Defining Humanity

Positions of power replicate themselves. In a sense this is understandable as power is the most addictive substance on the planet. Once superiority is asserted, it will never allow itself to be uprooted. With the recognition of homosexual marriage in New York, many heated reactions sprouted from the position of power man-plus-woman (always in that order) camp. Such a response was predictable and anticipated. I suspect it is largely based on fear. I have many friends with differing sexual orientations than mine. Raised to castigate such individuals, that outlook became increasingly difficult to uphold once I got to know my gay friends as people. I count them among my most loyal friends. People are people.

The problem lies in labels. Humans are natural categorizers: bird, fish, or mammal? Predator or prey? Religious or secular? We want our world to stay true to categories we devise. People, however, are seldom easily classified. Still, we try: skin color, ethnic ancestry, religious heritage, sexual orientation. People are people. The world of trite classification is ending, and those in positions of power tremble. Anything that is different might upset the economic balance that keeps those on top in their positions. (My own amateur observation, however, is that the economic balance is naturally top-heavy and readily upsets itself. It seems to have been that way since before this blog began.) Would we not do better to try to understand those who are different than ourselves?

As an exercise in this direction, I recently read Alvin Orloff’s smart satire, I Married an Earthling. As my long-term readers know, I have a slight soft-spot for aliens, and this story of a gay man finding nothing but rejection on earth and eventually marrying an alien seemed quite fitting in the present climate. Not part of the gay subculture, many aspects of the story were foreign to me, but what was painfully clear throughout is that people are people. Some are accepting, others are not. When reality offers so few options that he must flee his own planet, Chester, one of the protagonists, takes to the stars. At a couple points before his exodus, he notes the role that religion played in his antagonists’ outlooks. The book is lighthearted and funny overall, but the serious issue remains. Those in power tend to horde privilege. When that happens, economies—material and spiritual—collapse.

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