Isolated Wackiness, Shared By Everybody in the Whole Damn County
And my first thought was, “blog this.” And then I thought, “what for? The only possible reaction is “those people suck,” and it’s one of those atypical weird cases that, if anything, surely demonstrates that the country as a whole doesn’t think that way.” And, god help me, I thought, “it’ll just fuel the stupid idea that liberals hate Christians, blah blah blah.”
And then I realized, boy, that is some fucked-up thinking going on there. I don’t think I should draw attention to a 21st-century American pogrom for fear of offending Christians? I’m hesitant to stand up and object to anti-Semitism–and by “stand up,” let’s note, I mean only “talk about it on my pseudonymous blog”–for political reasons?
The discussion there goes on about Christian cultural hegemony, and it’s fabulous – what does it mean that entire towns full of assholes in nomine Jesu are routinely dismissed as “oh, they’re not real Christians”? Maybe it’s just that, as a non-Christian, I don’t have much interest in policing the ideological boundaries of Christianity, but I don’t think “can these people be accurately described by the label Christian?” is the important question to consider here.
Though but but, I’m more disturbed by the idea of considering this an “atypical weird case” than I am by the Christian boundary-policing. When I think “atypical weird case”, I think of a guy calling in to the local talk radio show to ask if it hasn’t all got to do with Jimmy Hoffa and Malcom X being undead zombie friends. But you can’t create the environment described by the complainants with just a couple of isolated kooks:
The complaint recounts a raucous crowd that applauded the board’s opening prayer and then, when sixth-grader Alexander Dobrich stood up to read a statement, yelled at him “take your yarmulke off!” His statement, read by Samantha, confided “I feel bad when kids in my class call me Jew boy.”
The crowd booed an ACLU speaker and told her to “go back up north.”
In the days after the meeting the community poured venom on the Dobriches. Callers to the local radio station said the family they should convert or leave the area. Someone called them and said the Ku Klux Klan was nearby.
You should really go read the article to get a good sense of what I mean. Like many intolerable environments, this one was created by countless small incidents which, taken individually, can be easily rationalized as too small to worry about, or the acts of isolated nutters – but taken as a whole, they’re horrifying. Makes it hard to extract a good pull-quote.
If there’s anything we should learn from history, it’s that this kind of mass cruelty is frighteningly normal. The typical high school lesson plan on the Salem witch trials involves asking students to relate the mass hysteria to everyday life in 17th Century Massachusetts; the history of the American colonies is hardly my area of expertise, but I’m not aware of any historians who dismiss the trials as “just one of those atypical weird cases” with nothing to teach us about its broader social environment. That the current political discourse leads us to think “oh, well, crazy mobs will be crazy mobs, tee hee!” is be a common and acceptable interpretation of a modern pogrom – well, ugh.