Engaging the "Enemy"

October 29, 2014

Image via Vox Efx on Flickr

I don't know about you, but I've occasionally been guilty of tossing that label around a bit too freely, a bit too loosely, without really stopping to think about all the ramifications that label entails.

It's a habit easy to pick up in this age of 24-hour cable news involving shouting matches and split screens, with each side intent on diminishing anyone who doesn't agree with their worldview, their version of politics, their ideas of how things should be done.

Sometimes, the label is appropriate.  But sometimes it's a cop-out, an easy label to affix to someone who disagrees with us, who disagrees with our worldview, who votes differently than we do. When we label someone our enemy, we grant ourselves permission to dismiss anything they say or do without any further thought.

As we near the mid-term elections with an endless stream of commercials, of mailboxes filed with a half dozen political flyers every day, of door-knocking college students carrying clipboards who want to know whether or not I'm inclined to vote a "straight ticket," I'm reminded yet again of how very, very careful we must be about labels.

As a speech communication major in college, I did my senior project on military and war propaganda in WWI and WWII. I learned that the best war propaganda used images, words and phrases that portrayed the other side as something just slightly less than human. The United States was a master of this technique, as was Nazi Germany. Those techniques were used because they were effective. 

I wince when I hear that same type of language and imagery being bandied carelessly about as we describe people with whom we disagree, especially against those who hold different opinions on politics or faith. 

Let us drop the language of war when we speak of our fellow citizens. Democrats are not the enemy. Republicans are not the enemy. Those of us preparing to vote are each a citizen of the United States of America and we are, each of us, a human being - filled with hopes, dreams, and ideas for the future.  

Our nation's forefathers fought fiercely for our right to publicly and vehemently disagree with one another. Let us exercise that privilege in a way that doesn't tear apart the fabric of the society they, and every soldier thereafter, fought so hard to create and protect.

God bless America, and may God bless you as you vote next week

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