Tuesday, December 26, 2006

On strangely unabashed bigotry

Okay, so by now everyone's probably read the letter from Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode in which he equates Muslims with illegal immigrants and terrorists, but in case you haven't, here 'tis:
Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

The Ten Commandments and “In God We Trust” are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, “As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office.” Thank you again for your email and thoughts.

Charming, isn't it? I know too many Virginians to suspect there's something in the water up there, but maybe Virgil and George "Macaca" Allen could get together for a turkey hunt and a good, old-fashioned cross burning.

There are always nutters, though. As was shown with Allen, and as is being shown with Goode, such views are generally considered extreme, and there are usually plenty of people willing to loudly express their disapproval. While it does bother me that elected officials, people chosen by their constituents as representatives, might feel that way, what bothers me even more is letters like this:
Politically correct view destructive

I don't know what might be in the heart of Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.), but I do know that I agree completely with what he said. I do not wish to give up the foundation of our nation by watering it down any further.

I know there are plenty of Muslims of goodwill in our country already, decent people who would not hurt anyone. However, if they had their wish, I know they would turn this into an Islamic nation in a minute.

As an American, I have to stand against the increase of Islam in America by immigration. I support immigration where it is legal and where the immigrant comes here and adopts our customs and culture. I am solidly against immigrants coming here and asking us to adopt their ways.

I agree with Goode. The time to stop the trend is now. If we are "politically correct" much longer, we soon won't be able to recognize our country.

RON TALLON, Woodstock

That letter bothers me so much because the opinion of one man (one horribly bigoted man) in a position of authority has now bolstered a similarly bigoted opinion of another man. Another common man. The kind of man who hangs out with other common men by the water cooler or at Hooter's on a Thursday evening, talking about politics or war or the economy or automotive repair. And now Ron Tallon can say to those other men, "Hey, did you read that letter from Virgil Goode about how Muslims are going to take over the country? Isn't that what I've been saying for months?" And so it grows.

I can remember a time - this was within my lifetime - when people didn't say things like that. It wasn't that things were politically correct, and it certainly wasn't that people didn't think things like that. It was just that people, even bigoted people, realized that it wasn't okay to feel that way. And so, even when they were with people who might agree with them, they didn't say what they were thinking. And when, on occasion, people did say such things out loud, there were always other people around who would say, "That's horrible. You shouldn't say things like that." Because people realized that even if you can't control what you think, you can have some control over what you allow to come out of your mouth.

Somewhere along the way, that phenomenon, which could be called "tact" or, more accurately, "common sense," swelled and grew and was twisted into that favorite conservative strawman that is "political correctness." Tucking it into such a neat little box with a neat little label made it easy for people to dismiss. "That's just political correctness; that's just not saying true stuff!" they'd say when anyone objected to a patently racist slur or blatant stereotype.

Once the strawman was in place, of course, it became a rallying point. "Down with PC!" the torch-bearing villagers would cry. The new cool thing was to rebel against political correctness. And suddenly, it's an act of defiance, like the American Revolution, to say racist things, use racial slurs, express racist and sexist and homophobic ideas, and dare anyone to contradict you. After all, that's just political correctness, right?

It's not. The reason that not saying racist things is "politically correct" is that racism is wrong. If you're thinking that all Hispanic people are lazy illegals sponging off government assistance, you're demonstrably wrong, and statistics will prove you wrong. If you're thinking it and saying it, you're a racist, and that's wrong. If you're thinking that all black people are making and/or having babies out of wedlock and, again, sponging off the government, you're demonstrably wrong. If you're saying that all gay people are pedophiles, you're demonstrably wrong. If you're saying that all Muslims are a) illegal immigrants b) trying to take over our country, if you're saying that, Virgil Goode, Ron Tallon, you're a racist, and you're wrong.

What worries me is that, once a public figure like Virgil Goode has unapologetically exposed himself as an ignorant, racist fucktard, others are following his lead. He makes it look like it's okay to be that way, that it's not something to be deeply ashamed of. That it's not something to strive against and to try to raise your children otherwise. He's made racism a badge of honor that other bigots, tired of keeping their racism/homophobia/misogyny a secret, are proud to come out of the closet and wear.

During a discussion of that same letter, Doug made the point that political correctness, as a concept, is dead and stale, and that rebelling against it is like rebelling against bellbottoms. "You're not going to get me into that polyester, no way!" He's right. These "rebels" may see themselves as revolutionaries against political correctness, but what they're rebelling against is human decency itself. And while they have every constitutionally-protected right to do so, they're only exposing themselves as indecent humans. Bigots. And they should be ashamed. Because no matter who is wearing it like a superhero cape, bigotry is always shameful.

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