by Carol Warner Christen
(Swans - October 22, 2007) Prejudice is judgment before all the facts are known. This makes prejudice a preconceived idea, favorable, or more usually, unfavorable. Prejudice is a disregard of facts that contradict the initial idea. Prejudice is suspicion. Prejudice is intolerance. Prejudice is irrational hatred. Having let Webster's New World Dictionary define prejudice; let's explore some current concepts and some ancient ones.
The president of the United States said, "They hate us for our freedoms." Hating freedom is irrational. In fact, who would hate freedom except those who do not want others to enjoy it? All human persons love freedom for themselves and their loved ones. They just don't want certain people to be included freely or to have freedoms. Why? Slavery would have to be discarded. Women's subservience would have to be abolished. Workers would come and go as it pleases them, rather than following all the restrictions of their corporate overseers. Such a course, of course, would make working fairer except for those who have "Greed" as their middle names. We would have to stop killing and to stop torturing, too, in the name of "freedoms."
Let's go deeper into prejudice and see if we can take it apart and show it for the ugly human action it is. For instance, if a person only knows one language, that person is at a disadvantage around people who speak more than one tongue. While on the subject of tongue, a forked tongue is lying deceit. I often think of political functionaries as speaking with forked tongues to fool all of the people some of the time. The president's utterance in the above paragraph is such an example of his administration's twists and turns of logic against our two-hundred-thirty-year-old freedoms. He and his ilk are the ones who really do not like our freedoms; they are above us in their own minds, not ours. He wants to dictate, he says. That means he cannot possibly be the leader of the free world. He is prejudiced against our freedoms and rewrites law at his or his entourage's whim. How fair is that? Why do we tolerate him?
Back to the point: being at a disadvantage linguistically creates fear and hatred of the speakers when one has no way of knowing what was or is being said. We, then, hate the other due to our own ignorance or our parents' negligence in not educating us in several languages. We do admire people who understand and speak other languages; but, we rarely insist on learning them ourselves. My great-grandmother Schuh was born in Germany in 1846. She only spoke German, and possibly French since her family lived on the German/French border. Her family disdained the French, though, because they didn't sweep their stoops and sidewalks daily. She came here because the Kaiser threw her out of Germany for wanting to overthrow him. Her father refused to fight for the Kaiser and came to the United States after the Kaiser barred him from Germany.
She died when I was five during World War II. She taught me German at such a young age that I hold the syntax in my head but do not have a large vocabulary due to lack of German speakers in my environment. My Irish cousins also lived with her but she was forbidden to teach them German as she taught me. Everyone except my mother and her younger sister, my aunt, knew German. That was a time when speaking German in Cleveland, Ohio, could bring big trouble onto people: prejudice, intolerance, irrational hatred. I loved my great-grandmother and her generosity in teaching me opened my mind to "The Other." There was no fear and no hatred, just human beings like me.
Skin color, too, creates irrationality generally. My opinion for why we do this is simple: we do not know the backgrounds that created the way peoples of other nationalities or colors got the way they are. After all, their histories are as long, maybe longer, than ours, especially if we are white-skinned. All that white skin really means is that dark skin in northern climes reduces the human intake of vitamin D, which is detrimental. We lightened up to survive our northern climates. Those who stayed in sunny areas need the dark skin to keep from getting skin cancer via radiation from the sun. Just because they travel, too, away from home and choose to stay as we did in Ohio is not a rational reason to despise them.
What this fear of others gives us is reason to withdraw and to feel superior in our isolation the same way the wealthy withdraw from ordinary people to feel superior about their "breeding" and their clothes. We all glare at the Other, saying "Who are you looking at?" as if formal introductions and invitations were the only ways of socializing. How many dare to bring home the Other, much less marry or live with such an alien creature? What would our parents think? What would our friends say? You see, prejudice is deep, too deep for a small planet with limited resources. And, prejudice is too ugly to be the modus operandi. A smile, a greeting, would open doors now closed.
When I worked in a drafting room with fifty men and a couple of other women, I learned that blacks and whites have different ways of talking; i.e., blacks look away while listening, which, until I understood it, made me feel as if he were too bored to hear me. Whites are used to staring at the speaker who looks away at will. He and I solved the dilemma by walking side by side and talking, each glancing over when appropriate. How many cultures have subtle differences like that which we do not understand? South American cultures come in close as if to touch; northern whites back away to arm's length plus a bit more. Most of our prejudice is ignorance of other cultures, other mores, ways that are just as valid as ours.
Arabs move in very close in order to smell others' breaths. This behavior would cause a white American to rapidly move backwards, away from such a breach of manners. Arab languages are written from right to left; Arab languages are uncommon in the United States. We send our soldiers to war in Arab countries and they learn a few demeaning words to get by, usually insulting. They do not understand without translators. Even with translators the story may be false. How would they know? Army bases are not teaching Middle Eastern languages. The soldiers barge into homes and bedrooms and they kill the occupants because the language screamed at them is meaningless to Americans, as is the modesty of Arab women. Not one piece of writing in any periodical has explained this very serious American faux pas. Death comes quickly to those who are different from the standard issue American soldier. The laws our country helped write and abide by internationally have been ignored or overturned in this lawless occupation of a helpless country.
On Columbus Day, several writers pointed out Christopher Columbus's deliberate misunderstanding of the peoples of Haiti and of the so-called "Indians" he enslaved, raped, and destroyed in so many places for the King and Queen of Spain. These atrocities go on today all over the world -- theft on a grand scale -- to pretend the human victim is less than human; therefore, it's perfectly legal to break every commandment and law on any, and all, books or in all hearts because that human person is not a carbon copy of our way of life.
Has it occurred to anyone in the United States of America that certain wheels have turned to harm citizens? It is now the Executive Branch that hogs secrecy to itself, each and every one of them, in perpetuity, while barely doing the People's business. On the other hand, the People, each and every last one, are not entitled to any privacy from the secrecy mongers now in spite of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. We held these rights for 230 years until two buildings blew up. Afterward, we have no right to know the truth about that, no right to our own lives; but, those in government are afforded secrecy in their papers and effects forever from those of us who hired them in the first place.
Why on earth do we still pay their salaries and excessive perks? Is it that they are guilty of crimes against us while pretending it is we who harbor the dangers in our nasty little American hearts? Who do you believe? Do you identify with them or your fellow citizens who know the horrors that are beginning to happen here? Do you think the "media" report this news or any facts fairly? The tide has turned as the Founders said it would.
Jihad is a war by Moslems against unbelievers or enemies of Islam, carried out as a religious duty; and, jihad is also a fanatic campaign for or against an idea, etc.; a crusade. If we crusade against basically undefined "terrorists," we too practice jihad as a civic duty instead of a religious one. We smite them wherever we find them on this planet and subject them to horrible torments or death without ever giving a thought to a court of law about guilt or innocence anymore. Wow! Talk about "becoming what we hate!"
America practices jihad, too, you see; but, no one has read enough to understand. Religious wars and wars to steal resources have gone on forever, it seems to us. The niceties are ignored; fairness is never considered outside of the playground because there are no mommies and no teachers to stop us. We are grown up and smite with dreadful weapons any and all who oppose us. Almost every country aligned with us is doing it for us and hoping for some of the spoils. Shame never enters the picture in adult war behavior. After World War II, the United States made and signed humane treaties and citizens had rights. Since two buildings fell, we have dispensed with the treaties at our own whim and removed all our rights by crying "terror." This is the real shame, which is actually incompetence and improper behavior before the whole world to steal oil and land.
There in Iraq we are building a great walled city in the midst of a foreign land to house our people as if we were building a castle to claim a fifty-second "state" as part of the United States. As soon as we reduce the local inhabitants to a mere 5,000,000 people as Paul Bremer suggested before he left Iraq, we will claim it. Most of our army and private police are there now protecting mainly the diplomats and workers. When it's safe, will we move many Americans there and become pseudo-Arabs ourselves? Since we will run the country, we will have transferred its wealth to our global elites with a base just enduring enough to siphon off the oil. Who will we hate next?
All this war and rumors of war hide our three most enduring prejudices, i.e., the one against women, another against the poor, and the third against education. Patriarchy and the physical supremacy of testosterone have created worldwide cultures of rape, slave-like traffic in women and, worse, small virgin children. As long as people are kept poor due to modern conditions, which are not as healthy as peoples living naturally for centuries, death, decadence, and human devaluation will occur and get worse until disease or war kills off the majority as the Black Plague did centuries ago. All of this is being created to remove excess populations.
There are those who feel they are above humanity; they are our self-appointed gods. They do not want the rest to have the best education as that might lead to ideas, to new freedoms, to better lives. No, they are digging in, joining together, and deciding who should live and who should die. They are secretive in the extreme; but, they are not gods any more than you or I are; yet, they claim the right to order us about, cut jobs and fair wages, remove medical care, crowd us out of hospitals, poison the foodstuffs with pesticides and additives, not to mention the atmosphere with pollutants galore. It is all profitable.
They hate us for our numbers. What they don't understand is that if they keep this up, no one will profit. The world itself is now in deep ecological trouble, and the generation responsible for this will not live to see or direct the results of their depredations, their hatred of life itself. C'est la vie!
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