Sunday, November 15, 2015

On Bigotry

[Bell ringing] Hurry up, class. Take your seats. Today, we’re going to have a discussion on the word “bigotry.” The Merriam-Webster online dictionary (because, really, who has “books” anymore?) defines it as such: “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.”

Just to avoid any confusion, going further, let’s go ahead and lay out the definition of “intolerance,” from the same online dictionary: : “the quality or state of being intolerant.” Shit. That didn’t help much, did it?

Here we go:
1: unable or unwilling to endure
2a : unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression especially in religious matters
b : unwilling to grant or share social, political, or professional rights : bigoted.

Now. Are we understanding this, so far? Good.

So, as “intolerance” is an integral component of the definition of “bigotry,” it is important to work through that word to have a more complete grasp on the concept of “bigotry,” in the modern cultural context. Indeed, our language can be confusing to those who originated in other countries – and those born here who made the unfortunate choice to listen to pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, et al. Perhaps some examples might be in order.

1. If you hate all liberals, because they are liberal, are you a bigot? (A: yes)
2. If you hate all conservatives because they are conservative, are you a bigot? (A: yes)
3. If you hate religious people, because they are religious, are you a bigot? (A: yes)
4. If you hate atheists, because they are atheists, are you a bigot? (A: yes)

Why? Because you are “intolerant” of their political and/or religious rights to have different opinions than your own about such matters; and unwilling to grant or share those rights. So, in America, we can safely say that, according to the dictionary definition, virtually everybody is a bigot – save the few blissful souls who have no political or religious affiliations of their own. . . wherever that guy might be.

5. If you hate people because they are black, are you a bigot? (A: yes)
6. If you refuse to listen to someone’s opinion because they are Iranian, are you a bigot? (A: yes)

Why? Because you are one who : “regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.”

7. If you say “I think we should send all the black people (using a more colloquial term to identify them) back to Africa,” (identifying yourself as a bigot), and I vociferously disagree, does that make me a bigot? (A: oddly, yes)

Why? Because I am “unwilling to grant (you) equal freedom of expression.”

The definition gets a little milky here, doesn’t it?

Now, it gets more complicated. Suppose you call me a murderer, when, in fact, I know I haven’t participated in any acts of murder. You have a “right” to say what you believe, but I am unwilling to grant or share that right (which makes me intolerant). I am obstinately or intolerantly devoted to my own opinions and prejudices about you, going forward. In fact, I think you are a complete asshole. When I express to you my extreme intolerance to your statement, am I a “bigot” for doing so?

By definition, I would have to conclude that, yes, I am. But you’re still an asshole. And, using the same criteria, you are also a bigot on one matter or another, even if I cannot presently identify it.

Is there some kind of “double negative” rule that applies to this definition, which is implied, but not expressed? Is it OK to be intolerant of one who is intolerant? If we deny (or simply don’t subscribe to) the “rights” of those like Hitler and Timothy McVeigh and Westboro Baptist Church and the 911 bombers, are we, by definition, bigots? Yes. Yes, we are; but they’re all still assholes.

Why then, do we give the word “bigot” any credence at all? Everybody qualifies on one issue or another. Going forward, my suggestion is that the word be dropped from our vocabulary and replaced with words that are easier to comprehend. “Dipshit,” for example.

Class dismissed.

©2015 Rick Baber