Baby and Bathwater: Judgement Without Thinking
Shylock is a character that plays to antisemitic stereotypes. Being Jewish, I’m not wild about antisemitism. And yet I enjoy Shakespeare and the Merchant of Venice.
Mark Twain used the “n” word in Huckleberry Finn. Randy Newman used the “n” word in his song “Rednecks.” In both cases, the offensive word is used to attack racism. Both are consummate works of anti-racism.
On the left (where I myself sit), these works and their authors stand to be condemned. On the right, works that acknowledge the cruelty of racism, sexism and other evils are being banned from school libraries. It’s as if all of us are losing the ability to think and are substituting the tendency to label.
Where are the Christians who hate the sin and love the sinner? Who will wake up to the reality that we are throwing out the baby with the bathwater? Why are so many of us — left and right — being so damn petty and simpleminded and ready to condemn?
I don’t agree with Clint Eastwood on politics but appreciate his movies. I don’t like Eric Clapton’s views on vaccines but I enjoy his guitar playing. Physicist Freeman Dyson doubted climate change, but I enjoyed his books and admired his genuinely deeply benevolent character.
Why is this so hard? I think that, in most of these cases, peer pressure is at work. Most people are following their own ideological groups and avoiding the personal reflection required to make their own judgements. Maybe it’s easy for me to NOT fall into that trap because I’m an introvert and not comfortable with groups. Or maybe it’s not that hard for anyone but they fear themselves being condemned for letting children read what they want in school libraries or allowing the use of the “n” word to condemn racism.
Maybe I’m not afraid because I’m getting older and I’ve faced the grim reaper twice and nothing scares me. More likely, I’m getting tired of that kind of nonsense, especially because we all face common challenges and are failing to address them. Those of you who read me know that I’m strongly focused on the climate catastrophe and the necessity of strong immediate action to slash CO2 emissions.
I would much rather we learn to see and respect each other’s humanity than fuss over Shylock. And I damn well believe we should ditch the bathwater and save the baby.