Friday, June 14, 2013

My Racist Friend

I went to work on the previous post before I read about this:

An eleven-year-old boy sings the national anthem at a professional basketball game, and sings it quite well.  (A bit shaky on the high notes, but many adults do worse.)  Watching the video creeped me out in numerous ways: the use of children to sell jingoism, and the militarization of American sport (though who cares, I know), the pomposity of the announcer trying to elevate sport to cosmic levels of significance.

I wouldn't have seen the video if not for the reaction of many Americans to the boy: Twitter apparently exploded with expressions of rage that a "Mexican" was allowed to breathe on our sacred bloodthirsty-doggerel-set-to-the-tune-of-a-drinking-song.  (More of their frenzy is collected here.)  It's reminiscent, among other shining hours, of the widespread reactions to the discovery that some important characters in The Hunger Games were, like, black.  It's also a reminder that adult nativist bigots don't discriminate between adults and children in their attacks.

It quickly emerged that Sebastien De La Cruz is a native-born American citizen, and his father served in the US Navy.  You don't have to listen very closely to recognize that he sings the words with an American accent.  He responded to his critics on TV with poise and remarkable articulateness for a boy his age.  (You can see his original performance and his rebuttal on the same page that showed some of the racist tweets.)  One commenter on Youtube wailed, "It's horrible that a TEN year old child has to come on television to defend himself against racist tweets."  I think it's great that a ten (or eleven, or twelve -- the numbers vary, as does the spelling of his first name) year old child got to go on television and demonstrate his intelligence and fundamental decency compared to the cowardly scum who attacked him from the anonymous safety of the Internet.  I'm also impressed that he didn't use the typical liberal response to bigotry, Oh, how can you say such awful things? I have to go kill myself now, I'm too pure to live in this world.  I hope Sebastien De La Cruz goes far.

Of course, it wouldn't matter in the least if the boy were "just a Mexican," as he put it, or even if he were an "illegal immigrant."  (Remember, racists don't really distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants: they regard all immigrants as illegal.)   Nor would it matter if he were a Mexican visitor invited to sing at the NBA finals in the heavily Mexican-American town of San Antonio because of his talent and fame as a child mariachi singer.  Many foreigners foolishly believe that American ideals of freedom, equality, and welcome to the world's huddled masses are actually meant to be honored and practiced here, rather than pissed on by our Morlock masses.

I'm in a somewhat better mood now than I was when I began writing this post this afternoon.  I passed these links along on Facebook, signing off my post with "Remember, Christian racists, I'll see you in Hell."  This was partly out of general exasperation with the racist garbage in which my country marinates, much of which some of my Facebook friends happily share on their timelines, but I confess that it was partly because I learned earlier today (on Facebook, natch) that one of my racist former friends died yesterday.  (Former, because she defriended me a couple of years ago after I called her on her anti-immigrant racism. I believe there was some antigay bigotry in the mix too.)  She was a year younger than I am, and we went to the same school from second grade on.  I remember her as a nice kid, but all I know of her as an adult was her racist diatribes against illegals and against any charity for the survivors of the 2010 Haitian earthquake; like many bigots, she opposed universal health care in America because she thought it might help illegal immigrants.  And of course she also loved to post inspirational Christian memes, with no sign of cognitive dissonance.  I didn't mention any of this in the comments on her passing on Facebook, of course; it wasn't the time or place for it.  This blog is.

We all die, and it's disturbing when someone younger than I am bites the dust.  I didn't realize at first the connection between my anger at the bigots who denigrated Sebastien De La Cruz and my anger at my former friend. And at mortality, I guess.  My anger wasn't inappropriate in the least, but I was seething more than I usually would.  It was interesting to realize how furious I was, and to try to sort out why.  She's not the only Christian racist I'll see in Hell, if there is a Hell, but my subconscious evidently made the connection.

Maybe I should add for clarity that I don't believe in Hell -- I'm an atheist, duh -- and even if I had the power, I would not condemn anyone to eternal punishment.  Punishment doesn't fix anything.  (But remember, in saying "I'll see you in Hell" I'm starting from the notion of the Christian Hell, and if it exists, I as an atheist and a homosexual will surely go there.  The only problem is that the Christian racists might not, but if it works out that way, I certainly wouldn't want to spend eternity with them anyhow.)   If I were constructing an afterlife, it would be an environment where no one could hurt anyone else, which would be punishment for those who want to hurt others.  Imagine all the racists in a post-mortem state, with lots of the racial others they hate all around them, and unable to do anything to exclude them, marginalize them, or make them suffer for their difference.  (That could be a kind of Purgatory, I suppose.)  I don't think such a condition is possible, but it is the only kind of afterlife I could endorse.  The closest to such a concept I've seen is Kore-eda Hirokazu's film After Life, which rejects both Heaven and Hell in favor of something I could live with -- for myself and others.