Opinion | Biff America: Conclusions without evidence
The beauty of ignorance is that you don’t have to think.
There were three cars at the trailhead, and I made assumptions of the occupants without evidence, simply by their bumper stickers.
There was a truck, big enough to grow crops in, and on the back window was a large American flag.
Next to the truck was a BMW (big Mamma wagon) with a crucifix and “family on board” in the rear window.
And, as if to cleanse my pallet, was a Subaru with a peace sign, Grateful Dead lightning skull and “commit random acts of kindness” stickers. For the first two vehicles I felt alienated, but when I passed the Subie my assumption was, “Now these are my people.”
There in lies one of the most damaging aspect of this divisive political climate. Many of us are tempted to divide the world into “them” or “us” categories.
There is no good reason that I should have placed the occupants of the truck and SUV in the “them” category. Truth is I endorse both flag and faith but somehow those symbols have been co-opted (at least in my mind’s eye) by opposing political sides.
In terms of Old Glory, I love our country and am grateful to be born here. Heck, I even named myself Biff America. But I assumed the truck folks and my beliefs would be in contrast. That is wrong and unfair.
And in regards to that big SUV sporting a Christian symbol and family sticker: Though I was raised Catholic and still wear a Saint Christopher medal around my neck, being liberal I felt a disconnect. But there was no evidence for me to prejudge those who promote the precepts that I mostly endorse.
“The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete.” That is a portion of a quote by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Can you imagine the size of the name tags on her luggage?).
I’m guessing her assertion is that there is much more to us all than our faith, politics or nationalism. In other words we all are as diverse as our nature, nurture and DNA.
I did not used to be so close minded. Those stereotypical assumptions are a product of the political climate and a 24-hour news cycle that seems to cater to the short attention spans of those, like me, on both sides, more inclined to judge than think. Along with the media, the various polls and parties are better served if they can compartmentalize their proponents and opponents.
There is a cartoon of a medieval ruler standing on the wall of his castle staring down at a mass of revolting peasants holding torches and pitchforks. Next to the king is some sort of advisor who counsels the ruler, “You don’t have to fight them. You just need to convince the pitchfork people that the torch people are trying to take their pitchforks.”
Somewhere along the line we were brainwashed that only the right can be patriotic and the left compassionate. Moreover we’ve been told that the most extreme dogma of any particular faith or party is reflected in the views of all the members.
Truth is neither side, right or left, religious or secular, has the market cornered on compassion, integrity, patriotism or intelligence.
The occupants of those vehicles were on foot. And being on my bicycle I was able to catch and pass them. I passed three groups but I could only guess which group belonged to which bumper sticker.
There was a pack of four or five burley guys and gals walking a German shepherd and mixed mutt, many of them wearing camo. Not far in front of them was what looked like an extended family ages ranging from kids to grandpa all moving at a speed that suggested this was something they regularly do. With them was a golden retriever off leash and well behaved.
Now granted, this is stereotyping, but I would guess the flag truck was the camo crowd and the faithful folks were the family, and neither would be aligned with my political nor lifestyle assertions.
But again that would just be succumbing to my biased assumptions. I could in fact be totally wrong about both. Thus I am part of the problem; guilty of prejudging without cause or information.
Oh, I should add — the third group I passed had a Frisbee, was wearing tie-dye and carrying a Chihuahua in a backpack.
Never mind …
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s new book “Mind, Body, Soul.” is available at local shops and bookstores. He arrived in Breckenridge when there was no stop lights and plenty of parking.
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stoplights. Contact him at email@example.com.
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