So today I want to talk about bigotry.
Google “North Korea 15” and the first article under “In the news” will be this one. I saw it last night on Facebook, and I saw a lot of people cheering its author on. They used phrases like “ugly American” in their cheers.
There’s a problem with this article, though.
Its author is a bigot.
The author claims that the government of North Korea, one of the most evil regimes on Earth, has taught us all a valuable lesson about white, male, cis-gendered privilege.
How has this evil regime done this? They’ve done it by sentencing Otto Warmbier, a 21-year-old undergrad at the University of Virginia, to 15 years hard labor. His crime? He stole a political poster off the wall of a hotel where he was staying.
Fifteen years hard labor.
The author of the above-mentioned article seems happy about this boy’s misfortune, because it shows that white, male, cis-gendered privilege isn’t all-powerful.
I say the author is a bigot, because the author knows nothing about this boy other than that he’s white, he’s a boy, and he’s wealthy enough to go to college and travel to North Korea. The author does not even know if Mr. Warmbier is hetero, or that he identifies as male. But the author is happy to see him suffer, because he belongs to groups the author does not belong to.
A friend of mine pointed out this this author is preaching to the choir. This bole of hate the author has split open on the world is not going to change any minds. Presumably, the author would like to change minds, and make people see that it can be hard to be black in America, hard to be gay, hard to be transgendered, hard even to be female.
Bigotry is not going to change any minds. Well, maybe it will. It might just turn some otherwise-sympathetic people off to the causes the author speaks for. That would be a bad thing.
I know I’m turned off. If I hear the phrases “white privilege” or “male privilege,” I shut down. I’m just tired of the hateful way they’re bandied about. They’re creating divides, not educating and certainly not healing wounds. They’re creating a victim culture, rather than a culture of people transitioning to enlightenment together.
And “cis-gendered?” That’s become offensive to me as of now. I don’t tolerate my gay friends (or enemies) calling me “breeder” and I don’t like “cis-gendered” any better. Maybe it started as a benign term meant to identify a concept, but, as happens with labels that get slapped on groups of people (and hence deny the individuality of those labeled), its users have laced the use of it with so much hate that it now sounds like an insult.
This boy made a huge mistake. He said so himself, and maybe he wasn’t even tortured into saying it. The above author may say that his actions have consequences. I say that the actions of people who make poor life choices, and wind up living on the street, also had consequences. I know lots of people whose life choices have put them out on the street. They made mistakes.
But I do not rejoice that they suffered harsh punishments for their actions. I hope they’ve learned better. But I do not cheer on those who’ve heaped on them greater punishment than they deserved.
The author of this article strikes me as someone who believes that the author’s politics (liberal ones, in this case) are moral and anyone who disagrees with them is immoral. When I was a teen, there was a notorious group who felt the same way about their moral stance, and they made similar pronouncements about how wonderful it was that people suffered consequences for their actions. They called themselves “The Moral Majority.” Their members went on, during my college years, to say horrible things like “AIDS is a punishment meted out by God for the sin of homosexuality.”
As I was developing my political philosophy, I knew I wanted it to place me far away from people like that. I called myself a liberal. As I got older, I met people who also called themselves liberals, but they spouted hate. I knew then and know now that not all liberals do that, nor do all conservatives. But enough of them do it that I didn’t want to hang either label on myself.
So I stopped calling myself a liberal. Now I call myself a libertarian. That’s probably a dirty word to a lot of people, because it means “not a liberal.” And that’s all they know it means.
But being a libertarian also means not being a bigot. It means recognizing that everyone is free. It means recognizing that bad consequences happen, and governments, while they might not be expected to take responsibility for eliminating those consequences, sure as hell shouldn’t pile on and make them worse.
The only “valuable lesson” North Korea taught me is that some Americans are goddamned bigots. And that’s what I consider ugly.