Exactly 60 days before America’s historic presidential election of November 8th, 2016, while speaking to a group of supporters in New York City, Hillary Clinton made the following declaration: “…you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” Candidate Clinton was still at the podium when one of her closest advisors on the campaign texted a friend saying, “With that statement Hillary just lost the race!” He was right.
How could a smart and ambitious woman say such a stupid thing? True, she had abandoned the TelePrompter, gone off script and was speaking from her heart. But still, it was political suicide.
Why did she say it? Because the temptation to lump many into one is all but irresistible. How often do you hear politicians bolstering their own positions by saying, “The American people…” Nice sentiment, but there has never been one American people and there certainly isn’t one now.
One often hears the phrase, “the Black community” There is no such thing. There could hardly be a greater gulf than that between Al Sharpton and the late, great Pastor Ken Hutcherson who was an NFL linebacker before he began pastoring the successful Antioch Bible Church in Puget Sound. There’s nothing those two would have agreed upon other than perhaps that both their skins were black.
And for a real laugh, listen to people referring to “the Jewish community.” The only thing that all of America’s 4 million Jews would agree upon is that Hitler was a very bad man. Yet most of us find ourselves saying things that lump the many into the one.
Why do all my children always pick a busy morning to act up? All the available men out there are emotionally needy adolescents. None of my employees appreciate how much I do for them.
This is not to say that generalities have no value. Of course, there is some truth to generalities. In general, teenage boys drive more recklessly than teenage girls. In general, customers in that zip code look more to quality than price. By using the phrase “in general” we acknowledge that not everyone is included.
Why do we feel drawn to lumping the many into the one?
Reason 1: It is emotionally satisfying to strip the individuality of those annoying us and see them all as sharing one common negative trait. Those Moslems are all the same. All TSA agents are recruited from a special pool of the dimwitted.
Reason 2: We are subconsciously enchanted by the unity of monotheism. Everything is created by and controlled by one God. I may not fully understand that, but I believe it and love living in a world explained by that simple reality. One is appealing.
Just think which of these feature articles you’d be most likely to read. (a) The Number One Reason Women Wear Makeup. (b) Twelve Reasons Women Wear Makeup. (a) Seven Really Fast Cars Below $70,000. (b) The Fastest Car You Can Buy for Under $70,000.
When he died, Albert Einstein was trying to discover what he called The Unified Field Theory. We already had four perfectly solid theories that explained the behavior of different forces like gravity, magnetism, and nuclear. But Einstein wanted one simple theory that did it all. Lumping the many into the one is nothing more than asserting a unified field theory for the many different things or people on our minds.
Lumping the many into the one misleads us. Often in casual conversation, the damage is minor and short-lived. However, when we start habitually thinking in terms of lumping the many into the one it accustoms us to an incorrect way of judging reality. We lose our ability to observe subtle distinctions.
Consider the first chapter of the Bible. Quick now…what did God create on Day One? That’s right, heaven, earth, and light. Day Three? Dry land and vegetation. Day Four? Sun, moon and stars. Day Five? Sea life and birds. Day Six? Animals and humans. That’s basically the story of Creation. But wait! I left out Day Two.
What did God create on Day Two?
And God said let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters and let it divide water from water.
Do you know what a firmament is? The only definition I can confidently share with you is that firmament is the word the translators of the King James Bible in the 17th century came up with for the Hebrew word RaKiaH.
And God made the firmament and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament, and it was so.
Back to my question, what did God create on Day Two? Apparently some inexplicable and unnamed thing that divides between one set of waters and another. Distinguishing between two or more humans is usually quite easy. One should easily be able to avoid the temptation of saying, “All my customers try to irritate me.” Distinguishing between different makes of cars is quite simple. But the one thing that is hard to distinguish is one cup of water from another. Or for that matter, can one really tell the difference between water from one ocean and water from another? Where do the waters of the Indian and the Atlantic oceans really meet? Cape Town’s tourist bureau insists that this occurs right in the shadow of Table Mountain, but the truth is that nobody can know. It’s impossible to separate one water from another. Yet that is exactly what God does on Day Two.
Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that on Day Two God created distinction and separation. Day Two is the only one of the six days on which we don’t hear God saying, “it was good.” Separation, distinction, and division are absolutely necessary, but they have the potential to drive humans apart and we must know how ‘not good’ that can be. Our challenge is to make distinctions while respecting each other.
At the moment, our society feels an almost irresistible temptation to lump the two genders into one group of humans utterly indistinguishable from one another by any fixed sexual reality. The sixth and seventh verses of the first chapter in Genesis teach the importance of making distinctions, appreciating those distinctions and recognizing their value.
The magical but highly improbable living arrangement we call ‘marriage’ functions precisely because it is between two different kinds of humans, men and women.
Like any specialized skill, forming and maintaining a healthy, durable and passionate marriage takes know-how. You may or may not be ordering roses and buying perfume for Valentine’s Day. Either way, you should be focusing on what makes relationships work. Get 20% off resources that can help you do just that.