Labels

What’s with all the labels? The recent nomination of Katanji Brown Jackson to be a Supreme Court justice is simply the latest example of where the label, in this case “First Black Woman,” superseded the actual person in the public eye.

People like her seemingly aren’t considered just people by the media, they’re “Black people.” And any accomplishment they make is labeled as a first, or something groundbreaking. So and so was just nominated to this or that position, “the first Black person” to be so considered. It’s bad enough that thinking that capitalizing the word “Black” somehow makes up for years of discrimination. But continually pointing out that they’re “different” really doesn’t help the cause. Can’t we just say, “Katanji Brown Jackson, a highly qualified individual,” was nominated? Period!

Same way with politicians. Every time one is quoted in the news or on TV, there is some parenthetical or video caption that labels their party and geographic affiliation, e.g. D-NY or R-WY. Aren’t our elected national officials supposed to put country first? Isn’t that the way we would prefer it? Wouldn’t it be better for our unity to just say, “Rep. Smith” or “Senator Jones” and not cast him/her into one camp, or one geographical patch?

Labels only lead to divisiveness by accentuating our differences. I’ve long advocated that we greet each other, refer to each other, as “Citizen.” It’s the one thing we ALL have in common. And, likely, the most important. Unfortunately, doing so, bringing all to the same level, would violate one of the fundamental tenets of our info-saturated economy–there’s profit to made in creating social friction. And the more tension that can be manufactured through pointing out our differences, rather than our similarities, the more money that can be made.

American has heretofore been able to manage this money-making tension because the movement of information was slow and the discord kept itself on the fringes. News cycles were long and time is money. Creating tension took time, and it wasn’t profitable for the moneyed interests to bring things to a slow boil.

When I was a kid we had a half-hour of national/world news every night with John Cameron Swayze. After a while it took two guys, Huntley and Brinkley, to deliver it. But with the onset of the Internet and social media, and the explosion of information, timelines dramatically shortened and the opportunity presented itself to monetize disunity. Suddenly, “The News” was not something objective and fact-based and a minor part of our daily existence, but an ocean in which we were forced to swim 24/7. Money is made by drowning us in this new version of “news,” which has little resemblance to truth, and can be parsed and customized to anyone’s whim.

Those of us on the progressive side can’t imagine how those on the opposite side can swallow their swill. But we’re blinded by our rage and indignation to the fact that we, too, have succumbed. Like theirs, our own version of “The News” is like a life-vest, keeping us afloat in this sea of rage. And one of the major forces roiling the waves is labeling.

Red-Blue. White-Black. Gay-Straight. North-South. East-West-Midwest. ProLife-Women’s Rights. Urban-Rural. You could probably add dozens to this list if you thought about it for a bit. You get my point. Moneyed interests have leveraged this new explosion of information by creating and assigning labels that have retro’d us back to tribalism

This is no longer the United States of America, but more akin to the time before the Europeans arrived, when there were hundreds of indigenous tribes scattered across this continent. The difference is that they, unbridled by a surplus of information, managed to get along. In fact, they had such a good hold on things that, according to a book that is now the rage, their philosophies were a major influence on the European Enlightenment.

Fear not! This age of insanity will end. Perhaps with a bang, perhaps with a whimper. What goes around….does come around. Not that I’m going to live to see it.

©2022, David B Bucher

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