Cowardice breeds contempt
March 25th 2021
When people hear the term “prejudice” they usually think of the cowardly and despicable practice of bigotry; the deliberate denigration of a group of people, usually for social and economic unearned advantages. It is the recourse of a fretful and unconfident population, this need to systematically cheat and harass people who are guilty of no crime but easy to target. It isn’t courageous—quite the opposite. Systematic bigotry is the province of cowards.
There is a second type of prejudice, and with this as well as the first, the American South is all too familiar. It is the type of prejudice that people have against bigots, those cruel small authoritarians who cheat and steal from the weak.
It’s often as unfair and capricious as the first type of prejudice, and the fact that there is a basis for some of it doesn’t excuse it.
But for years it was applied to white people in the American South. The world noticed the systematic and cruel exploitation and subjugation of what were then called “coloured people” and recoiled in disgust. Segregation, Jim Crow, Bull Conner, fire hoses, the Freedom Marches, all of that. All this in a country devoted to the notions of freedom and equality.
And for years the South was subject to scorn, contempt, and ridicule. If you were white and from the South, you were presumed to be a backward and hate-filled moron, a toothless hick whose own sense of self worth lay upon blowing up children and denying people the use of bathrooms and drinking fountains.
The number of Southerners who deserved that sort of contempt were far outnumbered by the millions who didn’t support Jim Crow and segregation. Many of them did so silently, subject to intense social and economic pressure from their neighbors, their town councils, their churches. Yes, Christianity played a fundamental role in the more disgraceful practices of the Old South.
It took the South over half a century to partially claw its way back from the self-inflicted black eye its behavior in the 50s and 60s caused, to the point where it wasn’t automatically assumed that a southern white male was a moonshine-guzzling unkempt yahoo who burned crosses on the weekend. Part of it was a lot of good-faith hard work by people in the South to turn the page on a disgraceful past, and part of it, in the wake of Boston and Watts, the realization that racism and vicious bigotry wasn’t limited to the South.
But now, in the wake of the corrupt and unAmerican Brian Kemp and the GOP of Georgia, that image of the South being a bastion of racism and vicious cruelty is being resurrected by new voting laws that Joe Biden called “despicable” and which are draconian, deeply unfair, and against all American values. It’s so vicious and overreaching that a large majority of Georgians across the entire spectrum oppose it.
It will dawn on the country over the next few months that it isn’t just the Southern disease resurrecting itself. It’s a national problem with voting and Democracy under attack in a large majority of the States, not just in the Bible Belt but in the West, the prairies, and the Midwest. It isn’t a Southern thing, this vile paroxysm of bigotry and cowardice: it’s a Republican thing.
The Republican Party has two main sides these days: the mainstream fascists who put corporate power and Ayn Rand ahead of people, and the Nazis and Nutzis of the Trump movement. Neither side has the faintest interest in holding office with the consent of the governed; they simply want to rule, and are willing to crush anyone who stands between them and that goal.
But it is first manifesting in Georgia, a state that has, for a decade, been the bloody Kansas of the cold civil war being fought between Americans and Republicans.
Which means the South has lost much of the good will it worked so hard for. It adopted Republicans when they opposed civil rights legislation, they stayed with Republicans when they tried to make themselves the avatars of patriotism and godliness, and they are doggedly clinging to them even after they’ve gone fascist—and worse.
They don’t want Americans to vote. They are changing voting laws wherever they can, and with no regard for deliberations or democratic process. Georgia passed their voting law today, savage as it is, in the space of six hours between introduction in the lege to a ludicrous shout of approval in the Senate to a behind-closed door signing by the reptilian Brian Kemp (whose own election was one of the most corrupt in American history) even as a Democratic legislator was dragged away and arrested by Georgia state thugs for demanding to witness the signing.
Republicans don’t want Americans to vote. They don’t want Americans to have any say in how they are ruled. They pass laws against peaceful assembly, make it a crime to insult a cop, anything they can in the cause of turning the world’s second-oldest Democracy into a authoritarian shit hole.
If they succeed, they will fail. John F. Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
If Republicans want to suppress Americans, it will blow up in their faces. And the toothless bigots of the old South won’t be able to save them. Nobody can.