Primaries Expose Our Bigotry

An underbelly of nationwide bigotry has been exposed by the Republican primaries. It directly concerns everyone living in the US and, given our interconnected world, no one knows how far bigotry can stretch. I suggest that we do two things: 1) face the ugliness head on and 2) use this humbling reality as a wake-up call. Wanting to be informed, I tuned in to the first GOP debate. Though I was shocked by the then and now front-runner’s verbal assault on interviewer Megyn Kelly, my first thought was that he would be escorted from the stage. Surely there was a referee, someone in charge. Surely you can’t say those things on this stage. Surely the moderator will step up. But wait. Could that be applause? What is going on? He's laughing? I turned "the debate" off. That was only the beginning. Now, louder applause whips through crowds as delegates stack up behind this "outsider businessman" always  on the attack.

Much has been made of the often preposterous positions espoused and sometimes recanted by both GOP front-runners, though the leader’s language and statements are more strident and offensive. But neither candidate interests me. What interests me are their followers. What do they like about these politicians' messages? Are we hearing the same things? Has their combative language given their followers permission to go on the attack as well? Has it come down to "us" against "them?" About everything? Who is "us" and who is "them?"

Unfortunately, this is what I hear: Contempt for the facts, history, and any perceived difference or disagreement; deep-rooted bias against women; anger directed at LGBT and Muslims; distrust of minorities; fear of immigrants, both inside and outside our borders. Build the wall. Kick them out. Carry more guns. Bar the bathroom entrance. Keep our locker rooms safe.

As a believer in the value of dialogue, I’d like to ask those in the front-runners' camps a few questions. Though part of the crowd at a rally, each fan is an individual; there must be varying reasons for endorsing a specific candidate as well as adopting adversarial stances. I know what I read in the news as well as overhear in public places, but because I find so many positions and statements dangerous, I'd like to understand the rationales behind them better.  Some starter questions:

  1. Who deserves to live in the United States? If it’s those with established roots, then do the Apache, Pawnee, and Iroquois have the longest claim? What is the meaning of “birthright?” Concerning the proposed wall keeping out “those Mexicans,” will all the good people be on one side only? I’m reminded of the Robert Frost poem “Mending Wall.” Maybe we talk about why Frost wrote: “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know / what I was walling in or walling out.”
  2. Do you remember the internment camps for Japanese citizens in this country during World War II? Is this a proud part of US history? Would it be a good idea to repeat it with Muslim citizens? Do you know a Muslim?
  3.  Does your candidate address the wage gap that persists between females and males for equal work, a gap averaging a difference of $0.75 for women to $1.00 for their male counterparts? Is this important? Can this inequality be justified? What are the candidates saying about their wives? About specific women in public life? About women’s rights?
  4. What interests you about another person’s sexual orientation? What if it's a person you'll never encounter - are you still interested? Why?
  5. Do you question whether or not President Obama is a US citizen? If so, can we discuss the reason for your doubt?
  6. Can you tell me one specific proposal by your candidate that matters a lot to you personally? If this proposal becomes a reality, will it have a direct impact on your daily life? Please share details. How will your candidate carry out his promise?
  7. What words are written on the Statue of Liberty? Would you change anything? Why do so many people risk their lives in the hope of getting to this country?
Statue of Liberty

How humbling, this time in the US. How about a national injection of good will? A softening of hearts? Getting wise about the pitfalls of anger and hate? It's up to us, all of us.

We will reap what we sow—we are reaping what we’ve sown.