Painting Others With Too Broad a Brush



Project 2, Post 4: Painting Others With Too Broad a Brush

Reflection & Artistic Process:

With gentle, smooth strokes, back and forth, my soft-bristled, broad brush lay down an iridescent and semi-translucent, gold luster upon my canvas. The multi-toned, grayish background of my painting was slowly becoming more homogeneous with each stroke as the distinct shades of grays, blues and browns, the lights and the darks, all lost a bit of their individual attributes as they faded beneath the golden sheen.

Sometimes even I am amazed by the ways in which art often imitates life…

All of us are, even unintentionally, prone to painting others, especially groups, with too broad a brush.

The human brain was designed to categorize, to classify. As young children, we were all assessed on our ability to classify objects. Containers filled with blocks of varying shapes were presented to us to be sorted. Regardless of each block’s size or color, the triangles went with the other triangles, the squares went with the other squares, and so on. This year, all across the country, kindergarteners and first graders will be assessed on their ability to identify and sort US coins. Although the “tails” side of US quarters depict over 50 different designs (one for each US state and territory), students will group all of the quarters together. In the beginning stages of money recognition, children will rely predominately on the size of quarters, above all other similar attributes, for grouping purposes.

 “Painting others (or something) with too broad a brush,” is an idiom describing the act of characterizing someone (or something) in very vague, general, and broad terms while ignoring and neglecting to included individual, specific details and attributes.

As we grow up and our experiences in the world expand, the human brain naturally applies its categorical inclinations to other people or groups of people. *It is when we (people) project our negative feelings upon other individuals and groups based on a single attribute that we move beyond natural, biological tendencies and into purposeful condemnation entirely depending on our own internal motivations and biases. One experience with one person, “Bob” – a single member outside of our own group – then morphs into a personally held, broad generalization which we apply to all members of that out-group to which “Bob” categorically belongs. In terms of social psychology, we may adopt an “us” verses “them” mentality. Stereotyping then follows, which only leads to problems for both ourselves and others. Once we have allowed this type of blanketed bias to infect our minds and our hearts then we become entirely closed off to truth and to facts and to reality: we revert to rejecting all things which challenge our emotional confidence and security in our broad, misplaced biases to which we have attached a piece of our own identity.

In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus warns us not to go through the “wide door”:

“Go through the narrow door. The door is wide and the road is easy that leads to hell. Many people are going through that door. But the door is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life that lasts forever. Few people are finding it.”  

Sadly, aggregators at the helm of our society – posing as public leaders, educators, human rights advocates, etc. – pregnant with ulterior motives and ravenous for power, are leading more and more people through the “wide door” with each new day. These perpetual “scab-pickers” utilize deceptive, emotion-driven marketing and inflammatory rhetoric to intentionally paint large groups of Americans with one gigantically broad brush of condemnation, always diligent in their efforts at keeping old wounds from ever healing.

*Next comes scapegoating, which only increases the level of harm and conflict.

The Scapegoat Theory (in psychology) and the commonly used cultural term scapegoat actually originated from the story of Aaron in the Old Testament of the Bible (Leviticus, Chapter 16). Aaron lists out loud all of the sins of Israel, symbolically casting the sins upon the goat to bear. He then sends the goat off into the desert alone. Thus, the goat paid the price for the Israelis’ sins.

Consistent with Freud’s notions of displacement and projection, Scapegoating is the process of blaming another person or a group for one’s own problems, resulting in prejudice and hatred toward that individual or group. This serves as a useful tool for explaining away one’s own misdeeds and failures while simultaneously maintaining one’s pride and positive self-image.

History provides endless examples of political scapegoating, where leaders gain power and influence through the use of scapegoats to rally the masses, all at the expense of the undesirable, despised group. *Probably the most widely well-known example of scapegoating is that of Adolph Hitler who –  during a period of German financial struggle – rallied the support of and the control over the German people by framing Jews as unjustly and disproportionately financially stable/commercially secure, among other things, in comparison to the Caucasian German population. *The deceptively marketed, unifying goal during this scapegoating campaign was supposedly the “improvement” of Germany.

As the above example amply illustrates, scapegoating is often followed by dehumanizing those being targeted as the scapegoats . This, sadly, can lead to violence.

*I will discuss the issue of dehumanization in a later post.*

Unfortunately, Americans are witnessing group scapegoating on a vastly increasing rate. When people willfully disregard facts in favor of ideological headways, the results are far-reaching. Let’s examine two recent examples:

  • In a horrific, evil act just under 2 months ago on June 12, 2016, an American born Islamic terrorist shot and killed 49 people, wounding 53 more at a gay night club in Orlando, FL. In the aftermath, some members of the LGBTQIA community, angry and deeply saddened, used their pens as public podiums to cast the fault and blame for the disgusting, immoral act of terror solely onto the backs of Christians, essentially scapegoating Christians for the acts of an Islamic terrorist regardless of the fact that Christians had absolutely nothing to do with this tragic event. The arguments from these individuals was irrational, illogical and, unexpectedly, entirely out of left field.
  • One month ago on July 7, 2016, 5 Dallas police officers were shot and killed in a sniper-style shooting. The perpetrator, a black man and former US service member, had become so enraged by the influx of anti-police, anti-Caucasian rhetoric which has been spewed by many “leaders” that he had projected his rage, his own personal disappointments, and his own biases onto all police officers as a group. Police became this man’s scapegoat and 5 random officers were murdered because of it – 5 families were destroyed because of it.

Make no mistake – no group of people is without a few bad apples. *However, when we allow the creeping evil of painting others with too broad a brush into our hearts, our minds will follow, leading us to walk through the wide door and along the easy road to hell: our thinking, deductions, reasoning and even our own actions will inevitably become equally as nonsensical and dangerous than that of the individuals in the examples discussed above. The human heart can be far darker than we would like to admit… Given our natural, human tendencies to classify and categorize, along with our deeply rooted social need of “belonging,” like sheep, we can all be lead astray.

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”   – Ecclesiastes 1:9

Always be diligent in your dedication to loving others. That doesn’t mean condoning their actions or choices. That doesn’t mean that you have to sit idly by while others punish you or act cruel. It doesn’t mean that you may not stick up for yourself and your beliefs. ***Refuge in the love of Jesus Christ and faith of our Heavenly Father are our only ways to keep from becoming just another member of the modern day version of the mob, just another lost sheep screaming “Crucify him!”  “Crucify him!”