We seem rarely to see ourselves as we really are when we look in the mirror. This can be a good thing (as when we aspire to be better) or a very, very bad thing (as when we fail to see a fixable flaw that is obvious to everyone else). This election season I’ve found myself shouting at my TV screen at certain advocates — “Really?! OMG, look in the mirror!” These people spew hateful, bigoted comments while declaring themselves proponents of family values, defenders of the poor, and good Christians.
Why the disconnect?
I think that, when such folks look themselves in the mirror, they see what they want to see, as in the Mirror of Erised at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter novels. Why is it so easy to overlook what is objectively before our eyes? Part of the answer for me comes from the new Netflix series Westworld in which guests visit a fantasy western world populated by extremely lifelike robots. I’ll focus on just one aspect of the series: the creators debrief the “hosts” periodically, but calling them into a minimalist lab and asking them questions. The hosts (and hence the actors) sit naked on a chair and, if they go into cold storage, stand naked in lines. I can only imagine how vulnerable a person (or actor) must feel being so exposed. As a TV viewer, I find myself feeling uncomfortable on their behalf. Therefore, it seems to me that people easily tune out what they don’t want to see, either physically or metaphorically, when looking in the mirror.
We all need to be better, to acknowledge the reality of our judgmental natures. Only then can we begin to address them.