By Sam Terry
Jobe Publishing, Inc.
The horrific news of the eleventh shooting in an American public school became more personal to Kentuckians last week after the tragic incident at Marshall County High School. True to our contemporary world, the event and speculation about the cause of it flooded every media outlet, filled social media news feeds, and was discussed at every coffee shop in America. It’s rather easy to adopt a passionate opinion on such things as we try to make sense of it. There’s no need for me to expound on the many troublesome topics that come to mind; you’re already heard the debates about gun control, bullying, mental illness, and more.
One thought that doesn’t seem to get much discussion is the fact that as a society we’ve become comfortable with dehumanizing people individually as well as in groups. In a recent speech, Dr. Brene Brown suggested that we have divided ourselves into groups of people who believe like we believe. The concept crosses nearly every aspect of life and it’s so common we rarely recognize what we’re doing. We segregate ourselves into groups who worship like us, attend the same school, or support the same team. These days, we divide ourselves by political party or ideology, whether we support or oppose abortion, whether we like or dislike the president or the governor, whether we legalize pot or not, whether we allow alcohol sales or not, whether we approve or disapprove of how the local utility company operates, and it goes on and on and on.
Sadly, we’ve allowed our differences to divide us so much it’s relatively easy to develop an intense dislike for someone. In many cases, it’s more than just disagreeing or disliking, it’s nurturing hatred. For most of us, it’s easy to fall in line with one group or another and demonize those who don’t agree with us.
While social media has many positive aspects, it also has the ability to foster discontent, conflict, damaged relationships, and anxiety. For many, hurling acidic words from behind the screen of an electronic device is much too easy; most wouldn’t dare say such things to someone standing in front of them. What’s more, we may not even know the person we’re directing our words toward; we’re against them because they’re “this” or “that.” Still doubtful? How about all of those Facebook posts assailing one political figure or another or group using hideously inappropriate words and we click “like” or share or add an LOL?
If you’re not as outraged when someone attacks a group or person that you disagree with as you are when your own group or person is attacked, you’re a part of a giant problem. When our dislikes and differences of opinion evolve into hatred, it’s easy to no longer see others as humans. It’s not a question of which side of politics you’re on, it’s a question of which side of humanity you’re on.
We’ve allowed ourselves to become so polarized that we’ve forgotten that we’re all connected as human beings. Whether you like it or not, we’re connected. We’ve forgotten that the thing that connects us is far greater than we are.
In today’s world, it’s rare to experience moments of collective joy or collective pain. Without sharing one another’s joy or pain, it’s easy to despise and dehumanize groups of people or individuals. Soon, we don’t see human beings with whom we’re meant to live in harmony; we simply see faceless people who don’t matter to us.
A 15-year old student is not wired to walk into a school and begin shooting his classmates. However, if our culture leads us to dehumanize others, terrible things like school shootings and other senseless tragedies occur. You nor I know what triggered last week’s tragedy but we should be bothered enough to look beyond the typical explanations into something far deeper.
Humans aren’t biologically wired to kill, rape, torture, belittle, attack, and hurt one another. When we allow ourselves to start down the path of disagreement which merges with callous hatred, we arrive at a place populated with dehumanized individuals. And when people are no longer human to us – when we no longer feel a human connection – it becomes easy to do anything you want to them. History tells us that virtually every genocide began with dehumanization of people.
What you and I can do is recognize the pattern and stop it. Stop participating in the useless arguing on social media and stop lending our approval of inappropriate attacks. Instead, let’s refresh our minds with the fact that we’re all inextricably connected to one another and that connection is real and alive. Enough with the nonsense.
Sam Terry is Managing Editor of Jobe Publishing, Inc. His commentary reflects his personal views and does not reflect the views of personal or professional associations and affiliations. Reach him at email@example.com. Read his previously published commentary at www.jobeforkentucky.com.