Ostrich-sized

I believe that ostracism can be a good thing.  I've talked about it a bit in earlier posts.  I consider the effects of ostracism.  When a society believes a certain action to be unacceptable--to be detrimental to the good of the society--its members often ostracize those who perform the action in question.  And this is often an effective method of dealing with problems.  Consider, for example, the recent action of Pope Francis.  He excommunicated a priest who sexually abused several teenagers.  The offender was apparently also sentenced to serve several years in prison for this action.  Both of these punishments--the excommunication and the prison sentence (which, if I understand the article correctly, he ended up not serving) are a form of ostracism.  Both actions send the message to the offender and to the rest of society "We will not tolerate sexual assault of minors."  

My parents taught me the value of ostracism in a very small scale.  For example, I was told as a child that when a bully teases me, I should ignore them rather than giving them the satisfaction of provoking me to anger.  This has been a useful skill throughout my life, and one that I sometimes forget.  But, in a small way, I am ostracizing those whose behavior I feel is inappropriate.  On a larger scale, we see things such as those who build a human wall to protect grieving family members from the tirade of the radical Westboro Baptist Church.  The community comes together to make the statement that a certain action is intolerable.

I choose to ostracize many people in my personal life.  I will not tolerate people who are bigoted toward me or others.  I have estranged myself from several of the members of my extended family because they continually persecuted me for being gay or atheist.  There are many people that I no longer talk to because of tensions of this nature.  I find such behavior inappropriate and I want to send that message clearly.  

But I also believe that ostracism is far too often abused and overused.  In fact, bigotry itself is a form of ostracism and I believe that it is an abuse.  White people ostracize black people.  Straight people ostracize gay people.  Cis-gendered people ostracize transgendered people.  There are various different reasons given for different types of bigotry, but fundamentally it is the same as any form of ostracism--the message "You are doing something we do not like" is being sent, in a strong way.

I believe that the simple answer is all in perspective.  I think that I should look for reasons to be inclusive, not exclusive.  I believe that it is acceptable to ostracize people when just cause is present, but I think that I should look for reasons to include people and socialize with them rather than looking for reasons to ostracize people and distance myself from them.  In other words, I think that reasons to ostracize people will show themselves without me looking for them.  I don't need to actively find fault with other people in order to score points against them in some imaginary war.  I don't need to see how rapidly I can expand the list of people I've blocked on Facebook.  I can handle situations as they arise, but follow the rule of cooperation rather than ostracism.  

I have no reason to ostracize any particular class of people.  If I were to ostracize black people, I wouldn't have a job.  If I were to ostracize straight people, I wouldn't have a home.  If I were to ostracize people based on what class they belong to, I would be ignorant and bigoted.  Instead, I need to embrace all people I encounter, look for reasons to get along, look for common ground.  There is the key to building a more harmonious future.  I have a richer and fuller life if I meet and socialize with a wider array of people.  I will be personally enriched, and so will those with whom I interact.