Does Bigotry Dominate Our Political Discourse?
By C. John Grom
Before we try to answer that question, we should agree on what a bigot is. The American heritage dictionary defines a bigot as “One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.”
The word bigot came into common usage during the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties. There was no mistaking the group partiality and intolerance in statements like that from Gov. George Wallace of Alabama when he said “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Or the treatment of the brave young people sitting-in at lunch counters in the South while others of far less courage, physically and verbally assaulted them.
In time the word morphed into different meanings depending on the self-assessment of the user. It is difficult to see yourself and your group as intellectually and morally superior and bigoted at the same time, no matter how intolerant you are of others. It is not uncommon for members of a group to describe those who differ as idiots, morons, fascists etc. and at the same time be outraged at being called a bigot. To many, bigot is a word that only applies to others
A bigot tends to engage in hateful rhetoric toward people and groups they dislike on a personal level, or just do not understand, rather than on ideas of intellectual and moral substance. For instance, a common contemporary epithet on social media. “f–k Trump and everyone who voted for him” is a classic example of primitive bigotry and many of those who voice it are highly offended at being called bigots. Once an idea like “Never Trump” or “Never Clinton” takes hold, honest, mature assessment of issues like the environment, social/racial justice, the economy and peace give way to playground name calling and mindless insults. Politicians, knowing where the votes are, play into this child-like behavior by largely ignoring the issues of the day and attacking their opponents on a personal level.
Eventually, bigotry takes over to the point where an elected leader’s achievements are condemned or ignored even when they are in-line with the bigots professed beliefs. The hate filled rhetoric might even increase in the face of outstanding achievements on the part of a hated leader.
President Richard Nixon’s record of success on the environment, welfare reform, workplace safety, desegregation of the South, Peace, racial justice and more went largely ignored by those who claimed to be committed to those very issues. Even today he is vilified by those who would hold him in high esteem if he were not Richard Nixon.
Yes, bigotry dominates our political discourse and brings out the very worst in all of us. It interferes with our ability to solve problems, it creates problems that exist only in the minds of bigots and separates us into hating factions. In short, bigotry keeps us from being all we can be as a nation.