Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rightwing Roundup: Muslim-Baiting, Anti-Elitism, and Separatism

1. Joe McCarthy Called and He Wants His Tactics Back

In case you haven't heard, Republican Colin Powell has endorsed Barack Obama for president.

What I find most important about Powell's statement is that a prominent politician has finally said what should have been said 2 years ago. Namely, to paraphrase, even if Obama were a Muslim, so what? Intimating that Obama is a secret Muslim is insulting to Obama, who is a Christian, and to Muslims. It has been clear during this election season that Muslim-baiting is the new Red Scare. Obama is forced to deny that he's a Muslim as though there is something inherently bad about being a Muslim, thanks to the All-Muslims-Are-Terrorists meme that circulates among the conservative crowd.

This sort of religious intolerance is shameful and has no place in the free nation that we say we are.

2. The Age of Mediocrity

The McCain campaign has an interesting tactic with respect to denigrating smart people. Apparently, it would be very bad for our country if smart people were in charge of things. It would be much, much better if Joe Six-Pack were in charge.

This anti-elitism is an interesting phenomenon among the right in general. Previously, I've written about Laura Ingraham's anti-elitism tirade of a book Shut Up and Sing. I re-read my review and remain convinced that the word "elite" is, basically, the new pejorative term for anyone with whom the Republican elites disagree. By framing liberals, progressives, and Democrats as "elites," Joe Six-Pack mistakenly comes to believe that those in charge of the Republican party are the ones looking out for the little guy.

3. A "Gay" Idea

Apparently, Chicago is creating a separate (but equal?) "gay-friendly" school for kids who have been harassed because of their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation. Although the intentions appear to be good, I believe that this separate school is problematic. Kids can be brutal during the high school years, especially towards those who are gay or thought to be gay. When I was in high school I was way too scared to be "out." And, I do remember multiple occasions where I was verbally harassed because people thought I was gay. While racial epithets were not tolerated at my school, gay ones and gay jokes were par for the course. Even these days, I regularly hear teenagers say "That's so gay" meaning something along the lines of "That's stupid."

Rather than removing innocent gay people from these schools, I think the far better solution would be to turn schools into safe spaces where intolerance is not tolerated or condoned. Discipline kids for calling people "fags." Explain to them why it's not okay to say things like "that's so gay."

And, most importantly, remove bullies from schools rather than removing gay kids from the "normal" schools. The harassers are the ones who create the unsafe space. Merely removing gay and lesbian kids from an unsafe situation will not give bullies the opportunity to address their sexual prejudice and abusive behavior. When the "fags" and "dykes" leave, these bullies will inevitably find other people to pick on. Then, they will graduate (or not) and become ignorant, bigoted members of society.

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