Archived Story

Each person is an individual

Published 1:01pm Saturday, June 29, 2013

The older I get, the clearer I see.

That will probably hold true until the age of cataracts.

But for now, it certainly seems that a half century of living has made some things more clear.

One that I’ve been thinking about lately is how each creature that walks this world is different. No two are the same.

Yet we humans – speaking for myself and what I believe is a whole lot of other people – tend to lump people, plants and animals and other together in big, common groups and give them a name.

You might say, “I caught 12 bass today.” And you think of them as 12 bass, not a dozen different fish with different characteristics. Yes, they are 12 bass of basically the same make-up. But some are more intelligent, some are larger or smaller. Some may be holding eggs that could make a significant impact on the local bass population, some may have the potential to grow bigger, some may be stunted. We call ‘em all bass and don’t think much about it.

We do the same thing with people.

It’s probably a defense mechanism that helped improve our survival rate and shaped our cultural evolution.

If you’re being attacked, you can’t think too much when you’re fighting back. If you get caught up in who’s a father, or who’s taking care of their parents back home, or who’s in love, you might not fight back as hard. And that can get you killed. Those of us alive today are the descendents of the people who survived, not the people who hesitated and got killed.

So there’s a good, natural reason to think the way we do.

But it causes us lots of problems.

The national discussions about gay marriage,immigration and the Islamic faith have been in the news a lot recently. When I was younger, I had strong, black-and-white convictions about those groups.

The older I get, the more clearly I see lots of gray.

It’s easy to demonize groups of people who are different than ourselves, especially if we don’t have much contact with people in a group.

I learned a strong lesson about this when I traveled extensively for a year, and then when I worked overseas in Bosnia. I’ve worked beside people who are Muslims and count several as friends. And what I learned is that some stop everything, face Mecca, and get down on their knees when the call to prayer rings out from the mosques.  Others pay it little attention and go about their lives.

It’s no different than Christians who live here in Alexander City. Some are very strict in their beliefs, others not so much.

One night on a business trip in Bosnia, I shared a hotel room with a Muslim friend and we sat up in bed and talked for an hour or two, sharing stories about our children, what we did on vacations, how we dealt with money problems, growing up and fishing with our grandparents. That two-hour conversation made it quite clear to me that each person is different. I will never again lump all Muslims together in a group because I know there is a wide range of people in that group and while some may be a threat to me or my country, others can be close friends.

It’s been my experience in visiting more than 50 countries and getting to know people of many faiths, ethnic groups and attitudes that the overwhelming vast majority of people are good. Most people, if they lived or worked closely together, would wind up as friends, or at least they would treat each other with courtesy and respect.

As we work through these “big” issues as a country, I think that’s important to remember. Each person is an individual, and most share a common desire for creating a better future for themselves and our world as a whole. If we’re not being truly threatened by another group people, there’s no reason to demonize them.

That’s an evolutionary mindset I hope we humans can somehow achieve.

Boone is publisher of The Outlook.

  • hushhhh

    Thanks for a thoughtful, personal reflection. We can’t be reminded enough about these things.