If you are an Eric Clapton fan you will know there are tears in heaven. I’m not so sure, but if there were, I reckon more than a few of them would be shed over the barriers we erect to separate us from people we see as different, and therefore not worthy.
We are clever little puppies, we humans. Ever so inventive and prolific, we have invented a whole lot of ways to put people in boxes. One of these is our penchant for assigning labels. I do it and I’m pretty sure you do too. Labels save time. We feel comfortable with them. They reinforce the way we see the world. That world is complicated, unpredictable, messy and infuriatingly contrary. Is it any wonder we like to tidy it up as we would a room full of scattered toys. A box for everything and everything in a box.
Here a few that have traction in my world:
Old; Young; Gen Y; Baby Boomer; Old White Male; Feminist; Airhead; Racist; Conservative; Progressive; Tree Hugger; Redneck; Bogan; Fascist, Communist; Unemployed; Winner; Loser; Left wing luvvie; Right wing scum.
No doubt you could add a few of your own.
I have a proposition to put to you. It is this:
When we take the time to relate to each other person to person, labels become much less useful. They tend to fade to irrelevance. Have you noticed that too?
How often do we dismiss other people on the basis of the labels we assign them?
Again and again it has become plain to me that people are more surprising, complex and innately more valuable than any labeled box we might toss them into.
Reading the Letters to the Editor from my newspaper of choice this morning I was stopped in my tracks by a few lines from one writer:
“More and more doctors are being co-opted into dehumanising children with Down and treating the children themselves as a disease to be detected and eliminated from the population through selective abortion.
It is difficult to live comfortably in a society where about 90 per cent of mothers make the “informed choice” to prevent births of their children because their child has this condition”.
It seems to me we’ve gone far beyond using “Down Syndrome” as a medical term. It has become another of the many labels we apply to people who are different from us; another box to throw people into as we try to keep our world tidy. Just like the letter writer, I find myself increasingly uncomfortable about living as part of a society in which it is perfectly acceptable to throw people into a box labelled “Down Syndrome”, disposing of them as inconvenient refuse.
In an ideal world we would have no use for boxes that hide the inconvenient truth that each and every one of us matters to our creator. Each and every one of us has value that could only enrich the rest of us if we took the time to look beyond the label.
Sadly, in this world we may not realise that any tears they might cry in heaven would not be for those we discard and destroy out of the hardness of our hearts. The tears they cry would be for us.
You and I.