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I am human; so are all of you. At this point, everything else, sadly, becomes exclusionary.

I’m male. More than half of you are not.

I’m white. Again, more than half of you are not.

I’m straight. I don’t have the statistics but certainly many of you are not.

I’m an Atheist. The vast majority of you are not.

I’m more than half a century old. I’ve eliminated another large group of you.

I’m an American citizen, and we can break that category down even further. I’m also a Democrat, a Liberal, and a member of the Lower Class. There are even fewer of you left in my particular box.

So, my basic group of “Us” includes very few of the people I probably like most. I see no advantages to belonging to any groups beyond being human, if it means the exclusion of others.

What are the benefits of separating ourselves from others? Why would we do it? If there were no advantages, I feel sure no one would bother.

I’m not a sociologist. But, in the minuscule research I did, I found that sociologists believe that the advantage of associating with those who match our categories is that we advance in life by being around people that fit our labels. This can be our social class, our gender, the opposite gender, financial status, and any number of equally arbitrary, and, I believe, meaningless categories. And while I agree this is probably true from the sense of one’s career, it seems to me to limit one’s experiences unnecessarily.

Many of you fit few of the same labels I do. Does that mean that I can learn nothing from you? Does that mean we can’t understand one another? Does that make me worthless to you? I believe the answer to all those questions is No.

Your experiences have been distinctly different from mine. When I learn about them, I can understand you a little better. If I can understand you a little better, I can also understand all human beings just a little better. You’ve added to my experiences, and I learned something from you. And, finally, it helps me understand myself a little better.

We probably speak the same language. You can understand what I’m writing. There’s a good chance I can understand what you’re writing. We are very different in many ways, I’m sure. But we can communicate. And from that, we can reach the beginning of an understanding of one another.

If I am of no value to you, it’s a good guess you wouldn’t have read this far. We can have value to one another without ever meeting, or even speaking. I don’t know what my value to you may be, but your value to me is, if nothing else, that my thoughts are being considered by another consciousness. That’s an exhilarating feeling.

I’m not interested in excluding anyone from my life based on a category. If you’re an asshole, that’s one thing. But assholes show up in all categories. It’s not your category differences that bother me; it’s simply that you’re an asshole. I can learn from you anyway, but I probably don’t want to hang out with you.

Mozart was, I’m told, a complete asshole. The thing is, I don’t care. I love The Marriage of Figaro, regardless of the details of the personal life of the artist who created it. I just don’t want to have him over for dinner.

For all the ways that we are different, we’re almost certainly more similar. We’re not just all human. If you prick us, we all bleed. We all have hearts that beat. We all eat food. We all need water to live. We all go to the bathroom, or if not, excrete waste in some form or other. We all need oxygen. We’re all living on the same rock in space, all at the very same time. As far as we can tell, we are the only living beings in the universe. We have quite a bit in common.

We gain nothing of actual value by deciding We are good, and They are not. Intelligent decisions are made about individuals, not categories. If I wanted only to have people like me in my life, I would be limited to straight, atheistic, diabetic, old, mostly dead, Star Trek fans who think that Enterprise was better than it got credit for being, and all the post TNG movies are pure crap. I don’t believe I have a single reader left in my category. I’m doomed to solitude. What a bummer for me.

If, however, now that I live in an age of international communication, and in a deeply connected world, I can have a greater diversity of people in my life, and I can, I hope, learn from whatever it is that you share with me, or with the world in general, then my life is richer for the experience. Is that selfish? Yes, I suppose it is, but that’s the subject of another essay.

If we can agree to this simple proposition, I believe the world would be a better place:

There is no Them. We are all Us.

Imagine all the people sharing all the world,
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

John Lennon