I hear it all the time, sometimes from myself: “You know how they are,” or “They have small minds,” or ‘What do you expect? They are all like that.” One can be talking about an ethnic or religious group, other families, politicians, cops – you name it. “They” covers a multitude of sinners who sin simply by belonging to a particular class, group or stereotype. “They” is a perfect synonym for prejudice.
When one labels or judges a people with “they,” innocents are slaughtered. Not all Muslims are terrorists or Mexicans illegals; a Muslim who is a terrorist is not a “they,” nor is an illegal Mexican. That is not to say there are no such things as mobs, group prejudice, ethnic neighborhoods, biases between peoples and nations, etc. The “they” I am talking about is a word that lives in narrow minds, damning individuals with stereotype and generalization that is most often unwarranted.
Everyone deserves to be known and accepted on their own merits, for their own person. Rushing to judgment because of race, religion, class or whatever violates one’s own spirit and others’ as well. Being open and welcoming to all can nurture and enrich any life if only because others can take us into and teach us about a wider world and, ultimately, ourselves.
Living with differences is one of the challenges life presents. Accepting them is not always easy; understanding them sometimes impossible; but judging them without either is counter-productive as well as self-defeating. Acceptance, which is an attitude of openness, does not mean agreeing or becoming friends with anyone or everyone; but acceptance can be the beginning of understanding that may curtail judgment and educate choice.
The “they-wars” of the recent political campaigns continue to rumble and echo across our land, as they should. Our government is far from perfect (as are our generals) but its differing voices are necessary to insure that our system of checks and balances keeps working. “We the people…” is a philosophy – and reality – our nation has embraced from its beginnings. The differences among us herald its greatness. “We the people…” are a mix of every nation on earth and its strength is in its voices.
Some may think that Election Day is the hallmark of democracy, which it is. But it is the day after, when all the voices have been heard and their votes counted, that is the true test of its strength. The fact that America moves on as one, despite the narrow margin of victory of one Party over the other, affirms our belief in ourselves and our form of government.
There should be no room for “they,” or entrenched righteousness, in Washington when it comes to solving our problems. Those belong to all of us, to “We the people…” “They” will not solve them; “We,” with effective leadership, can.