The word “bigot” gets thrown around a lot these days. It’s often used to dehumanize another person or group of people, for if someone is labelled a “bigot” then they become nothing more than that label in the eyes of others, instead of a nuanced human being with unique experiences and something to offer the world. No, if I call you a bigot then you are a bigot, and nothing else you say matters at that point, because what kind of reasonable person would listen to a bigot?
Then when all dialogue is cut off, the person accused of bigotry no longer interacts with the type of person who accuses them as such. And if they really are bigoted, then this divisiveness most likely widens the divide and allows their radical ideas to fester and multiply. Most likely, even real life bigots are not inherently hateful human beings, they probably just struggle with understanding life like the rest of us. This is just how name-calling works; it worked great in elementary school and now it’s working great for adults of all ages.
Cambridge Dictionary defines the word “bigot” as “a person who has strong, unreasonable beliefs and who does not like other people who have different beliefs or a different way of life.” I suppose that the “unreasonable” part of this is subjective when speaking in empirical terms, but the rest seems easy to digest.
So a conservative who hates liberals and their “different way of life,” simply because of their belief system? Bigot.
A liberal who hates conservatives for being so bigoted all the time? Bigot.
But these are useless distinctions because at this point; it’s just name-calling. It’s a shortcut to shutting down dialogue in a pathetic attempt at winning an argument when logic and wisdom are in short supply, just like “snowflake,” “lib-tard,” “deplorable” or “Drumpf.” I don’t think it’s wrong, I just think it’s stupid and counterproductive.
The word “bigot” also attempts to reduce a person down to a group that carries similar beliefs. No two conservatives are the same, just as no two liberals are the same — even if they’re fighting the same fight. Of course, this gets more difficult when they see that “fight” as the future of the country, and they see the other side as a serious threat to that future.
However, many don’t realize that today’s divisiveness is not a symptom of the problems that run deep in our country, it’s one of the sources.
I don’t think people should be banned from using the word, in fact there are correct uses of it and you can see many examples today — they’re just on all sides of all arguments. Ironic that some use the word as ammunition when they are guilty of the same thing. Hypocrites calling others hypocrites, devolving to childish name-calling.
“Okay Luke, thanks for pointing out another thing that’s wrong with America, just like everyone else these days. But what do you actually do about it?”
Well, this is the important part: don’t do the same thing they do. Don’t shut down dialogue. Don’t be the person that says, “Well I can’t listen to anyone that would call me a bigot.” That’s how the cycle continues.
Do what no one else in America wants to do: listen.
Listen to their bullshit, listen to their ridiculous ideas and even listen to their haphazard plans to “fix” the country. Try doing it without going on your own rants, or inserting comments — try doing it without saying anything at all, except “mmhmm.” And if you must say something, just ask questions.
This takes patience, presence of mind, and the personal responsibility to say, “well, I’m going to get over my own emotions for a second — even though I got called a stupid name — and actually make an effort to build bridges. Someone needs to and the future of our country depends upon it.”
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.