We, as people, tend to use a lot of incorrect language. I'm not talking about grammar or spelling or even "bad" words here. I'm talking about something more generalized. We use a lot of shorthand for things that we shouldn't and it causes a lot of confusion about what we're really referring to. We generalize as a way of saying something and that generalization causes gaps between what we mean and what people hear.

In many of the ongoing discourses that occur in this country, we tend to think of social issues in an "us versus them" light. We lose the nuances of the conversation when we talk and thing this way. Most things that we see on the news aren't as clear-cut or black and white as is typically represented. The major news outlets tend to portray events in a very polarizing way. We constantly hear about political issues as being right versus left as if there were only two possible sides to be on and if you're not for us you're against us.

Too often congressional votes are split right down the middle with every democrat going one way and every republican going the other. Social topics are described in the context of a specific group. Politicians are identified by the too-simple label of their political party as if nothing else matters.

We do this because it's difficult and time consuming to say what we really mean and it's too easy to simply use a short-hand way of describing things. We think that our audience understands what we mean when we talk this way. When I say that "the left" is for a particular law or that "the right" wants the country run in a certain way, it's not as simple as that. I'm grouping all of the people in that group together and making the assertion that every single one of them is in agreement. We do this with races, religions, and with many other topics to the point where it is impossible to actually discuss things without offending or alienating groups of people.

I read a study that described an "IQ gap" between certain racial groups. The article simply used the terms "black" and "white" to describe the groups that they were referring to but that's way too simple of a description. The group that we commonly think of as "white" includes many different national origins and many different average skin tones. Similarly, the group that we think of as "black" (I refuse to use African American as I'm referring to more countries that just America here) consists of an equally (probably more-so) diverse collection of people and it is both dishonest and impossible to lump all of them together into one descriptive term. Is it possible that inner-city, undereducated and poverty stricken people (not all of whom are "black" anyway) are less test-ably intelligent than a group taken from upper class, over educated populations? Probably, but to say that there is an IQ gap between "white" and "black" groups is laughably inaccurate. The terms are used as shorthand and do not accurately describe anything.

When we talk about religious groups the problem is just as bad. We make statements like "Christians want the freedom to do business without compromising their beliefs" as if all "Christians" are a single, unified group. We make statements like "Islam causes suicide bombers and terrorists" as if the religion of Islam is a single and unified group. Neither statement is true in the sense that there are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of different divisions within those groups with different beliefs, different tolerances, and different ways of approaching their daily lives. Some Christians look at the bible as the literal, inspired word from their god and some look at is a set of stories and guidelines written by human authors (whether divinely inspired or not). The first group would look at the second and say "Well they aren't 'real' Christians" as if they, and only they can make the determination as to what a 'real' Christian is. I can assure you that the less biblically literal group would say the same thing about the fundamentalists.


I'm sure that in the Islamic world there are Muslims pointing at those suicide bombers and terrorists saying the same thing about them. They aren't 'real' Muslims. Simultaneously, those terrorist groups are looking at those peace-loving Muslims and laughing at their total lack of religious conviction.

We can't groups all Christians into a single group other than simply to say that they all believe in the same god. We can't group all Democrats into the same group other than to simply say that, on average, they generally tend to lean towards the same overarching philosophy on what government should and shouldn't be doing but it does nothing to refer to "the left" just as it does nothing to refer to "the Christians". Both terms are meaningless in the kinds of contexts that they are used in.

We need to stop thinking of everything in such a polarizing "Me vs. Not Me" context.