October 3, 2014

Having Different Priorities Does Not Make Someone a Bad Person

Rank FR
Rank FR (Photo credit: Spaces and Places)
We all have particular socio-political issues that are important to us (e.g., reproductive rights, the environment, animal rights, separation of church and state, poverty, civil liberties, LGBT rights). If we were each asked to list the ten that were most important to us, we'd be able to do so. If we then compared lists, we'd find considerable variation. There would be some overlap, but many differences would emerge too. You'd have some things on your list that were not on mine and vice-versa. This is not good or bad; it is merely a fact.

When pushed to do so, most of could rank-order our lists by priority. We could place our ten issues in order from most important to us to least important to us. I'm not saying we would find this to be an easy task, but we could do it. If we were all to do this, we'd undoubtedly find more differences. Even if two of us had the same ten items on our lists, we'd probably find that we had them arranged in a different order of priority. We don't all have exactly the same priorities. Again, this is neither good nor bad; it is just a fact.

Where things begin to go wrong is when someone comes along in a flurry of self-righteousness and begins to angrily complain about those who do not mirror his or her priorities. Those who deviate from this person's priorities have a way of becoming depicted as awful people and "part of the problem."
  • For some Christian extremists, if Jesus is not #1 on your list, you are not only not a "real Christian" but might be immoral and worthy of contempt.
  • For some social justice warriors, if your list does not include the issues they consider most important, you might be a fedora-wearing "dudebro" with a neckbeard, a "sister punisher", or even a White supremacist.
  • For some conservatives, if your list does not match theirs, you are a RINO, a whiny liberal, or even a traitor.
  • For some progressives or liberals, if your list differs too much from theirs, you are selfish, a nut job, or even a fascist.
Those of us who value diversity and believe that exposing ourselves to diverse viewpoints is beneficial find some cause for concern here. Other people are going to have different priorities from us, and this does not necessarily make them bad people. We should think twice about demonizing someone just because they are not our clone.

Even when we encounter someone who is undeniably wrong about something, this does not necessarily make them stupid, delusional, idiotic, or anything of the sort. Sometimes, they are just wrong. And of course, someone with priorities different from our own is not necessarily even wrong.
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