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Trouble with Labels

Thought experiment. Let’s say you’ve had a best friend since kindergarten. For some reason, you never discussed politics with each other. Then one day, your friend labels himself/herself with the label of your political other (so pretend you’re a socialist and your friend admits to being alt-right, or vice-versa).

What do you do with this information? Do you give more importance to the label than to your friend, and attribute all the negativity you’ve accumulated with that label to your friend? Do you give more importance to your friend, and ask what s/he means by it since you’ve been friends for so long, and maybe you might learn something from a true believer of that label? In other words, if you had shared interests in video games, sports, hiking, music, books, bands, cooking, martial arts, fashion—and interests cultivated TOGETHER over decades—would your friend’s revelation overturn all of that?

What if you two understand the label in completely different ways? Do labels mean something in themselves; do they allow for variance within the label; does meaning shift according to group non/affiliation; do they mean something vastly different depending on history or region; do labels mean something different to leaders and followers?

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