Ignorant Bystanders
EmilyWynn8 printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Dec 06, 2005 at 03:30:41 PM EST
Why the Christian Right is winning, and what to do about it
When one studies bullying, and effective strategies to put a stop to bullying behavior, special focus is given not to the bully and the victim, but to the bystanders.  There are many bystanders, who witness the interchange between bully and victim, and may even witness physical violence, but take no action to intervene or get help.  The effective strategy to end bullying is empowering those bystanders to take action.  The bystanders must be taught that not only is bullying wrong, but that they have the power to stop it.  If one bystander was to go get help from an authority - that is one way to stop it.  But also, the action of one bystander standing up and speaking publicly, "No!  You will not do this, it is wrong." may stop the bully cold.  Especially if, encouraged by the single bystander, other bystanders also stand up and agree - the bully gets the clear message that his/her actions will not be tolerated.  When bystanders do nothing, they in effect condone the bully's actions, even if the bystander personally disagrees with the bully.

The key to ending bullying is to make sure that the bystanders - the witnesses to the actions of the bully - know that the bully is wrong, and feel comfortable taking action either against the bully, or to support the victim.  In the case of the Christian Right, the bullies and victims are less clear.  This is certainly not to say that there are no bullies and no victims - but because everyone defines this differently, I will not try to defend a particular point of view, since it is not necessary to my argument.  (My personal opinion - some of the Christian Right are clearly bullies, and I think others act like the bullies but don't really mean to... and everyone is a victim, even if they refuse to claim that status.)  What is clear is that a vast majority of the American populace are bystanders.

Now - why did I title this piece "Ignorant Bystanders"?  Because I feel that the reason that the vast majority of our population are bystanders is because the majority are ignorant.  Please, please, please, do not equate ignorance with stupid!  I think that, generally speaking, people are intelligent.  Ignorant, however, means unaware or uninformed, lacking information on a subject.  I believe that a majority of people in our country have never been exposed to study of comparative religion.  I believe that some have not studied civics, or how our country came into being and how it is run, and many more have had poor general instruction in History.  I believe that many have never found themselves being in a minority position, and therefore find it hard to empathize with someone struggling to have their voice heard.

Ignorance I have personally witnessed:
· College graduates who have never heard of the Holocaust, or McCarthyism
· A college student who made the claim that it was okay if women were paid less than men, because they will just quit their jobs to go have children.  I questioned this young man about why he believed this, and found that he believed it was a fact that an infant would die if it was not breastfed by its own mother - and therefore he held the belief that it was a necessity for all women to quit their jobs to care for their infants - for the simple reason of keeping the child alive.
· A group of adults who believed that all religions (except pagan religions and native cultures) worshipped Jesus Christ, regardless of the details of the religion.  For example, Jews call Jesus "Adonai" and Hanukkah is the name of the Jewish holiday to celebrate Jesus' birth, Ganesh, or Shiva, are two of many ways Hindus say Jesus, Allah is the same as Jesus, same with Confucius and Buddha (though some argued that Confucius and Buddha were images of the Holy Ghost seen among the lands after Christ's resurrection)...

This ignorance allows people to take on the assumption that the "majority rules" is okay in every situation, mostly because they cannot conceive of any situation where someone would logically disagree with them.  Taking the example from above, if everyone believes in Jesus, then why would someone ever get upset with public acknowledgement of god?  Is it because they want to hear the minority name of Jesus that their tradition uses?  Why can't they just be happy that it's all the same, and we use Jesus instead of whatever name they use?  

The lack of knowledge of religious diversity, coupled with the lack of experience of being a minority allows people to be comfortable with "majority rules".  Lack of knowledge of historical events where minorities were persecuted also means that people do not know the danger of "difference".  I believe that because of ignorance, people are comfortable with the Christian Right.  They do not see a difference between their worldview and the dominionist worldview.  Because the superficial values are the same, people who have not deeply examined the iceberg that is the Religious Right come to believe that everything else the Right believes they happen to agree too.  They also do not see how the dominionist worldview could possibly harm anyone, because they themselves are not upset by what they have seen of it.

The way to combat the Religious Right is through awareness and education.

I have found that talking with others about why I believe, or don't believe, in an issue is a great education for others (and of course, the same is true in reverse).  The neighbor who doesn't see a problem with sectarian prayer in school may in fact not understand that your child would be uncomfortable, and if they found that out, might change their position.  In one of my comments to a previous diary entry by dogemperor, I stated that I had met someone who did not know that birth control pills could be used for the treatment of a medical condition.  "That changes everything," was the response when I explained that prescriptions can often be used for treating more than what they were invented to treat.

We must make sure that Americans all understand the existence of difference; different cultures, religions, and that ultimately, every religion is a minority, because there are so many that no one is really a majority.

Educate people about how and why our country was started - first by debunking the "Christian Nation" myth, second by making sure people understand the rights of minority voices to be heard and respected, and how those rights were codified in our country's legislation.

Empathy for minority groups must be taught - yes, in a democracy often majority rules, but the majority has a responsibility to respect the minorities in their midst.  Tolerance and respect must be our highest values.

And ultimately, we must energize the bystanders to notice the danger and to stand up against it.  

We do this by not being afraid to stand up for ourselves.  We do this by standing up for others when we get the chance.  We do this by challenging the assumptions and beliefs of others when faced with those who "don't get it".

The Religious Right started out small - effecting change in small corners of the world - until the movement grew and kept growing to what we know today.  We need to do the same thing.  Start small.  Talk to your neighbors.  Create tolerance and respect in your own community.  Just as the dominionists said - it might take a generation raised in our culture and with our beliefs to rise up and change the world...  We can do the same thing - and I believe we won't have to wait a generation.  Our beliefs don't need to be indoctrinated into children to have them survive.  Thinking, rational adults can come to understand if they are given all the information.

Let's fight the ignorance and beat the bullies!




Display:
CHAOS THEORY
Dave Martin © 2005
Viewing the chaos in American politics today begs analysis of chaos its self. In recent years, great strides have been made by mathematicians in the field of Chaos Theory. Work in this area seeks to discover order from seemingly random sets of number and equations. Human behavior and social interaction, like nature, seems always to opt for order over chaos and anarchy. From rebellion and reigns of terror, human nature desires stability and order. When offered a binary choice of chaos or stability and order, mankind chooses the latter. The problem is that the options are not always what they seem. As in mathematical Chaos Theory, random and chaotic social conditions may not in truth be what they appear. The situations may be planned, there may indeed be an ordered agenda. The outcome of many political and social tribulations throughout history have pivoted on choices of order versus chaos.
_____________
Napoleon Bonapart offered what seemed to be stability as an alternative to the French Reign of Terror. Perhaps more to the point, after the abdication of Czar Nicholas II, Russia was without order. Many groups proclaimed themselves to be in control, each claimed to represent some segment of society or special interest group. The Bolsheviks, under Lenin, bided their time fomenting discord among the various factions seeking to control the future government. Lenin had his agents strategically placed within every political group. When it was clear that no consensus could be reached between the various factions, the Bolsheviks offered what appeared to be a choice between chaos and order. It has taken Russia three quarters of a century to recover from that choice.
In post WWI Germany, Hitler offered people the order of National Socialism over the chaos of economic depression. Nazi fomented labor strikes and Brown Shirt terrorism reinforced an atmosphere of anarchy that seemed at the time to be random chaos. In reality it was planned, ordered, and encouraged by the Nazis and seemed to offer the German people a clear choice to prevent the further decline of German society.
In the United States today, there appears to be random political and social chaos. An anti-abortion activist murders a doctor in the name of religion and self-styled religious leaders publicly justify the act. Religious groups are pressuring for organized prayer in public schools. Vouchers are being suggested as a solution to a troubled public school system. Under a voucher initiative recently proposed in California, any radical group could claim to have a private school and benefit from vouchers along with Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, and Hebrew schools. Racist groups planned to sap this potentially lucrative source of money to support teaching their narrow interpretation of history and science. Adoption of vouchers would ultimately destroy public education. In such a situation, a powerful well-organized group offering almost any alternative could gain control.
The Free Congress Foundation (FCF) proposes vouchers as the solution for more than educational problems. The FCF suggests vouchers for public service. Under FCF's proposal, a citizen dissatisfied with his garbage pick-up, street repair or fire department could draw a voucher and hire his own. FCF's theory is that vouchers will promote healthy competition and from competition will rise the best service. A plan like this could only result in fiscal anarchy. In this case it would be ordered chaos.
Recently voters all over the nation have been confronted by Stealth Candidates. The religious and secular right wishing to unseat an incumbent will offer the voter two additional candidates, one openly radically right of center, the second appearing to be more moderate, but opposed to some trumped up local threat. From the chaos of multiple alternatives the voter is manipulated and the leading candidate's or incumbent's edge is eliminated.
The chaos here is ordered by The Heritage Foundation. Heritage ultimately plans to offer the people of the United States a choice between chaos orchestrated by FCF and the two class Cultural Conservatism Paul Weyrich has envisioned a true Orwellian society with Big Brother intruding in every aspect of our lives.


by joanddavemartin on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 10:34:23 PM EST
I'm not quite sure what your comment has to do with my post... but it is an interesting comment nonetheless... Perhaps you would do better to expand it a bit and create this as a diary entry rather than as a comment?

-Emily
emilywynn.blogspot.com


by EmilyWynn8 on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 02:03:52 PM EST
Parent




Excellent point you make about ignorance (as technically defined, lack of knowledge) in comparative religion, history, and civics.  And it seems to me that these three areas could become the basis of an integrated curriculum for grades 8 through 12.  

This would also address the creationism debate, since, out of respect for the traditional academic distinction between the sciences and humanities, creationism would be a logical topic of discussion in a World Religions course rather than a biology course.

No doubt there would be much squabbling and fighting over what belongs in the respective courses and how they're taught.  But at least it would be a beginning.  And it might also unmask secret Dominionists who use the mechanisms of pluralism to promote their own particularist intentions.

by gg on Sat Dec 10, 2005 at 11:46:57 PM EST



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