It was a solution right up there with “Let them eat cake.” Addressing the issue of Jews fleeing Europe due to increasing Islamic terrorism and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call for them to seek safety in Israel, Bill Nye “the Science Guy” had an interesting solution: “Get to know your neighbors.” The comment, made on Bill Maher’s show Real Time Feb. 20, was then followed by Nye’s interrogative, “What, does it take a century, something like that?”
This prompted some commentators, such as Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld, to say that Nye was blaming Jews for the Muslim threat. Get to know your neighbors? Yes, to pick up on a point Gutfeld made and run with it, perhaps a few dinner parties and other assorted soirees would inspire epiphanies such as, “You know, I was going to chop your head off, but you make a killer matzo ball soup.” The problem here, as Gutfeld said in so many words, is not Jews shooting up halal grocery stores. Nor are Muslims being taunted and spat upon while walking Paris streets as the Jewish man in this video was.
But perhaps Nye is like those school administrators who punish a victimized child who tried physically defending himself just as harshly as his attacker in the thinking, “Hey, he was repeatedly punching the kid on top of him in the fist with his face, right?”
This commentary by Nye — who has invoked Holocaust terminology in branding climate-change realists “deniers” — caused Gutfeld to label him, “Bill Nye ‘the Denial Guy.’” It may be a more fitting moniker than one relating to science, too, as a real scientist is actually out there, you know, inventing stuff. Instead, Nye took his B.S. in mechanical engineering, cut his entertainment teeth on a Seattle sketch-comedy TV show, and then parlayed his credentials into his well-known children’s science program. Now he’s supposedly qualified to dismiss climate-change realism and pontificate as an Expert in the Area of Everything. But Nye has always been a left-wing guy; take Barney the dinosaur, put a bowtie around his neck, a beaker in his hand, starve him for two months and make him a quasi-Marxist — and you have Bill Nye.
In fairness to the Denial Guy, perhaps he would say that he’d counsel both Jews and Muslims, and everyone else, to get to know each other better. And maybe he meant that what takes a century is assimilation. Regardless, his commentary betrays a fundamental misunderstanding about man’s nature.
Nye reflects a common belief today: Just get people to know each other, and silly prejudices are dissolved by the solvent of reality. It’s easy for Americans to believe this not only because of Kumbaya-multiculturalism conditioning, but also because of the common impression that this has been our experience. After all, anti-Irish bigotry was once rife, but how much exists now?
And assimilation had worked to a great degree in America, but our relatively short, 239-year history is a mere snapshot of man’s story. In places such as Ruanda and the Balkans, there have been genocide and ethnic cleansing. Countless times in history peoples have been subsumed, as has largely happened to the Ainus in the Japanese islands. And in ancient Greece, the Spartans got to know their neighbors quite well — well enough to turn them into helots, a captive slave class. So, yes, sometimes it takes a century for assimilation.
And sometimes it takes a century to effect conquest.
There’s a funny joke that illustrates a common difficulty living up to the injunction “Love thy neighbor.” It goes: “You know, I basically love everyone in the whole world — everyone. I just have a problem with the 16 or 17 people who happen to be around me.” Sure, Abraham Lincoln once said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better,” but another saying to ponder is “Familiarity breeds contempt.” To know people is to love them? Sometimes it’s to hate them.
Of course, some interaction-induced irritation is inevitable. Being around people oftentimes means “bumping into them,” with their occupying the bathroom when you want it or slowing you down on the road; this is where tolerance, properly defined as abiding something you perceive as a negative, actually is a virtue. But then there’s the fact that getting to know people does dispel illusions — and that this includes illusions of goodness.
A family close to me once acquired a DVD of vintage cartoons, the kind they don’t show on TV anymore because, as the politically correct disclaimer stated at the disc’s opening (I’m paraphrasing), “WARNING: These cartoons contain stereotypes that may be offensive to some viewers.” They were referring to things such as depictions of turban-bedecked Arabs in traditional garb and Japanese speaking stereotypical pidgin English. They were the kinds of cartoons I watched Saturday mornings as a boy — and the politically correct critics have it all wrong. Far from inducing in me and my friends negative attitudes toward the groups in question, they instead were intriguing portrayals that might have piqued our interest in learning more about their cultures. What tends to happen, however, when a person from an “intriguing culture” moves in next door? Then you often find that in many ways he’s “just like us.”
“It’s the differences that kill you, though,” as least in certain cases, to quote Colonel Ralph Peters. It’s as when a man and woman marry and really get to know each other. While you usually have that normal bumping into each other, their deepening knowledge of one another can enrich their love. Then again, sometimes there are what many call irreconcilable differences. The husband may learn that his wife harbors a deep-seated hatred of men that sabotages their relationship, or the woman may find out that the man is a lecherous lout. And then there’s that occasional person who was unfailingly charming during courtship, and maintains a sterling public persona, but has a collection of shrunken heads in the attic.
A romantic may now say that love conquers all — and it does have transformative power — but sometimes being too softly loving can lead to being conquered. And, as someone I once knew put it, some people have to be loved from afar.
Speaking of which, why do liberals such as Nye judge situations and people (e.g., Muslim terrorism vis-à-vis the Jews) so wrongly? It’s because they deny the existence of Truth — the only thing that can reveal your emotions as wrong — and thus have deified their emotions, making them the ultimate arbiters of reality. And anyone governed by emotion, that irrational judge, will always fall sway to prejudice.
It takes a century? Sometimes the melting pot boileth over. For not everything melts. Some things just burn.
EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of Bill Nye on the left, President Obama, and astrophysicist/author Neil deGrasse Tyson on the right. Selfie courtesy of Bill Nye.