Friday, January 28, 2005

A Farewell of Sorts

Politically Correct. What does it mean?

It means that, before you speak ill of a group of people, you should put yourself in their shoes. It means you should take just a moment to bring them to a level equivalent to yourself in your mind's eye, and consider, in that moment of empathy, whether what you are about to say would be hurtful.

Many would think this moment of reflection would be a good thing, since it leads to being considerate of others and speaking with civility and respect, even to those with whom you disagree.

But to the purveyors of hate, such consideration is very bad thing. In their desperate insecurity, they strive to make themselves feel "better" by inventing a "lesser" other. If they fail at this act of invention, they might have to admit their own lack of superiority. Beware the wrath of the spiteful bigot who is asked to curb their cruel and bitter speech. Be prepared to become the next target. Be prepared for claims of intolerance and "political correctness" - as if intolerance of evil and consideration for others is bad.

I have, in the past, stood by while a bigot held forth on the inferiority of another class of people. I even laughed at some of the jokes, which were worded in a particularly entertaining way. I did not share the views, but could appreciate the wit in the joke. But then, a friend informed me of the deep hurt caused by a seemingly minor statement, and I came to realize the mistake I had made in failing to stand up and hold the bigot accountable.

This is why, today, I must say goodbye to some dear friends.

I have built some interesting friendships as part of a group of mostly wonderful individuals. The group has one member, however, whose bigotry is consistent, and intolerable. Several members feel that this hate speech is unacceptable, but others are willing to tolerate it as so-called "free speech." As a result, as of today, when it became clear that I would have to tolerate the bigotry as a condition of continued membership in the group, I chose to leave the group.

I cannot, in good conscience, continue to be part of a group that would require me to turn away and ignore this wrong. To do so would be to become complicit in the wrong.

I refuse to participate in what Claudia Koonz referred to as the "everyday brutality of the averted gaze."

I will miss my friends, but it would be a lie to say this is a hard decision. Given the choice between standing by and offering implicit support to hate or walking away, it's a no-brainer. I hope that someday my friends will come to recognize the harm that is being done, and will choose to stand against bigotry as well.

In the mean time, I must move on to the next adventure.


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