For the record, I don’t believe Cliven Bundy is a “racist.”
For the record, I don’t even care.
Such indifference to that damnable failing, that thing we all know is the worst thing one can be, must make me a damnable man. But I am flexible. I just want equality. I’m perfectly willing to demonize “racists,” provided we give other sinners equal time.
I just want to hear, for example, “Forget the facts of the matter! The man is lustful!” or “Don’t listen to that miscreant. He’s guilty of sloth!” Or let’s say a fellow posits an opinion on, oh, taxation. Our very intellectual response could be, “Hey, didn’t I hear you talkin’ to your girlfriend about how you scarfed down four cheeseburgers at the barbecue and binged on ice cream in your easy chair? Look, everyone, he’s a glutton!”
This isn’t to say that being a bigot — the word “racist” is in quotation marks because it’s an invention of leftist language manipulators — is a good thing. Not at all. But neither is being lustful, slothful or gluttonous. Yet people who couldn’t name three of the Seven Deadly Sins and are thoroughly guilty of at least six, will claim they can disqualify a person, and his point of view, from debate based on their assessment of his moral state. What blindness — and hubris.
Bigotry is simply a sub-category of wrath, one part of one-seventh, not the moral end-all and be-all. And even if Bundy did have racial hang-ups, would it follow that he was wrong about his case or on federal power in general? Can a man be flawed, and even sinful, but yet right on a matter? Can he still have virtues? Albert Einstein could be lewd and lascivious, Galileo an irascible jerk, Ernest Hemingway was a drunkard.
This isn’t to say, as certain people with poor character once averred, that character doesn’t matter. It’s not to say a person’s vices can’t speak to motivations; it’s valid to point it out if a judge who rules that pornography has First Amendment protections habitually views porn himself. But it’s not valid to fixate on the allegedly “racist” tendencies of a judge who rules that racial commentary enjoys such protections (at least not within the context of analyzing the ruling). The difference is that since the former is wrong, there’s good reason to believe that his personal inclinations corrupted his judgment on the matter; with the latter judge, however, dwelling on the supposed flaw in question would only serve to discredit a legitimate ruling.
The point is that we all have flaws, yet all can be correct about a whole host of things. I wouldn’t have wanted Einstein to care for a teenage daughter or be president, but I wouldn’t deny that E=mc2.
Of course, it really is true that some flaws are more unequal than others — there is a hierarchy of sin — but moderns’ sense of proportion is highly askew. G.K. Chesterton said that a “Puritan is a person who pours righteous indignation into the wrong things.” Today we have Impuritans, complete reprobates worshipping at hedonism’s altar, who pour their indignation onto others in a vain attempt to wash their own souls clean of sin. But there is much more to being a “good” person than simply not being bigoted.
To further illustrate this askew sense of proportion, consider again the gluttony example. Gluttony is a sin, no doubt. But now let’s say that our society considered it the ultimate disqualifier. Let’s say we might scrutinize a person, asking “What are his food bills?” “Do cookbooks figure too prominently in his library?” “Does he wile away excessive time watching Emeril Live?” “Is he the one who cleared the buffet table like a hurdler?” And imagine we visited pariah status on the person after deeming him guilty.
Would you think this society’s greater fault was gluttony — or being hung-up about it? I’d think it exhibited a gluttonous zeal for eradicating gluttony.
The problem is that man always swings from one extreme to another. The early to mid 20th century saw the embrace of eugenics and racial-superiority dogma, which was then discredited by the loathsome Nazis. But now we just as zealously impose a dogma denying the reality of group differences and mandating equality of outcome among races.
This tendency toward true extremism — meaning, extreme deviation from Truth — brings to mind C.S. Lewis’ observation that evil always tries to persuade us to exaggerate our flaws, telling the militant he’s too pacifistic and the pacifist that he’s too militant. As an example, today we have Impuritans who, awash in the Great Sexual Heresy, will still lament how “Puritan” America is so sexually “repressed.” Evil tells the pervert he’s too prudish, just as it tells self-hating whites that they’re too anti-black.
But what we should be is anti-“racism.” I don’t mean what you think. We need to oppose both the word and the concept — at least how the latter is often conceptualized.
Bigotry is bad by definition, and that definition is commonly agreed upon. But “racism” often has a different meaning, one whose influence is readily apparent in the reaction to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s much reported comments. Al Sharpton, who once used the term “white interlopers” and once said, “White folks was in caves while we were building empires…,” called for a boycott of the NBA. Former hoop star Larry Johnson reacted to a man who didn’t want blacks around by saying he didn’t want whites around, as he suggested creating an all-black basketball league. Spike Lee told CNN he wished that white NBA players would speak out against Sterling, which is a bit like John Gotti having wished that someone would speak out against racketeering. And Barack Obama took time away from destroying our world standing, healthcare system, social policy and economy to say that “comments reportedly made by Sterling are ‘incredibly offensive racist statements,’ before casting them as part of a continuing legacy of slavery and segregation that Americans must confront,” wrote CBS DC. He then opined, “When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t really have to do anything; you just let them talk” (you don’t have to do anything except, I suppose, “confront” a “legacy of slavery and segregation”). But, okay, I’ll just let Obama talk.
Now, opportunism is often a factor in such hypocrisy, but there is something else: a striking sense of entitlement. This is why many black people will condemn a white person for making a bigoted comment with an equally bigoted comment without batting an eye; when whites are bigoted, it’s “racist”; when blacks are, it’s something else. And, in fact, this idea is encapsulated in the definition of “racism” I alluded to earlier. It’s one you’ve probably heard:
Only whites can be “racist” because a prerequisite for “racism” is not only bigoted intent, but the power to act upon it.
And, actually, they’ll get no argument from me. As I’ve said before, the left originated the word “racism,” so they may define it. They may have it.
And if they ask, I’ll tell them where they can stick it.
The problem is that conservatives, being conservative — meaning, conserving yesterday’s liberals’ social victories — parrot the word. It’s another example of how, forgetting that the side defining the vocabulary of a debate, wins the debate, conservatives slavishly use the Lexicon of the Left.
Of course, eventually this will all be left in the dustbin of history. Movements, peoples and civilizations come and go, and we’ll get over our fixation with one part of one-seventh of the Deadly Sins. And then man will swing to another extreme, as he goes on to the next great mistake.