There is a tweet making the rounds from a twitter account @TheGoodGodAbove that reads “If you think fertilized eggs are people but refugee kids aren’t, you’re going to have to stop pretending your concerns are religious.” On the other side of the fence, I’ve seen Facebook memes “People lose their minds over a lion being killed, but couldn’t care less about Planned Parenthood selling the body parts of fetuses.”
The problem with such memes, regardless of your position on an issue, is that a false dichotomy is being set up. It’s as if the authors and sharers of those and other memes like them imagine that a human being can care about only one thing at a time, and if you are opposed to issue a, then that means you don’t care about issue b. If you dislike abortion then you don’t care about refugee kids, or if you worry about terrorist attacks on Israel, you don’t care when a Palestinian toddler is murdered by a Jewish terrorist. As if somehow the one crime undoes the other, or balances the scales in some way. It’s as if loving my wife means I have to hate my mother and there’s no other possibility.
Just to let everyone know, you can be bothered by Planned Parenthood’s rather cavalier treatment of fetus parts and also think the killing of a beloved lion named Cecil was reprehensible. You can oppose abortion and also oppose the death penalty and on top of that still care about the homeless and refugees. You can think that anti-Semitism and Palestinian attacks on Israel are evil, and also condemn the murder of a Palestinian toddler in an arson fire set by a Jewish terrorist. I can be outraged and bothered by several things at the same time. Can’t you? My ability to recognize and condemn evil is not limited to who or what the evil is committed by. I can see that something is bad even if it was done by someone who I might have otherwise counted as an ally, and I think I can recognize good done by those who I might otherwise believe to be an enemy. Just because I’m a Dodger fan doesn’t mean I automatically believe the runner was safe or that the umpire is blind. I can see as well as a Yankee fan that my team’s player really was out, even if I very desperately wished he wasn’t.
Likewise, I can be bothered that a person has been mistreated by certain police officers and condemn those officers responsible—and at the same time not imagine that all police officers are evil. After all, if you think all members of a group bear guilt for a crime committed by one member of that group then you know what? You’re just a bigot. You’re also stupid and irrational and imagine that blocks of people somehow bear responsibility for the crimes that any member or members of their particular group are guilty of. Blaming all black people for the crimes of one black person, blaming all Palestinians for the crimes of a terrorist, blaming all Muslims for what ISIS does, blaming all Jews or the entire nation of Israel for what one Jewish terrorist, or a radical group of Jewish terrorist did, blaming all police officers for what one did, is bigotry. And it’s stupid. And betrays an incredible inability to think clearly. Groups of human beings are not responsible for the crimes of individual human beings. We arrest individual criminals, we don’t condemn entire classes or races to the gulag. We find the guilty person, we don’t pick someone and say, “he’s the same color, so he’s probably guilty of something, so I’ll hate him and hang him just because I need to see some punishment because I’m so angry at what happened.”
If you’re a college student who thinks, “well, I don’t care to read stuff written by dead white men, what could they possibly have to say to me, since I’m neither dead nor white,” then you’re a bigot, since last I checked the fact of them being human probably trumps anything else you might care to say about them, since most likely you’re human and that’s the most important, the most essential thing about you. If you say, “I don’t care to listen to what he says, since he’s a Democrat,” or “since he’s a Republican” or “she’s a woman” or “he’s a Muslim” or “he’s an Israeli” then you’re a bigot. Blame those who actually commit the crimes. Finding the truth and finding those who are actually guilty is what matters most. Don’t blame the group that a bad person happens to be a part of. Not all lawyers are evil, most likely. Even though bigotry and being quick to condemn is the default state of being a human being, try to resist that impulse.
I happen to be a white American male of German descent. Does that mean I'm a Nazi then just because my ancestors came from Germany in the 1840s? If I’m a white American do I share responsibility for the slavery that certain white southerners were guilty of almost a hundred years before I was born? Even though my ancestors settled in the North and fought for the Union against slavery?
Do I share the virtue of my long dead ancestors who fought to free the slaves? How? I had nothing to do with their actions, either.
Does my whiteness mean that I’m somehow responsible for the actions of a murderous racist in South Carolina who happens to be white like me, even though I never met him and don’t agree with anything he believed? Does my middle class status mean that I must be and do and think in a certain manner and share the guilt of all who happen to share my economic niche? If I were poor, would I then automatically be virtuous? Or potentially so? If I belonged to an historically oppressed group, then it would be okay to listen to what I have to say. But if I’m a white male then I can’t have anything worthwhile to say, unless I happen to belong to some political group that would somehow scrub the unsavory off me?
That I happen to have been born straight and male, does that mean that I’m automatically an oppressor of those who are not cis-male? Does that mean that a gay transvestite is not allowed to be my friend, or that my humanness is not more important than the accident of my birthplace, gender, sexual orientation or religious upbringings?
Frankly, if you tell me to “check my privilege” or just ‘stfu” all you’ve done is outed yourself as a bigot and a fascist who judges people by how they happen to look—and as a person who doesn’t tolerate any point of view but his own.