Sunday, October 07, 2007

Life In The Bigotsphere

For years bigots of every kind were able to hide behind stoic expressions and dead eyes, unless induced to reveal their true feelings either by journalistic bullying or the quick, easy cash provided by The Jerry Springer Show. This may have created the false impression through the 80s and 90s that society had, at long last, transcended all the worst of its isms: racism.

Then along came the Internet, a seemingly anonymous playground where those poor bigots could let their lies out to, well there's no other way to put it, play. One minute, the world is a utopian place free from prejudice the next minute it's boiling over with hatred. What to do, what to do...

I know, blame the Internet!

Even a reactionary like me can see the inherent specious reasoning in this line of "logic". In a world devoid of personal responsibility, blaming the Internet for bigotry is like blaming their robes for the actions of the Ku Klux Klan, or Auschwitz for the Holocaust. The Internet is merely a tool employed by bigots - as it can and must be employed by the enlightened as a bulwark against intolerance. After all, you don't ban lighters because they're used to light crosses.

Emotions run high where bigotry is concerned, as they should; when it comes to discrimination, apathy is no one's friend. It takes no more than an eyebrow raised at the wrong time to make me scream homophobia, because I know that particular ism has nowadays become so sly as to appear invisible. While this kind of stance runs the risk of alienating more people than it attracts, I'm willing to take that risk. Having been treated savagely every day of my life since the first day of fourth grade - usually by strangers who dress their hypocrisy in cleric's robes or lab coats - I have had enough.

Because of this, I think I understand what the Jena 6 are going through, as well as the young men in Virginia. Obviously raised in a culture of vengeance, suffering from the hopelessness that often attends oppression, it's easy to take your feelings out on the wrong person. Rather than transcending the violence visited upon them they descend to the level of their attackers. The bullied inevitably become bullies, which may in fact be what happened to the white teenagers who would dare imply lynching at the site of their schoolyard hangout.

The place where bigotry flowers most freely these days is in the comments section of innumerable blogs as well as on YouTube. Yet in the interest of free speech and open debate, I'd rather it was expressed there than left to fester inside the heads of those whose ignorance seems otherwise impenetrable. If leaving a few loathsome words in the comments section of someone's blog delays (or even replaces) a physical attack, that is what I call progress.

Agonizingly slow, subject to far too many setbacks, often tenuous - but progress nonetheless.
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"Jena" by John Mellencamp

John Mellencamp has waded into the most loathsome case of racial discrimination since... Well, since the last one, frankly. Not exactly the best way to spend your birthday; unless, like Mellencamp, you are a gifted songwriter and passionate activist.

On the bright side, the mayor of Jena, Louisiana, has condemned the song, which means Mellencamp must be on to something. Whatever your views on the Jena 6, it was white students who hung those nooses.

Now word has come of another wilding, in which six or seven black teenagers beat a 13-year-old white boy without provocation, this time in Norfolk, Virginia. That beating, unlike the one thought to be retaliation for the Jena nooses, was caught on video; the person doing the taping, rather than helping the victim, can be heard to laugh at his misfortune throughout, which points to a promising career as a paparazzo.

Isn't it time we stopped thinking about things in terms of "race" but rather in terms of "species", or has the human species made that impossible for itself with all this nonsense talk about race?
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