Or The Delicate Balance Of Us
Here’s one thing we know: bigotry, in any way, shape or form is never going away. Okay, so maybe if a meteor hits the earth or it floods over like 98 percent of scientists claim or if a mass virus kills the human race. Otherwise, failing that kind of calamity, bigotry is a keeper. Whether racist, misogynist, homophobic, jingoistic, cultural, religious, anti-rich, anti-poor, anti-government, idiosyncratic celebrity loathing, the idea of arguing that this is somehow rare and abhorrent behavior is silly. Everyone has negative thoughts about some people or some things, just as we have positive thoughts and opinions about other things. This is called humanity. It is what we are and it never fails to astound me that it surprises anyone, much less engenders the kind of sudden outrage in us. It’s as if people are slapping their cheeks in amazement that the sun is there every morning.
Humans—all humans, everywhere for the entire time they have been around—judge; harshly. Sometimes we do so with reason (a familial or cultural guidance, or an experience, both personal and general) and often for no good reason at all. Not everyone can know everything, and many of us refuse to enlighten ourselves to the basic panoply of humanity anyway—and even if we did actually know everything, the enlightenment would likely lead to a myopic conclusion that would only serve to feed the existing ignorance we cling to like a lifeline. Humans casually find something troubling about whatever it is that is different or whatever it is that makes them feel uncomfortable. It’s our thing. Anthropologists have pretty much concluded that it’s our main thing.
I think we see these notions as pretty much fundamental truths of being able to use our senses and our sense-memory and our nature-v-nurture to form completely reasoned or irrational fears and hatreds for some other group of people. It is patently wrong to consider this a deviation of the norm or a form of monstrosity. Hatred is a pure emotion, like love. It is a waste of intellect and energy to fight this. It just is. Our nature can no more change than our basic DNA. We have hair and fingernails and brains that immediately differentiate one thing from another, and this allows us to group people and construct generalities about them that eventually evolve into either worship and inspiration or devolve into bigotry and revulsion.
Most behavior, even acceptable social types of behavior, is engrained. It comes from a primal place; like people believing in angels or being afraid of spiders or feeling more comfortable in cities as opposed to the woods or vice versa. It stands to reason that if you are more adapted to one thing then the other thing would appear to be something you do not like. It’s not only ignorance or the fear of the unknown; you just don’t like it. Period.
I get the feeling sometimes, like this week when that video of the frat kids from Oklahoma were singing some frat song about “niggers,” that we see this as a shocking occurrence because it reflects in each of us what our own set of bigotries rears. It really doesn’t matter what these kids were singing; could have been “faggots” or “cunts” or “kikes” or “crackers” or “towel-heads” or “fascist right-wingers” or “liberal weenies.” Because when I hear any of these terms I lump them all together into a coagulation of our basic impulse. This is not unlike people trying to figure out why a man would arm himself to the teeth and go out one sunny morning and kill kindergarten children or why people plan for years to hijack planes to ram into giant buildings or what the hell the Nazis were thinking. There is no actual, reasonable explanation for these actions (admittedly and thankfully, all of these are outliers to normal bigotry), but rest assured these reactions are purely based on the natural us-v-them mentality that is made manifest in the core of our humanity.
I have no idea why these kids found it joyful to sing songs with hateful lyrics about a race of people anymore than school pride giving them a sense of self-worth. If someone wants to whittle these reasons down to youth or booze or peer pressure or a cultural miasma, or even if they wish to see it as endemic of the Southern culture rich with anti-everything-but-white-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant rhetoric, actions and traditions, they certainly can. But as much as we cringe to accept it, these are humans doing human things, just like the celebration of the Selma March last week was our society celebrating humans displaying human things, like rationality, bravery, passion, solidarity and defiance against institutional oppression.
This is why Thomas Jefferson could very well be the American avatar, and precisely why he was chosen to pen what would become our Declaration of Independence; a man who aimed for the highest honor of humanity in demanding our engendered equality while at the same time owning humans. He is our yin and yang. He fills both our base nature and our highest aspirations. Jefferson is our collective id and super ego, our ethos and pathos; a vain, racist, dreamer, poet statesman; the shining symbol of our schizophrenia.
This is precisely why you should ignore talk about our society being post-racist. This is like saying Americans are post-human.
Sure, I was stunned, and still am, that this nation elected an African-American president and considers a woman the frontrunner to succeed him. Stunned. Not because we have not come a long way from slavery and lynching and denying basic civil rights to taxpaying citizens or allowing women the right to vote and kind of coming close to earning what a man earns in the workplace and no longer finding it charming to being treated as if not deserving a crack at dignity, and we are kind of sort of coming to terms with the idea that anyone regardless of sexual orientation can play in our social sandbox. Nope. It’s because it was done in the face of our deepest desires, to judge something not the “norm,” or whatever it is that our traditions allow, as unacceptable.
Okay, so that brings me to the second racial story of the week, the shocking (being facetious for a moment) revelation that the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department has been working under a racist construct. This is where, as Jefferson rightly saw it, human nature must be curtailed. Of course cops are humans and therefore have prejudices as stated in the previous paragraphs, but when it erodes the systemic nature of law and order then it needs to be changed. This is how the Civil Rights Act gets done. This is how suffrage succeeded and how marriage equality will rightfully soon be the law of the land. In other words, people can continue treating each other as if some are better or worse than others, but the system shall do all it can to never reflect it.
This is the difference between some asshole screaming racial epitaphs during a sporting event and a racist owning an NBA team. This is the difference between some goon from the neighborhood telling you that women who are raped cannot conceive a child and a senator espousing it. This is the difference between people being afraid of Muslims and an Alabama law that curtails their religion. This is the difference between people protesting against Planned Parenthood clinics and states systemically reducing them. And this is the difference between a dickless frat boy singing songs and a police department targeting African Americans.
You see, the concept of America, at its best, really, is when we take human nature and put it on systemic trial. We accept through free speech and a free press and a democratic open system of government that we would eventually make sure that none of it is corrupted by our baser instincts. Freedom is at once being able to hate and not let it discriminate who gets to hate more.
We shall all hate equally.
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