Brad Torgersen – an author I’ve not yet had the pleasure of reading, a defect of mine that will shortly be remedied – has an excellent post entitled Shunning and Radioactivity.
I’ve previously stated my belief that shunning is, in fact, a necessary outgrowth of the freedom of association protected by the First Amendment; I’ve also previously stated my revulsion at the hypocrites who, when relieved of their “Untouchable” status, turn around and promptly try to throw the very people who chose toleration right back under the bus. Either closets are legitimate, and freaks can go live their entire lives in them and die alone and unloved, or closets are to be avoided by a truly liberal society, and nobody is consigned to it. No matter how disgusting the behavior. I’d prefer not to have cluttered closets, thanks. Dirty laundry benefits from being aired, after all – and I’m an Odd, so I have no illusions as to my place in the back of said closet if they became a popular method of dealing with outliers.
However, I do expect there to be a limit to shunning people. That is, the “taint” of an Untouchable should never be radioactive – those compassionate members of society who extend their hands towards the marginalized should never themselves become marginalized for such acts of compassion.
I just… can’t quite wrap my head around the kind of monster who would shun someone like Mother Teresa, who washed the limbs of lepers, because she dared to have compassion on people who were Untouchable. (And Untouchable for damn good reasons that were no fault of their own, to boot.) Should all volunteers of Prison Outreach programs be shunned for their association with bad people? (Of course, vile progressives would never say this, because to them, even the worst criminal is a “victim” of “society.” They’re crazy, but that’s kind of beside the point.)
There’s a difference, in my mind, between the kind of shunning that’s a series of social snubs – not getting invited to the popular kids’ parties, having people sneer at you on the street and give you the evil eye, that kind of thing – and the kind of radioactive shunning that’s deliberately designed to kill the target. I think if one studied the social structures of high schools where a “loner” student has committed suicide, you’d probably find a poisonous atmosphere of radioactive shunning in some of those cases – no one dared to comfort the outcast (despite “make friends with loners” being pushed, and pushed hard, in all entertainment targeted toward child audiences) because hanging out with the “losers” made you a “loser” too. (Lest I cast blame where it’s undeserved, though, let me just say that some people are broken, and if they refuse help, no one in a school can force them to take it. Friendship might be magic in ponyland, but in reality, it don’t cure crazy.)
Another problem is that radioactive shunning is best friends with outright persecution and bullying. “You’re dead to me” and a permanent “ignore” is damaging enough for us humans, since we’re a highly social species – take it one step farther into hurling insults and wishing the Untouchable dead… that crosses the line right over into barbarism. There’s a big difference between unFriending somebody on Facebook, and ginning up a mob to throw vile insults at them.
Let’s just say, that if you’re part of a group throwing insults at somebody and shutting down any of their (or their friends’) attempts to defend themselves, you’re doing the whole “shunning” thing wrong.