“Bigot” as the New N-Word
Christians in Massachusetts, having been excluded from the governmental discussion about what marriage means in their state by the process whereby the definition was changed (and, I would add, having watched as Catholic adoption agencies closed their doors because the state would make no accommodation of their beliefs with respect to clientele) are concerned that they are being disenfranchised and that they will have no recourse should public schools begin indoctrinating their children against them, in keeping with Massachusetts law. Commenter MRH’s response?
Oh, boo frickin’ hoo.
I’m sure that even those who met my previous post with a shrug would admit that their response would be quite different if the book being read aloud to first graders weren’t King and King, which ends with a guy on guy kiss, but rather a picture book called King and King of Kings, in which a young prince finds no mate to overwhelm his sense of vocation, with the last page showing him entering a Roman Catholic seminary. Surely it would be wrong of public schools to stigmatize children who might make such a decision, but I suspect that the froth would fly around a mouthed “indoctrination.”
Be such hypotheticals as they may, I’m fascinated by the way in which the word “bigot” (or a broader accusation of bigotry) has come to function not unlike the N-word did back before the tide of civil rights cleared the land of all but meager remnants and impressions of racial detritus. Calling a person a “nigger” once marked him as beneath consideration. Unfit to participate in civil society; unfit to vote; unworthy of the free exchange of ideas. Now, we correctly realize that it is the person invoking the word for that purpose who deserves the burden of those “uns.”
Unfortunately, general consensus about the proper targets of disapprobation has been transformed into a weapon wielded by limelighters to publicly stroke their own moral vanity and by activists to advance causes beyond the speed that honest, fair, democratic debate would enable. Use a word or phrase that can be spun as bigoted, and enemies will trip over themselves to grab newsprint and gainsay your lifetime of work and service. Hold to traditional beliefs bearing on social structure and development, and your disenfranchisement will be legitimized as a civil rights necessity and the air around your arguments will be poisoned with the acrid insinuation that all who give them a public moment’s consideration will find the accusatory finger pointed at them.
The context and background for the two words could not be more different, obviously, yet how like the racists of old in their small-minded lack of empathy and hostile usage of language are those who behave as if they need only speak the word “bigot” in order to make it so.