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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My midnight confession: I have biases, but so do you

I have a confession to make. I have strong biases, preferences, and opinions. So shoot me. If you're going to claim you don’t have your own preferences and biases, you’re a liar. WE ALL DO!

Let me give an example of something, a real story that happened to me when I was a teenager, which has stuck with me all my life. It was, as they say, a pivotal moment in my life.

When I was in high school, there was a girl who hated my guts. It was the oddest thing. I barely knew her, but she would scowl at me every day and it finally got to a point where she was physically threatening me. Now, what makes this an almost hilarious vignette is that I went to an all-girl, Catholic high school, in Alexandria, Virginia, in the 1970s. 

There weren’t many fights in this school. To my knowledge, there was never one. So one particular day, this girl voiced her dislike towards me, and my friend who was with me straight out asked her why she disliked me so much. She answered, “I don’t know, there’s just something about her.” Well, that was a real eye-opener for a 15 year old girl!!  SHE didn’t even KNOW what it was about me; she just knew she didn’t like it. Fair enough. She didn’t HAVE to like me. But, she wasn’t supposed to beat my ass either. Lesson: We ALL have biases towards people, things, ideas, opinions, and everything else under the sun. Sometimes they don’t make sense, even to the person feeling them!

You can’t force people to like the same things, believe the same things, or feel the same things. I pray there is never a day when there are laws that FORCE anyone to act exactly the same way. At that point, we will live in a tyrannical state that enforces emotions, character, and thoughts.

A lack of individuality would truly make life dull and colorless. Diversity in life is part of what makes things interesting and vibrant. But the problems arise when people become offended or threatened when some individuals voice their dislike or lack of appreciation for the things they like. For instance, I don’t like the “Honey Boo Boo” show. 

Am I an urban snob because I can’t relate to the people in the show? Does it make me an elitist because I prefer to hear the English language spoken in a certain way? Am I a bad person because I don’t like NASCAR? I also don’t like professional football, does that make me un-American?  

We all have our personal preferences and styles. I love my daughter dearly, but she and I rarely agree on anything when we go shopping. We have our own tastes and style. That’s okay! Wouldn’t it be boring if everyone liked exactly the same clothing? They tried that in China under Chairman Mao and it really didn’t work out very well.

 Here is a list of 20 things I will never like, no matter how much I am pressured or forced by “popular opinion”:

1. Cheerleaders- I don’t get it, despite being lectured on its merits.

2. Fanatics- I don’t care what your cause is, if you are a fanatic, you’ve lost me.

3. Fakes/phoneys- This is self-explanatory. Also falls under the category- Shit talkers.

4. Sororities- Again, not a fan. No amount of explanation is going to change my mind.

5. Onions- Offensive smell and taste PLUS I suspect I am allergic.

6. Winter- Depressing, cold, and dark. Need I say more?

7. Poor grammar- Spoken or written. Even what you may consider cute slang.

8. Dirty fingernails- In 2013, in a country that has hot water and soap, this is hard to fathom.

9. Bad breath- It’s gross. Classified under poor hygiene.

10. Drunk people, especially when they are loud and yell “WOO HOO!”

11. Tailgaters- but not the kind that have delicious food on them.

12. Beauty Pageants- I think they are an anachronism and have never understood their appeal.

13. Porn- No, I’m not a prude, but I find most porn offensive and dehumanizing.

14. Double standards- If you don’t want someone to do it to you, don’t do it to them. It’s simple.

15. Clowns- They’re creepy. Nothing fun or delightful for me.

16. Snakes- I find them terrifying and unpleasant. Also in this category are other creepy crawlies.

17. Bad manners- Be polite and gracious as possible. Even if you don’t like it.

18. Bullies- Picking on people who are weaker, smaller, and less powerful makes you a bully.

19. Yellow- I’ve never liked that color, and it looks terrible on me.

20. Roller coasters- Terrifying and nauseating. At the same time.

So, in the course of this list, I promise you I have OFFENDED someone and have now exposed myself as the biased person that I am. I have trampled on an item or even a few items that another person probably LOVES!!! 

Does that make me a terrible person? Am I am intolerant, discriminating, meanie because I don’t like… snakes, roller coasters, clowns, sororities… you get the picture. Am I a snob because I don’t care for poor grammar, or bad hygiene? Am I a bad person because I take issue when someone treats me a certain way, but they expect me to treat them better? 

Freedom of thought and feeling is a beautiful thing. To deny a person their RIGHT to FEEL a certain way is oppressive. Denying them certain actions, like beating their child, or driving while intoxicated, or endangering the public, is not only important it is morally correct.

We are NOT entitled to do anything we FEEL, but we ARE entitled to have our own personal feelings and opinions. Hopefully, and for their own sake, a person’s thoughts and feelings will be in sync with their community, family, and friends. Otherwise,they will be a lonely outsider.

There are groups and sections of the country that are very, very, different. Our differences can cause us to have misunderstandings and a lack of respect. That’s fairly normal and predictable. Is it intolerance if I don’t like all the things another person does? Of course not. 

If you are my co-worker, which means we are both PAID to work in the same place, you must treat me in accordance with the rules and regulations of our place of employment and you should treat me professionally and courteously. If you don’t, you’re a rude, unprofessional, jerk. Unless this annoys our boss, you will probably get away with it.

We all have to live with things we don’t like- and accept differences of taste, opinion, and the pursuit of happiness. It is unrealistic to think we will agree with everyone we meet on every topic or choice.

Trying hard to be civil and striving to find commonalities and things we do agree on is the only way to stay sane and keep some humanity. But I will never accept anyone who will try to make me like professional wrestling or video games. I have a God-given right to NOT wear the color orange, and will never bend my will to say “y’all” or “ain’t.”  

I know I am not perfect, but I know what I like and what I don’t like. I am not forcing my likes on anyone else, so they don’t have the right to force their likes on me. As long as we are mutually civil, respectful, and law-abiding, we should be able to coexist and live mutually satisfying lives.   

If you now don’t want to be my friend or keep my company, that’s your choice and opinion. You don’t have to like me, agree with me, or think I am pretty or smart or funny. You don’t have to live in my neighbor, or read my blog. THAT is what is so great about America. We all have choices. And isn’t that a miraculous blessing!

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