the other day, i was sitting at our kitchen table visiting with my wife and another couple. i was talking about my difficulties in dealing with the social security administration to have our new address change entered into the ssa system and having our ssa checks depositied into our new bank account. the husband of the other couple compared this to the problem they had a couple of years ago when the state revenue department questioned their tax return. "every time we called we got some black person--and i'm not being racist--who could not understand our explanation of our tax return" he said. "we didn't get it resolved until we finally reached a white person who knew what we were talking about." i bit my tongue as i listened to his comments about black versus white people, despite his disclaimer, so that i wouldn't lash out in anger.
as i thought about that conversation, i realized how often i am guilty of associating "otherness" with incompetence, as if having a skin color or some other physical attribute that is different has anything to do with competence. i am just as guilty of such prejudice as my friend. i remember how, after the 9-11 attacks, i was quick to condemn muslims in general because i didn't hear news reports of vociferous condemnations of these acts of terrorism by prominent muslim leaders. in a conversation about this lack of outcry immediately following the attacks, a friend reminded me that these were acts committed for political reasons rather than religious ones, comparing these terrorists to the attacks of ira terrorists on the united kingdom. he pointed out that "you would not have condemned christian leaders for failing to condemn those terrorists because the terrorists were christians; you would have recognized that these were political acts, not religious ones."
after this conversation regarding the 9-11 conspirators, i saw that i was ready to attack an entire religion because of the acts of a few misguided adherents of that faith. muslims in general were no more guilty in that instance than were roman catholics in general because of the terrorist acts of some ira fanatics. why is that we have a propensity for lumping people in groups because of their ethnicity, religion, or some other common trait or belief? there is no muslim population, no gay population, no christian population, no black, white, red, or yellow population; there are only people, all different, all individual. when we think and act as mobs who are quick to attack others because they are part of some vague "other," we forget that we are all so much more alike that we are different. we all are pursuing happiness for ourselves and those we love, we all crave the necessities of life, we all struggle to find the right path, we are one human race.
may we recognize the log in our own eye rather than seeking to remove the speck in the eye of another. may we see ourselves and others for who we are: fellow creatures stumbling along the path. may we look beyond physical, religious, or lifestyle traits to see the person like ourselves. may we love without condition. shalom.