Have you ever been a member of a group (e.g., Boy Scouts, Democratic Party, teachers’ union), or do you self-identify with some group (e.g., skeptics/ agnostics, Christians, political conservatives)? I suspect the answer is, “Yes, several.”
Multi-ethnic, possibly mult- other stuff, group of people
Now, have you ever seen or heard someone from your group — or, at least, whom outsiders associate as part of your group — saying/doing something stupid, repugnant, or otherwise embarrassing? Yeah, me too.
Sometimes the offending party is someone who holds to the same ideas & principles as you and the rest of your group and who is normally a “fine, upstanding member.” But, something just sets them off on this particular occasion and you wish they would just shut up and go home. Or, maybe, it turns out the individual has a particular vice or, er, shortcoming that suddenly gets some attention. Once in awhile, though, there is some far-xxxxx radical or idiot or nutjob who is singled out by the media and gives your whole group a bad name. I hate when that happens. (OK, ok, I “strongly dislike” when that happens. Don’t want to be labeled a “hater”.)
For me, as far as the first type goes, it might be someone like Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter. I don’t follow either of them closely, but I’ve read at least one book by each, and when I hear/read them or about something they’ve said, I generally agree. Their styles occasionally grate on me, but we’re basically on the same page on most things. But, once in awhile, they will say or do something that will make me cringe that was, shall we say, tactically unwise, at best. (At least in the way it was phrased.) For example, Limbaugh’s addiction to prescription drugs or Coulter’s remarks about the 9/11 widows “enjoying” their husbands’ deaths. Groan!
As for the second, more radical type, I think of people like the “Christian” militia group who are currently in the news, or the Westboro Baptist Church whose members are always showing up & getting on camera with their signs & placards that says stuff like “God Hates Fags!” (I’m not Baptist, but I’ve known quite a few, and none of them were hatemongers like this crowd.) Now, I may actually agree on a couple very basic points with both of these two groups — uh oh, I’m in trouble now — but their rather extremist views (especially on certain topics) and activities are not something I can agree with or, in good conscience, condone. I’m sure other examples come to your mind, as well.
But, of course, the media love to jump on it, the bloggers eat it up, and those who hold opposing positions to yours will paint your whole group with the same broad brush. It’s frustrating and sometimes makes you want to scream, “I’m not one of them! I don’t hold that view, so don’t lump me in with those morons!”
I was trying to think of what an equivalent example might be for someone who is “on the other side of the aisle” from me politically, theologically, philosophically, etc. It’s not easy, especially when there are so many far-Lefties in both federal government and the news & entertainment industries embracing, literally and figuratively, Communist dictators like Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. Is the “average” Democrat or liberal as disturbed by this as I am?
One possible example is those more “reserved” homosexuals who are exasperated by some of the antics of the “flamers” and more in-your-face activists. Another possibility is when one of the “New Atheists” (e.g., Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris) makes some incredibly scathing comment about the evils of religion or mocks & impugns some revered religious person. (On politics, I actually agree with Hitchens on a lot, while we are diametrically opposed on many (most?) theological/philosophical issues.) I know some atheists and agnostics that just shake their heads or roll their eyes at such provocative and, yes, judgmental comments. Any other examples you all can think of?
I guess what I’m getting at, here, is that we all need to be careful. Next time you are tempted to latch onto some wingnut’s comments or actions and accuse his/her broader ideological “community”, if you will, of being totally likeminded, take a step back. (Unless, of course, there is plenty of other evidence indicating that’s the case.) Remember how you have felt in a similar case and refrain, or at least temper or qualify your own remarks and conclusions. Or, to put it another way, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I’ll try to do the same.