Most of the hate mail I receive starts off with something heart-felt like, "Dear Gigantic Douchebag," followed by an inquiry as to which farm animals had copulated in order to conceive me and ending with a cleverly veiled threat such as, "I am going to stab you repeatedly in the neck and play Twister in your carnage."
Always preferring to take the high road, I typically respond by writing something conciliatory like, "Hey, Scum Slurping Assbag—I humped your mother while your father watched," and from there, we continue to discuss the issues (not).
However, every now and then, I get into an exchange with a disgruntled reader who, while quite angry, is also eloquent, thoughtful and even succeeds in putting me in my place without ad hominem attacks. Such a discourse happened recently when reader Jim Fabiszak responded to my column "The Purpose of Marriage."
In his email, Jim bemoaned the fact that I openly mocked his religion—Christianity. In closing, he wrote, "May I suggest bigotry begets bigotry? You have the power of the pen. Break the chain."
Now, I've been called a bigot plenty before, but it never bothered me, because, well, I know that I'm not one. Indeed, I have been squawking against prejudice for as long as I've known how to squawk, have always been on the side of civil rights and have gleefully used this column to attack those who aren't. This I was able to do guilt free, thanks to a sincerely held belief that it's not bigoted to mock the opinions of others (opinions are fair game); rather, it's bigoted to discriminate against people for reasons of race, gender, sexual preference—the sort of characteristics they have no control over—which is what I wrote to Jim in my follow-up letter.
"I'm not sure where you pull your definition of bigotry from," he responded. "However the accepted definition is, 'intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.'"
Gawd, I hate it when people out-dicktionary me. But, yes, to my dismay, it was true—after looking it up in several sources, the lexicographical consensus is that "bigotry" is not only an intolerance of things like race, gender and sexual orientation—but also of opinions. Here's a definition from Collins English Dictionary: "Bigot: a person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own, esp on religion, politics, or race."
When I read that, I thought, Wow! I guess I must really be a bigot after all, considering all the insulting, offensive, condescending missiles I've hurled at people merely because their opinions were
f?u?c?k?i?n?g? ?i?d?i?o?t?i?c? different than mine.
But then I thought: Hold on now. That's a terrible definition! You're a bigot if you criticize a religious zealot who wants creationism taught in public schools? You're a bigot if you cannot tolerate some warmongering politician whose answer to every foreign-policy problem is "invade" even though the only "invading" he ever did was a midnight panty raid with his frat brothers at Harvard?
By this definition, everybody on the planet—yes, Gandhi, Mandela and even effin' Mother Teresa—is a bigot. Every standup comic is a bigot. Every politician, every poet, every athlete, every construction worker, every Wall Street butt hump—any person who ever mocked somebody else's worldview, no matter how obtuse, is, by definition, a bigot.
You can't even be intolerant of bigotry without being a bigot. If I wrote a scathing article about what buffoons white supremacists are—how their message is preposterous, their fashion is boobish and their music is as aesthetically pleasing as the screech of a deaf-mute teenager who dropped her smartphone in the toilet—I would be every bit as bigoted as the white supremacists.
But, whatever. If that's what the word means, then fine, I'm a bigot. If saying out loud that Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly are hypocritical, dipshit blowhards makes me a bigot, then go ahead and sew a scarlet "B" on my lapel.
If I'm a bigot because I verbally lambasted some blue-haired, anti-marijuana busy bee who said that "cannabis is a scourge on society" as she puffed her Pall Mall, then brand a Circle B on my bovine ass.
If I'm a bigot because I openly laugh at right-wing politicians who try to explain how the female reproductive system works—then fine, I'll bunk with Hitler in Hater Hell.
If I'm a bigot because I write that Justin Bieber's belly button is an outtie and his penis is an innie, then sign me up for the KKK bake sale and charity drive.
If I'm a bigot because I think Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty is a blithering nincompoop for his medieval, anti-gay comments, then call up CityBeat and try to have me fired.
If I'm a bigot because I think that those who tried to have Robertson fired for his comments are equally nincompoopish, then call up Homeland Security and get me on the No Fly list.
If I'm a bigot because I write that a person who believes in an invisible man in the sky who listens to our prayers, sends angels to watch over us and takes a keen interest in our football games is unfit to be a city council member, much less governor or president, then, by all means, write me a letter and tell me what a bigot I am. It don't bother me none. I'd rather be a bigot and call people out on their horseshit than clueless and quiet, never saying a bad word about anyone.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.
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