You And I Are Not So Different

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Trump calls for all muslim immigration to stop until we can develop a plan to handle the issues we’ve faced with a certain minority population among them.

Atheists berate Christians and other believers for believing in fairy tales.

Non-white, non-male, non-middle class people accuse white male middle-class people of being bad, and when they try to go out and help, it’s just yet another example of how they are bad.

Need I go on?

It was discovered a long time ago that in the Civil War, soldiers had their rifles stuffed with multiple charges. Why they would do this was a mystery until it was realized that it’s really hard to get your soldiers to shoot the other guy’s soldiers. It is fairly typical that someone would rather die than kill. In order to combat this, it was discovered that if you labelled the other guy’s soldiers as less than human, monstrous, demonic, then it became easier for your soldiers to pull the trigger. Hence, the propaganda during WWII that labeled German, Italian, and Japanese people as monstrous and evil. The Germans and Japanese did the same, to great effect. Also, during WWII, the Germans operated concentration camps where they isolated “others” from the population and performed gross inhuman acts upon them. After WWII, we have multiple instances where people were convinced to kill and hurt others.

The method is as follows:

  1. Dehumanize the enemy. Make them seem as inhuman as possible. They are not your neighbors, they are bad people trying to kill you because they are bloodthirsty and vicious.
  2. Label them. Give them a name. You don’t have to be very clear on what is or is not worthy of being given the name. You just need a name. Names could include things like “Jap”, “Wop”, “Kraut”, “Nazi”. It could include things like “Bourgeois”, “Capatilist”, “Racist”, “Imperialist”. It really doesn’t matter.
  3. Attack strawmen under the name. For instance, “All republicans want to do is take away your reproductive rights.”
  4. Let the hate burn. After all, according to these people, hate is the only thing that motivates people.

I want to share you a story. About 15 years ago, after suffering a particularly humiliating defeat of our party in the elections in my hometown, one of the activists I associated with, in a bitter, sad outburst, said, “We need to use hate. It’s the only way to get people to do things.” A strange silence fell over us as we pondered that. Someone replied, “If we’re going to use hate, then I would rather lose.” I don’t know what happened to that individual. I do know that we chose, as a group, not to use hate. And today, in Federal Way, there are three republicans elected to our state legislature.

We are not so different, you and I.

Here’s how you diffuse the above strategy.

  1. Humanize the enemy. They are not bad or evil, they are just opposed to you. Just like you oppose them because you think you are right, they oppose you for the same. What is bad is not who they are, but what they do. What needs to be stopped is not people, but behavior.
  2. Refuse labels. Don’t give them a name, or rather, give them a name that we all belong to. Some people accuse Christians of being mean for calling people “sinners”, but in reality, they are saying, “You are like me—a sinner.” So if you must use a name, make sure it applies to yourself as well.
  3. Don’t invent or tolerate strawmen. You can eliminate strawmen by letting people speak for themselves. In my example above, ask a republican, “Do you want to take away my reproductive rights?” The answer will surprise you. Whenever there is disagreement, the answer should always surprise you. If you can’t understand why they would oppose you, that means there is something out there to learn.
  4. Ignore hate, and refuse to tolerate it or use it. If you really want to change someone’s behavior, you invite them and be an example for them. You include them and associate with them. How can poor people learn to act proper unless they are able to watch proper people act?

I think it’s a rather simple strategy. And in my experience, it works.

I don’t see the world as gay or straight, white or black, American or foreign. I don’t see muslims, christians, or atheists. I see people. People who have different ideas about things.

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