Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Name Calling

I remember when I was young. My parents used to tell me not to call people names because it was rude. Your parents probably told you the same thing. I still did it though. You probably did too. Name-calling is part of our culture.

I’ve been called quite a few names in my life, most of which I neither remember nor care about, but it seems to be more offensive now. I’m not talking about when people call you some surface-level name like jerk or idiot, but rather, when someone calls you a name that immediately lumps your belief system in with a group… usually a group that they have already stereotyped. That seems offensive to me. For example, in recent conversations I’ve been called a hippie, a Christian, a republican, a democrat, an independent, a musician, a nerd, and probably some other things I can’t remember. Looking at this list probably doesn’t seem too offensive, but whenever someone says, “You are a (fill in the blank),” it is always used with a negative connotation. After thinking about all of these names, I have decided to break down each one as best I can to identify or separate myself from the labels.


I can identify with aspects of the hippie movement. I have long hair. I have worn headbands. I like Pink Floyd. I love old Volkswagens. Someday I hope to wear a beard. I never wear a bra. I’m a fan of alternative forms of energy, free press, and organic farming. I like healthy food. I have ‘spiritual’ experiences. And I think I would prefer peace to war.

However, I do not wish to associate myself with other characteristics often attached to hippies. I do not, and have never done drugs. I do not embrace sexual revolutions. I am not a dropout.

It seems that the term hippie is an adaptation of the term hipster, which was first coined in the 1940s. Although the hipster label today is used mainly for a person’s fashion choices, it was not always so. The term hip apparently came from African-American culture, meaning “awareness,” so calling someone a hipster was like saying they are aware. I feel like I’m pretty aware, so sure, call me a hippie.


It seems that this term is used more negatively than positively these days, and you may be surprised to find out that the original term had negative connotations as well. In the Bible, the term is only used two or three times. Today, the meaning of Christian is a follower of Christ, but I learned recently that the term Christian was meant as a sort of insult from people who were not followers of Christ in the first century. The term actually means “little Christs” or “little Messiahs” (because Christ means Messiah), and it was used to make fun of people.

For instance, you have probably seen a singer that you can tell really wants to be Bono, the lead singer of U2. This singer will dress like him, try to sing like him, and mimic his stage presence. After you see the singer perform, you say to your friends, “They were okay, but that singer thought he was Bono.” The implication there is that the singer was trying to be something he’s not… something he’s not as good as. In the same way, people were saying about people who followed Jesus, “You think you are a little Christ.” I have to say that even in the negative context of being called a Christian, it is still a compliment. You are right. I am trying to be like Jesus, even though I’m not good enough to be like Jesus.

Now, I know that isn’t always what people are saying when they call others Christians. Often times, the implication is that the person is judgmental (which in itself is a judgment from the name caller upon the Christian). I’ll be the first to say that Christians aren’t always good at being little Christs, but I can only speak for myself and hope that you see that I’m trying.


These labels really get under my skin. As soon as you start talking about anything remotely political, you are labeled. Most of the time, it is an unfair, premature, and incorrect pigeon-holing of a person’s beliefs. First of all, I believe that there really is no such thing as a Republican or Democrat. There used to be, but I think the lines between them have become so blurred that politicians aren’t even sure which side of the label fence they sit on. That’s why you have liberal conservatives, conservative liberals and any other oxymoron you can think of (honest politician comes to mind). The elephant and the ass seem to be a thing of the past (that rhymes), but people still want to hold on to the idea of them. Based on the mascots alone, I personally don’t see why anyone would choose to be a stubborn ass over a wise old, never-forgetting elephant, but that is a different argument. Older generations talk about the two parties with a sort of nostalgia, as if the parties were really something to believe in at one point in time. Perhaps they were. Today, I don’t think we can put the same definitions on the parties that we once could though. Most people around my age and younger couldn’t care less about whether there is a D or an R next to someone’s name. They care about individual issues. I care about individual issues. If we talk about gun rights or most abortion laws, I’m a Republican. If we talk about renewable energy, environmental issues, and corporate regulation, then I’m a Democrat. I would argue that most people side with more than just one party depending on the issue. My point here is this: to call me one or the other is to completely limit my free thought as an individual.

I understand that people may tend to agree with one side more than the other, but why does there have to be sides at all? Why can’t a politician just be a person who feels certain ways about specific issues? I tend to think that the only reason a politician sides with a party, other than the chance that they generally agree on most topics, is to get votes (and money). I also tend to think that the only reason people side with a party is because their parents do. If everybody looked at each issue on an individual basis, rather than a party basis, we probably wouldn’t have parties.


As soon as you say that you don’t subscribe to the above political dichotomy, people say that you must be an independent. All that label does is springboard you to being called another name: hippie. See above.


This is a tough one. Obviously, I am a musician… but isn’t everyone a musician nowadays? That’s the thing with being called a musician… it isn’t like being called a doctor or a teacher or a fireman. Those people have to prove something before they can attain those titles. When it comes to being an “artist,” anyone can claim they are one without really having to prove anything. It’s almost always a self-proclaimed title, which is exactly why I never claim to be a musician. In fact, when I was touring as a musician and people would ask me what I’d been up to, I’d start off by telling them I’d been doing a lot of travelling. It wasn’t a lie. Some would accept that and move on, while others would ask why I was travelling, at which point I would tell them I was in a band. Why? Well, when you run in to an old acquaintance at the Longview Starbucks and tell them you are in a band, a certain stereotype comes to mind. It usually includes being poor, doing a drug or two, playing local bars, and living with the parents. I suppose the last bit was true. But when a person realizes you have been travelling and getting paid, albeit little, for your musicianship, you immediately attain a higher status in a person’s mind.

Back to the point… “Musicians” nowadays are anyone who can play an instrument, and it really doesn’t matter how well they can play it. Everyone is a musician. So, if you call me a musician, I won’t be offended; but you’ll never hear me call myself that.


I am a nerd. I like math problems, grammar, computer programming, etc. I don’t wear glasses though, and glasses seem to be stereotypical of nerds. I think it’s harder to tell who the nerds are nowadays then it was back when my dad was in school. Back then, they all had tape on their glasses and pocket protectors. Today, with the ever-increasing use of technology, everyone is becoming a nerd to some degree. Nerds are becoming the majority. Nerds are taking over. Are you scared yet? I’m not. I’m a nerd.

In short, I’m an independent, artistically inclined, hippie-nerd who is doing his best to live up to the standard set by some other independent hippie named Jesus.

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