Groups and Love

Posted: 2012/11/19 in Thinking Tools

They’re at it again.

The Palestinians in Gaza did something. The Israelis did something back. A couple of weeks ago, we Americans were arguing about what the government ought to do, and what the corporations have done.

Legally, these words make sense. Governments enter into treaties, and corporations have free speech rights.

But we start down a slippery slope when we say things like, “The Israelis are oppressors” or “The Palestinians are terrorists.”

Groups and labels make things so simple. They are the threads from which bigotry is woven. “You know how they are.” And then those who wish to stop bigotry find themselves picking up the same group-based tools. “Such-and-such group is underrepresented. There ought to be a law.” In liberal taxonomy, I’m a straight, white, Christian male, blinded by privilege and responsible for something vague yet weighty. It’s like original sin, except there’s no offer of atonement. Hating a group seems acceptable, or even just. And is it even possible to love a group? I don’t know.

We group and classify and categorize ourselves and each other in order to cope, I suppose. Without it, our heads would explode.

Maybe they need to.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that there are individual Palestinians who will not rest until every last Jew is gone from the Levant. Or that there are individual Palestinians who would be quite happy to give up their right of return to their grandparents’ home, if only the fighting would stop. Or that there are individual Israelis who think that the only way to teach the Palestinians a lesson is to kill all of the “extreme” ones. Or that there are individual Israelis who would risk their lives to clear children out of an apartment building that is about to be attacked because it’s suspected that a Hamas cell is based there.

If we had to keep track of one hundred thousand individual Palestinians and their motives and actions, and ten thousand Israelis besides, our brains would explode. Maybe they need to!

Maybe our brains would only explode if we insisted on having answers. Maybe our brains would be fine if we could say, “I don’t know. It must be awfully complicated, with so many people involved, each with their own experiences and things they’ve been taught.”

Israelis and Palestinians don’t love, or hate. Individual people love, or hate, or forgive.

The other day, I read, “The devil isn’t out to bring America down. America means nothing to him. He’s out to bring Americans down.”

Paul the Christian—Christians, who have fallen so deeply and so far into the group trap!—wrote of Jesus, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”

Group less. Love more.

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