The Common Good

Going Over to The Other Side

“Now I’ve gone completely over to the dark side,” I laughed as I unpacked an Apple iMac desktop computer and set my last Dell Windows PC to the side.

Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images
An original Darth Vader costume from the Star Wars films. Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images

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Such is the teasing that goes on among computer users — teasing that occasionally turns to irate bristling and strident claims of supremacy.

But becoming “all Apple” (iPhone, iPad, MacBook, iMac) isn’t the “dark side,” is it? It’s the “other side.” It’s a new product, not a corrupt soul.

Product decisions aren’t expressions of ultimate value. They’re like selling my automobiles and moving to a walking culture in Manhattan, putting aside suits, and starting my own company. It’s the “other side,” not the “dark side” or the “light side.”

I won’t be using my new iMac to steal money from people. That would be “dark side” behavior. I won’t engage in identity theft, patent trolling, luring people into danger, slandering people with whom I disagree, threatening children, starting phony charities. Those would be “dark side” activities.

In recent years, we have seen serious confusion between “other side” and “dark side.” Led by politicians, ideologues and religious zealots, we have been encouraged to view opponents as evil, unpatriotic, a menace worthy of destruction. The opposition wasn’t content to disagree; it also wanted also to dehumanize and demolish.

If a dark-skinned president proposed something, it had to be wrong. If a preacher took a different stance on some hot-button issue, he had to be removed from the inauguration. If something bore, say, a Southern Baptist label, it had to be racist and intolerant. If the label said “Presbyterian,” it had to be soft and elitist. A Gentile couldn’t be touched; a Jew couldn’t be allowed into the club.

We can’t avoid noticing the other, yet we seem hard-wired to perceive the different as possible danger. The issue is what we do next. When women have broken through certain barriers — auto-racing, law school, the corporate suite, combat — some have fought back as if civilization itself were ending, just as they once wielded ax handles when blacks entered white schools or as the sisterhood now bristles when a man gets any promotion or recognition.

When fear of the other — perhaps the most visceral of all fears — is allowed to guide our steps, we can become monsters. Demagogues tap that fear to dehumanize minorities and declare them targets for slaughter. For centuries, religious leaders used fear of the other to declare all other faiths not just misguided, but dangerous, dark, satanic.

I sense that times are changing for the better. I think we scared ourselves in recent years with unbridled intolerance and insane castigation of the other. The politics of exploiting fear and stoking anti-other rage was a sobering reminder of evil days we don’t want to revisit.

I also see that many are learning to rejoice in otherness. People aren’t just tolerating other races; they are seeking out their unique contributions. Having gay friends isn’t just a statement of open-mindedness; it’s a desire for a complete circle. In some fields, gender is becoming a non-factor in promotions, to the consternation of those who still want to use gender as a lever for preference.

I even see — hold your hats — that some Apple fanboys are switching to Android phones. What a confusion of otherness and darkness.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus” and founder of the Church Wellness Project. His website Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich. Via RNS.

Photo: Matthew Lloyd / Getty Images

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