. Keen appears to be operating WITH a thought process.

Back to Top
loading...
Search Augusta jobs