Monday, April 12, 2010

An Honest Look at Bigotry

     Probably everyone has practiced some form of bigotry whether they recognize it or not. Practically everyone has at some time been a victim of bigotry. It’s as natural as it is unhealthy. Bigotry is one of many forms of happiness even when those who practice it find entertainment in it.
     Like all other forms of unhappiness, bigotry is caused by unfulfilled expectations. We expect that someone else should conform to our notions of thought, appearance, or behavior. When they don’t, we’re unhappy with them.
     Sometimes our expectations are reasonable. After all, I started this blog because I thought that our congressmen should represent the people who elected them. Given my bias in favor of representative government, I think that it’s a reasonable expectation. Most of them have sold themselves to the highest bidder, and I’m upset with them over that. (I do mean most of them. If corrupt congressmen were cockroaches, Riverdance couldn’t stomp all of them.)
     Bigotry differs from righteous indignation in that expectations are unreasonable. Often, innocent people are harmed as a result. This harm can range from a mild slight to genocide.
     A few years ago, some residents of New York City surveyed people from about three dozen cities around the world to determine which city had the most polite residents. Not surprisingly, the survey concluded that the city with the most polite residents was New York City. Those conducting the survey made the mistake of using the standards of New York City to judge three dozen cities all over the world. It never occurred to them to find out how politeness was expressed elsewhere. At business establishments in East Asia, it’s expected practice to personally greet everyone who comes in. In homes in East Asia, one of the first things someone says when a person visits his home is, “Have you eaten yet?” I’ll bet that those forms of politeness weren’t found on the survey.
     Maybe you recall Rex Harrison’s bigoted remark in My Fair Lady, “Why can’t women be more like men?” One person I knew responded with the equally bigoted rhetorical question, “Well, who’d want to marry—“and he gave the name of a fellow student he regarded as mannish. Contrary to his expectations, someone eventually did want to marry that student.
     Let’s admit it. We’re not all alike, and sometimes those differences cause us to get on each others nerves. Sometimes we get on each others nerves for reasons that have nothing to do with our differences, but we often blame those differences anyway.
     Have you noticed what kind of people bother you when you’re driving and someone else makes a mistake? About half the drivers who get us upset are women drivers. What about the other half? If they’re not racial minorities, they’re people who are too old to be allowed to drive, too immature to be trusted behind the wheel of a car, trashy looking, snooty big shots who seem to think they own the road, yankees, foreigners, idiots, or just plain crazy. What about those drivers from the frozen wasteland farther north? Oh, the Canadians. They’re yankees who aren’t even Americans. Why should they be driving down here?
     Do you see how it works? We refuse to believe that “people like us” can cause problems, so we look for differences we can blame.
     Mark Twain famously said, “A cat that has sat on a hot stove lid will never sit on another, but he won’t sit on a cold one either.” Shouldn’t we be smarter than cats? If someone with a Spanish surname commits a crime, should we then prohibit all future immigration?
     I once worked with a Panamanian-American whose surname (due to marriage) was King. At the same job another co-worker was named Rodriguez because that was her husband’s name. The Myrna Rodriguez’s employment satisfied the Civil Rights Commission, but Cookie King’s didn’t. I was listed as their Native American, although most of my Native American blood comes from a group that was assimilated before the Bureau of Indian Affairs existed. Do you see how ridiculous it can get?
     What’s really behind America’s illegal immigration problem? The Mexican government has effectively closed its southern border to illegal immigrants to Mexico from farther south, but they pressure the U.S. not to hinder Mexicans from illegally entering the U.S. Allowing dissatisfied Mexicans to leave Mexico is a kind of steam valve protecting Mexico’s oligarchs from facing a second Mexican Revolution. American congressmen are thwarting attempts to deal with the problem because illegal immigrants give politicians opportunities to buy votes with tax dollars.
     Closing the door to legal immigration would do absolutely nothing to solve America’s illegal alien problem. America’s illegal alien problem isn’t a reason to hate immigrants or to put an end to legal immigration. It’s a reason to close our borders to illegal traffic and close our Congress to corrupt congressmen.
     As long as the powers that be can keep people divided against one another, they can continue to feather their nests at our expense. That’s reason enough for the American people—native and new—to unite and take our country back.

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