Thursday, July 30, 2009
The following is an essay I first wrote in 1999, then copyrighted in 2000. It appeared on an old blog but I repost it today for a few reasons. While at the time I wrote it I was recognizing that bigotry of all forms and in particular, antisemitism was rising, I now see that escalation has taken a sharper rise.
I grew up the child of parents who promoted civil rights and like them, joined both interfaith groups and civil rights groups so that how I lived demonstrated the values they taught in both word and deed. Perhaps something of what I've learned may help another. I give a link at the end that I hope all parents will view.
Now here is the short (for me anyway!) essay, reposted again.
The serene and straightforward manner I most often maintain in responding to bigots comes from both faith in God and in self-acceptance of my human nature. My self-esteem is neither defined nor validated by the approval of bigots whose values I see as harmful. Instead, I focus on opinions gleaned from respectable people; insights gained from interactions with the wise and not so wise. I begin with the premise that each individual is worthy of respect. Since I claim no sainthood, it is no hypocrisy to reveal I can lose all respect for people who behave in a willfully ignorant, disrespectful, dishonest or hateful manner. I believe they have a right to their choice. I don’t have to respect all choices, or disrespectful people; that is my choice.
Some people are so maladapted to human interaction they enjoy conflict. I do not enjoy conflict. A conflict addict spends much time devising or refining new methods to propagate it. When someone tries to make a well-mannered person feel bad about civility, they do so to project the discomfort they feel in the presence of respectful behavior. A taunt of “ goody goody” on the playground by a bully a perfect example. Quite often we hear the adult bully replace that with other words and phrases, “ politically correct” is one that comes to mind. Recognizing and correctly labeling another’s behavior as that of a bully or bigot based on their actions or words may even inspire them to try to make the victimizer the victim to shift the focus and blame. I don’t have to view another as inferior or demonize them to boost my ego or justify my values. Like a moth drawn to a flame, the social misfit conflict addict is drawn to the more peaceful whom they view as weak to be the target of their venom. However, a serene demeanor does not imply weakness. Serenity is not found in a mind that is self-absorbed with the bliss of religiosity from either psychosis or indoctrination into a cult.
It is unfortunate that an above average intellect conveys no immunity to bigotry. While there are many reasons for bigotry that I won’t begin to address here, often a choice to create conflict is derived from attention seeking. Think of former classmates, the child who was bright but overlooked at home or in school by others unless he acted out. The temporary vindication they feel when anyone agrees and the reward of being the center of attention by belittling others becomes like a drug. This attention gives a short-term sense of belonging, reinforcement of their beliefs, and helps to elevate self worth. It can then escalate until their self-concept has risen to a delusional superiority over all others. They hold out the worst venom, not for those who may truly exhibit inferior intellect or moral or social inadequacies, but for those whose presence, demeanor and wisdom expose their own most deeply feared frailty. Their maladapted manner of life and self-concept has made them a part of the weakest link in humanity and the most widely detested of all.
Serenity that isn’t easily shaken comes from cognizance of human frailty and foible, self-knowledge and acceptance of the kinship of all humanity. It carries no fear that you’re going to be exposed as less than perfect. Some of the most dangerous dogs are “fear biters” and some of the most dangerous humans behave that way, too.
Copyright © 2000 mama_pajama_1