Saturday, August 6, 2005

Grounding the Dov

I will add a few more points about yesterday's topic, because I don't want there to be any misperception about my criticism of Assemblyman Hikind's position.

Let's go back to what the Assemblyman actually said: “It is nice to do what is politically correct but we’re talking about terrorism.”

This kind of a statement contains the seeds of tyranny. It reveals an obsession with mere appearance, and delivers implicitly the demonic accusation that to care about tolerance, fairness, and equality in an open society is nothing more dignified than "political correctness." In other words, it makes the very values that built this nation and helped it to prosper, disposable. It says that because a person has "a certain look" he can be searched, interrogated, detained, and even tortured or murdered.

In other words, and to put this in terms we can understand right now, Assemblyman Hikind is expressing a fundamentalist attitude. It is the same attitude that makes misogyny, homophobia, and corporate oppression into cornerstones of domestic policy (as Mark Morford has pointed out in a recent column). I have written about fundamentalism before in this blog, so I needn't belabor the point here. I will only add that this kind of thinking, and the behavior and policy it breeds, is a danger such as we have not witnessed in this nation since the McCarthy era. Yes, it's even scarier than Dick Nixon or Ronald Reagan, because fundamentalism spawns group panic, and panic breeds mob violence. As in: If you're not with us, you're against us; if you disagree with us, you're one of them—the terrorists, and whatever we do to you is justified in the eyes of God and the Government. That is the voice, the message, of fundamentalism in any flavor—Islamic, Christian, or nationalist.

What astonishes me today is how little discussion there is of this in the media, even here in New York. The Times has had nothing to say of Hikind's paranoia except for this report buried deep in the Metro section. So it's up to us to once again pick up the ball that the mass media repeatedly drop.

Our democracy was founded on a bedrock of insight—that every individual deserves equal protection under the law. This is not a thin veneer of "political correctness"—it is the life's blood and the breath of this nation; and demagogues like Dov Hikind cannot be permitted to steal it from us. We have endured civil war, cold war, and world wars, by remaining true to this principle of social equality that Assemblyman Hikind chooses to dismiss as "political correctness." Now, we must endure the scourge of fundamentalism.

What Dov Hikind labels as "political correctness" is not some "nice" option to be disposed of when times are tough. No: it is instead our core, our center, the heart of a nation founded on principles of equality among humans and humility before God. When political leaders begin to recommend that we stop or discard that heart, then we have reached a moment where fundamentalism is steering us straight toward tyranny. If freethinking people do not speak out to cease this decadent movement, then the gangrene of spirit that has possessed the Bushes and Osamas of our world will also infect us, and we will become the slaves of tyrants.

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