Direct link. Clearly some of the commentators over at Sam Spagnola's blog are having real influence. Here's an expert on national TV parroting their views. Of course Onion News Network is satire, but they're SERIOUS.
Traveling on three continents (North America, Europe, and Asia), I have heard or read bigotry expressed against Muslims, Catholics, Jews, Arabs, Palestinians, African Americans, Christians, Turks, Kurds, Americans, Mexicans, Armenians, Germans, Greeks, Brits, Africans, Chinese, the French, Roma (gypsies), the poor, the rich, and homosexuals, to name a few. The list may not be all inclusive.
Just goes to show the world is still full of tribal people who assume their tribe is superior to certain other tribes. And despite incredible advances in communication, the humanitarian barriers among people are still pretty high. People still seem to relish detesting or feeling superior to "the other" -- groups of people who they in most cases don't know well, if at all. These conflicts make the much-lamented loss of civility in America, marked by endless domestic feuds and shouting matches between Republicans and Democrats, seem like Boy Scout Jamborees or late-night college bull sessions.
It's enough to revive that funny song from the 1960s, "National Brotherhood Week" by Tom Lehrer (Youtube video clip; lyrics).
In America, making generalized, negative statements about religions, races, ethnic groups, social classes, or sexual orientation, even about "women drivers" or "male hairdressers," are considered "insensitive," politically incorrect, or God forbid, racist or sexist -- not something a polite person would say in public, whatever he might think in private. And yet, abroad, I hear such statements routinely in public or semi-public.
No person, ethnic group or ideology is immune from bigotry. I find myself from time to time thinking bigoted thoughts. For example, on a crowded ferry I observed a French woman acting very selfishly, sprawling out on three seats, oblivious to the needs of a half-dozen people who had no place to sit at all. I thought of Mark Twain's statement that the evolutionary scale is upside down. Actually, humans are at the bottom of the scale, he said, and below man, "there is nothing, no one -- no one except the French."
Now, if I actually knew any French people, I might revise my opinion instead of using this and other trivial examples of French rudeness to harden my impression of French people and not allow any positive experience of them to enter my consciousness.
As an American expat, journalist and educator living in Abu Dhabi, UAE with a multiplicity of nationalities, and a "local" population of only about 15 percent, I notice that stereotypes abound, both positive and negative. Abu Dhabi offers a wonderful opportunity to get to know people from many different cultures and experiences because English is widely spoken. I have become so much more internationally-minded since moving here.
And yet it's too easy to peg and classify people I don't know well based on nationalities. One falls almost unconsciously into stereotyped thinking: Filipinos are good in service industries, retail, excellent cleaners, housekeepers and nannies. Indians gravitate toward sales and the financial industry. They like to hustle. Pakistanis and Afghanis, fleeing war-torn countries, tend to be laborers and taxi drivers, and sometimes a bit desperate. Then you have to try to sort out all the differences between various Arab nationalities. Egyptians tend to be managerial types, Lebanese are entrepreneurial and business-oriented, Saudis are wealthy investors. Emiratis, we assume, have "wasta" (connections) and call the shots.
I really have to fight against thinking in these stereotypes. The longer I'm here, fortunately, the more people I meet people who defy pre-conceived cookie-cutter notions of what they should be like: a savvy female Filipino engineer who deserves a salary as high as her European counterpart; a beautiful, fearless, independent-minded female Indian journalist; a highly-educated Pakistani computer scientist; an Afghani medical doctor, an Emirati who worries she doesn't have any "wasta" or power.
All of them attempting to make a good living, find meaning and purpose in life, and pursue their dreams.
Some reflections on bigotry I found in the media:
"He that cannot reason is a fool. He that will not is a bigot. He that dare not is a slave." -- Andrew Carnegie. (Hat tip, Facebook friend Heather Dur)
"A Primer on Bigotry," by James Fallows: "All of life is on a spectrum of individual idiosyncracies and large group traits. We're each our own person, but we're all marked to some degree by the categories that contain us. Yes, I am a unique and special and independent thinker! But I'm also an American, a male, a white person, a dreaded Baby Boomer, a member of the dreaded and doomed media, a parent, a rich person compared with most of the world, etc.
Along this spectrum, Fallows observes:
"one obvious truth is that the more populous the category, the less it tells you about any individual within it. Yes, "men" are all a certain way. But there are three billion of us, and Kim Jong-Il doesn't have that much in common with Lance Armstrong -- or either of them with Benedict XVI or Stephen Hawking or Lil Wayne. Another obvious truth is that the less contact you have with individuals, the more you necessarily rely on group traits -- or stereotypes - for your images.
"These two truths combine with pernicious effect when it comes to mainstream American views of what "Muslims" are like. I put the term in quotes because it's preposterously over-broad. It is just as possible to say what typifies "Muslims" as it is to say what typifies all Indians, or all Chinese, or all of the world's Christians. Each of these is a grouping of roughly a billion people, and each has some similarities but far more dramatic internal differences. (James Earl Ray, Desmond Tutu: both Christians. Discuss.) Most Americans know that about "Christians," and may have some growing awareness when it comes to "Chinese" or "Indians." But a lot of Americans lack the individual awareness of the variety within Islam -- and think that the violent, hateful, dangerous parts define "the Muslims" as a whole. They don't."
And yet, it's difficult to overcome all bigotries. I confess that I know almost nothing about Roma (gypsies), who were expelled from France, but I have difficulty understanding them. I hate to admit it, but in this case I sympathize with the French.
Saturday Night Live, in its coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign, has hit the nail on the head quite a few times, influencing public opinion. They did it again on April 12. Watch this clip at NBC.com.
The quality of this cell phone photo of our Thanksgiving is rather like that of an impressionist painting, or how the world looks without glasses or contacts.
No matter. We had fun hosting it. My wife suggested a game in which a name from 17th century America was taped onto the back of each family members in attendance -- names such as Captain John Smith, Pocahontas, Virginia Dare, Squanto, Pilgrim and turkey -- and each person had to ask yes or no questions to guess who they are. I was "Puritan." Once I figured out who I was, I enjoyed asking questions such as "Are any of you as moral as I am?" No, came the answer. Then retorts: "Who would want to be?" and "We're not as moral as you think you are."