Judgment Call

Rice_TheoryofMagic800My romances often reflect issues I grapple with personally. But because the books are upbeat and often humorous, the issues aren’t immediately obvious. Sure, my blind marquess in THEORY OF MAGIC has anger issues. He’s disabled in a society that considers disability a matter of shame. His heroine (and quite frequently, his family) point out that as a marquess, he’s fortunate in a society that walks over the poor and helpless, but in 1830, wealthy white privilege is a matter of fact, not social commentary.

Still, I tried to show the very human tendency to judge others on the basis of appearances or hearsay, without any evidence to prove that opinion right or wrong. I’m as guilty as anyone. I scorn books with poorly written blurbs or bad covers, assuming the writing will be equally unprofessional. I am a literary snot. I know this, but it’s an easy way of dismissing the barrage of information crossing my computer screen.

And that might be part of the whole—we have become a society, a world, too large for a single person to navigate without making hasty judgment calls. We don’t know our neighbors. We don’t know the people who represent us in government. We certainly don’t know many people in other countries or even other states, even though we increasingly affect each other’s lives. That ignorance is an enormous obstacle. How can we choose a political candidate we know only from TV ads? We’ve never sat down to Dinner_at_Aulestad_Pastelldinner with our government officials as people might have back in the days when our constitution was written. Instead, when we form opinions about candidates or religions or books or whatever, we often choose to follow the example of people we trust to know more than we do—a judgment made out of ignorance, laziness, and wishful thinking.

I understand why we must judge candidates and books, but why must we judge people we don’t know by their race, clothing, religion, or disabilities?

Creating community is human nature, I realize, and a level of judgment is involved in deciding who we want in our community. It’s primitive survival instinct. But this is the 21st century. The world is rapidly becoming all one society. What do we have to do to teach our children to suspend judgment of those we don’t know or understand? Or to do the research themselves to discover if what they’ve been told is even remotely correct?  Is that level of civilization even possible?

Sagger_in_ParisNext time, I’ll read an excerpt before I judge a book badly written. I hope I know better than to condemn anyone for their clothes (although those underwear-revealing jeans on grown men really repel me!), and I’m trying very hard to understand why people need guns that kill only people. But until I walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, judgment calls will happen. I’ll simply have to work at not jumping to irresponsible conclusions.

How about you? Are you guilty of hasty conclusions? Any chance you can back up and think again before concluding someone of the opposition party (or wearing low-hanging jeans!) is an idiot? What do you think it will take to force us to examine issues instead of responding to rants, insults, and unfounded perceptions?


3 thoughts on “Judgment Call”

  1. I agree when it comes to race, religion, disabilities, but not when it comes to clothing (assuming we’re talking about choice, not poverty). The thing about clothing is that when we have a choice, we all dress in a fashion that reflects the way we want people to think of us. Now I’m not going to assume a teenage boy is an idiot because he chooses to wear his pants hanging off him—I don’t expect all that much common sense from teenage boys in the first place. But if an adult man turned up that way for a job interview, yes, I would consider him an idiot.

    • Clothes do seem to be an in-your-face statement, but how do you feel about the lovely ladies in red hats and purple shirts? A man who shows up in church wearing his painter overalls? And if you start throwing in gender, religion, and disabilities… It’s fun to imagine what they’re thinking, but to say they’re good or bad because of their choices without actually knowing them is probably a bad call.

      • My point is only that there is a difference between judging someone on something over which they have no control—like their ethnicity—and something they have chosen deliberately, like their clothes. In the second case, they are actually asking for your judgement, pro or con. A
        nd they are probably happier if you choose con.


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