The same day (Holy Saturday, 2016), there was a story about an email threat sent to the Omaha Islamic Center which read: “your so called peaceful religion just killed more innocent people. we think its is now time to fight back starting with you. believe it. see you in hell.” (The quote is correct as reported, spelling errors included.)
I refuse to even discuss the racist, biased and bigoted remarks which have been made by some of our current crop of political candidates. I do have to admit that the North Carolina General Assembly coming together in an “emergency session” to pass a law (which the Governor was quick to sign) overruling a local law in Charlotte banning discrimination against LGBT people, preventing ANY local government from attempting to pass similar anti-discrimination laws, mandating that gender on birth certificates are the only acceptable standard for determining who can use which school bathrooms, and (just as a by the way) disallowing a city to establish a higher minimum wage than the state’s, seems like something of a new level of social engineering for governing bodies dominated by people who have done nothing but complain for many years about the need for getting “government” out of the lives of private citizens.
I think the crux of the problem is that I just don’t care for stupidity. The Civil War was, in fact, about the right of the individual states to determine their own course, as opposed to having a dominant national government. Yes, the institution of slavery formed a significant part of the issue, but it was, certainly, NOT the only one.
Let me explain the history, as I understand it. After a brief period with the government established by the “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union,” which didn’t work very well as the national government had, essentially, no ability to actually do anything, we established the Constitution, which created a national government which COULD actually function. As the country developed, the issues of Sectionalism, Protectionism, States’ Rights, and Slavery became more and more prominent in the national consciousness and the reaction of some states (who felt they were being mistreated) was to decide that they had the right to secede from the “Perpetual Union” which had been established as early as the Articles. When the other states objected, we found ourselves in a civil war. (A most ironic term as there has never been anything “civil” about any war.) This is the version of US history I learned in Junior High and I’ve not found convincing evidence to change my opinion that this is correct.
This suggests, at least to me (an admittedly Northern bred, white male) that it’s a bit overly simplistic to simply write off the Confederacy as a pro-slavery movement and that anyone who suggests that there were, in fact, honest differences of opinion as to the purpose and function of government and the rights of the states is, almost certainly, not correct. While it seems unpopular nowadays, the whole notion of politics is, in fact, to get as much as you can of what you want, by letting the other guy get something, too. In other words, what politics is all about is all sides getting enough out of the deal to be only reasonably unhappy. No side “wins,” but no side really “loses,” either.
The recent movement, which I’d like to think I understand, to remove all traces of the heritage of the Confederacy as “racist propaganda,” seems a bit unfair and counter productive. The fact is, that these ARE reminders of our history. Not all history is pleasant. I think that, since the Ku Klux Klan and some other white supremacist organizations, have been allowed to appropriate the Confederate flag, which was actually the flag of the Confederate Army of Tennessee (which was similar to the square flag of the Army of Northern Virginia), as symbols of their anti-Black, pro-white (hence racist) causes, it’s probably wise to accept that flying this flag is likely to lead to an impression of support for these causes. That suggests that removing it is probably a good idea, unless you wish to demonstrate support for the ideas it has (unfortunately) come to represent.
I’m not so sure that removing statuary and other memorials to individuals or groups of soldiers who fought for the Confederacy makes the same sort of sense. A tribute to the “local boys” who died in the war is probably as appropriate in the states of the former Confederacy as it is in the states of the Union. If we aren’t going to object to Grant’s Tomb, we probably shouldn’t object to memorials to Lee.
I don’t like racism. Whether it is practiced by “White Power” extremists or any other group, I find it offensive and distasteful. I have often heard that there is (or at least was), a good deal of racial bias within the “Black” community based on favoring some skin tones as “better” than others, etc. Not being a part of that community, I can’t really say, but there does seem to be some belief that some folks aren’t “black enough” to count, so they are at least somewhat discriminated against within the “Black” community. We, as a society, have established fairly strict legal criteria based on “blood percentage” as to who qualifies as a member of a “Native American” tribe. (As a digression, I find it sad that we have come to use that expression to refer only to those whose ancestors came here in pre-Columbian times. The term “native” usually just means “born there.”) We haven’t even attempted to define what it really means to be “Black.” Early attempts to suggest that just one drop of “Black” blood was enough to define someone as “colored,” seem unwise since there is considerable evidence to suggest that there were, in fact, a very large number of slave women who had children by whites, so there is, in fact, some “Black” heritage in a very large number of “White” folks, especially among those whose families date back to the Southern and Mid-Atlantic areas from before the Civil War.
All things considered, racism seems counter productive. Humans have much more in common than the differences introduced by race. Yes, there is the, apparently normal, tendency for animals to wish to associate with those they perceive as “like” themselves, but the differences are, in the long run, pretty superficial. Unless you want to be known as a bigot, I’d suggest not playing the “race card” as if it really mattered very much.
Of course, racism isn’t the only form of bigotry which has become pretty common in recent years. Islam has become a fairly common target, probably due to the fact that some terrorist groups claim that they commit their horrific acts in the name of their religion and try (sometimes successfully) to use an extreme form of their religion to recruit members. Of course, one doesn’t have to look very far into history to find that religion (at least extremist religion) has been an excuse for terrorism for a long time. Just in recent time, we can find examples of Catholic/Protestant extremist violence in Ireland and England. Catholic/Buddhist violence was a part of the war in Vietnam and many of the major European wars since the Reformation had some important religious component. That’s to say nothing of the Crusades, which were justified by the “need” to protect the Christian Holy Land from Islam and Judaism, or the Holocaust against Jews and the Bosnian conflict involving Muslim Bosniaks vs Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats. Even within religious groups we can find conflicts between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and other conflicts, even within Christianity and probably other groups as well.
I see that, once again, ABC-TV showed The Ten Commandments on Holy Saturday this year (why do they always show this movie about the “rescuing” of the Jewish people on the eve of Easter?), which reminds me of the fact that the Israelites conquered the Canaanites because “God gave this land to the Israelites,” even though there were others living there at the time.
I’m pretty sure that most wars have at least some religious component or excuse, so the idea of using the notion that “my” religion is better, right, correct, proper, etc., and anyone who differs with me is wrong, incorrect, improper, or otherwise not worthy of being respected has a long history in human relations as a cause of bias and bigotry. After all, if they got that wrong, there’s really no hope for their being fully human.
The same sort of logic (?) has become applied to the LGBT, especially in recent years. This seems to me as the “purple monkey” sort of argument. I seem to remember in a basic Psychology class (I think it was) hearing about an experiment where a fully functioning member of a group of monkeys was removed, had his fur dyed purple (I think it was purple) and was reintroduced to the group, which promptly killed him. Why? Probably because that monkey was now “different” from the rest of us, so he must be a danger. The same logic could well be the root of racism and other forms of conflict.
As a member of an educational theatrical community, I have worked with and taught many LGB people. I’m less sure about T people, because it really never came up, at least to me. In fact, the whole topic rarely came up unless the individual brought it up him/her self. As long as the person could get the work done, their sex life just didn’t seem relevant, at least to me. I confess, that I never wanted to pry, although I did try to be available and non-judgmental if a student wanted to talk to someone. I may have come off as not caring, although that wasn’t the case, I just didn’t think it was my job to interfere with their private life any more than it was right for them to interfere with mine. Still, I did become aware that some of my students were LGB. In the world of the theatre, that’s not particularly surprising, but it that world it’s not very important either. As long as you can do your job while at work, it’s really not very important.
That’s not the same as in the “civilian” world. There, for reasons that I can only equate to the “purple monkey” syndrome, sexual preference, orientation, etc. is a big deal and anyone who is seen as “different” is likely to suffer at least some embarrassment, harassment or worse. Why? Probably because most of the time they are outnumbered and folks can use religious intolerance of the “other” as an excuse to justify bigotry against the LGBT community. Yes, most religions don’t support homosexuality very well, but I suspect that’s because the purpose of sex “should” be to procreate more little “what ever you ares” so that OUR religion will become stronger and more able to fight off the attacks of “those others.”
All things considered, I think it’s too bad that all too many people are (apparently) so insecure as to feel that they can only be made “better” by trying to make others “less.” That seems to be what racism and other forms of bigotry are really all about; they are the same behavior as the schoolyard bully just raised to a level of (somewhat) greater sophistication and rationalized through the lens of “I’m right, so you have to be wrong!”
It’s stupid, that’s what it is! It comes from a lack of knowledge and an insistence that I HAVE to be the one who is “right” and there can only be one of us! I fail to see how that can ever lead to progress of any sort. If we are going to ever achieve any sort of better world, it’s going to have to begin with an acceptance of the fact that we really aren’t all that different and the only way to make things better is to grant the “other guy” the right to be, believe, behave, whatever, a bit differently from the way I do. That’s not the same as saying that his way is better than mine, or that he/she is entitled to “facts” which are just opinions. But, as long as that person leaves me alone, I should leave him/her alone, too. After all, their mere existence isn’t hurting me.
I suppose that I am being hopelessly naïve and optimistic, but I think the world just might be a better place if we, collectively, got off of our high horses and left others alone a bit more. It probably won’t happen that way, but it sure would be nice to give it a try.