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The Good Life: Is life really just one big competition?
November 17, 2011 Lisa Betz   

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A couple of occurrences over the last week got me thinking. First, a fellow publisher friend of mine posted on Facebook that she was dismayed by ugly remarks about Catholics in light of the Penn State sexual abuse scandal. She stated that she would begin deleting “friends” who insisted on making disparaging remarks about Catholics as a result of the scandal. How can anyone justify bashing an entire religious faith because of the actions of one man or even a handful of men that have nothing to do with the church?

Later, I noticed a video that was making its rounds on the Facebook circuit. Many were sharing a Youtube video called “Scottsbluff High School Lip Dub,” produced by the Music Technology classes at Scottsbluff High School. It’s a great video and highly recommended.

What got me though, was the fact that the acquaintance of mine who shared the video made the following comment: “Another reason SHS is soooooooo much cooler than GHS!” I was floored when I read this. I don’t know this acquaintance well at all. I think of her as an immensely talented artist in our community and really, we haven’t known each other long but in the Facebook tradition, when you meet someone you enjoy talking with, it’s easy to connect and be “friends” on Facebook.

It left a bad taste in my mouth. What does a clever creative project by one school have to do with making that school “soooooooo much cooler” than any other and what does this video have to do with Gering High School at all?

And we wonder why our community sometimes seems so disparate?

But hey, it’s all in ‘fun’ right? I’m sure my acquaintance didn’t think twice about her post, nor expect someone to read it and find it offensive. Perhaps she wouldn’t care that I found it offensive. The fact that this type of comparison and whopperjaw judgment is commonplace and exists in every facet of our lives is dismaying.

These two examples have a very different subject matter and yet they both relate to a common observation I’ve been making lately. Our culture has shifted into an ‘us versus them’ mentality.

It seems to me that life has become one giant sporting event where we see ourselves as the superior “team” and everyone else as the “inferior” team. It seems that way with political candidates, political parties, neighboring towns and schools, different races and religions, states of the Union, other countries, and other cultures. Heck, it’s even like this with iPhone and Blackberry users! People go so far as to almost demonize the “other” without even thinking.

Why is it that we smugly believe that we are superior, that our ways are superior to all others, that our state is superior, our culture, our religion, our traditions, our teams? The list could go on forever.

I’ve lived in a lot of places, six states and even more cities. I’ve noticed that really, none of those places are really ‘better’ than the others. None of them are really better than here, or anywhere else . Of course I have my favorites, usually because of what I experienced while I was there or because of the people I knew there. Everywhere I’ve lived can boast of something unique and wonderful to be proud of but this wouldn’t make them superior to other places.

Of course preferences exist. I was born here; therefore, I love the prairie and wide open spaces. I also love trees and the mysterious nature of wooded areas which developed from my time spent in Virginia.

Does the fact that I was born here and prefer the prairie or that I lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains mean that prairie and mountains are superior to the ocean, of which I have little experience? Of course not, that’s ridiculous, yet many people base their everyday value judgments on thinking just as nonsensical.

I graduated from Gering. My roots are deep in Gering, and I have seen Scottsbluff High School turn out some very impressive students whose talents I’ve admired over the years.

There are strengths and weaknesses in every town, school, religion, sporting team, state, country, but this concept of us versus them, of deeming the familiar as superior to anything we don’t know or haven’t personally experienced, must stop.

We are one community. We are one country. We are of one race, the human race. What is it about mankind that makes us so arrogant as to assume that we know what is best for others, that we are superior to others, that we have the right to judge others and deem them somehow inferior to what we are, have, or experience?

I don’t know the answer but it’s a question worth asking and I hope that you’ll humor me by giving it some thought. I think we all should.
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