The Language of Who We Aren’t

There is so much talk right now of who’s bombing whom and whose missiles are firing where. There’s talk of the undocumented and the impoverished.

All of this talk is aimed at one thing: Defining those that are like us and those that are not.

We have a language, not of who we are, but of who we are not.

The language of “the other” has been around perhaps as long as language itself. Our 24/7 access to media of all kinds perpetuates this divisive language so that it becomes our reality.

Us and them is all that we know.

The horrors in the world become safe if they aren’t happening to us. We don’t have to engage another’s sorrow if they aren’t someone.

Whenever an international tragedy occurs, the first question that we ask is: “Were there any Americans?” “Was there anyone like us?”

Everyone is like us.

Experiences vary, but we are all human. There is no separation. Same planet. Same molecules. Same hearts. Same brains. Same souls.

The more our language allows us to deny our sameness, the more we are comfortable labeling children as “damn freeloaders.” The more comfortable we are with sending those children back to the murder capital of the world – a place we would never send our own children.

Then of course, there’s the issue of so-called Christians being the ones who are the most egregious proponents of “othering,” thus casting a dark mark on this religion of oneness.

Nearly all religions (and atheism, as well) call for the oneness of humanity. Yet, so many who subscribe to those beliefs fail to put them into practice.

Othering is safe, oneness is unsafe. It means taking some level of responsibility for those who are less fortunate.

It means doing more with your life than perhaps you are comfortable doing.

It means letting go of ancient battles.

It means letting go of your metaphysical and physical boundaries.

It means accepting that you and yours are not the center of the universe.

 Of course, changing our language is not a comprehensive solution to evil, but it’s a step. How different would things be if our media dropped references to nationalities and instead said

Humans fired on humans today killing hundreds of other humans.

or

Humans flee from certain death to a land whose humans embrace the words ‘give us your huddled masses yearning to be free.‘”

Of course, the politics of these situations is complex and this post is more than a bit idealistic. The solutions to these problems are layered and involve many considerations.

However, the rhetoric surrounding these events need not seek to alienate humans from other humans.

Some say that changing the world starts by changing things in your own backyard. I say it’s even closer than that. Start by changing yourself. Start by changing the language that you use. Alter the smallest of words and see how that affects how you view yourself in relation to the rest of humanity.

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