JWA Blog

Labels, Labels and More Labels

Monday, October 27, 2014

I don’t care for labels. They put me in a group I may not care to be in. It’s unfair, but generally  unavoidable.  From a sociological point of view, labeling is very complex to define.

In order to compete in  an election, generally the candidate is a member of a political party or is labeled as belonging to some group or organization. If she/he belongs to a certain political party, they are generally looked as supporting that party’s platform. This is not surprising in and of itself. If, however, the candidate doesn’t necessarily agree with the entire party platform, it can be a challenge to explain why you belong to that particular party.

We know that those people out in the world who prefer their own company and are not comfortable in groups or crowds are referred to as ‘loners’. Webster’s dictionary defines ‘loner’ as: “a person who is often alone or who likes to be alone.” When we read about a serial killing or a school shooting and the perpetrator is referred to as a loner, are we to assume that a loner is one who is a serial killer or a school shooter? Absolutely not. Identification does not always equal association.

A lot of people look down upon certain  organizations as belonging to a ‘special interest’ group. Wikipedia tells us that a ‘special interest group’ (SIG) is a community within a larger organization with a shared interest in advancing a specific area of knowledge, learning or technology where members cooperate to affect or to produce solutions within their particular field, and may communicate, meet, and organize conferences’. It has taken on a negative connotation when associated with a political person or issue. I maintain that when two or more people get together to share ideas, you are in a special interest group. Think about that when you go to your next PTO meeting or Rotary meeting.

I read a letter to the editor in today’s newspaper that referred to a particular candidate as being supported by the ‘good ol’ boy’ network. What does that mean, anyway? Doesn’t it have a negative connotation saying that the candidate is not qualified because of various indivueals supporting him or her?  Unfortunately for that candidate, they are being vilified for associating with community leaders who might believe this candidate is the best choice to serve the community.

Whenever kids would tease on the playground or in the neighborhood my Mom used to remind me of the old saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

If I may paraphrase the Rev. Martin Luther King, I think people want to be judged on the content of their character, not the labels they have been given.


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