Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boston and "Whiite Privilege"

“White privilege is knowing that even if the bomber turns out to be white, no one will call for your group to be profiled as terrorists as a result, subjected to special screening or threatened with deportation,” writes author Tim Wise. “White privilege is knowing that if this bomber turns out to be white, the United States government will not bomb whatever corn field or mountain town or stale suburb from which said bomber came, just to ensure that others like him or her don’t get any ideas. And if he turns out to be a member of the Irish Republican Army we won’t bomb Dublin. And if he’s an Italian-American Catholic we won’t bomb the Vatican.”

This is part of an article that appeared in "Salon" titled "Let's Hope the Boston Marathon Bomber is a White American." It is a chilling read for a number of reasons, one being that it was seen worthy by someone of publishing. The essence of the article is "I want the circumstances to fit my prejudices" but it is disguised as more than that. When can we identify individual behavior as representative of a larger group, as part of a creed? Hamas has a stated creed that includes the destruction of Jews and Israel. Ted Kaczynski was/is a vicious, homicidal lunatic who sent bombs to the homes of strangers because of some perceived connection they had with the advance of technology that he opposed. He was a bright guy and had many views in common with sincere environmentalists. But he was/is absolutely nuts. Should we target environmentalists as a result of Ted Kaczynski? Is he really representative of a group? But if we are going to think of him as an isolated individual, should we not think of the lunatics of ELF as followers of a homicidal creed?

I may be wrong here; I did not think we were attacking Al Qaida sites symbolically to ensure others "don't get any ideas." I thought we were attacking a group of people who had declared war on us and our children. As a philosophy. As a creed. Nor did I know the people I identified as Al Qaida were not white. But there is a lot here I did not know. I did not know the IRA represented Ireland; I thought they were a tiny, peripheral, diffuse group of homicidal political revolutionaries who blew up day care centers.

Lunatics believe things. Sometimes they believe they are Napoleon. Sometimes their beliefs are accurate. But, contrary to popular Hollywood depiction, lunatics do not form groups. There are no revolutions in a madhouse. A crazy might well be attracted to the excitement and violence of a group and join the act but he can not join the people; he has lost that human ability to merge and link with another. This is a basic fact of madness and this is why the madman is dangerous. He can not connect to his fellows. He can be remorseless because he has no empathy. Lynch mobs, on the other hand, are not crazy, they are vicious.

This is not that difficult.

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