Over a Teacup — Serving up a little sanity

June 1, 2012

A meditation on bigotry

Filed under: bigotry,racism,Uncategorized — by acupofsanity @ 7:37 pm

Think you know what a bigot looks like? Well, maybe you do … and maybe you don’t.

Bigots are not always wild-eyed raving lunatics spouting slurs. Sometimes they’re people you know and like. People with pretty (or handsome) faces, and pleasant dispositions. Intelligent, often well-educated and well-respected. People you work with or socialize with. The last people, in fact, that you’d ever suspect of being bigoted.

It’s often a shock when you find out, although at other times when it finally comes out you think “How did I miss the signs?”

Usually it starts with a casual remark that doesn’t seem quite right. You think about it, and then you ask them to clarify it. They might try to dismiss it, they might say they’re being misunderstood. Sometimes they’ll thank you for pointing out the issue and say “Let me look into it and get back to you.”

By “look into it” they mean that they talk it over with like-minded friends who assure them that their viewpoints are not only perfectly normal but because a lot of people share them they must be right. And then they do get back to you.

First they tell you that because it’s a matter of opinion, let’s forget it, and can’t we still be friends? If that doesn’t work, they get defensive, dismissing any facts you might offer as being opinions while expecting you to accept their opinions as fact. Finally, they go on the offense and accuse you of being the one with the problem for jeopardizing the friendship, and they try to belittle you. Occasionally they’ll take it a step further and spread rumours about you.

Kind of like scratching the surface of a gold-plated ring and finding out that there’s rusty base metal underneath: Not very pretty. But bigotry rarely is.

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February 22, 2011

Meanwhile, over in Egypt …

Filed under: bigotry,islam,Religion — by acupofsanity @ 4:18 pm
Tags: , , , ,

There seem to be a few unanswered questions about the recent rape of a CBS reporter by a group of moslem men in Cairo. And I’m not referring only to the fact that everyone in the media is framing this brutal attack as an unspecified “sexual assault,” which sounds so much more benign than what it really was: “gang rape.”

I would first like to be very clear: Rape victims are never to blame for being raped, no matter what the circumstances. Rape is about violence and control, not about sex. Rapists are 100% to blame for their actions. My thoughts on the appropriate punishment of rapists varies from dropping them into an oubliette, lining them up and neutering them en masse without anaesthesia, or simply incarcerating them in a prison cell with some guy named Bubba who’s got lots of tattoos, very few teeth, and all the time in the world ahead of him.

While rape victims do not “ask for it,” there are most certainly things a woman can do to try and keep out of harm’s way. One thing I have learned in my travels is that it is always a good idea to blend in as much as possible with the people around you, to not stand out, especially if you’ll be in an unfriendly or hostile environment. Not drawing attention to yourself might mean the difference between being picked out from a crowd and being overlooked.

For example, I used to wear khakis when traveling in Eastern Europe, and was constantly targeted by Gypsy pickpockets, because — as someone finally clued me in — only American tourists wear khakis. Now I dress more like the locals in dark jeans or pants, usually carrying a shopping bag with me everywhere. Not only do the Gypsies pretty much ignore me (unless they happen to hear me speak), but I’m stopped on the street regularly by locals asking for directions. So I would say that I figured out how to blend in, how not to draw attention to myself, and how to dress appropriately for that situation, thereby making myself less of a target for theft.

I never watch CBS news so I had never heard of Lara Logan before the story of her attack started making the rounds. I have since learned that she is one of CBS’ top foreign correspondents. So I’m puzzled about why she did not try to make herself blend in with the crowd in Cairo, possibly making herself less of a target.

If you look at the photo of Ms. Logan that was taken just before she was culled from the crowd, you’ve got to wonder what on Earth she was thinking. She’s got long blonde hair, hanging loose and easily visible because her hair and head are not covered. The blonde hair alone stands out in a sea of dark-haired Egyptians, but there’s more. Her blouse is cut low enough to show a trace of cleavage, and she’s got a pearl choker around her neck. You can’t see in the photo, but I’d guess she’s typically wearing either slacks or a street-length skirt, and all of this is topped with a Western-trendy light blue trench coat. I can’t imagine how she could have made herself more conspicuous unless she waved a neon sign proclaiming “Pick me, Monty!”

The problem, of course, was not with how she was dressed — she looked very professional by Western standards — but with the fact that she was not in the West but in Egypt, and looked conspicuously out of place in the middle of a riled-up mob of moslems in that moslem country. Her appearance was most inappropriate for the situation she was in, as inappropriate as it would be if she wore cut-off jeans and flip-flops to Prince Williams’ wedding. All the Egyptian women around her were at the very least wearing a scarf covering their hair and head; some were completely covered head to toe. She stood out like the proverbial sore thumb.

So was Lara Logan not properly informed about the local customs (very hard to believe), or did she absent-mindedly forget how to dress for the situation she was in, or was she so arrogant in her sympathies towards these practitioners of sharia law that she presumed herself invincible in their midst?

At this point I refer you again to my second paragraph above, in case you’ve forgotten my perspective on rape and rapists.

I don’t know if Ms. Logan would have been spared this unspeakable, horrible ordeal if she had been less conspicuous. Clearly there was lots of bad energy in that crowd, a lot of antipathy towards Westerners, and of course the basic fact that moslems, by direct koranic and clerical decree, have absolutely no respect for women — any women. Not to mention that other Western reporters, both male and female, had already suffered beatings while reporting from Cairo. I guess we’ll never know what effect a different type of outfit might have made. But I truly hope that other journalists, especially females, will consider more carefully in future how the people around them perceive them.

There’s one other point here that does not yet seem to have been explained: What role did Ms. Logan’s film crew play in the attack? According to the news reports, her ordeal took place out in the open in the same Tharir Square where she was abducted, and lasted nearly thirty minutes — a half hour — before she was rescued by a group of Egyptian women who had apparently summoned the police for help. Where was her film crew during this time? Did they look for her? Did they summon the police? Were they her USA crew, or were they locals? Did they try to reach her and help her … or were they perhaps complicit in the attack?

I don’t know about you, but I’d like answers to these questions.

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February 16, 2011

The world’s oldest hatred gets a new face(book)

Filed under: anti-Semitism,bigotry,Facebook,Jewish,racism,Religion — by acupofsanity @ 7:08 pm
Tags: , , , , ,


“Words have meaning that reflect reality.” – Star Parker


It’s not like I didn’t know about the dark, ugly cesspool of online racism and bigotry when I set up my personal Facebook account. And of course I’ve crossed paths with anti-Semites — Jew-haters — since long before Al Gore invented the Internet. Whether on- or off-line, most of the time these people make me feel anger, disgust, and pity. But sometimes my judgment isn’t as good as I think it is and I get blindsided by someone I trusted. When that happens, I also feel sad.

I recently stepped a little too close to a couple of denizens of one of these online cesspools, so close that the stink of them is just now fading. The remaining bit of sadness and disappointment in one of them is just about gone too.

Essentially what happened is that a “friend” of a Facebook “friend” did not like a particular politician, and instead of giving specifics about the politician’s actions and condemning those actions, he simply attacked the politician personally with a couple of religious slurs. He even claimed that the words were not his, that he was quoting another source. When I asked my “friend” — who has previously claimed to support Israeli and Jewish issues, and proclaimed on one occasion that “I love Israelis!” — why she hadn’t removed the offensive posting, to my surprise she responded with an angry screed at me, and defended the person who wrote the slurs. (Needless to say that we are no longer “friends.”)

Shortly after this, a group of us in a different venue — representing Jewish, Christian, and a couple of Eastern religions — were discussing online bigotry and anti-Semitism, and I mentioned the incident. Several members of the group suggested appropriate responses. They were all clear, succinct, and accurate, so I have reprinted them below.


People choose the words that best express their thoughts — for example, using a racial/ethnic slur, or in some other way denigrating an entire ethnic/racial population, betrays their true thoughts and feelings towards that entire racial/ethnic group. People who tolerate, and especially those who defend, racial/ethnic slurs do so for one simple reason: they share those same thoughts and feelings.


“What individuals choose in private, and for which they bear personal responsibility, is separate from what we sanction publicly for which we all must bear responsibility.” – Star Parker.

What a person thinks is of course their own private business. What a person expresses publicly — yes, including on a Facebook wall — is the business of everyone who hears or reads it. Anyone who abides ugly, hateful words (including on their Facebook page) without challenge is as guilty as the original speaker/writer. Or, as Edmund Burke wrote more than two centuries ago: “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”


It doesn’t matter who you’re quoting: If a statement is offensive, it only becomes more offensive in the repetition. Saying “So-and-so said it, I’m just quoting them” doesn’t absolve you of responsibility. If you didn’t share the offensive thoughts, you would not be quoting the offensive words.


When you use a racial/ethnic slur to disagree with someone’s politics, then clearly you’re not really objecting to the person’s political actions but to the person himself. If you disagree with someone’s politics, with their ideas and actions — things that are not only separate and apart from, but often inimical to, the laws of one’s religion — limit your comments to those politics, ideas, and actions that you object to. People resort to name-calling for one of two reasons: either because they have no cogent argument, or because they hate the person for other reasons.


When you slur one person in an ethnic, racial, or religious group, you slur every member of that group. You can’t slur only the individuals you don’t like, the ones you perceive as “bad.” Any racial, ethnic, or religious slur encompasses everyone in that group. You cannot claim that you meant your slur for only “that” person. If you want to speak about one person, speak about the things that person does. Once you lump them into a group, anything you say about the individual is in fact being said about the entire group.


You say the word you chose is not an anti-Semitic slur. Then replace the word with a similar word about some other group: Italians, Chinese, Hispanics, blacks, whatever, and see what your Italian, Chinese, Hispanic, black, or whatever “friends” think about it.


It’s easy to say “I love Israelis” — it makes you feel virtuous while costing you nothing and committing you to nothing. “I love Israelis” and “I hate Israelis” are the two sides of the Jew-hating coin: neither expression requires acknowledging Israelis as real people. It is easy to “love” a monolithic, abstract group; it is far more difficult, but far more G-dly, to *respect* the vast array of real individuals who comprise that group.


Christians believe that G-d sent His only son, Jesus, to Earth. What some Christians seem to forget is that G-d created Jesus as a Jewish man, born of Jewish parents. All three were born Jewish, lived as Jews, and died Jewish. When Christians pray to Jesus, Mary, or Joseph, they are in fact praying to Jews. Some people seem to think that any Jew — which in fact means every Jew — can properly be called “k*ke” or “scum.” Which of those names do self-proclaimed “good Christians” consider proper when addressing their prayers to Jesus, Mary, or Joseph? (This response, and the next one, were suggested by a Catholic man.)


“I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you …” (Genesis 12:3). Anti-Semitism — Jew-hatred — does not always appear as a conflagration, but can be a mere spark. Someday — perhaps not in this world, perhaps in the next — you will have to explain to G-d and his *Jewish* son Jesus why you chose to defend a Jew-hating bigot by attacking the one person who had the courage to call out the ugly bigotry.

Feel free to use any of these responses if you happen to find yourself in a similarly ugly situation.

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