Monday, August 15, 2016

"The hateful liberal"


It is a common political maneuver.

You look for moments when your opposition slips and does not adhere to their own credo 100%. Keep watching and you'll find it. Life often makes such a standard of perfection difficult. I was accused of such "hypocrisy" recently.

A new student on campus, an African American, went shopping for dorm room snacks in the Wal-Mart of our small college town. While there he was followed through the store by other people who said they "just didn't trust him." My feelings on this happening were compounded when a colleague told me of his own interaction with someone from the small town. The colleague was sitting and reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X. A passerby told him "You people would read that [racial expletive] shit." I'm not sure just who the "you people" was in reference to, but I'm going to surmise it was tossed in the general direction of "the liberal elitists." Whoever they are. Finally, a friend on Facebook reported that he was walking through downtown Indianapolis while wearing a shirt that read "Palestine Soccer." A driver of a passing car took the time to slow down, roll down his window, and shout "Terrorist" at the wearer of the shirt.

I will confess that I reacted with disdain towards these incidents, even using the word "hate."

"Well there's that liberal 'tolerance'," someone said to me. "So hateful you can't see anyone's views but your own."

I had to think about that for a while. "Don't be a hater" is one of the slogans of our day and that, overall, is a good thing. Was I in the wrong as my accuser suggested? I came to the conclusion that I was not as hate, in certain respects, gets a bad rap. That is because there are concepts and practices worthy of hatred.

Racism is one of them. Each one of the incidents I described above are in their own way examples of racism. They are indicative of the perpetuation of a system that keeps one group of people in power over another both politically and economically.  This mode of thinking becomes endemic within our institutions, even if the institutions seem to be continually found innocent of such actions. At the same time however, it even seems that racist acts are acts not of individuals...as those in the examples clearly were...but rather inscrutable, inexorable forces that we can only shrug at with a "whatareyagonnado?"

Homophobia is also worthy of hatred. Actually, I hate that very word as it is misleading. The practice of discrimination or other hostility towards someone of the LGBT community is not a fear or phobia, it is out and out bigotry. I feel sensitive to this particular bigotry by way of my own experiences. I am not homosexual but I have been presumed as such in the past. I guess that's what happens to a man in rural, small town America if he is thin, non-athletic, and dares to read things like The New Yorker or Interview magazine. What it taught me was that it is indeed possible to receive verbal and physical abuse simply because of what you are. Sadly, as we've seen this summer, you can even be killed for it.

I'm certainly not opposed to hating sexism either. In grad school (Oh noes!! More "liberal elitism!") I read several personal essays by female writers. Almost to the one they recounted instances of either condescending dismissal or outright bizarre harassment by men. In the case of the latter, I'm talking truly strange stuff. As a man, I've never once entertained the possibility that as I put Honey Nut Cheerios in my cart at the grocery store, another man might ask me if I could spank him. That is of course a rather extreme example, but the sad fact is that sexism and inequality are everywhere in the professional world.

I think I could probably get behind hating economic inequality and environmental carelessness as well, but I think I would like to save those for other posts.

Maybe it's the word "hate" that trips us up. There's a violence to it, suggesting that the perpetrators of these forms of bigotry and inequality deserve harm or even unhappy ends of the most extreme variety. I would never advocate for such things. Violence only begets more violence and no good could ever come from it. At the same time, no quarter should be given to these ideologies. There should be no place for them in our schools, in our workplaces, or in society as a whole, while those who express such ideologies should be told it is unacceptable and find it increasingly difficult to navigate society while holding such thoughts.

Of course this is made all the more difficult when the current Republican nominee for president has made repeated sexist and racist comments. After all, if a top contender for the highest office in American government can make such statements, what is to stop someone in a Wal-Mart, a moving car, or anywhere else in public?

And after a while you just start to hate it.


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