It’s so tempting to dehumanize dehumanizers

Dear President Trump,

Laura flew to Atlanta last night to be with her brother and our brother-in-law (BIL) for several days. We now know that the bone cancer came from a tumor in one of BIL’s kidneys, but we don’t know yet whether it’s spread elsewhere. He started palliative radiation treatment yesterday for pain and to improve his mobility, but the rest of his treatment plan is still being worked out. Thankfully as a federal employee, BIL has solid health insurance. And because we no longer live in the dark “good ol’ days,” Laura’s brother is fully involved with BIL’s care.

I’ve been holding on to a quote by Robert Jones, Jr., who calls himself the spiritual son of James Baldwin. As I think about Laura’s brother and his husband and Jeff Session’s new task force on “protecting religious liberties” (i.e., giving evangelical Christians license to discriminate against LGBTQ people), today is the day to share it with you:

“We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”

These words have been so satisfying to read and re-read. I don’t have to love you if you want me to disappear. You don’t love me so I don’t have to love you. Seems fair.

I could love you, though (well, not you, exactly; I’m speaking figuratively here). I could be understanding and see past your bigotry to the fear and conditioning that it’s rooted in and could choose to love you and go beyond fair. I don’t think this is at all what Jones intended, but it is an option.

And, it’s critically important to recognize that when someone takes the position that another does not have the right to exist fully as themselves, then that signals a lack of love on the part of the judger. No matter how passionately “love the sinner, hate the sin” is invoked, if the “sin” to be hated is fundamental to who the person is, then it’s the judger who has broken the social contract by failing to love her neighbor. Those of us who are the targets of such judgments have to choose whether we are going to join the dehumanizer by dehumanizing her or if we are going to find some other way to engage that has a chance of pulling us back from the brink of mutual destruction.

May we be safe from hate and from hating.
May we maybe love judgers, even if from a distance.
May we be strong and insist on our full human rights.
May we push ourselves not to dehumanize anyone and keep the door cracked open for peace.

Tracy Simpson

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