So this weekend, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore posted the following tweet:
First of all, I think it’s important to remember that Michael Moore’s main product is Michael Moore. He makes controversial films. He says controversial things. Tweets such as this promote his product, him. On one level, it’s no different than when Madonna hitchhiked naked in ’90’s. People weren’t talking about Michael Moore last week. They are this week.
Back to what he said. I don’t agree with it. But it makes perfect sense to me that he said it. Of course Michael’s family was taught that snipers are cowards. Why? Because a sniper killed a member of their family. If a sniper killed my uncle, I doubt I would be very complimentary. This type of reaction happens a lot.
If an individual or group harms or kills someone I love, then I vilify that individual or group. In my mind, I strip them of all humanity in order to redirect the pain I feel toward them. Then, I can direct all my grief, all my anger toward that individual/group and never completely deal with my loss. I don’t recommend this path through grief, as it leads nowhere. But it is a common path.
Let me offer a different example. In the ’70’s and ’80’s there was definitely an anti-Japanese sentiment in this country. (Full disclosure: My uncle was killed by the Japanese in World War II. I was born in 1970, so I only knew him through stories.) Granted, my parents never taught us to dislike Japanese people; they never forbade us from having Japanese friends; my father did business in Japan. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s in this country, it was more of a cultural feeling. The Japanese were the people who were stealing American jobs by undercutting our country’s automotive industry. Remember Gung Ho, anyone? The Japanese were going to destroy us.
Now, here’s the dilemma. I knew some kids who were Japanese. They were nice. I never thought of them as being any different and certainly never saw them as being a part of the nameless, faceless group of Japanese, this “Other”, that was going to ruin our country and take all our jobs.
Recognizing this tension and working through the dilemma it creates leads to a critical point where a decision needs to be made. You can take two very different tracks at this point, and this is what has tripped up humans for centuries. You have a choice.
1. You can let your fear of the “Other” dictate your treatment of the individuals you do know. This leads to discrimination.
2. You can let your knowledge and experience of the people you do know give shape and humanness to the “Other” you don’t know. This leads to liberation.
If you want to move on with your life, choose 2. You’ll be much better off for it, and so will the rest of your world.