May 31, 2003


Socially Acceptable Bigotry (Willy Stern, Metro Pulse Online, 5/29/03)
Because of my background and my appearance--dark curly hair and a fairly sizable proboscis--most of the world reaches similar conclusions as to my political leanings as did Suzi. 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).

Press me and you'll learn that—to the degree one can be labeled--I reside in the liberal wing of the Republican Party. I believe in free markets and free people. Social issues notwithstanding, that generally lines me up with the Republicans.

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.

But are they bigots? Bigot, after all, is a strong and charged word. And how about Suzi? Is she a bigot? . . . 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.

To be sure, in this era of diversity and sensitivity, a veritable cottage industry has sprung up to stamp out bigotry and intolerance. Many of those who have dedicated themselves to the eradication of bigotry tend to be Left-leaning, self-styled progressives. In researching this essay, I interviewed a number of these tolerance gurus. Interestingly, most had no problem labeling all Republicans "a--holes." One prominent sociologist at a top university explained earnestly that he was no bigot but, of course, wouldn't want his sister to marry a Republican.

This is fundamentally silly. Although these leftists are prejudiced, by the exact definition, they are not bigots, nor are Republicans or conservatives an oppressed minority. Not only should we conservatives be reluctant to expand the scope of minorities to be protected, we should welcome the close-mindedness of our adversaries, which makes them that much weaker, as well has hypocrites.

But I also have to say that Mr. Stern's experience has not been mine, though I'm a Massachusetts Jew living among five of the more leftist colleges and universities in the country. I never hear comments like this. My guess is that other people can't spend any great length of time with me without figuring out where I stand on the issues of the day. This may be because, unlike Mr. Stern, I'm not embarassed by my beliefs. (Let's face it, "I'm Republican because my parents were" is pretty weak.) Nonetheless, this type of reaction -- based as it is on the refusal to even learn about Republicans -- does ring true. Modern liberalism is founded on ignorance and a general desire, where personal knowledge is lacking, to simply accept the "compassionate" view without investigation. Time and again, I have found that, with the exception of politicians, public school teachers and academics, even the most liberal people are conservative when it comes to the issues they know the best, or which personally effect them. They're often glad to find a sympathetic ear in which to confess their apostasy. So, I say to Mr. Stern and others, rightists of the world unite, you have nothing to lose except listening to a lot of mindless blather. Posted by David Cohen at May 31, 2003 3:59 PM
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