Bigotry: It's Back
By Crispin Sartwell
Since at latest around 1970,
we Americans have been congratulating ourselves for having overcome our history
of bigotry and exclusion. This supposed triumph has always been overrated, but
if we ever gave up on prejudice, we're certainly right back at it now, with a
The current political attacks on gay
people and immigrants are about nothing but sheer bigotry, and they deploy that
combined strategy that you find almost anywhere you find people: to insult or
spit on you is simultaneously to improve my self-esteem. Your inferiority and
my superiority are, of course, the very same fact.
judges," "national security," and so on: these are of course the
merest distractions from the heart of the matter: we hate wetbacks and fags,
and we don't regard them as fully human, as deserving the same sort of respect
that we demand for ourselves.
The idea that the basic
problem with illegal immigrants is a matter of national security and border
protection is deeply dishonest. The last military or terrorist threat we faced
from Mexico was at the Alamo.
And yet here we are, affirming
legislatively, for example, that English is our "national language."
It is, in precisely the same sense that WASP is our national ethnicity and
torture our national interrogation technique.
Let this go a little longer and we will
have - even more than we do already - a national system of internment and
deportation camps for people whose status is basically detectible by their
skin-tone and language.
Gay marriage is as clearly and
directly an issue of civil rights as anything could possibly be. All it demands
is the extension of equal rights to a group of previously excluded persons.
Furthermore, such an extension does
absolutely no damage to anyone in the dominant group. It doesn't require
busing, increased taxation, or even a cure for homophobia.
What it does, merely, is damage
"the institution of marriage," which means, as far as I can tell,
that it throws into slight doubt the God-given superiority of heterosexuals. In
other words, it throws into doubt the bigotry of God.
Mary Cheney has famously said that
if the Republicans oppose gay marriage, they will find themselves on the wrong
side of history.
I'm not so certain about this, because if
history teaches us anything, it's that, though bigotries come and go, bigotry
never dies. At the moment of a particular prejudice's ascendency, there are a
thousand seemingly plausible causes or justifications for the hatred in one's
heart, and a thousand ways to convince yourself that your hatred is
righteousness, truth, or even love.
That is, segregation, exclusion,
exploitation, and denunciation never appear as evil at the moment of their
lurid bloom as they do in retrospect. When our grandchildren look back at this
era, they will be shocked by our explicit violation of our professed values.
They will see our hypocrisy with perfect clarity, as we see clearly the
injustice of racial apartheid or laws prohibiting women from voting.
But even as they do, they will be busily
rationalizing their hatred of the Norwegians or men who cook or people who
speak Pig Latin. It's the only way they'll be able to live with themselves.