I don’t get as many letters from credit card companies as I used to. You see, a little over a year ago, heeding the dire warnings of those who guarantee to protect me from identity bandits, I signed up with a service that monitors my credit accounts and warns me if some dastardly persons are using my good name in a way that drains my money and ruins my reputation. One of the side benefits is that this service also puts my name on a number of “don’t solicit” lists.
I also signed up for the “do not call me during dinner” service provided by the federal government. I still have companies calling me — I don’t really expect a government service to be entirely effective (guess there’s still a bit of Republican hanging on) — but now we just use our caller id to screen out those nuisance calls. Of course, some make their way through and leave messages that I have little interest in. Mostly political calls (which are exempt from the do not call register) and usually recorded messages from our governor and congressman — both Republicans, by the way.
If you’re thinking that I’m writing here about political affiliation, let me assure you that I’m not — and I am. What I’m really talking about here is how we take a combination of experiences and brand people with an identity that fits our purposes.
So, if you’re a Republican, it’s easier for you to talk with me about politics if you can assign me the label of Republican or Democrat. You may get a little edgy if I tell you I’m an Independent or a Libertarian. I’m not, but let me confuse things even further. I am actually a member of the “informed voter” party. And no, that doesn’t mean that I’m really a Republican or a Democrat. I have definite views and beliefs. However, you can’t neatly box me in with anyone else. I can’t vote a straight ticket.
Beyond political parties, we like branding people as liberal or conservative, moderate or progressive, capitalist or communist. It’s just easier for us. This spills over into other areas of life, as well. If we perceive that a person is not as adept in our mother tongue as we are, we talk to them differently. Have you ever listened in on your conversations with a baby or small child? Or a foreign speaker? Or someone with less education? Or someone from a different race or culture? It’s often obvious that we choose to categorize such folks rather than to talk to them (and more importantly, about them) as people.
Instead of taking someone else’s private information in order to steal money or misdirect communication, I believe that I may often be guilty of taking personal identities and changing them to what is most convenient to me. I assign motives and characteristics. I blame. I seek to exalt myself.
Perhaps I am an identity thief, of sorts.
For today, at least, I’m pledging to drop my labeling scheme. For today, I will listen to each person who crosses my path as an individual who is worthy of my respect — free from bias. For today, I promise not to steal the identities of others simply to recraft them for my gain.
Might be a good day to visit with me.
Might even make tomorrow a better day.