A stranger and I shared the waiting room as I waited to have my teeth poked and prodded. CNN was on the TV and a news story about the Paris terrorists came on. The man turned to me and offered some commentary. “You know what we outa do with them terrorists? We oughta take ‘em out in the center of the city and invite everyone to come and watch while we chop off their heads. That’s what we ought do!”
“What? You don’t think that’s what we oughta do? That's what they do to us!”
“I dunno,” I said. I was really trying to avoid getting into a discussion about this with a person I’d never met, someone who clearly had his mind made up. But then, I couldn’t resist.
“I wonder sometimes if maybe the people we call terrorists might say the same thing about us.”
“Are you crazy!?” he asked.
“How can you compare us to terrorists? It’s like apples and oranges.”
As I was pondering how I might respond to him, I heard a woman announce, “Ms. Kraft, we’re ready for you”, and I was up out of my seat.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about apples and oranges and the expression that never makes the point it is intended to make. When people are trying to explain how two disparate things are incomparable, they'll say, “It’s like comparing apples to oranges.” But here’s the thing. You most certainly can compare apples and oranges. They’re both fruits. They both are roundish. They both have skins, and seeds. They both grow on trees…
I’m thinking every teacher needs to put some apples and oranges before their class and ask the students to compare them. Then maybe we’ll get past this absurd notion that you can’t compare apples to oranges. And then, maybe we can gradually teach young people to compare more and more complex things until we get around to considering the similarities between us and them.
I do have a lot in common with a terrorist. We were both born of a woman. We both have X chromosomes. We both eat and sleep and have bowel movements. We communicate through language. We believe in something larger than ourselves. We long to make a difference in the world. We laugh and we cry. And, of course, there’s the really big similarity that supersedes all our differences—we’re both human beings created in the image of God.
Perhaps what we really need to compare are apples and oranges to a terrorist. One is fruit and the other is a human being. Chopping is appropriate for fruit, and that’s all I’m gonna say.