The Trouble With Boxes

The other day, I posted a quote from Thomas Jefferson in an effort to explain my opposition to what I (and a lot of others) consider overly intrusive tactics by the TSA.

Dudley left me a good-natured comment in which he accused me of “drinking the tea” (I know this wasn’t a jab because I know Dudley, and I know he loves me and he wouldn’t poke me like that in a mean spirit).   The underlying premise of his comment (at least, as I understand it) – that it is surprising that I, the lefty liberal, why-can’t-we-all-get-along Chili would have anything in common with people who identify as NOT those things – got me thinking.

A few days later, Success Warrior wrote a pretty in-depth post about the TSA topic (it’s what we’re all talking about, after all).  I left him a comment on his site asking for a conversation about why some people were surprised that I would object to what’s going on in some airports.  His response was that he was not at all surprised, that he didn’t see it as a contradiction at all to how I have represented myself, my values, and my ethics, and that, in fact, he would have been surprised had I NOT been upset.

That led to a conversation about the limiting effects of labels and boxes.  While I understand that it is a human thing to label – we need to understand who we are by understanding who we are not – I contend, as I have loudly and in public many times before, that all the labeling has gotten way out of hand.  I am certain, just as sure as I’m breathing in and out, that there are a number of people who not only WERE surprised by my protest post, but who probably also gave themselves pause to doubt my sincerity.  I mean, really; how could Chili possibly have a conservative thought in her head?

Success Warrior made the very valid point that, as soon as some people decide who you are, they don’t bother really listening to you anymore; “they box you,” he said, “then dismiss your answers because they don’t like that box or anything that comes from it.”  Then, he said, “sometimes it seems they try to disagree even with common sense out of fear that someone might throw THEM in YOUR box.”

Really, this is what happens.  I have watched people do this to others, and I have seen it done to me.  I have had people actually come right out and ask me how I can continue to call people who hold different ideologies than I hold “friends.”

You want to know how I do it?  I think about the PERSON first.  I’m interested in the human being, not the politics.  There is nothing about the way we’ve been filing each other that promotes any thinking at all, nothing that fosters any kind of productive or ethical communication, and nothing that honors our common humanity, and I wish that people would just back off of it.  If we could figure out, even just a little, how to start seeing each other again – and how to really listen – I’m pretty sure that we’d find we’re a lot more alike than we are different.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The Trouble With Boxes

  1. Now, see, your TSA comment didn’t surprise me at all. Nor does this particular issue strike me as a “conservative vs liberal” issue. After all, when GW passed the Patriot Act, did not a great many people react in the same way? Did we not hear a lot of “How much of your freedom are you willing to sacrifice for security?” back then? It’s the same question being asked now.

    It is, in fact, about freedom, about being able to live our lives the way we, as Americans, expect to be able to live them, and having our privacy invaded without probable cause just to board an airplane is NOT how we, as Americans, expect to be able to live our lives.

    What’s next, after all? Will we have to go through this to board a train? A bus? To drive our car through Times Square? In response to another blog post Saintseester referenced the Somali man recently arrested for trying to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree lighting celebration by asking “So when are the patdowns at Xmas tree farms going to start?”

    Regarding the TSA issue specifically, this is not a liberal issue or a conservative issue, it is an American issue.

    Regarding the larger “box” issue, I’m afraid I don’t have any good answers. :(

  2. I’ve given up having opinions. I’m in the “no opinion” box.

  3. Actually, I have opinions, but voicing them seems to avail little. With regard to the TSA thing, I have not gotten exercised over it.

    As for “boxes,” I sometimes get the impression that if someone is wound up over some particular issue, they see a political group/philosophy and buy into the whole package of positions represented. What that seems to lead to is a lack of open-mindedness. It’s as though they have a “cheat sheet” to refer to when adopting a view on something, and make life easier for themselves by using the “cheat sheet” instead of thinking each issue through.

    I guess I’m referring to “party discipline,” and I despise it.

  4. Gerry,

    I have had the same thought although I couldn’t put a name to it. “Cheat sheet” fits very nicely. By jumping into a box, they don’t have to think about each individual issue. They can just glance at the cheat sheet with attached talking points and they know what they are supposed to believe, and all without putting any effort into research and thinking.

    I like that I tend to think outside of the boxes, as far as how I group other people. I group them in groups of one.

    I also think that if someone were to go through my blog and my blog-on-hold (Chronicles), any box someone tried to put me in would rip and fall apart (picture Ace Ventura in the first movie trying to hide in a too-small box).

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