obstinately convinced of the superiority or correctness of one’s own opinions and prejudiced against those who hold different opinions
— New Oxford American Dictionary
Based on this definition, it seems that the vast majority of bigots in this country are on the Left — bigoted toward those not on the Left.
Anti-Hispanic, anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-black — it is hard to keep track of all the recent charges of alleged bigotry.
State representatives in Arizona overwhelmingly passed an immigration law to popular acclaim — which the Obama administration for now has successfully blocked in federal court. Arizonans simply wanted the federal government to enforce its own laws. And yet they were quickly dubbed bigots and racists — more worried about profiling Hispanics than curtailing illegal immigration.
In California, a federal judge has just overturned Proposition 8 ensuring traditional marriage. Voters in November 2008 had amended the California constitution to recognize marriage only between a man and woman, while allowing civil unions between partners of the same sex.
Californians took that step in response to the state Supreme Court’s voiding of Proposition 22, a similar referendum on traditional marriage that California voters passed in 2000. Apparently, a stubborn majority of Californians still sees traditional marriage as it has been followed in some 2,500 years of Western custom and practice. In contrast, gay groups have framed the issue as one of civil rights, often charging prejudice on the part of their opponents.
Another controversy is brewing a mere 600 feet from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, site of the 9/11 attacks, where a Muslim group wishes to build a $100 million, 13-story mosque. Opponents feel this is hardly a way to build bridges across religious divides, but instead a provocative act that tarnishes the memory of the nearly 3,000 people who died at the hands of radical Islamic terrorists.
New York state residents poll in opposition to the project. Their unease reflects legitimate questions over the nature of the foreign funding for the project, and the disturbing writings and statements of the chief proponent of the plan, Feisal Abdul Rauf. They also worry that radical Islamists will use the mosque’s construction (it will probably rise before the World Trade Center complex is rebuilt) as a propaganda tool.
In response, once again the majority has been dubbed bigoted and prejudiced, this time against Muslims for asking for a more appropriate location, farther away from Ground Zero.
We live in a complex, multiracial and religiously diverse society. A majority of black voters in California opposed gay marriage. Most Muslims probably concurred. Some 70 percent of Americans expressed support for the Arizona law, an overwhelming figure that would have to include some Asians, blacks and Hispanics. White and Hispanic congressional officials have faced ethics charges, often more serous than those leveled against Rangel and Waters.
In other words, there is no simple ideological, racial or religious divide between a monolithic “us” and “them.” Instead, we have devolved to the point where promiscuously crying “Bigot!” and “Racist!” signals a failure to persuade 51 percent of the people of the merits of an argument.
It is too often that simple — and that sad.