My reflections about labeling this week were initiated by my passing interest in a new political movement calling itself “No Labels” and billing itself as "a national movement of people who believe in America and in bringing our leaders together to solve our toughest problems.” The say they are appealing to common sense in the effort to overcome the political and social divisions in our society. I admit I am drawn to their vision and idealism, but ironically I became immediately wary when they “label” themselves “No Labels," and I am thus skeptical of their intentions and capacity. And the political pushback, aside from their idealism, is that if they were to endorse a third party candidate it would likely benefit the Trump candidacy. Regardless of the efforts to simply dismiss their initiative, I want to somehow also celebrate the sense of hope and renewal that this movement is attempting to generate. I will continue to monitor ways I might offer some support as appropriate. You can check them out yourself if interested. https://www.nolabels.org/about-us And I will try to get over my label induced prejudice over them.
But as I also thought about labeling in general I realized I may or may not be unique, but I have a strong resistance to being “defined” or “labeled.” But is this necessarily a good thing? On the one hand it doesn’t really matter, but “owning” an honorable name for oneself helps establish who we are to ourselves and others.
By personality I like to keep my “options” open. So I feel constrained by the idea that I am pigeon holed into a definitive label. However, I deeply admire the seemingly universal Native American cultural protocol that each tribal member claims their specific tribal name/label that is crucial to their personhood that aligns them in a genetic lineage and a particular identification with the land. And I am fascinated, if often confused, by the various labeling that is so incredibly important within the LGBTQ communities right now as people explore their individual gender identities and sense of belonging and acceptance amidst such otherwise cultural shifting, awakening, and reckoning. In this sense, exploratory labeling has become centrally important within the LGBTQ culture. I, too, have specific identities that define me. I am pleased to wear hats that have the word “Quaker” on them, for example, because that label truly identifies the kind of person and “tribal” member I want to be. So under particular circumstances, we perhaps need to own some level of labelled identity.
But I also have a personal dilemma about labeling. Perhaps heavily influenced by my gender and acculturation in the U.S., I have competing needs to both maintain a certain level of protected, unlabeled individualism while also longing for community that provides me a sense of tribal belonging. I am actually fortunate to be in regular community. In addition to my family and Quaker meeting, I am also part of various intentional groups like book clubs and mens’ groups that I have been part of for years. These informal groups do in a way define or label me, but they actually free me to simply be accepted unlabeled for who I am within the bounds of the group.
I have always been especially wary of political labels. I don’t want to be labelled a conservative, but I find being labelled a liberal or progressive also seems limiting and unfulfilling, and calling myself an independent just seems like a cop out. Based on my Quaker and Christian values, I could honestly be labelled a socialist, or even a communist, but those labels are not ones I can feel comfortable wearing in public, of course, at least not without a lot of explanation and clarification! I actually would like my life to be more deeply rooted in the communitarian sharing and lifestyle in the best sense those labels imply, so there is some regret that these labels are not readily available to me.
I do have a default position for myself personally in terms of labeling, although I acknowledge it avoids a political or social commitment Rather than assuming a particular label, I would like to just let my life speak for itself and let others define me respectfully on the basis of how I live my life. I do not really need a label for myself and others. It is enough to be accepted for who I am, warts and all, and offer the same acceptance of others, as the precious beings we all are as we somehow try to share and receive the God-given beams of love and beauty we have been given.
Blessings to all on your summer journey.