I am a naive person. I know that racism and sexism exist, but I have been of the stubborn belief that we’ve matured to a place where racist and sexist thoughts are more insidiously expressed; instead of outright namecalling there’s more of an institutional and idealistic expression which needs to be overcome.
Last night one of my (now former) Facebook friends posted a “joke”. It asked readers to compare Paris Hilton’s underwear to a mosque and then declared that the difference was that there was only one unwashed nasty-word-for-female-genitals in Paris’ undergarments. The assumption then being that those in the mosque were nothing more than said nasty-words.
Really. This ACTUALLY happened.
I immediately unfriended the woman (who was only someone I had befriended during my Farmville days. Not like she was an old college chum.) Then I found myself wondering just why thoughts like this even exist.
I was all for going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq; I still think what we accomplished during the first couple of years was probably a good thing. But now the war drags on past the multiple expiration dates various photo-ops tell us happened. The Mission was Accomplished and the Troops are Withdrawn. We’re left with a world where we’ve taught ourselves that it’s okay to hate people because they’ve got some common ground with someone who caused us harm. I know it’s melodramatic to say “The Terrorists Have WON!” but when you look at what we’ve taken away from the lessons of 9/11–fear, an increasingly statist society and a rabid hate for people of a different creed–it looks like the terrorists less “won” and more “forced us into a mindset similar to that of their own.”
It makes me so incredibly sad to see these things happening to the country I love. But at the same time I have pulled hope out of this Pandorabox. Hope in that this woman could and did tell that awful joke. It was a horrible thing to say but she’s still allowed to say it here. And hope that there are still those here who recognise how awful those thoughts are. That we are still free to say what we think. That I can sit here and type these words and have them read and discussed by others without someone knocking at my door.
Years ago there was a knock at my door and a person served me with a certified letter to cease and desist. They wanted something I wrote taken off the internet. A lot of people across the country stepped in to help. I had pro bono legal services and the things I wrote are still there. That’s the kind of idealism we still have and that’s how we are still very much unlike the terrorists. So I don’t think we’ve lost this great war yet. But I look at the battlefields where ideas are still bloody and it really does worry me quite a lot.