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Descending In Open Bigotry

March 21st, 2015

There is a high school in New York which, as part of a National Foreign Language Week activity, read the pledge of allegiance over the school loudspeakers in a different language every day. The choice for the first language to try—Arabic—was almost certainly a mistake. Not because Arabic isn’t a proper objective choice, but because we have by now been long primed to act aggressively against anything that smacks of the Arab world.

Predictably, the reading of the pledge in Arabic sparked outrage. That outrage was almost certainly racist or born of religious intolerance, but of course that was not the reason claimed by the angry respondents. Many families complained that they had lost family members in Afghanistan, for example. The problem: Arabic is not spoken in Afghanistan. The two official languages are Dari and Pashto; Dari is effectively Farsi. Many other languages and dialects are spoken there, but Arabic is not one of them. Other complaints came from Jewish families; I fail to see, however, why they should have any more right to object than anyone else whose nationality has a beef with a country that speaks a certain language. Should Spanish be banned because a British family resented the Falklands war? A general language is not emblematic of a specific political conflict, and it should not be prohibited simply because some people make a general connection between something they hate and that language. Why? Same reason it’s not okay to hate all Arabs, or Persians, or all of any race. It’s the exact same principle.

No, the reaction to the reading of the pledge was, if not entirely racist, then mostly so, with general bigotry and ignorance blended in. Many people claimed it was just an aversion to the pledge being recited in a language other than English—in other words, run-of-the-mill xenophobia rather than outright anti-Arab sentiment—but that doesn’t wash, either. As the principal of the school pointed out, “Had it been done in Spanish first or Japanese first, we wouldn’t be having this conversation today.” Indeed: had it been read in one of those languages, there would have been no protest—or at least so little that it would have been negligible. If such had been done first and nobody objected, then reading it in Arabic would have been much more difficult to protest. I do think that the principal was in error, however, in that people still would have complained—they simply would have had to be a little more honest about the reason for their protest.

Back in 2001, in the days after 9/11, Bush made it clear that we were not fighting against Islam, and warned against a backlash against Arab-Americans. It was one of the few stances he took which I admired.

Well, so much for that. America is now firmly bigoted against not just Islam, not just Arabic peoples and languages, but anything that reminds us of any of that.

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  1. Troy
    March 22nd, 2015 at 03:35 | #1

    George Carlin Stupid People

    a) Stupid
    b) Full of Shit
    c) Fuckin’ Nuts

    Any political party that caters to these 3 demographics is going to have a sizable base to build on.

    Conservatives don’t have a lock on these groups, but it’s close.

    This is a core political dynamic everywhere that people can’t really talk about.

    It’s hinted at, Churchill’s “The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.” and J.S. Mill’s “‘I did not mean that Conservatives are generally stupid; I meant, that stupid persons are generally Conservative.”


    what gets me is that conservatives aren’t fighting for a better country, they’re fighting us progressives instead.

    Fighting against unions, abortion, integration, protecting the environment (including limiting greenhouse gas buildup), taxpayer subsidies from rich people paid to working and poor people so they can access this country’s health care system with its sky-high costs, making it harder not easier for people to even vote, promoting more and more corporate control of our private lives and political processes.

    And yet conservatives control 3 out of 4 branches of the Federal government now, plus so much of the state-level government.

    “It’s the Stupidity, Stupid”

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