I posted something to Facebook today, an article and linked video clip about Monsanto and GMOs. When I posted it, I was merely doing so because I thought the report was interesting. What happened after I posted it, however, was even more interesting. A friend of mine from grade school responded to it. His response didn’t directly discuss the food issue. Instead, he wrote about the way the news was reported by CNN. I wrote back and said that I was looking to start a conversation about food and not about television journalism. To which he responded with a somewhat longer diatribe, basically accusing me of not wanting to hear anyone’s opinion if it differed from mine. And then I told him that I was interested in others’ opinions and did he care to share his with me or not? I stood there shaking my head because I wasn’t exactly sure how my post had devolved into a partisan issue, but it had and I was disappointed.
The whole conversation got me to thinking about how quick we are to judge each other. I’m just as bad about this as anyone else. We see what we see on Facebook and we assume we know people. We pigeonhole them based on stereotypes they seem to present through their profile. We block ourselves from the idea that there might be more to them than meets the eye. We deny their humanity. We do the same thing with the guy driving the Range Rover who cuts us off in traffic or the mom in the Walmart who is yelling at her kid or the homeless guy holding a sign on the street corner. We know who they are without their even saying a word. We don’t need to know their circumstances or their reasons or their history. All we need to know is what we see. Like an artist working only from a photograph we paint our one-sided portrait of them.
We do this same thing with people we’re close to, people whom we’ve known for years. They exist inside the box we placed them in when we first learned about them. Even though they have grown and experienced and changed over time as we all do, we still want to know them as they were because it’s easier that way. It’s difficult to accept that they have moved and maybe we haven’t made the journey along with them. I don’t know if we do this because we seek the familiar or because we’re too lazy to look deeper. I just know that it happens. In the end, although we look at each other every day, we don’t see each other at all.
The conversation I started about food on Facebook today did enlighten me, just not about food. I’m thinking now about how many boxes I live in, boxes constructed by the people who saw what they wanted to see and closed up the lid without even leaving me air holes so I could breathe. And I’m thinking about how I can take a box cutter and free some of the people whom I’ve trapped. Maybe if I slit open the lid, step back, and pay careful attention I will learn something new about them. And, maybe as with my post today, I will learn something new about myself as well.