In life, we are often called upon to make judgments. Sometimes officially — in our job, on a jury, whether the new employee is trustworthy to have keys to the building.
But litmus tests abound in social life as well. Often I have found them patronizing. In social life, such judgments often presume a great deal that could not be known by the person making the judgment. I know several people who have used litmus tests to determine if a person is adequately forward-thinking enough to be considered a friend.
I have a friend who said on FB that probably most white people don’t know any people of color. Their wording suggested that people may be acquainted with someone from another race but aren’t friends. Why do we feel the need to test those around us? I’ve heard the same kinds of comments from other friends for whom the litmus test is about gay people. How are litmus tests helpful? I’ve had black friends since kindergarten, and I’ve had gay friends since I was a freshman in high school, which is longer than the lives of the people who were posting those litmus tests.
Every day, people demonize those who vote for the other political party. According to Hillary Clinton, the entire opposite party is deplorable. Hillary suggested that women likely are told for whom to vote by their husbands. I confess that I enjoyed that. Even my dear mother, who was born in 1917, didn’t ask her husband for whom she should vote. But every political side and every group of people seem to think, at least at times, that those others are the problem. President Trump often says things that are obnoxious and insulting to others — often regarding the press — the Fake News — as he puts it.
I have a dear college friend, who went on to teach in college, who said that it was always important to examine what the opposition believes, chiefly, because it might show you the weaknesses of your position. Twice in recent history, I have been asked to suggest reading material that argued against the political and moral beliefs to which the person asking subscribes. But when I produced it, they refused to read it — because they refused to read anything by a particular author. In one case, because of something the author did 25 years ago; in the other, because the author was writing their opinion about a news event, not reporting news per se.
I have butted heads too often in the public square and have decided to keep my own council. But I will say this: a significant number of people have lost everything that they spent a lifetime building in the recent lootings and fires around the country. Many people have lost their businesses and the lives of people dear to them.
Please ditch litmus tests and lectures.
Instead, reach out, and listen attentively.