Editorial: Bigotry by any name
Print This Post
When is it okay to be a religious bigot?
Apparently, when you’re a liberal who really dislikes Mitt Romney.
In recent weeks, a number of articles with national distribution discussed the Republican presidential candidate and his Mormon faith in terms you would never hear if Romney belonged to any other religion with millions of followers.
Last week, the progressive weekly The New Republic published a story with the following headline:
“Why’s Romney So Good at Fundraising? Mormonism”
Now imagine the outcry if a conservative magazine wrote a story about, say, Sen. Joseph Lieberman when he ran as Al Gore’s vice-presidential pick in 2000 and put up a headline that said:
“Why’s Lieberman’s So Good at Fundraising? He’s Jewish”
There would have been hell to pay – and deservedly so.
Then there was an article in the June 13 edition of Time magazine that went even further.
It was written by a guy named Justin Frank, M.D. entitled “The Root of Mitt Romney’s Comfort with Lying.”
First off, the column was accompanied by the sub-headline “Republicans on the Couch” and the tagline identifies Frank as a psychoanalyst. The implication is clear: “Those conservatives are crazy. Why are they so hung up on things like deficits? They must be neurotic!”
It’s the kind of snobbery of average Americans seen in the book “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” which so many on the political left (Bill Maher and Michael Moore) can never seem to shake. It’s kind of hard to win over Joes and Janes you say you identify with when you spend so much time insulting them.
But getting back to the not-so-good doctor’s column, he claims Romney is a hopeless liar and attributes this affliction to – you guessed it, Bucky! – being a Mormon:
“There is a long tradition in the Mormon belief system in which evidence takes second place to faith. Examples abound …”
I’ll spare you the rest of this tripe.
And that’s what it is – tripe – and it betrays the cultural insulation of the editors at Time that nobody at their New York headquarters ever seemed to pause and say, “You know, maybe this column is over the line.”
To their credit, at least a couple liberals have rebuked their brethren.
Writer Walter Kirn recently wrote on Twitter that “anti-Mormonism is getting ugly, especially because many of the bigots are liberals for whom group hatred is a new toy” and James Fallows of The Atlantic wrote, “I disagree with most of the LDS church’s political stances … But to be against candidates because of their religion? That should be seen as bigot talk.”
The anti-Mormon meme is similar to the trashing Tim Tebow received last year.
I’m not here to argue Tebow’s merits or demerits as an NFL quarterback but the double-standard he was subjected to because of his evangelical faith was loathsome.
“Saturday Night Live” ridiculed him in a skit. Now I’m all for ridicule and satire (after all, Joe Biden is the gift that keeps on giving) but does anyone think SNL would ever skewer a devout Buddhist or Muslim the same way?
Contrast Tebow’s treatment to this: Back in the 1990s, basketball star Hakeem Olajuwon would fast during Ramadan and the Houston Rockets would make accommodations during the month of those Muslim holy days by parsing out his playing time, even though the team was often in the middle of a playoff race.
Liberals may not put Houston on the top of its list of most tolerant cities but I can’t recall one word by Rockets management, media or fans criticizing Olajuwon.
But getting back to politics: You don’t like Mitt Romney? Can’t stand his policies? Think he’ll be a lousy president? Fine.
But don’t drag the man’s religion into it. It was offensive when JFK ran for the White House and it’s offensive now.
(This article originally ran in the Santa Fe New Mexican on July 1, 2012.)