The Deadly Illusion of Difference





  I had several ideas floating around my somewhat addled brain for this week’s post. I have started this piece three different times on three different topics. Then I stopped. I stopped because I am broken hearted. I am angry and disillusioned. I am heartsick. Forty-nine people dead. Someone’s son. Someone’s daughter. Someone’s friend. Shot down. Their lives gone in an instant with no acknowledgement that they are a member of the very same species as the killer himself.

      Again, the nation mourns. Again Facebook pictures change and memes calling for unity and peace and prayers in the face of this tragedy are everywhere, quickly followed up with statements of why and how such atrocities continue to occur. It’s the guns! It’s the terrorists! It’s the homophobia! And these statements become angry and fuel the fire as anonymous people spit their one-sided solutions to a complex problem that happens over and over and over again. 

     The more I ponder it, the more certain I become that the root of the problem is simply that we dehumanize anyone who is different from ourselves. It’s in the rhetoric we use. It’s in the angry and dismissive thinking that is based solely in proving that one is right rather than seeking truths. Read the comments on a news story some time. It’s scary. The anger and ad hominem attacks from every side are appalling and anonymity gives people a false sense of courage that apparently leads them to behave like a pack of rabid wolves.

       But Alice, you may be thinking, isn’t this a blog about Long Term Care? How does any of this apply? I have witnessed that same dehumanization on a smaller stage every day in this field. The slow tearing away of the heart and soul of the sick and elderly in the system until all that is left is their diagnosis. They are dismissed. We, as their caregivers, are dismissed. That is how the dangerous flaws and cracks in the very system that is designed to protect them flourish. That is why society never really thinks about that particular demographic until they see some vague story on the news about elder abuse. Only THEN do they rouse themselves from apathy and express outrage but it’s always focused at the incident and never at the system that produced it. They do not see until their hand is forced and then they only see the end result rather than the causes. 

      The more society embraces this insanity, the more of these atrocities we will face. This idea that if people think, look, live, pray, believe or appear differently than you do, then they are not only wrong, but evil, or stupid or somehow less human is going to eventually lead to the destruction of the best of us. When will we realize that it shouldn’t take a tragedy to remind us of our humanity? How many more people have to die before we learn how to truly live?

2 thoughts on “The Deadly Illusion of Difference

  1. minstrel

    Alice hits the nail on the head again, highlighting the kind of outrage “focused at the incident and never at the system that produced it.” We delude ourselves into believing that we care because we express outrage at individual events of injustice or carnage. Once the event is off the front page, we return to our self-contained, self-concerned comfortable lives. But do we take up the daily burden of activism against injustice and violence? No, that’s for others. Or is it?

    “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.’’ (Rev. Martin Niemöller, German Pastor, written during the Nazi regime.)

    Thank you, Alice.


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