Thursday, September 11, 2008

Of Protest and Bigotry

Okay...Wafergate is resurging a bit lately, thanks to Dinesh. And, we have a nice little comment which sympathizes with the crux of D'Souza's argument, as well as dragging up the rotten corpse of an argument that has been worn thin over the course of the past 2 months or so. Behold:

"Destroying a cracker is not bigotry."
Neither is burning a couple of
pieces of wood shaped like a 't'.
However, cross burning (which is to be
distinguished *in terms of what it signifies* from burning two pieces of wood
shaped like a 't') is at least evidence of bigotry.
Destroying a cracker
isn't bigotry.
However, Eucharist desecration (which is to be distinguished
*in terms of what it signifies* from destroying a cracker) is at least evidence
of bigotry.

There are so many things wrong with this kind of sentiment, I don't know where to begin. But, here goes.
1. There is a history violence behind a burning cross. There is no such comparable history for host desecration (except, on the Catholic side of the fence...).
2. Burning a cross is not evidence of bigotry in contexts in which it is not intended to be a threat, or directed at anyone (i.e. it is accidental). Eucharist desecration is not considered to be a threat in of itself, in any context.
3. Even getting beyond the symbols, there is a greater history of violence directed towards African Americans in general, independent of cross-burning, relative to that directed at Catholics (some, but not much recently) for the sole reason of their bearing those respective traits.
4. Related to points 1-3 is the fact that the cross burning is offensive because it is a tacit threat, whereas Eucharist desecration is only offensive because Catholics believe it hurts God (or something) and are not personally affected or threatened by it.
5. There is a difference between bigotry (mindless hatred of another group) and criticism. Questioning the worth of symbols, rituals, and ideas, without threatening the group who holds them as relevant is criticism. Calling people out for their own actions and unfounded beliefs is criticism. Dismissing, hating or threatening individuals for being the group that holds them as relevant is bigotry.
6. It could hardly be considered significant bigotry (i.e. indicative of oppression or persecution) when the people that are being protested are of a larger presence (in both influence and population) than the person or group criticizing them.
7. Similarly, it could hardly be considered bigotry against a specific group (i.e. anti-Catholic bigotry) when the person or group offering the critique would do the same to any group with similar actions and ideas. This is clearly the case here (see the involvement of the Koran in the ordeal for details).
8. And, it could hardly be considered bigotry at all if the use of the offensive symbol is done as a protest to a fierce overreaction to a relatively young and naive man's accidental incorrect usage of it, and the protest does nothing to suggest any form of hatred or a precursor to violent activity.

It is very convenient how much context these people are able to strip from both the symbols they want to compare the Eucharist to, and from the actual events of the desecration as well. Honestly, could I be surprised?

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