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  Wednesday January 28th, 2015    

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Stereotyping: the favorite American pastime (05/08/2013)
From: James R. Puz

It didn’t happen overnight, maybe settling here in 1607. But with time and great effort, millions of people, from all walks of life and education, living in white and blue collar neighborhoods with national, ethnic and religious backgrounds too numerous to count, finally succeeded. Unfazed by a history scarred with names like Wounded Knee, Manzanar, Little Rock...Guantanamo, “We the people...,” a proud and fortuitous nation, have become a land of bigots based on politics, race, religion, gender, you name it.

Black skin became a target for words, bullets, bombs...ropes. Even now, slanted eyes get you slurred as a Chink or a Jap. Many have suffered with vile terms like spick, kike, nigger, dago, Polack, rag-head or mick. A Croatian or a Serb is a dumb Hunky. If you’re Catholic, you’re labeled; be a fundamentalist Protestant, you get tagged; ditto for Jews and Muslims, Hispanics, Native Americans, people of the Middle East, fall under the all-too-familiar catchphrase, “You know, they’re all alike.” Republicans were often seen as “Birchers” (now Tea Partiers) and Democrats as Reds, Commies but now they’ve been reduced to mere Socialists. We’re Red and Blue. Once, we were Blue and Gray...but obviously we didn’t learn from that. Thus, a shameless, collective effort has created millions of extremists from all sectors, favoring persons of a similar mentality, with the “leaders” of America being molded, cast in our own image.

Numerous experts, spawned by political extremism, are no better than carnival fortune-tellers. Needing little prodding, these fractious naysayers, including toilet-tongued comics, spout cleverly deceptive advice from their pulpits. With no real insight, understanding or conscience of their own, they continue to fan the flames of discontent and suspicion, gaining an unhealthy sway over our society. A cheap, tawdry approach to politics and our social structure has managed to escalate divisiveness to intolerable heights.

Politicians and voters alike are cocooned within groups of self-serving interests. Fueled by fear, mistrust, ignorance and hatred, they never budge from their beliefs; never flinch from half-baked notions, dogmas or corrosive ideologies. Neither will they concede one millimeter when it comes to a self-righteous adherence in believing they have a monopoly on the truth, regardless of the subject. This arrogance is intensified by bureaucrats who represent us but who rarely speak to one another unless absolutely necessary. The Democrats and the GOP have declared themselves to be...at our expense...mortal enemies.

In past years, however, Senators and House members, Cabinet heads...the President...occupied the same air space, socializing on a regular basis, rubbing elbows at state dinners, the opera, charity affairs, garden and cocktail parties. Opposite sides of the aisle often shared an informal meal before resuming adversarial roles on the Senate or House floor. A round of golf, a bridge game or a handball match helped elected officials get to know and better understand their friends, their allies and even their bitterest political foes.

But ensuing years have seen relentless stereotyping that characterizes the general populace. That same attitude has reached abysmal levels within the walls of the White House and on Capital Hill. Behaving in a petulant, unforgiving and self-centered manner, those seated in the Legislative and Executive branches have forgotten a critical principle, one eloquently stated by Atticus Finch, the fatherly lawyer from “To Kill a Mockingbird”: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” The late Dwight David Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, perhaps stated it best when he said, “If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends, you talk to your enemies.” 


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