Consider the program and aim of bigotry: It seeks to pigeonhole and caricature another group in order to disparage their dignity and worth. Bigotry flattens a person’s three-dimensionality. It is dismissive, and its purpose is to gain control. These markers sound quite a lot like what passes today for political discourse.
Among the thinning list of vices still capable of generating unilateral moral outrage, bigotry has remained near the top. And for good reason. Bigotry involves the judging, excluding, discriminating, and oppressing of a human being made in God’s image. The seed of bigotry grows in the soil of hatred and pride, and blooms into some of the basest, most repulsive, and most dangerous atrocities that human beings commit. And one of our greatest moral pivots in the past fifty years—one often glossed over in recounting tales of our degenerate slide—has been a burgeoning intolerance for bigotry. We have become adept at responding to and sniffing out (sometimes with an overly-heightened sense of smell) the aromas of bigotry while the pot is still warming. This is generally a good thing. We’re willing to listen more.
With one exception.
Even as we strive to become better at appreciating diversity within people’s backgrounds and cultures, another form of bigotry grows and swells like a cancer. I am speaking of a bigotry that we find in identity politics.
Initially, we might dismiss such an accusation as categorically different. After all, politics are a matter of opinions and values, subject to change, progression, and correction. Therefore, one’s opinion of political opponents has nothing to do with judgments on that person’s inherent value or dignity. I would respond that if we suspend, for the moment, the challenging complexity of how many values stem from our personal background, political polarization under the terms listed above is something far different from, for example, hatred of the Irish.
However, in identity politics we find many who do not honor their opponents as respectable and intelligent (if mistaken in their philosophy of governance). Consider the program and aim of bigotry: It seeks to pigeonhole and caricature another group in order to disparage their dignity and worth. Bigotry flattens a person’s three-dimensionality. It is dismissive, and its purpose is to gain control. These markers sound quite a lot like what passes today for political discourse. Groups of people, left and right, are summarily described and decried with one-word metonyms, as if once that part of their identity is known about them, well, what more really needs to be said? We can then produce convenient attribute checklists about that person, down to what music they listen to, and what they eat for breakfast.