When it comes to people and their opinions, Dirty Harry said it best:

Well, opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.

Dirty Harry (The Dead Pool)

That’s right, everyone has an opinion. No matter the topic, there will always be those that agree, those that disagree and those somewhere in between that can both agree and disagree based on circumstances. The problem is when someone’s opinion turns them into an asshole. These people appear to be incapable or unwilling to disagree without feeling the need to marginalize those they disagree with. To illustrate, let’s look at a recent situation where this was going on.

Over Easter, Twitter was rampant with anti-Christian jokes. They ranged from calling Jesus a zombie to insinuating that Christians put together the bunny and candy related holiday to entice young kids…and everything in between. For those that do believe in the story behind Easter, it’s kind of a big deal. Easter to Christians is the day that Jesus beat death and came back from the grave. I’ll stop there because I’m sure some of you are uncomfortable by now and the last thing I need is you accusing me of proselytizing and missing the point. Back to the topic.

What we have here is two differing opinions: One believe in the story of Easter and the characters involved while others do not. No one can take away your right to have a different opinion but marginalizing people with whom you do not agree with is not right and that’s exactly what was described above. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the meaning of the word marginalize:

mar·gin·al·ize

verb - treat (a person, group, or concept) as insignificant or peripheral.

“attempting to marginalize those who disagree”

After reading the definition, it should be clear that when you begin to treat people as if their thoughts/opinions are insignificant you are in fact marginalizing them and that is what these jokes are doing. These jokes are basically saying: I do not value your beliefs, and by extension you as a person. In fact, I want the whole world to know so I will make a mockery of you in public. You may think these jokes are harmless but someone out there could be hurt by what you are saying. Just because you disagree doesn’t mean you should go out of your way to hurt people but that is what is going on. We should accept that there is a disagreement and treat all involved with the same level of respect you would expect from them. Hurting people is wrong.

Let’s look at this situation from a different perspective because this isn’t just about marginalizing Christians. What if these jokes were gay jokes? What if they were jokes about race or gender? I would ask what if these jokes were sexually insensitive but we already know the answer to that one thanks to Donglegate. When asking these questions it doesn’t take long for the answer to come: The Social Justice Warriors would be out in force and it would be a mob-style witch hunt. Jobs would be at stake, reputations would be at stake, etc.

That’s the way it should be, although I suggest that we use a little more tact when handling these types of things. We as a collective should stand up against all types of marginalization. No one should feel the sting of being marginalized.

So why is it we disallow marginalization based on sexuality, race, gender, etc. but it’s completely fine to marginalize those with religious beliefs? Why is it we allow Mozilla employees to stand against marginalizing homosexuals yet the same employees are involved in marginalizing Christians with their hurtful Easter jokes? How is it fair that we can pick and choose who can be marginalized and who cannot…and who gets to make that decision? We cannot behave this way.

In the end, it all comes down to how we see and treat people. The point at which you let your opinion turn you into an asshole, you begin to marginalize those with whom you interact with. Do it enough and you become insensitive to the point where you can hurt people without even knowing it.

I was raised to treat others the way you would expect them to treat you. That being said, I don’t think any of you would want someone marginalizing you or being a prick to you so why do it to others? Next time you want to tell some “joke”, try to put yourself into the shoes of someone who might read this and be offended before you open your mouth. It’s this kind of thinking, this type of value system, that just might keep you from becoming an asshole.

Marginalizing people is easy…but do you care enough to not contribute to it?

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