Friday, May 30, 2003

We Have Met the Bigots, and They Are Ours

In this week's Metropulse (Knoxville's requisite alt-weekly rag-that's-more-than-a-rag), Vanderbilt Law and English Professor Willy Stern waves poetic on suffering the effects of bigotry. However, he's a straight, white male - how could anyone possibly hold bigoted opinions about him? Oh, he's a Republican.

Socially Accepted Bigotry

"Scarcely a week has gone by since I hit 7th grade at Edgemont High School during which somebody did not make a derogatory comment about Republicans in my presence. I hear them, well, practically Starbucks, at job interviews, and while picking up my son at Congregation Micah, Nashville's open-minded reform synagogue. I hear them in the hallways of Vanderbilt University (where I teach part-time), around the copy machines at the Nashville Scene (the alternative newspaper which employs me) and in the carpool line at the University School of Nashville, (the progressive private school which my older child attends).
Mr. Stern continues to make an impressive case on how bigotry comes in many, less obvious forms:

"There is no group better qualified to answer that question than the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a not-for-profit group respected around the globe for its authoritative work to counteract discrimination and anti-Semitism. So are comments like "All Republicans are assholes," expressions of bigotry? According to Caryl M. Stern, ADL's associate national director (and no relation to the author), the answer is yes.

Using rather clever definitional contortions, these tolerance and oppression experts found ways to absolve those that make bigoted statements about Republicans en masse from the charge of bigotry. Their arguments are predictable. [Their reasoning:] Unlike women, African-Americans or homosexuals, Republicans have chosen to be Republicans; one cannot be bigoted towards a group that is self-selecting.

Republicans do not stand to be hurt by bigoted activity. Since the derogatory words do not trigger actual harmful behavior towards Republicans (who clearly can look after themselves), there is no bigotry. No harm, no foul.
However, his argument seriously derails when he begins offering explanations for why Liberals make these types of bigoted generalities:

"The bigotry of America's Left-leaning intelligentsia is based upon cold logic that unfolds in the following predictable, if venal, fashion: I'm very smart. I'm well educated. So are most of my friends. I give generously to liberal causes. I'm a kind and caring human being. I defer to nobody in my exemplary set of values. I care about equality. I believe in a just society. These values are integrated into the core of who I am. I work diligently to teach these values unto my progeny. And these are just the values that, generally speaking, have been represented by the policies and actions of the Democratic Party.


In short, the justification for bigoted comments directed at those with whom the educated Left disagrees politically is based on two foundations: 1) We're a lot smarter than they are; and 2) We're better people than they are. That logic leads to three inescapable conclusions: We're right. They're wrong. QED: All Republicans are assholes.
He then ends his discussion with the impression that it's part of the Democratic/Liberal philosophy that causes them to be bigoted toward Republicans, and implies that is the rule rather than the exception.

Earlier in the article, he mentions a private game he used to play:

"When somebody makes a prejudicial comment about Republicans in my presence, I play a private game. I replay the sentence in my mind—only I substitute a word like "black" or "lesbian" or "Mexican" in place of the word "Republican." In performing this verbal sleight-of-hand, it becomes increasingly apparent that the speaker of the sentence may harbor views not generally considered to be tolerant or open-minded.
Unfortunately, his big mistake is not also substituting the word "Democrat" or "Liberal" for Republican - because that is also an unfortunate reality that a lot of people have to deal with, especially living in East Tennessee. I would bow to SouthKnoxBubba to outline the instances and reasons why Republicans can be and are bigoted toward Democrats, but I think it would ultimately be fruitless - you see, it's the same all over. It boils down to, "I'm better than you, and your ideas are garbage. Therefore you suck, and my friends think so, too, and it's accepted by our culture and our social circles to say so."

In exposing the bigotry he is confronted with and not looking at the other side, Mr. Stern engages in bigotry of his own.

You can see this extends to all forms of bigotry: racism, homophobia, sexism, politicism - it's all the same. I Am Better Than You, and I'm not going to let you forget it.

I can't count the times I've hesitantly turned on Limbaugh/Hannity/Medved/Godhelpme-Savage (hey - I try to keep an open mind), then quickly turned the station after some venemous diatribe against "thu lib'rals". If they'd been talking about blacks, they would've been kicked off the air - but it's allowed because: a) it builds ratings, and b) the stations, their managers and their sponsors tacitly agree with them. And it's not just national radio either - Tony Basilio, a local sports talk/novice political pundit and his cohorts do the same thing. I've blogged about their Dixie Chick "protest" before. In this part of the country, it's tolerated just like the "n" word was tolerated even 50 years ago because too many people believe in it.

I offer these examples from my own experience, but the point is this: It's not a Democrat thing - it has nothing to do with the ideals of the "Left-Leaning intelligensia". It's not a Republican thing - it has nothing to do with the ideals of the "Knee-jerk right-wingers with low IQ's". It's a nasty stain of human nature that a lot of people - Republican, Democrat, black, white, male, female, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Pagan - have thankfully come to recognize. Unfortunately, there's not enough yet, and we haven't progressed quite enough as a society or as a species to look beyond political differences.

Witness political bickering in Congress. Almost every case of partisanship on the rampage is this same type of bigotry: "My team's better than your team, I'm better than you, and I'm going to win." And of course, rarely does anything get done that reflects a true concensual view. Whichever party has the most seats usually wins, because most members of the party vote how the party wants them to.

Maybe one day we'll grow up. I hope so, because I want my kids to inherit a world where this is the last real popular bigotry.

No comments:

Post a Comment