When was it that we stopped caring about our shared humanity? At what point did we start to think our skin color was more important than our humanity? I’d like to know at what time in human history did we start to identify ourselves by using arbitrary titles?
Its ironic really. It’s ironic to me that one of the things that makes us most human is our ability to talk about ourselves as if we are not human. “God bless America” we say. Or it’s “black people” this, or “Mexicans” that or “Gay people” over here, or “Communists” or “Christians” or whatever other title we like — yes, I actually think we like — to give each other.
Please don’t misunderstand my statement as discrediting the value of our differences and unique qualities. And I am not saying that these groups of people should not enjoy a certain amount of pride to be who they are. I am just saying, that being black or gay or whatever else, has no bearing on your identity — your value — as a human being.
Titles, I think, are one of humanities strangest achievements. Officer, judge, hero, teacher, student – I would even dare to include father, mother, (any other family title) and maybe even man and woman (among millions more). We love to organize things. Give them titles. It’s human nature. It’s human nature to define ourselves by things that have little or nothing to do with being human. Ironic. The epitome of irony.
Naturally husbands are no more human than their wives. A person born in Mexico is no less human than a person born in China. A Christian is no more human than an atheist or a Buddhist. Our cultures and religions and philosophies do not make us human. Our ability to create these things, that is what makes us human. Not the ideas or things themselves. And yet, we tend to talk about religion and philosophy and culture more than we do about our humanity. We talk about them, as if they are humanity. This is not a chicken and the egg kind of argument. It is without a doubt that humans came first, followed by philosophy, math, astronomy, religion, the idea of man and woman (I’m not talking about the physical man and woman, but the idea of man and woman), and whatever other ideas we love to cling to.
Yes, I also include “man” and “woman” in my definition of things that have little to do with being human. True some humans are male, and some are female. But is a male any more human than a female? Is a woman more of a human than a man? Of course not. So the definition of “human” must not be limited to sex. Or even include sex. It seems to me, if we include sex in our definition of human, then men and women must be different kinds of humans. But this is silly I think. It’s silly because even if you take the Bible literally, then you must know that Eve was created from Adam. She wasn’t built from a different mound of dirt. She and Adam came from each other. And if you know anything about evolution, then you know we all began as a single organism anyway. So men and women, though different, are still one human. Our bodies are different — even parts of our psychology may tend to be different, but I don’t think this means our humanity is different
This all seems very obvious to me. What is less obvious is why we don’t seem to care much about being human. If we did care, we would talk about it more. And discrimination of any kind would make absolutely no sense. I’m thinking now of the baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding, the photographer who refused to photograph a gay wedding. I’m thinking of the embarrassment of Jim Crow and McCarthy’s Communist witch hunt.
Our excuses are pitiful. As far as Jim Crow and McCarthy go, I’m not aware of their excuses. But the baker and the photographer I am aware of. The baker, as a Christian, didn’t feel his religion would allow him to bake a cake for a gay wedding. He argued his religious freedom was being infringed upon. So in this case we have the words “Christian” “religion” and “gay”. None of these words have much to do with being human — they are creations of the human intellect. Christianity or religion or being gay does not a human make. Same goes for the photographer. Her excuse? She wasn’t comfortable photographing a gay wedding. Again, our humanity didn’t seem to be very important to her.
So what’s my point?
If you’re looking for some new law I’m proposing, or some kind of government action, or a cause to encourage you to march down the streets of your home town chanting slogans and such, then I’m afraid you will be disappointed.
Also, if you are looking for a distinct definition of what it actually means to be human, you will be just as disappointed. Sure, all of the titles I have mentioned are part — or I should say a result — of being human, but in the end, these titles feel to me too much like layers of clothes we like to wear. Take away these titles, and instead of disappearing, we become more able to stand upright and walk around with less effort. So many layers of clothes makes it difficult to walk around and get things done well.
I’m not calling for a change in action. Not directly anyway. I’m calling for a change of values. Can we put our Bibles aside (philosophic and religious) and start treating people like people? Can we start to care more about humanity and less about the institutions we have created as human beings? It’s time we understood the difference between a human created idea, and the human who created it. I am calling on poets to be a humans first, then a poet; philosophers to be a humans first, then a philosopher; and Christians please, please, be humans first, then you can be a Christian.
I guess, whittled down, I’m simply saying that it is our humanity that is important. Our humanity needs to assert itself with greater emphasis. Our humanity needs to be what matters most and not the things our humanity has allowed us to make.