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I dearly want to write a horrible and mean and nasty column about the race-baiting journalistic train wreck of Tucker Carlson, but it’s been done so well by so many people — all the way back to John Stewart’s ur-takedown of him on the bow-tied right-winger’s own show, the late and unlamented Crossfire — it’s a daunting, if rich, field to join. Although I will point out that, as someone who spent a large part of my college years hanging around blue-blazered, over-privileged and under-aware white guys, the road from butt-chugging frat boys to the assbaggery of Carlson and his Daily Caller crew is a short and direct one.
I joke because I’m not sure how else to respond to such depressingly vile behavior, watching as someone who is the pure product of white, upper-class privilege trying to whip up a story that President Obama is a reverse racist who wants to tear down white society in favor of black people. It’s the same as when someone in Kentucky told me they didn’t like Michelle Obama because, ”She thinks she’s better than everyone else.” Both are just different ways of saying ”uppity.”
It’s depressing because it gets at the hatred that seeps into too much of our political and personal lives these days. No, I’m not saying that everyone who opposes Obama is a racist, which is both a stupid claim and a straw man used by people wanting to be taken seriously for finding new ways to say ”uppity,” like Carlson. I’m saying that our tendency to de-humanize each other, exacerbated as it is every four years, is a bit wearing.
What’s brought it home to me even more is watching the discussion of a recent decision by a federal judge to grant a transgender Massachusetts prisoner the right to a sex-reassignment surgery. The case of this trans woman, imprisoned for murdering her wife, has caught national attention, with both of the state’s U.S. Senate candidates, Gov. Deval Patrick and outgoing Rep. Barney Frank decrying the judge’s decision.
The explosion of anti-trans bigotry is expected, if sad, and speaks to how far we have to go in educating the nation about what it means to be transgender. I haven’t even taken a ”position” on the Massachusetts case because I honestly do not know enough to have an informed position yet and I’m disinclined to make one up just for the sake of a column.
What’s shocked me is the visceral reaction so many LGBT people have to providing medical care to prisoners. Suddenly, people so far to my left they’re approaching the curvature of the Earth are angrily proclaiming, ”Not with my tax dollars!” These are murderers, rapists, the vilest of the vile: Let them die.
We overcrowd our prisons at rates that would shame some totalitarian governments; subject prisoners to hellish lives that – for those who have a hope to get out – guarantee they’ll be back shortly after their release; and we turn our backs on the rampant violence, drug abuse and HIV infection that permeates the system. How we treat prisoners in our society is a moral and ethical question that we’ve consistently failed. And I mean ”we” — we are all complicit in this society that mistakes vengeance for justice, that depends on our indifference to the suffering of the incarcerated, that treats prison rape as a punch line rather than an act of violence.
I’m sure few would argue with me that we should expect more from our media when it comes to using hatred as a tool. The thing is, we should expect even more of ourselves.
Sean Bugg is the co-publisher of Metro Weekly. You can reach him at sbugg@MetroWeekly.com or follow him on Twitter, @seanbugg.