I find it absurd how quickly some of us are willing to write off others, or label them as unworthy of consideration, based on a difference of opinion or ideology. We are so beholden to our team affiliations that anyone not on our team(s) (be it religious, political, financial, or geographical) must be a “bad” or “stupid” person.
There are really only two team affiliations that matter: COOL people and SHITTY people.
Cool people can come from any walk of life, religion, political affiliation, tax bracket, or country. Cool people don’t all agree on ideology, politics, history, or morality, but they all respect one another’s right to think and believe as they so please, SO LONG AS the respect is mutual, and the space is given to co-exist peacefully. Cool people recognize that though they may disagree, even strongly, with one another, it doesn’t excuse being shitty, violent, or destructive, or trying to forcefully impose your beliefs on another. I may not agree with you about the origin of the universe, or where we should go from here, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate one another as human beings, or respectfully discuss our ideas and learn from one another. At the worst, we can simply avoid one another and give each other the space and freedom to simply BE.
Shitty people, on the other hand, come from all the same places. They voted red, and they voted blue. They look the same. They worship many gods, or none. They speak many languages. So, how do you tell them apart? Shitty people might hate you based solely on the criteria above. They may try to forcefully change the way you live, or believe, through legislation, violence, or fear. They may go out of their way to make you feel small, or stupid, or they may try to hurt you because you’re different than they are.
So, what do you do when you meet a shitty person? Be kind. Be polite and respectful, and let them know that Team Cool People is always accepting new members, and the only requirement to join is a change of behavior, and a mutual respect of every individual’s right to be an individual.
[December 2015 Addendum: What do you do when you meet a shitty person who is trying to kill you? Don’t let them. Do whatever is necessary to protect your own life and, if you choose, the lives of those around you. That said, you have every right to allow yourself to be killed if you so wish. Self-defense isn’t mandatory, but I also don’t think it’s at all wrong. I am very attached to my own life, and to my life’s potential to help others, and to the potential of other innocent lives to help yet still others, and I’d like to, if at all possible, prolong those lives as well as my own. The means and methods of said self-defense is an entirely separate conversation, but in general, being on Team Cool People does not relegate you to helpless victimization by Team Shitty People.]