Civility and consideration seem like two rather banal and inconsequential words. But in a society as diverse as our own, incivility and inconsideration can do great and enduring harm.
In partial defense of Michael Richards, Mel Gibson or even (heaven forgive me) Andy Dick — current America thinking influeced by those in power and an irresponsible media is to blame for their vile and inexcusable behavior. Richards’ racist tirade is merely at manifestation of a profound problem.
Consider what we allow.
Politicians like Rick Santorum and religious leaders like James Dobson openly and proudly use words that are painfully insulting to gay Americans. Senator Allen laughingly calls a college student “Macaca.” Rappers and Reggae singers celebrate rape, murder, racism and homophobia. We pretend that it’s humor, Biblical or a political statement, when in fact it is hate language that pollutes our society and even worse the minds and hearts of our children.
Rather than uncompromisingly condemn this behavior and language as disgusting, we debate it. We look for ways to explain it away and even worse allow it.
The collective outrage over ‘ n*** word tirades or “jokes” rings hollow in a society were politicians are applauded for comparing homosexuality to bestiality, where hate-spewing rappers, black and white are given record contracts and Grammy Awards, where openly homophobic Reggae singers are booked for concerts and religious leaders who use words like fag and abomination to describe their fellow Americans are allowed tax exemptions.
Partly it’s because as a nation we have perverted and trivialized the value of free speech. Neither the Bible nor the Constitution were intended to justify intolerance and bigotry. Michael Richards is symptomatic of a badly damaged society. Tolerance is not an absolute; we do not tolerate murder and rape, nor should we tolerate homophobia, racism or intolerance for that matter.
As a society we must take harsh action against hate language regardless of it’s source: the Bible, politics, booze or rage. As adults we can rationalize, excuse and trivialize, but in the meantime less sophisticated minds, our children, are listening and learning very bad things.
And our “free press” is oftentimes the most culpable in this mess. It’s time to call bigots bigots. It’s not a hard word to define, even a mediocre reporter could do so.
“Bigot: A person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices esp: one who regards or treats the members of a group with hatred and intolerance.”
As far as I know that is not the definition of a conservative, a Christian or a rapper.
Conservatives don’t boycott Wal-Mart for supporting the civil rights of American citizens. Bigots do. And our children need to know that.
All it does is belittle, cut down and move toward humiliation of people. And for those that are listening (especially children or youth), they form the idea that it’s perfectly acceptable to use those terms. And why shouldn’t they? After all they see/hear them being used, so it must be alright. It must be “cool” to use them.
This reminded me of the lyrics of “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught” from South Pacific:
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!
To conclude, let me quote from something I said above:
Neither the Bible nor the Constitution were intended to justify intolerance and bigotry. Tolerance is not an absolute; we do not tolerate murder and rape, nor should we tolerate homophobia, racism or intolerance for that matter.
(borrowed — OK, plagerized heavily from “proceed at your own risk” a blog I really respect.)