Sorry, folks: some people are just wrong.

February 13, 2007 at 9:19 pm (feminism, LGBT, politics, proclamations, racism, sexism, stupidity)

I had an argument with a large portion of my history class today. It wasn’t just me, of course. Emily and some of our other friends were there with me, arguing too.

Here’s what I did to piss the other kids off: in my ranting about injustice and the world and human rights (it started with the class looking at Social Darwinism), I said something along like, “And anyone who doesn’t agree [that all people are entitled to justice] should be eliminated. Some people [racists, misogynists, Nazis, etc.] are just wrong.”

(Brief but necessary clarification of the word “eliminated”: I would never advocate massacre. But I would advocate the just and speedy trial of those who make injustice.)

I live in Santa Fe and go to school with the children of hippies, so naturally this caused a a pretty big reaction, all of which was along the lines of…

“Everyone is entitled to an opinion.”

“You can’t say that some opinions are wrong.”

“You’re no better than them [racists, etc.].”

Emily responded very elegantly, though unfortunately her lovely statement was mostly drowned by adolescent groaning. She said, “There is a big difference between respecting someone’s right to an opinion and respecting the opinion itself.”

Well. Exactly.

And more: I know we’ve all been taught that opinions are subjective, than one is never superior to another, that no opinion is wrong, that all are equally right. That moral dilemmas are like poems: no wrong answer, your personal experience, etc. etc.

You know what though?

Nope. Not so much.

Some people are wrong, about moral dilemmas, and about poems, too, for that matter.

This is what it comes down to, for me: I want the world to be a good place. Deeply and unwaveringly and with every fiber of my being, I swear, I want the world to be a good, just place. I want the world to be a place of peace. I want the world to be a place where everybody has enough to eat. And so much more than that.

I want to tell every person I meet that she is entitled to justice. The fact that not everybody — in fact, almost nobody — gets what she deserves causes me persistent physical pain.

I want to tell you that you’re beautiful, magical, special, made in the image of G-d. I want to tell you that I love you. I want to tell you that I didn’t want the world to be this way. I didn’t want the world to be this fucking broken. If I could change it, I would do it. If I could spare you pain, I would do it.

But I am not Jesus, nor Buddha, nor anything close, so all of that stops very quickly in the moment that you tell me that you don’t believe in absolute, unbending justice and equality for everybody, unequivocally. At some level, I’m an asshole, and I know it: that’s how far my love for humanity goes. The moment that you tell me that you don’t think that every single individual is entitled immutably to all her basic rights (including but not at all limited to: air, water, food, health care, education, freedom both physical and spiritual, bodily autonomy and integrity), you stop being important to me. I’m sorry. You stop being my ally. You become the enemy.

And the moment you tell me you are not willing to call out such enemies when you see them, I lose respect for you. I don’t hate you, I still want good things for you, but I will never admire you. I will never be your friend.

After class, I tried to sort of make peace with the person I think I infuriated the most, because he is a smart, nice person. I wasn’t successful. He said, “You are so closed minded you will never grow.”

And that really hurt me, at first. Because, well, hello: ouch.

But on reflection, I think, go ahead and hate me. Hate me as much as you want, if you hate closed minded people. Fuck yes, I am closed minded. You are absolutely right about that. My mind is closed against white supremacy. My mind is closed against the patriarchy. My mind is closed against slavery and war and persecution of every variety. Unlike yours, apparently.

So here’s what I have to say to some of my dear classmates: if you are not willing to tell Nazis that they are wrong, that’s fine. I know that some people are born without backbones. Go ahead and sit the fuck down. Some of us are willing to call evil by its name. Please just get out of my way.

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8 Comments

  1. Emily said,

    Awesome.

  2. Jessie said,

    I enjoyed reading this, and can imagine how you were feeling during that class. I always just assume that everyone is deeply confused, rather than that they are assholes. But that’s me, so me.

  3. dlatman said,

    Hi, not sure how old you are, but just wanted to say that I remember those awful HIStory classes in h.s., and having the only feminist opinion in the classroom. Trust me, it gets better!

  4. Matt McIrvin said,

    I agree that some people are just wrong, and their opinions deserve no respect. However, I don’t agree that they should be legally prosecuted and convicted of a crime just for having those opinions. Criminal sanction should be reserved for unjust acts, perhaps performed as a consequence of unjust opinions.

    The right way to eliminate the opinions themselves, as best we can, is through a culture of open debate. We can and should call out the Nazis and bigots; tell them at great length and with great rhetorical force that they are wrong and their ideas are evil; put them in jail when their bigotry drives them to commit crimes. But we mustn’t, for instance, appoint a thought-police force to go around interrogating everyone in society to root out deeply-buried bigoted thoughts and putting the bad thinkers in jail, because such a process would be tyrannically abusive, almost certain to become corrupt, and unlikely to change people’s thinking for the better.

    Some of the people you were arguing with might conceivably have had this kind of thought-police scenario in mind when they objected to your statements–though it doesn’t sound as if the distinction was made clear by anyone.

  5. Kate Cooper said,

    plus http://www.extelligence.org/blog

    So you’re not a relativist! Well done.

  6. Daisy said,

    Dlatman: thanks. That gives me hope.

  7. Daisy said,

    Hi, Matt McIrvin. I agree completely and whole-heartedly with everything you’ve said. Freedom of thought is extremely important to me. I suppose I made it sound like I wanted to punish people for the simple act of having an opinion — I absolutely don’t. I want to do two things: not give my attention to hateful people (by saying, to myself and others, that some opinions are incorrect, and don’t deserve anything resembling a thoughtful response), and punish (via a fair trail in a court of law) people who do choose to act on their bigotry.

    I will try to be clearer about this in the future. Thanks for taking the time to write.

  8. Ari said,

    interesting

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