The first time two people came over a hill, took a long, hard, look at one another, then decided they simply didn’t like the look of one another, the evil of bigotry was born into the world. Since then, of course, there have been many hills and many long, hard looks, and bigots have only ever become more and more numerous. Villages have been turned to ash, armadas of slave ships built, and cattle cars filled with weeping humanity in an ever escalating tide of evil born of ignorance and prejudice.
Among many horrible things, 2016 revealed that bigotry was now mainstream in the United States, as millions of American voters on both sides of the aisle revealed just how little tolerance they had of opposing political views and values. It is this intolerance of ideas, not just skin color or ethnicity, that is the putrid heart of bigotry. It eats away at the bridges of society and civil norms until all bonds of country are so wasted that they simply collapse under the weight of blind hatred.
When we reduce each other to “evil, greedy, rich white people” and “stupid, lazy people, who need to get a job“, what is there to discuss? If simply “getting a job” solved all problems, poverty could have been eradicated eons ago. If “white people” are what’s causing all of the problems, why are so many nonwhite nations not utopias? What does any of this have to do with solving the problems that have plagued humanity since we started living together in multi-family communities in the first place?
“An eye for an eye will leave everyone blind.”
Our culture is at an impasse created by the constant appeal to the lowest common denominator, exacerbated by politicians who have abandoned any pretense of rational political discourse. This may have something to do with the large numbers of people that have abandoned the major political parties altogether, as many Americans have simply had enough of the fact free, anti-intellectual political rhetoric of the last 20 years.
The norm, not the exception, is that most wrongs will simply never be righted. These injustices, both perceived and real, will never be punished, not because justice is invalid or unnecessary, but because the actual perpetrators of the injustices are dead and buried. To be absolutely clear, I’m not denying there are people who are so ignorant and maladjusted that they believe other people are inferior, simply because they are different. I’m not denying that people have acted maliciously upon these vile ideas.
What I am denying is that all people of any particular group are somehow complicit simply because they share similar skin pigmentation or blood relation with transgressors of any group. The superficial bigotry of racism is only the ugliest form of bigotry. Condemning others based on their racial identity, their political affiliations, or upon any other point not related to their actual deeds and words is the very definition of prejudice. The very thing the left and right both claim to abhor has become normalized in both camps.
People are individuals, not groups, so no one can nor should be held accountable for anyone’s wrongdoing but their own. While people may agree on certain things, even form political parties in order to further those goals, in the end, we’re still all individuals, subject to our own faults and fears.
“When they kept on questioning him,
he straightened up and said to them,
‘Let any one of you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.'”
Without common ground, society cannot function. If we are to hold to the principle of pluralism that those on the left and the right both at least pretend to seek, we have to reject the purposeful intolerance of those whose political ideas may be antithetical to our own, so long as they do not harm others. However, even when we hold people to account for the harm they do, we cannot simply dismiss their ideas. Jefferson said that “The people cannot be all, & always, well informed..“, but he held that the people always retained the right to rebel.
I hold that conservatives must defer to Jefferson’s judgment here, because in the pursuit of justice, fueled by the passion of youth, the wrong actions made for the right reasons, even if based on fallacious assumptions, will happen, and, indeed, in a free society, must happen, if the society hopes to retain its freedom. The confusion of these young leftists is not solely, or even predominantly their fault. The groundwork for their misinformation has been laid for decades before their birth.
For a young man or woman to understand differently than the prevailing culture is almost a miracle when we consider all of the forces at work at every level of our society to lead the young astray. Regardless, there is very little we can do to force leftists to hold themselves to a consistent moral standard. We are the only people we can hold accountable, and we cannot legitimately hold anyone to any standard of behavior, if we aren’t, in fact, holding ourselves to that same standard of behavior.
Every bigot is also a hypocrite.
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