At the beginning of the semester, at least for the first few weeks, teachers call the roll, and it's maddening to sit attentive to something as uninteresting as a list of names until yours is called. (I just tune them out until I hear "Lopez," usually about four times, because "Madsen" is quick to follow)
But it's odd, when you think about it, to tune out a list of names, because every name is associated with a living, breathing human being right there in the room with you, each an assembly of ambitions and insecurities, some dynamic and some reserved, but all of them as distinct as you.
Pick any name you've ignored, and for someone out there that name is strikingly important. That name is someone's bff since kindergarten, or maybe someone's boyfriend, or someone's kid. That name is as significant to someone as yours is to you.
It's just like driving through a residential area. All the houses drift by, a grey and brown smear until you reach yours, or your friend's, and that one leaps out. But what of the others? Maybe that nondescript one there is someone's first home. Maybe, twenty years ago, in that one next to it, someone had their first kiss. And you just drove by, oblivious to how strongly each house may be burned into the memories of others.
Or on the freeway. Think of how many memories you have with your car... then look at the hundreds upon hundreds of cars flying by every few seconds.
Or all the people at the mall. Or through a graveyard. Or attached to an online petition.
People, everywhere. We can't comprehend how large a number 7 billion is, and even if we could, we couldn't possibly grasp the humanity behind each individual in that 7 billion.
Instead, we dehumanize with labels. It makes it easy -- That's a terrorist, that's a Democrat, that's a communist, those are Christians or Muslims or Atheists. We watch that video of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima -- "Ooh! Pretty colors, how cool that explosion looks." -- and tune out all the people, all the houses, all the cars that just... ended. So much easier to look at a region and say, "They're the Enemy."
They're the Enemy, and God bless the good guys.