Bigotry Is Unbecoming

by Will on September 13, 2010

I am amazed but not amused to see that Newt Gingrich is upping the ante in the contest to see who can engage in the most irresponsible fear-mongering about the nation’s Muslim inhabitants. This should not surprise me. Newt has always been rather irresponsible and rather casual in his relationship to the truth.

Bigotry is unappealing in the abstract, but it’s outright upsetting when you know people affected by it. Having met lots of smart, hard-working African American and Latino students, it makes me uncomfortable when people slur the groups to which they belong. I imagine how insulted they must feel when they hear this stuff. Having known and hung out with lots of gay guys and lesbians, I know that they are not out to rape people’s children or turn straight people gay. This is the way in which successful integration can, by itself, produce greater tolerance.

When I lived in Berkeley, the place I went for beer was owned by a Muslim guy. He put in long hours running the place, and he had a good beer selection. Others told me that the sandwiches at his deli were good too, though I never got lunch there. His kids sometimes helped him run the place, and on one occasion one of his sons told me that he had literally never seen his father lose his temper. Additionally, this guy had posted on his wall a letter of thanks from the SFPD. He had once witnessed a thief snatching a woman’s purse, so he tackled the thief and held him until the cops came. He stocked lots of Israeli products in his store. He was always kind to me, and encouraging, and he liked to make jokes. His disposition was the warm one that happy people have. As far as I can tell he’s a pretty good guy.

Now, al-Qaeda would behead this guy if they could. He sells beer for a living, and they’re rigidly anti-alcohol! Also, he does commerce with all sorts of non-Muslim people: Christians, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, and Berkeleyites with all manner of eclectic New Age beliefs. I do not know what’s in this guy’s heart, but I suspect he wants no truck with al-Qaeda or anybody else who would behead him. They both are Muslims, though, that’s true. You know what? Those awful torturers in the Spanish Inquisition called themselves Christian. Should that make me nervous that the people at the church down the street will tie me up and flog me?

So, this guy’s playing by the rules, making it as a businessman, providing for his wife and children, being nice to strangers, ¬†and paying his taxes. He has nothing to do with al-Qaeda. How does he in any way deserve the insult of hearing serious people on TV day after day talking about the sort of Islamic center he might be inclined to stop and pray at as a “terrorist command center”? He doesn’t deserve that! When I see the kind of crap that Newt is peddling, it strikes me as really unjust that this public-spirited beer merchant has to tolerate this defamation, just for some short-term benefit for one of our political factions.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian September 13, 2010 at 5:00 am

And bigotry begets bigotry. People like Newt Gingrich are quite effective at promoting anti-U.S. anger. It is exasperating that they don’t understand that.

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Will September 13, 2010 at 5:13 am

I agree that this sort of thing is hugely counterproductive to the hopeless wars and the general goal of preventing terrorist attacks. If al-Qaeda and the Taliban hired a PR firm in New York to stress the US’s hatred of Muslims, nothing it could do to promote recruitment would be nearly as effective as what Gingrich and Hannity and the rest are doing here for free. But I’m not sure that they don’t understand that. I think it’s quite possible that they are so unprincipled and cynical that they are willing to promote their own interest even if it means other people’s deaths, including people in the military whom they claim to cherish. It’s not that I think they’re especially evil: it seems to be the case that principled persons stay out of our political system, while cynical con men thrive in it.

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