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What’s With the Labels?

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

What’s up with America’s obsession to label everything and everyone? Heaven forbid we could be a nation of individuals with the freedom to enjoy varying opinions. Sorry, that’s just not permitted in our “politically correct” environment.

“Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conservative, Tea Party, Occupier, Rich, Poor, Towel Head, Skin Head, Black Panthers, White Supremacists,” — if you have a belief in something, good or bad, you will be labeled. And believe me, once you are labeled, that’s pretty much it. You are stuffed into that box with little chance of escape, other than the witness protection program.

Do Labels Have Power?

When groups of people are labeled, they are dehumanized, and that makes them more vulnerable to attack from those that oppose them. In World War II we didn’t fight the Japanese or the German armies. We fought “Japs” and “Krauts.” In Vietnam we fought “gooks”, “slopes,” “slant eyes.” It’s much easier to kill someone when they are no longer seen as human. In the 1960’s, it was the “Hippie” movement. “Take a bath, get a job,” was heard quite often at anti-war rallies.

Political Labels

In the political landscape, it’s much easier to attack those with opposing views, by finding the lowest common denominator of the group, and using them to identify the group. In the case of the Tea Party it’s people with missing teeth, southern accents, funny t-shirts and misspelled signs. In the case of the Occupiers it’s the ones reliving themselves on the street, having public sex or destroying property. Neither is an accurate definition, of either group, in my opinion.

Once a group is labeled, then an attack strategy for the opposition group is developed. All the network talking heads get the latest cool label and run with it. After all, how else would we non-thinking Americans know which side to take, if the media didn’t show us?

And let’s not forget scandals. Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, nothing like a good “scandal” label to bring you down.

“Blue Dog Democrats,” “Right Wing Radicals,” “Dittoheads,” “Religious Right,” “Pro-Gun”, all take to the podium on the Senate and House floor to either promote or attack their respective labels. If I hear, “Kick the can down the road,” from one more politician, I may go postal.

Some Final Thoughts

The next time you hear someone label someone else, I want you to stop and think about something. If you were the target, would that one or two word label encompass all you are? Does that label prevent you from changing your mind, or your position, as new information becomes available? Did people change their opinion of Nixon when new information surfaced?

Please don’t allow yourself to be pigeonholed by those who don’t believe the same things you do. The best way to end labeling, is to stop doing it yourself, and rebuke your friends when they label others.

All of us bring a lot more to the table than our beliefs on one or two subjects. Just because I like St. Louis Cardinal baseball, doesn’t mean I don’t like other sports, or other teams. Just because I don’t like one song, doesn’t mean I don’t like the CD. In the end, I firmly believe that we are more alike than we are different; that we are more in agreement than we might think. The full spectrum of your points of view is suppressed, when you are imprisoned by the anemic definition of a label.

What’s my label? “Open minded, free thinker.” What’s yours?

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