Why We Hate

06/06/2008 05:42 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

On the eve of an historic transformation of the American social landscape -- one hurdle down, one to go -- it's still curious to me how the Democratic primary allowed itself to devolve into such purely puerile race and gender baiting.

Sorta curious. Sure, much of the Democratic Party is nothing but faux liberal hypocrites who were forced to come face to face with their...faux liberalism. But at least they had race and gender issues front and center to deal with. It's more than can be said for the big bucket of vanilla that was passed off as the Republican candidates (though I did heart Huckabee). Still, how is it that folks who should know so much better -- i.e. all of us -- allow ourselves to fall so easily into the bigotry trap? It's a notion Esquire Magazine asked me to cogitate on:

Semantics, maybe, but for the sake of discussion, let's separate isms -- racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and such -- from bigotry. Isms being the most antagonistic manifestation of prejudice: cross burnings and lynchings, bashing and swastikas scrawled across walls. Comparatively, bigotry is more subtle. Often insidious. It's the service at a restaurant or store that's so slow in coming, you leave before it arrives. Bigotry is the guy who cuts in front of you at Starbucks because you don't even register to him. Bigotry is our personal assumptions and the softly spoken question: "Why do those people always [fill in the blank]?" Never mind that our leaders come from every race and background, we still have trouble getting along with the "other" next door. Why? Why do we cling to bigotry?

Because bigotry, plainly, is convenient. It is a near-effortless way to both elevate one's stature and make a pity grab in this culture of victims that we have become. It is an all-purpose tool -- a sword and a shield; we dig the heft of it in our hand as we give a chop to "those people" for being too loud or too urban or too not like us. It's so much easier to swing our hate than it is to understand others.

Similarly, bigotry -- or the reflexive, defensive accusation of bigotry -- is a prime source of instant sympathy from others within our group. A jutted finger and the charge of prejudice, along with a big show of playing the vic, make for a call to rise up and defend the injured, even when the wound is imaginary.

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