You know, if you read me, that I used to have these elaborate and thoughtful theories about the bigots in our country–that, in part, because we’d never dealt with the underlying family trauma of the Civil War, we were repeatedly acting out these racist dramas, but often displacing their focus onto whichever minority was conveniently available.
But you know what? I was wrong. I honestly don’t think that there’s anything that complex to it. I think complexity is the cold comforting lie we tell ourselves to try to make it seem like it’s just too tangled for us to do much about.
The truth is this–people will tolerate a lot of bullshit being done to them if they are allowed, in return, to shit on someone worse and politicians know they can have a lot of political success if they facilitate letting the majority of their constituents dick over someone weaker.
Ketron wants Arizona-style immigration legislation here. He’s willing to gamble with tourist dollars to help his constituents dick over people weaker than them.
“I have heard that it’s mean-spirited for me to carry a bill like that, that I’m a xenophobe and whatever words they say,” Ketron said. “But I say be an American first, speak English, be legal and you are welcome. … I think that I have a duty to try to uphold the law and respond to my constituents’ concerns. That’s what I’ve done.”
But we all know this is bullshit. Immigrants are rarely welcome, regardless of their status. If, suddenly, all immigrants were legal, we’d see this more clearly.
But I’ve also come to realize that this is just garden-variety sadistic bullying. And people who sit around being all “But if only they did this or didn’t do that or followed these procedures instead of that” are just acting as if there’s something the target of a bully can do to change the bully’s behavior towards them. As if there wouldn’t always be some justification the bully had for trying to grind folks weaker than him down.
I’m not saying we don’t have a racist society. We do. I’m just saying that, at some point, our saying “Oh, that’s racist” or “Oh, that’s xenophobic” stops being an explanation and starts being an excuse. We just throw up our hands in the face of evil like Ketron’s and say “oh, well, that’s racist” as if there’s nothing to be done about him. As if he’s just a monster we all have to work around.
The trouble with that dynamic is that, once it’s established that he’s a monster we have to work around, then it’s very easy to blame the folks he’s targeted, who can’t work around him, for not working around him.
Which is not to say that we shouldn’t call him a racist and xenophobe whose ideas are bad for a state that is deeply reliant on tourist dollars.
I’m just saying, let’s not overlook the fact that he’s a bully who’s attempting to secure his base by facilitating the bullying of others.
He’s not some monster. He’s a coward who “takes a stand” against the defenseless.
We, who are not his targets, have an obligation to the people who are his targets to not forget this. He wants to tell some story about him being a passionate defender of America. We need to not let it go without saying that he’s “defending” America against people who are completely culturally powerless, because he’s a coward.
There’s no heroism in picking on people weaker than you. There’s especially no heroism in repeatedly knocking feet out from under the people you’re battling because you could never win in a fair fight.