North Adams Transcript
Brainwashed." That’s the word I heard used this week in several incidents involving right-wingers online, friends and relatives of those involved, saying something not only provably wrong, but mostly hate-filled. These were incidents of attack.
In the current culture wars, if you decide that your opponent has been "brainwashed," then I think you’ve already lost the battle.
"Brainwashed" implies there used to be this reasonable person until some third party forced a program of coercion that transformed these people unwillingly into foot soldiers for conservative talking points.
That’s the problem -- these people weren’t forced. They chose, and they often choose to unleash their choice upon people they are supposedly friendly with.
Some of the things that are said by people like this are in no way short term and sudden opinions that appeared in a vacuum, nor are they anything that was planted inside them. When people say things like Obama is a racist or claim they have lots of gay friends but they just don’t think gay people should have the same civil rights as everyone else ... these aren’t opinions that were meticulously inserted into their subconscious through systematic subversion.
They decided on these opinions themselves. No one makes them have an opinion like that, and there is no enlightened version of that person waiting to be released by a patient
The practice of being a patient liberal has been part of the problem all along. In practical, real world terms, the patient liberal acts as if you can change the minds of irrational people through rational argument.
By calmly debating the irrational, though, they give weight to it, which ends up in validation. Suddenly you have a number of people who think that creationism versus evolution is a valid debate, rather than a very silly one that doesn’t deserve the time of day.
Or that the president wasn’t actually born in the country. Or any number of absurd arguments that float into the mainstream because we are required to be tolerant of any belief, regardless of how absolutely ridiculous and ill-informed it might be.
Imagine being tolerant of the views of people who believed you could use wooden sticks to control the weather. Imagine you thought you could convince them otherwise by engaging in a one-on-one, where you talk about meteorological facts.
The stick beats the facts every time for certain people. If people want to believe weather is controlled by wooden sticks, they are free to, but a government is not required to enact policies or educational standards for everyone based on such silly notions.
And if they keep bringing up their stupid stick theories, they deserve to have those theories knocked down, not tolerated in the name of civility.
Now imagine we transfer the same silly notions to more important issues. People who oppose gay marriage might seem awfully nice in personal interaction, but how can you really excuse it? The justification for the discrimination contains the possibility for further horror -- how would you feel if that same person also supported discrimination against the handicapped?
The very same book of the Bible used to condemn homosexuality also states that "For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous, Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken. No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD."
The possibility of further hate sits there in an ancient anthology, waiting for one wrong-headed person with the right charisma to latch onto it as a political agenda. And some people you know -- some very nice people -- will be the first to jump on that bandwagon of hate by choice.
They will not support anti-crookbackt legislation because they’ve been "brainwashed." They’ll support it because that’s what they’ve thought all along.
The least we can do is not hand out free passes in our personal lives. People who express hate or ignorance at the dinner table or on Facebook or wherever deserve to be called out as hateful or ignorant. Otherwise, they’ll begin to think their poison words are acceptable, and we’ll all be required to carry sticks instead of umbrellas.
John Seven is the Transcript’s arts and entertainment editor.