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“I wish that life should not be cheap,
but sacred, I wish the days to be
as centuries, loaded, fragrant.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Be Careful What you Ask For” is a warning that I have heard many times. For many years I have prayed for “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” the Gospel, good news of Jesus, in my daily life. Now when I read a statement, like that in the newspaper yesterday, from Cardinal Dolan of New York, about religious liberty or hear an official stigmatizing perpetrator and victims of homicides as ‘criminals’ I see and hear what is being said and am outraged. I want to write back and call them ‘hypocrites’ or disclose their misrepresentations and half truths. But I have learned the hard way not to react, perhaps to respond, but, most importantly, stay the course and go on offense not on defense. I wish I could practice what I preach more often.
Nearly a month ago I heard on a radio interview the police chief of Milwaukee say: “85 percent of shooting suspects and victims in Milwaukee have “extensive criminal records” As someone who attends prayer vigils for homicide victims I felt there was some kind of truth to this statement but certainly 85% of victims did not have “extensive criminal records.” I did not have a way to research the statement but I had some communications with the local PolitiFact Wisconsin. So I asked them to check out the truth of this statement. They said they would but I had some doubts when week after week it did not appear. However, today the Politi Facts column presented this statement. Not so unexpected the statement got a rating of “half truth” on the Truth-O-Meter.
I exposed the statement not because I thought it was true or not but because I thought it represented the kind of statement that stigmatizes a person or group of persons. As I discovered awhile back there is always a partial truth to stigmas. In my posting Stigma Stains the Soul which I have used a few times in this posting I say:
“In every stigma there is some truth,
The ‘mentally ill” usually are persons with a mental illness,
Persons who “talk too much” are usually very vocal.
“Terrorists” often do promote terror.”
I go on to say how a stigma depersonalizes the person receiving it and hurts both the giver and recipient.
Of course you cannot respond to everything that you ‘see’ or ‘hear’ that runs contrary to your conscience, values and beliefs. So you need to pick and choose and make the response as positive as possible. Often, however, you must just live with the harm of the stigma or action, take it in, and try to use the harm or death of it to bring new life. “To see or hear” can be a blessing or a curse.