Monday, November 14, 2005

Bigot Baiting Belies Burgeoning Bigotry

It's too bad for Karl "Bush's Brain" Rove that Supreme Court nominee Alito's name isn't "Asito," because if it were maybe people would be calling him "Thomasito" on account of the similarity of Alito's judicial philosophy to that of Clarence Thomas. And wouldn't that be marvelous? Two besmirchments at a bare minimum (an Eye-talian and a Colored) for the price of one, but sadly, for Mr. Rove, that just didn't work out. So the filth machine has to make do with the less brilliant red herring of "the implication against his (Alito's) Italian-American heritage" to distract us from the fact that the nickname "Scalito" is based on the similarity of Alito's and Scalia's judicial views, not their shared heritage. Some Americans might find this judicial similarity discomforting if not frightening--so why not pretend it's based on discrimination instead?

That this administration would use these sorts of tactics is no surprise, but I had thought, naively, that maybe they would back off a little considering how things hadn't been going so well recently and the public in general was becoming increasingly dissatisfied and distrustful. Still, I wasn't surprised when the "discrimination" against Alito was trumpeted throughout the network of right wing talking heads. But I really was surprised, naively, to hear former Senator Dan Coats, Alito's "sherpa" for the Supreme Court confirmation process, parroting this particular talking point. This seems less than dignified work for a Sherpa or a former Senator. Sherpas are skilled mountaineers who often guide climbers through the Khumbu Icefalls, not carry yak dung for them. And Senators are, well, Senators.

The most disturbing thing about the "prejudice" accusation wasn't those who made it though. It was the playing of this "prejudice" card as a means to an end, and how doing this works to trivialize actual problems and real instances of prejudice, be they individual or systemic, accidental or active. Incidents involving arbitrary barriers and real inequalities become indistinguishable from those that the administration (or anyone else) conveniently invents to further their own ends. So this strategy of playing fast and loose with prejudice, here localized in the context of a Supreme Court confirmation, is already despicable and dangerous based solely upon its disingenuousness and potential for making real discrimination seem unimportant.

But this plan of action, the playing of the discrimination card, was not hatched and launched in a vacuum. The world marches on no matter the newest talking points or their timing. So the administration's strategists started crying "prejudice" on October 31, and it took a while for me to realize what else was taking place on October 31: Rosa Parks was lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda. I doubt John Donne would have adequate words to describe how absolutely disgusting this is, both in timing and lack of respect. But it shows yet again that this administration cares about nothing and nobody other than getting its way--or "winning" as some of its members probably see it. And still, still I think that somebody in the administration must retain a sense of shame and propriety--somewhere deep down--and will someday soon say, "enough, just stop it." Then I read about the decline of the Civil Rights division at Justice and realize that not only am I naive, but stupid too.

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