Is it Fair for us to Assign an Identity to Someone Else?
I was minding my own business yesterday, leafing through Facebook, when I came across a post from a FB friend - I’ll call him Joe. He was an acquaintance from the YMCA where my wife and I exercised years ago. We’d spoken maybe half a dozen times, over as many years and he’s certainly not an introvert. He did not keep his political beliefs or sexual orientation to himself then, nor does he today. Joe seems reasonably smart and I just discovered he’s the current editor of a publication addressing diversity - certainly a worthwhile cause.
In yesterday’s FB post he really vented about an obviously gay dude who surprised him by sending a meme in support of a former president who’s not known for being supportive of minority groups. To my knowledge, Joe knew nothing about this stranger other than his sexual and political orientations, yet he seemed proud of how he blasted this new adversary. He threw as many nasty names and insults as he could, and then unfriended him. Boy that must have hurt. I’m sure the exchange dramatically changed the guy’s political trajectory! I Jest.
Although I’m no fan of the former president and have my guesses as to what Joe was angry about, I was particularly struck by HIS blanket disdain for anyone, based solely on one thing that he didn’t like or understand. Imagine that!
After seeing his rant, I did a little fact-checking about our former president and the LGBTQ cause. It is NOT as black and white as I thought it would be. The HUGE problem is that “News” networks like Fox , MSNBC and CNN rarely report news that doesn’t fit their agenda and groomed audiences. Anything worthwhile that Trump actually did do regarding the LGBTQ community would have at best been aired on Fox, but even that’s unlikely considering the subject matter.
Why such anger?
My suspicion is that Joe had pre-emptively put his FB “friend” in a nice neat box. But then he discovered that his “friend” had the gall to sneak outside that box. Joe’s world revolves around his identity as defender of diversity, but it’s possible that his FB enemy doesn’t live there. Maybe he just visits the issues of homosexuality or diversity as necessary. His FB enemy was a unique individual, just like all the rest of us.
People are enormously complex and make their choices for a whole host of different reasons. When we know very little about someone, we’re almost coerced into trying to make connections between their actions and the identity that we have unknowingly assigned to them. But sometimes, we don’t see the dots.