I have discovered a phenomenon that I contact the “ Exception to the Rule Syndrome”. It happens when we accept a stereotype and then meet someone that does not fit that stereotype.
A good friend of mine from my days in pest control befriended me on Face-Book. We had never discussed politics or religion so I think it amazed him to find out I am politically conservative and a devout Christian, just as I had been surprised to find out he is a much left progressive who left the Catholic church years ago. When I pleasantly disagreed with one of the President’ t policies on his time line I obtained several hateful responses from their progressive friends calling me a Nazi and a racist, among other things. He looked after me stating he knows individually and that I am a good guy rather than a racist (like all of the various other conservatives). I then became the exception to the rule even though I have a large number of conservative friends on and off Face-Book not one of whom is a racist, however, Tea Party Patriots. Those progressives would rather continue in their prejudice against all conservatives than to admit that many of us are not racist even though we do disagree with the policies our own current President, regardless of his race.
On the other hand, conservatives often think all liberals are “ baby killers” because or their particular support for abortion up to and during birth. When they encounter the liberal who thinks abortion must be limited to early in the first trimester except when the mother’ s life is at risk, they automatically categorize them as an exception rather than accept that many, if not most, liberals oppose late term or partial birth abortions for a reason other than to save the mother’ s life.
I first encountered the exception syndrome when I was a pest management trainer and I was asked to fill in for a sick technician within the far northwest suburbs of Chi town. The area was new to me yet I was happy help. One industrial customer on that route was obviously a tavern in a small town. I launched myself and began to perform the service. They had Oprah on TV and the customers and bar owner were making derogatory comments. I had by no means heard the “ N” word used that often or that emphatically even growing up in the fifties and sixties in southern Indiana. Knowing that the regular technician was black, I wondered how in the world he could put up with such a hostile environment. In between expletives the owner pointed out where Willie usually treats and reminded me to look down in the cellar like Willie always does. As the owner had been signing my service ticket he asked if Willie would be back again next month and I told him which he should be. He was very pleased and couldn’ t stop praising Willie and his good work. Even one of the customers chimed in, “ He could be a good guy. ” That specialist was obviously the only black person with whom they had personal get in touch with. As they got to know him these people saw he didn’ t fit their racial stereotype. Rather than put aside their prejudice they simply made the decision he must be an “ exception to the rule”.
In recent years our society has become more and more separated along religious, political, racial and ethnic lines. We tend to segregate ourselves with those with whom we feel comfortable and relate. The less contact we have with people of different experience and beliefs, the easier it is for us accept the stereotypes. The solution to this syndrome is simple. We must integrate ourself back into society and interact with everyone with whom we come into contact with the assumption that most people are good, truthful folks who are just trying to do what is right for themselves and their families, just as we are. We will run into an occasional fool or fool, but the more individuals we get to know the more we will understand that we have a lot more in common than we thought. We all want a better society in which to live and raise a family, but it will only happen if we sign up for together to make it a reality. It won’ t happen as long as we keep hurl insults at each other throughout the chasms that currently divide all of us.