Fatal Instinct

On Tuesday, January 29, 2013, Bill O’Reilly’s interview with General Colin Powell was shown on television. Early in the interview, the general stated that Republican officials and senators “look down” on minorities. He was no match to Bill O’Reilly in the debate that followed. Being an excellent military man does not necessarily guarantee excellence in debating skills. The general lost this battle.

But the general’s debating skills are not at issue here. What is at issue is the foggy attitudes of most pundits, commentators, and talk-show guests that place ‘feelings’ above reason. Sometime prior to the interview, the general had criticized a Republican senator’s use of the word ‘lazy’ to describe President Obama’s performance at the first presidential debate. Yet, the general fully agreed with Bill O’Reilly’s comment that there was no question whatever about the senator’s total freedom from prejudice.  Given many opportunities to rectify this fundamental contradiction, the general continued to fumble through an overwhelmingly one-sided debate. It saddened me to see a look of confusion on his face when he could not provide Bill O’Reilly with a reasonable response to his questions about the general’s allegation of prejudice. He didn’t grasp this contradiction at all. He didn’t even claim that the senator’s alleged prejudice might at least be subconscious, which would have been a lame excuse for his unsubstantiated allegation. The distinguished general was unable to recognize the difference between a white senator who properly used the word ‘lazy’ and anyone else who might have used the word as a ‘code.’   

Racial prejudice is still experienced by Jewish-Americans, African-Americans, Native- Americans, and White-Americans, especially Old White-Americans. Some of those who are anti-Old-White-Americans are themselves Old-White-Americans. Their attitudes parallel those who are prejudiced Native-, African-, and Hispanic-Americans. They include much of my generation. Most are still frozen in the 1960s when the long overdue, inspired struggle for civil rights greatly enhanced the American Way. Unfortunately,  they are still apologizing for the worst of all human sins, the ownership of slaves.

But my grandfather was stomping olives in Italy during that shameful period of America’s history. And even if my great-grandfather had been an American slave owner and a multi-generational American, I cannot (and should not) bear my ancestors’ sins. I can only regret my own sins, none of which has been societal. As an individual American, I neither owe nor expect apologies from anyone for anything that happened before I was born.

The root of political prejudice is a consequence of the lethal concept that individuals are interchangeable and should be so! The distinguished general has allowed himself to plummet into the essence of political prejudice by stereotyping Republicans. The interview is of little importance, but the common but false attitude that Republicans are non-feeling people, is as superficial as the color of one’s skin. My lifetime experience with Republicans and Democrats categorically rejects the notion that one party or the other attracts better human beings.

We are not born to hate; we are cultivated to do so. There is great danger in adopting the myth that there are ‘feeling’ people on one side of the aisle, and ‘non-feeling’ people on the other. The same is true of honesty and genuine love for a special nation: no group has a monopoly on those fundamental and individual characteristics.

Globally, the primordial herd is instinctively stampeding toward a monolith society. If we are to survive as free individuals we must rid ourselves of political prejudices; ironically, they are similar to and as destructive as racial prejudices. The interview glaringly demonstrated that.

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