As it so happens, I was sent two “Ugh” links on the same day. It isn’t unusual for me to be sent two Ugh links in one day, after all this is the era of Trump, a time period in which there is a great push to entrench our nation in our old and enduring prejudices. Still, these two Ugh links seemed to sort of ding, for me, the kind of ding that makes me want to write.
The first email was a rant-oriented conservative website telling America to “Wake Up!” In Michigan (a swing state that swung Red, for Trump), discontent with Trump has opened up an opportunity for Abdul El-Sayed to run for Governor. Here’s the headline of Ugh Link #1: “BEWARE: There is Potential Danger in Michigan!”
The article makes no mention of El-Sayed’s ideas or positions on issues — it doesn’t even bother to mention why he is a danger. It’s assumed, and if you weren’t sharp enough to catch it, it’s in one of the opening sentences: How would it feel to have to say: PRESIDENT ABDUL EL-SAYED?
The second email I received came from the tech world, yes from the Bay Area itself, bastion of tolerance that we aspire to be. And yet, alas, another Ugh link, about a Google employee who wrote a manifesto on how men and women are inherently different, etc., and that these differences make is such that only men are fit to be engineers.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
Do we really want to live in a world where our name, alone, disqualifies us for running for political office? Or where being born a woman means that we would have to fight an uphill battle to be a tech engineer? Of course not.
Even many people who voted Trump would say that they want options, for themselves and their children, that they want to live in a world where each person’s merit alone gives them the opportunity to do whatever the hell they want to do. But if you want that for yourself, then why wouldn’t you extend that to others? A sort of “do-unto-others” kind of thing?
And maybe that’s the heart of the issue, for many, when it comes to intolerance, that old adage that seemed to sum up many of the teachings of Jesus: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Would you like to be judged based on your gender or religion or your family name? No. Okay, then, don’t do that shit to others. It sure seems simple, at first glance, but since so many of us homo sapiens have such a hard time grasping it, perhaps the simplicity of “do unto others” is deceptive.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. ~ Galatians 3
So, here’s something I’m wondering. I’m wondering if it’s possible that many of the most prejudiced people actually do wish to be judged based on superficial characteristics — their gender, or religion, or skin color, etc. — and maybe that’s the essential root of the problem. Perhaps people steeped in prejudice are people who are hiding behind their own superficial characteristics, hiding behind their privilege, hiding behind their whiteness or their male gender or their Christian religion or whatever happens to be the artificial prejudice of the day.
Or maybe for other people, prejudice is something that feels stable. Like maybe women who defend male superiority (i.e., “gender roles” that restrict women’s options) feel comfortable with having things set in stone. Maybe they’ve had to compromise in their lifetime, but they figure that the compromise was worth it. Maybe having fixed roles for women feels safe, in a weird sort of way. I don’t know. I only know that people who suffer from prejudice aimed against them can often turn around and be some of the most viscous enforcers of prejudice and hierarchies of privilege.
Judge not and you will not be judged. It’s a brilliant and inspired maxim that cuts both ways, because when we judge others, when we are steeped in prejudice, it’s a form of slavery, it binds us. It binds us in at least two different ways.
First, prejudice rigidly binds us socially, shackling us to pre-determined roles, it restricts our ability to exercise freedom, within society. The more we allow prejudice to exist and flourish in our culture, the less people are treated as free individuals. We become defined by superficial characteristics and are bound to artificial roles. These are the Orwellian worlds of science fiction, where we are all cogs in a machine whose ultimate end is simple to preserve the machine and the prejudices and hierarchies that it protects.
But as terrible as this is, there’s something more, something deeper, something internal. Prejudice and judgment have pretty drastic consequences for those who allow themselves to be overcome by them. A sort-of instant karma thing.
Prejudice is exhausting. It takes a lot of energy to judge, it takes a lot of spiritual effort nurse prejudices. It’s hard work.
Our prejudices eventually lead us to become resentful, frustrated with those who break the rules, the artificial norms. Harboring these resentment is what leads to anger, which locks us up and tends to build, eventually leading to a disposition of hatred and malice.
The way of Jesus, the way of all great spiritual teachers, is the way of freedom. But freedom within cannot be attained so long as we harbor prejudices toward others.
Mercy is freedom. Grace is liberating. It is the antithesis of prejudice.