Monday, May 9, 2011

Bigotry Against Bigots

Click the above link, read the article, then read below.

This is an outrageous travesty of justice. Why is it that killing a man because you're racist is worse than killing a man for any other reason? Why is it that double jeopardy only applies if you think the same way that a majority of government officials do? I feel bigots are ignorant assholes, but I respect their right to an opinion so long as they don't break the law. And if they do break the law, I hope they are thrown in jail...but not for any longer than I would be if I broke the law!

Bigots are people who, because of their personal beliefs, view one group of people differently than another for various reasons, whether they be race, sexual preference, or religion. In my opinion, that is wrong, but that’s still just my opinion. By implementing the above act, the law is treating people of one belief in a different, unequal way than it treats the people of another belief, thus being just as bigoted as the practices it aims to punish.

This reminds me of what I once discussed at my friends’ house during a CISV party. CISV is a childhood travel organization that works to promote inter-cultural understanding, tolerance, and peace. At that party, my friends (who are liberal) had proposed our chapter engage in a protest called the “Human Arrows Project” in which we would all align ourselves in an arrow pointing towards Lithuania, which had recently passed a law oppressing homosexuals. Everyone at the party was, by the nature of involvement in such an organization, very worldly in their frame of mind, and people were initially gung-ho about the idea. After all, who doesn’t want to help oppressed people? But the more I thought about it, the more I became opposed to such a protest from an organization which claimed to be all about promoting acceptance and understanding between cultures. So in the midst of a supportive consensus, I took a risk and got up to say the following (albeit I’m sure in far less grandiose phrasing than I can today articulate!):

“I think it’s safe to assume that everybody here, myself included, supports gay rights and is opposed to this Lithuanian law. Many of us have gay friends in school, and I am all in favor of supporting gay rights here in America. But I am also friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same view on homosexuality I do, and for this reason I don’t think this protest is in line with what CISV is all about. If we were a gay-rights group whose stated goal was to promote worldwide awareness on gay-rights issues, then such a protest would be perfect. But we are not a gay-rights group, we are an international tolerance group, and I don’t think it is in line with our CISV doctrine for the Brandywine, Pennsylvania Chapter to literally point a finger at other countries to in essence say “you’re wrong.” How many of us have traveled overseas with this group to Europe? Most of you here went to France, I myself to England, and the relationships we made there will always be treasured. We learned from these trips that the cultural, political, and ideological differences we may have with people from foreign countries are ok, and that instead of hating and distrusting each other because of them we should seek to understand these alternate points of view and respect our right to disagree. But I’m sure CISV also has chapters in Lithuania, and any of us easily could have been paired with a Lithuanian who adamantly supports this bill. Or, rather, what if this law was instead passed in France? Would you truly feel it in line with CISV principles to point this finger at         your interchange partners in France to show all the world just how wrong their anti-gay beliefs are? I wouldn’t. CISV, to me at least, is not about saying “everybody should be tolerant of everybody else…just like us liberal Americans are!” It’s about saying “everybody should be tolerant of everybody else, even when we have stern disagreements with everybody else.” Are there not even more oppressive practices in other parts of the world we could just as easily seek to illuminate? Two weeks ago, before this whole Lithuanian thing went down, I didn’t hear anybody clamoring to point a big human arrow at the Middle East to raise awareness for the oppressive way in which we feel they treat women. We certainly don’t support those actions, and as individuals I would happily support any protest against them, but in a group dedicated to inter-cultural understanding I don’t feel this protest is a good representation of what we’re all about.”

Obviously, I didn’t say all of that in such perfectly edited syntax or with such rhetorical poise as I have presented it above, but I did effectively convey that same message. Immediately, about half the room agreed with me, and an entertaining debate ensued. We eventually agreed to cancel the protest on the more practical grounds that we did not have a protest warrant, and my big speech was rendered moot!

The intentions of the above US act, just like the intentions of that CISV plan, are good; they were both designed to end hatred and intolerance so that everybody can be treated equally. What the bill’s advocates fail to recognize is that our court system already treats everybody equally, even those who don't do the same to others. Anyone who is intolerant of intolerance is, by the very nature of that sentence, a hypocrite. I share and admire the political left’s passion to defeat hatred. But intolerance is the basis for hatred; thus, hatred cannot be defeated by the intolerance of hate. I share and admire the political left’s desire to end prejudice. But if the punishment for a murderer who thinks one way is different from the punishment for a murderer who thinks another way, our courts themselves have become prejudiced.

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