The Danger of Labels – Happy Thanksgiving


Conservative!, Liberal, Right Wing!, Left Wing! – Democrat and republican, and christian, and jewish, and muslim, and communist, and fascist, and capitalist, and so very many other labels we apply to one another. Sometimes people fight like hell to avoid having some, or any, of these labels, applied to themselves while other times they wear the labels with a pride denoting distinguished accomplishment. Sometimes the labels fit, very well, and other times people will try to fit one on themselves or on others where it does not belong.

These labels are often used as both suits of armor and insults depending on the direction in which they travel. What one may see as a symbol of their faith or a particularly important and dearly held belief another often sees as the punchline to a joke, or the definition of something they look upon with disgust. The exchanges between these opposing views are no longer discussions but full frontal assaults designed to belittle and worse. Gone are the days where one could look at a neighbor and politely agree to disagree as this common courtesy is seen as acquiescing to the enemy.

lucy_in_sky_with_diamonds_by_weirdplushie-d5r2kziPicture yourself, in a boat, on a river. With tangerine trees, and marmalade skies but just maybe my sheeple, kool-aid consuming self is remembering accurately when I recall a time. A time not so long ago when a difference of opinion didn’t mean an end to a friendship. A difference in faith didn’t have to mean I no longer bought or sold services from you or yours. Even more insane this difference was considered acceptable and gave two people something they could talk about. A point of discussion perhaps where they could contrast and compare views on a subject without resorting to name calling and a lynch mob mentality.

Even members of our own government could be seen to cross the aisle, as they say, to discuss an issue, even a particularly divisive one, and reach something once called a compromise. This compromise was a place, often near the center of the opposing views where each side gave a little ground and got a little ground and could then agree this was an acceptable point where both views could co-exist. Where two opposing views could live in the same village, or city, or state, or nation. Even the world itself could have these views that were seemingly at odds but, when broken down, could find equitable resolution for both sides.

Thanks could then be given for this compromise. All could live together in harmony, if even for a brief time, and share of food and company and friendship. This thanks .. giving .. if you will, could then become infectious and days could be set aside from work, and from toil, to make time for this new bond, this new fellowship of man.

happy-thanksgivingIt would not be required, under such conditions, that I demonize the opposing view. It could even be an example, a demonstration of faith in a larger principle that mankind basically strives for similar things. That we all want to see our family and our loved ones prosper and do well, and in this we wish to see them safe. We would also wish no harm to come to others that would wish nor seek to do harm to us or ours. This thanksgiving could be made into something of a holiday and once a year, regardless of the other pressures or issues or points of view effecting our existence, we could gather with family and friends and remind one another of what is truly important.

The notion that we all made it through another year. That everyone is basically safe and loved and cared for. That yet again we may watch the Lions lose yet another football game, or, possibly, that there is hope they might actually win. The Lions are possibly the best representation of this holiday in many ways. Try and try again they do, often losing, often falling just short, but always there and always demonstrating that with hope good things can sometimes happen.

earth-sad-eye-tears-peace-war-e1359682367186This post took a left on me. I can’t say I knew where it was going originally but I didn’t see it ending on a note about hope. Often I see in our current society that the louder voices drown out the rational ones. Sometimes it is easy to forget that the quiet, middle of the road, voices even exist any longer. It is in those voices though that the hope for this nation lies. Those silent members of society that do not play the labeling games because they see them as petty, and beneath us as people. Those silent members that believe the Lions have a chance, and that Uncle Bob isn’t so bad in spite of his views on politics or religion.

I suppose, since it is here now, that this post was wandering around inside of me of late. When the new labels that were mucking about in my head were not left or right, or conservative or liberal. The newest labels were sadness, and concern and a wonder, the wonder being where was the hope going to come from?

We all have those moments in our lives when we are no longer any of those labels. We no longer see ourselves as conservative or liberal or the myriad other labels discussed. Instead, we are a person stripped of everything but hope. Maybe in that particular time and space we are a person that has lost their way for one reason or another. Not forever, but for long enough to strip away everything we normally think is important. Everything we cling to as definitions of ourselves and others are gone and we are merely a person. When we find that all we have left is hope maybe we also find what is true and best in ourselves.

These moments can come as financial woes, or family or personal tragedy. They can come on a larger stage such as Katrina, or 9/11. The truth is, though we may not know the time and type, we know these moments will arrive. More than once I have had this type of a moment.


In 1992 I awoke one morning to abdominal pains and was rushed to the hospital. I remember almost nothing of the next month. In that time I was given the last rights and spent my days and nights in the SICU at the University of Michigan Hospital. Also, around a decade ago I lost my younger brother when he decided to take his own life. He was 6 years my junior and, needless to say, his death came out of the blue. In both these moments, and others I could list, I was suddenly just Kevin. No other labels mattered. No other labels were important to me or the people that cared about me and mine. In the very same moment following these happenings in my life I had both lost all hope and been stripped of everything but hope. To believe things would improve in spite of all evidence to the contrary was necessary for me to close my eyes at night, and open them again in the morning. 


It was not conservatives that died on 9//11, nor was it liberals, it was people. This is the stripped down version of us that matters. This is the core of each of us when everything counts. This is what we should be thankful for tomorrow. More important this is what we should be thankful for every day that we draw breath. The only label that matters to me in any given moment is Kevin and the people that know me and care about me know what the definition of Kevin is to them. I hope it is a good one. And I continue to believe that tomorrow will be better. It is how I can close my eyes tonight and want to open them tomorrow. 

Happy thanksgiving to everyone reading this and even those choosing not too.

Kevin Hartranft – 

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