"What if You Met a Guy with a Whole Bunch of Tattoos?"

Sometimes we teach our children some unintended things. Or perhaps subtly they are intended, although they shouldn't be. This came to light last evening as my son and I talked about people who have tattoos.

Are we naturally afraid or averse to people and things that are different than us? I know my kids are. Is it because I am? I think so. It's something I need to work on.

In a book we have, my son noticed a picture of a guy getting tattooed, and he said something like 'Ewwwwwwww'! I suggested to him that that's probably not something we would do, but that it's not necessarily a bad thing if someone else chooses to do so. It's definitely not something we should use as a measure of our own better worth. "What would you do if you met a guy with a whole bunch of tattoos?" I asked.

"I would try not to stare," was his answer.

I explained to him that likely his attempt not to stare would be picked up by the person with tattoos as a sense of unease on the part of my son. I suggested a couple of better responses: (1) "Hey, those tattoos are pretty cool! What do they mean?" or simply (2) "Hi, how's it going?"

This article was actually provoked by something former US President Jimmy Carter wrote in his book Our Endangered Values, which I'm currently reading:

It is a natural human inclination to encapsulate ourselves in a superior fashion with people who are just like us--and to assume that we are fulfilling the mandate of our lives if we just confine our love to our own family or to people who are similar and compatible. Breaking through this barrier and reaching out to others is what personifies a Christian and what emulates the perfect example that Christ set for us.

I've got some work to do, but maybe I'm not so different after all. The bad thing about humans is that we have the analytical ability that can be used to convince ourselves that we're better than others. The good thing about humans is that we have the analytical ability that can be used to convince ourselves that we're really not better than anyone else.

What troubles me is this additional statement by President Carter, which seems to be growing truer by the day:

There is a remarkable trend toward fundamentalism in all religions...Increasingly, true believers are inclined to begin a process of deciding: 'Since I am aligned with God, I am superior and my beliefs should prevail, and anyone who disagrees with me is inherently wrong,' and the next step [in the process] is [not that they are just wrong, but that they are] 'inherently inferior'. The ultimate step [in this process] is [to label such people as] 'subhuman', and then their lives [can easily be deemed] not significant.

pages 30-31

It is easy to see this tendency toward exclusivity and self-superiority in fundamentalist Islam, but it exists to some degree in Christianity, too. This is likely the cause of the increase in vitriol in our public places--especially in our political public places. Red states remain red, and blue remain blue, and at the current pace of things, never the twain shall meet.

But they--literally--must meet if we are to survive as a country.

So if you see a person who is 'covered in tattoos', whether literally, politically, or otherwise figuratively, if all you can say is "Hi, how's it going?" and mean it, that's a good start.


  1. Have you seen previews or read any reviews for a documentary called jesus camp? I saw a preview the other day and I am very intrigued. Scary, scary fundamentalist christianity.

  2. What do you think about this LA Times article regarding people with loads of tattoos finding a job?


    Is it ok to choose not to hire someone because of their many tatoos?


  3. I think it is, because they are free to choose, but I also think they should look inside before they decide whether to hire or not.

    Personally, I wouldn't let tattoos affect the way I hired (if I owned my own business).

  4. As a person who is covered in tattoos it's almost heart warming to read this. I have tattoo sleeves on both arms on of my legs, tattoos on my hands and fingers, and one on my neck. All of my art is completely non-abrasive. Yet, no matter where I am, at anygivin point if i catch eyes with a person they immediately turn there head. I can almost see the comic book thought bubbles above their heads. I does'nt hurt my feelings or anything because I get it... it's different. And it totally makes my day when an older man or woman stops me just to talk about them or look at them with smiles on their faces. Thanks

  5. Brian: Thank you for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. It is difficult, when someone looks different, to not stare or seem to be staring. I've always taught my kids that they should be friends with everyone, regardless of what they look like. My father was kind to everyone, so I think that's where I picked up the desire to be that way.

    In a recent Conference of the LDS Church, Elder Dieter Uchtdorf put it this way (http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-1207-23,00.html): "I hope that we welcome and love all of God’s children, including those who might dress, look, speak, or just do things differently. It is not good to make others feel as though they are deficient. Let us lift those around us. Let us extend a welcoming hand. Let us bestow upon our brothers and sisters a special measure of humanity, compassion, and charity ". We're not great at this skill, but hopefully we're getting better!


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