The Bigotry Within

Of all the vices, harbored within the myriad of human obsessions, bigotry has always found its place with love, hate and vengeance among the very top, drawing its strength from the latter two, at times, hiding just under the veneer of civility and reason, while in other epochs, brazenly flaunting its bare fangs in pursuit of the weak, the different, and mostly, just misunderstood.

A mere absence of it does not mean that it doesn't exist. An end to legal slavery is not the reason to believe that it is not cherished by many. Letting Jackie Robinson play baseball, ending segregation in schools, and to top it off, electing a black president only means that we have taken a big step forward; while at the same time, we have just managed to push the evil deeper into the shadows, which lurk beneath. Explicitly, the KKK still meets despite its otherwise defunct status, Neo-Nazis continue to brandish their Swastikas whenever they get a chance and the tribal minds of religious fundamentalists continue to wage their assaults on anyone who disagrees with their twisted belief system, however, it is our implicit biases that represent the rest of the iceberg and hence, the true nature of this social injustice; we all stand guilty of this, often finding ourselves succumb to the stereotypes, and raise our level of caution as soon as we see someone different, whether in appearance, beliefs, or quite simply in lifestyle, unsure of this infringement of our comfort zone and the tinted version of a worldview that we often use as a crutch. Islam, and especially its followers have been on the receiving end of this bias over the past several years. Mostly because of the fact that the prevailing evil of our time, has emerged in the form of intolerant and cruel extremists, using an otherwise religion of peace as their own crutch. Partly, it is because of the fact that the Muslims have not been able to command the media in their efforts to condemn such acts, at least to the satisfaction of some. The irony is that many have chosen to condemn these groups of terrorists and their intolerance by stereotyping and showing intolerance towards everyone else in that religion.

The same stands true about all our prejudices. Whether we are protesting against alternate lifestyle, ideologies we do not fully comprehend or simply, global warming, we cling to our preconceived notions and indoctrinated ideals, steamrolling any flicker of common sense we encounter along the way.

The sad fact is that we pick and choose our biases as we explicitly as well as implicitly condemn and favor them at the same time based on our comfort level, background and the degree of political correctness hammered into our conscience. We are afraid to be openly racists against blacks, mindful of the backlash but do not exercise the same restraint against other races of a slightly lighter shade. We are concerned about any hint of anti-Semitism in our expression but feel free to be Islamophobes. We are careful when we talk about our disagreement about gay rights but feel free to lash out against the transgender. Political rhetoric has polarized us to the point that we do not think as humans, but as liberals and conservatives, condemning freely, anything that is endorsed by an opposing candidate.

It is time to recognize all our ideological fears as any other prejudice like anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, homophobia so we can label them all with the same tag, immoral even if not illegal, so that the generalized rhetoric and tirades against decent and law abiding groups or minorities are discouraged and dealt as any other slur.

As we approach the culmination of a fiercely fought electoral war marred by the reckless use of such sentiments, we need to look back and embrace our roots. Whether we want to see America "Great", or "Whole" again does not matter if we are standing on fractured foundations. What made us great was not our military power, but how we used it. It was our innovation, our values, our open arms and the trust that the world put in our abilities. We need to fight for our children's future, their education and a healthy environment; we need to provide the security of health coverage and a growing job market for our youth; a secure and supportive future for our veterans, and a peaceful and carefree retirement for our elderly. The only way to achieve this is to look past our meaningless party affiliations and even more mundane biases. Whether we are liberal or conservative, we need to stand together for humanity, and ensure that our elected representatives do not hijack our priorities.