Monday, September 21, 2015

"They" Are Not All the Same - Ever

Ben Carson, in his quest for the White House and/or personal fame and fortune, has been treating the nation to the latest round of "let's demonize an entire group of people we don't know".

For those who missed it, Carson apparently said this on NBC's Meet the Press:
"I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that."
He later went on to expand on these comments in an interview with The Hill. He stuck to his guns and gave various reasons, which I won't repeat here. He admitted that the original question was a form of "gotcha" journalism, but expanded his argument to say:
However, he acknowledged the question “served a useful purpose by providing the opportunity to talk about what Sharia is and what their goals are.”
Here, of course, is the big mistake. It's ironic that a black man would make this mistake, but as a friend of mine is fond of saying: it's good that irony is so funny, because there's so darned much of it.

The mistake lies in the word "their", as in "their goals". With one little word, Carson wraps all Muslims up in a single, neat, tidy package of people who all apparently share the same goals, have the same views, and behave in the same way.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you play the stereotype card.

The contention, of course, is absurd. There is almost no generalization that can encapsulate all Muslims any more than there exists a general behavior that can be attributed to all Christians. How many American Catholics practice birth control? How many Protestants tithe? How many in all denominations get divorced, or remarry? There are a host of behaviors and beliefs that, when you look at what people actually say and actually do, vary widely even though people share the same religion.

The psychology behind all of this is well-understood. People who are part of "my" group - the folks on my side of the wall - are complex, interesting, and capable of a range of human variation. We differ from each other, and that's OK - maybe even a good thing. But folks on the "other" side of that wall - the outsiders - well, they're all the same. Just one big, monolithic mass. They're All Bad. They are THEM.

This is why I'm so fond of the term "tribalism". It's all about tribes, yours and mine and theirs.

Never mind that the evidence for monolithic belief and practice is non-existent. Never mind that people said this about Catholics - in the face of a real candidate for president - back in 1960. And never mind that JFK didn't take orders from the Pope, or impose Catholic doctrine on America. Because, really, Catholics are part of "us", just like Blacks are now part of "us" (but didn't use to be). Muslims - well, you know about them...

There is no difference at all between the thought pattern Carson has evidenced in these interviews and the thoughts of those convinced he shouldn't be President because he's black. We just have different labels for them. In the latter case, we call them racists. In his case, it's called Islamophobia. Potato, Po-tah-to.

This is absolutely rooted in the Politics of Fear. I don't know whether Carson actually believes this nonsense or not. But he knows that there are a bunch of Republican primary voters who do, the kind who can be whipped up into a frenzy and will show up to vote in low-turnout primary elections. And so he panders to the fearful and pours another spoonful of poison into the national well.

Thanks, Ben. Way to sell out the history of your own people in pursuit of personal gain.

1 comment:

  1. It's so strange that someone so intelligent and educated, and who is from a minority that has suffered so much discrimination, should basically say things that have (and will continue to be said) of his own ethnic group. That he cannot see the irony and absurdity is deeply troubling. It shows a man who is basically troubled and unwise. It definitely shows him as unfit to lead anyone, never mind the world's most powerful nation.