Wow, it's been a very long time since I used this blog, hasn't it?
So, today I saw a friend of mine repost on Facebook a status which began by saying it was time for liberals to begin some "real talk" about Islam, lest we "give up the issue to conservatives."
I did not respond well to this, as you might guess. "Real talk about X" is a long-time dog-whistle for, "I want to say something bigoted about X group, but I don't want to look like a bigot, so I'm going to present my prejudices as common sense." And I responded to the status, saying, more or less, "What you're saying is, liberals need to agree with conservatives in hating and fearing Muslims." This triggered an exchange with the original status poster until my friend yanked his repost and stopped the exchange.
That said, there were several points that merit response.
First, on the original poster's claim that his "real talk" was not about hating and fearing Muslims; bullshit. The whole point of his original post is that liberals are silent about Islam and terrorism and that "real talk" is necessary, but has been censored by the left. Well, since the general liberal position on Islamic terrorism is that we need to dismantle the terrorist organizations that carry out attacks without blaming an entire religion for the crimes of fewer than one percent of its adherents, the "real talk" that is being censored is almost certainly the conservative view: "Islam is evil, Muslims are evil, and we need to punish Muslims regardless of their individual roles in anything at all."
Second: do you know how this person said this alternative view was being censored? "People are afraid to speak the truth because they'll be called racists."
Uh huh. So you believe something strongly, but won't say anything because you're afraid someone will call you a name? You think that, when someone holds an opinion and says it openly, that act by itself is censorship against anyone who differs?
I can't count how many names I've been called in online discussions about this and that: communist, socialist, statist, traitor, idiot, asshole, sheep, shithead, and worse and worse. I won't pretend I don't care about some of those labels, but I've certainly never let them even slow me down from expressing my opinion and arguing my position on anything and everything. I've certainly never felt censored because of namecalling. No epithet posted on the Internet has yet resulted in my loss of access to the Internet, my arrest or imprisonment, or my being sued or fined for my beliefs.
Your opinion, whatever it is, cannot force my silence; and my opinion cannot force your silence.
Third, and finally: if you're afraid that speaking your opinion on X might make you seem like a bigot, it might just be because you ARE being a bigot. If you're self-censoring yourself on that grounds, then you need to stop and carefully re-examine your beliefs and why you hold them. Hint: if you are classifying a group of 1.5 billion people as if they are all identical and interchangable, that's bigotry. If you believe that membership in any arbitrary group is sufficient cause to consider a person evil or criminal, with no further evidence, that's bigotry. And if your opinions sound anything like, "All X are dangerous," or, "We can't allow X into our country because they'll destroy us all," then guess what? That opinion is based on hate, fear, and prejudice- in other words, bigotry.
And guess what? That puts you side by side with the likes of ISIL, whose entire belief system is built on bigotry and anti-liberalism. It is the nature of liberals to disagree, but to accept the presence and equal rights of those who disagree with them. It is the nature of conservatives, and especially religious fundamentalist conservatives, to attack all who disagree with them and seek to drive them out or destroy them outright.
Because liberals are brave enough to accept that not everyone is alike, and that it is possible to be different or strange and not be hostile. Conservatives, on the other hand, are scared livid of anything different or strange, and hate, fear and hold in contempt all that is different from themselves.
And yet, while liberals defend their positions even when attacked and beaten, conservatives are such shrinking violets that they apparently silence themselves for fear that they might be called by the nasty, horrible name of "racist."
I suspect that's why Trump is doing so well among conservatives: with every bigoted and ignorant thing he spews from his mouth on the campaign trail, he's saying the things conservatives are too cowardly to admit they still believe. And he gets away with it.
Trump is "real talk."
And, ironically, Trump has pledged that the first thing he'll do when he becomes president is to make it illegal for anybody to criticize him. He's already put it into the contracts he makes his volunteers sign; anyone who works for him is never again allowed to say anything bad at all about Donald Trump, ever, for the rest of his or her life, on pain of lawsuit.
Because even Donald Trump is too cowardly to live in a society where other people don't agree with him on absolutely everything. Instead, while Bernie Sanders and even Hillary Clinton listen to their protesters and sit down with them and discuss their views, Trump silences them, then encourages his followers to beat them into submission and promises to pay the legal costs.
Just as ISIL is too cowardly to live in a world where any religion other than their unique and ultra-fundamentalist sect of Islam exists. Instead they kill everyone who doesn't follow their faith in their exact way.
What happened in Brussels today is the act of an organization of cowards. And it is their devout hope that their acts of murder will empower our cowards here to respond in kind, to trigger the war of religious extermination they desperately desire.
I refuse to be a coward, and I refuse to be silent while cowards call for "real talk" as a way to veil their prejudices and fears in a haze of respectability.
The religion of Islam has many different sects and subdivisions, just as Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism do. The crimes of one particular group of Muslims lie on the head of members of that group and no one else. Any policy which treats all members of a group as culpable for the crimes of a small group of individuals, without regard to any facts on an individual basis, is injustice to those affected. And no matter how much you hate or fear a group, for whatever reasons, such policy remains now and forever unjust.
That's not "real talk." That's just truth.
And if you disagree, have the courage of your convictions and say so- and don't fear whatever names I or anyone else might call you.