Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pot-Kettle-Black and the Arizona Problem

Some Arizonans were out in force April 25, denouncing Gov. Jan Brewer and thanking Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon for warning out-of-staters not to come to Arizona if they're seniors or under 16. But others, maybe a majority given recent polls, were muttering at that damned Seth Meyers on Saturday Night Live, for having the audacity to suggest that the real Nazis in the debate over SB1070 were not Obama and the Justice Department, but the residents of Arizona that approved the "track aliens" bill. "Hey Arizona," Meyers said. "You know who says 'Show me your papers'? Nazis. Hitler even gets a commission every time someone says 'Show me your papers.' Arizona: It's a dry fascism, but it's fascism."

I get sick of name-calling, admittedly, but I have two bigger problems that loom larger than both the current immigration bill and how Americans fear the unknown and those that are different. My problems stem from the 1992-93 era when Colorado was referred to as the "Hate State" after passing the notoriously homophobic Amendment 2. Rationally, Coloradans should have admitted their stupidity when the nation reacted in anger. Instead, they (I can't say we) circled the wagons. What's happened to the notion of publicly admitting you're wrong, maybe admitting you're a moron?

First, Americans don't easily grasp that democracy does not mean the majority rules. It means majority rules in the context of preservation of minority rights. Therefore, any legislation initiated by legislators or citizen initiative is bound to be overturned if it seeks to take away rights from a certain class of people. As well it should. You cannot take away rights from people by popular acclaim - even from undocumented aliens. I might add that conservatives who defend the Arizona law say that this is intended to make the federal government "get off its ass" in enacting immigration reform. Wait a minute, isn't this the same group of people that don't want any new federal laws, because they want lesser federal government at all times? Seems as confused in the role of the feds as the attitude of many tea-partiers regarding health care.

Second, whenever radicals, liberals, or even middle-of-the-roaders point this out to conservatives, the conservatives are ready to act shocked and talk about "liberal hate speech." The conservatives talk about liberals as oppressors. Is this attitude-projection, schizophrenia, or denial of reality? I am someone who doesn't particularly like liberals as they are traditionally defined, because they are compromising types who are unsure of their own value systems. Thus they are very unlikely to be spewing "hate speech," because they are the ones most likely to say, "Well, you may have a point..."

Closed-minded hate speech comes from people who have a high emotional content to what they are talking about, and those are people who are using fear and anger to point to a group of outsiders - such as illegal aliens. "Hate speech" comes from the likes of Beck, Coulter, Hannity, O'Reilly, Malkin, and Limbaugh. Sure, it can come from the left, I've seen Maher and Olbermann go overboard, but it's native to the right.

I love to chat with conservative friends, but I demand rational-based discourse of the type you might see from Eric Cantor, Rob Corker, Andrew Sullivan, precisely the types you don't hear on Hate Radio because they don't scream really loud. When conservative acquaintances start quoting Beck or Coulter, I say to them "I'm sorry, there's no there there. I'm sorry, but Seth Meyers is right. I'm not trying to engage in name-calling, and I won't call you tea-baggers. But I am telling you my limits of acceptance of crazy rights-denying shit like SB1070, and I am saying that if you reject rationalism and make decisions based on fear and anger, then you are just as mentally disturbed as the Saturday Night Live folks want to make you out to be."

That's not hate speech from me. That's reality-based riffing. Sorry if you don't get it.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

We had this discussion, Peter, Don and I, during the last presidential campaign. The high pitched side of the conversation, the emotionally charged, seemed to be from those who didn't know enough real information to back up their viewpoint - just soundbites from the conservative radioheads. Now ramp that up a few decibels, and I'm guessing that's the next presidential campaign.

Reminds me of my very intelligent boss a few years ago who would get very very quiet when he had something profound to say. Everyone had to shut up and listen.