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Posts Tagged ‘bigotry’

Dr. Joseph E. Lowery’s Benediction Transcript @ President Obama’s Inauguration

Can there be any question of the power of words?

Can there be any mystery why the sophisticated symbolism of words binds people to…

  • Others
  • Ideals
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Dogma
  • Superstition
  • Loss
  • Hope?

This learned set of symbols… these words… in whatever language they form… are powerful. Words have a value that connects people reading and hearing them as well as separates those not understanding those words.

Based on past histories and current contexts words rouse unforgettable warmth or irreconcilable anger which, in term, become learned by those experiencing them and watching others experience them. It is a reciprocal relationship; words represent traditions and traditions represent words (as we witnessed with the second swearing in of President Obama). When repeated over and over words morph oh so slowly while becoming ingrained in the fabric of civilization. Traditions, including those of religion, bigotry, superstition, inaugurations and funerals are indelible links between people all represented by words.

Sam Harris in “The End of Faith,” has many logical points concerning traditions, superstition and cultures as do so many others including this author. However, at one time or another we all miss another point that gets lost in emotional [ratio strain] self-righteousness; being right is a relative target and is not what everyone values. One thing for sure is that we all value some words organized in some order representing some experiences.

The changes Sam Harris and others search for will come only through a process of selection by consequences. The things that will replace bigotry and fear and traditions of hate must be learned just as the superstitions and belief systems they were based on were learned. If that is the case, and it most assuredly is, Sam and some of the others will not be here to celebrate a new form of enlightenment where understanding the elemental basis of how behavior works is a primary requirement of primary school graduation.

While we work for all those words describing the elements of understanding behavior in our culture we can appreciate Dr. Lowery’s words for what they represent: a plea to figure out what the heck is going on out there.

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I am reminded of an experiment done by a teacher, Jane Elliot, with her 32 3rd grade school students in 1968. Mrs. Elliot came to class one day and announced students were to be divided based on eye color. First, the brown-eyed group was given preference and regarded as “superior” based on their eye color, with the other group repeatedly being considered inferior in intelligence and learning ability as well as having fewer privileges and less recess. On the second day of the experiment, Mrs. Elliot said she was mistaken and it was the blue-eyed group that was superior in every way. Thus, the values, bias’ and attitudes of the groups were completely reversed with blue-eyed students being regarded as superior and the brown-eyed being seen as inferior in every way.

Elliott gave tests to both groups on each day of the experiment. The students scored very low on the day they were racially “inferior” and very high on the day they were considered racially “superior.”

Other results:

  • When expectations are set to do well and show improvement, people do. When those expectations are lacking, performance and the experiences are thwarted in a variety of ways.
  • When we believe “the others” are inferior, we treat them that way independent of the ridiculousness of the basis provided.
  • When we believe we are superior we treat others with discounted value showing that how we believe the world can have powerful effects on how things turn out.
  • It is justifiable to treat someone poorly if you are told they are ‘evil’. When the reverse conditions are used, the superior group who was previously the ‘evil’ group, has an additional set of emotions that contribute to their poor treatment of others.

It is dangerous carnival that the bigotry, meanness, triviality and lack of value toward others can be institutionalized publicly every four years in America by two governing bodies when the country is rudderless of government leadership and when programs de jour are punctuated with felony indictments, earmarks, corporate handouts and loss of constitutional rights perpetuated by both groups.

Certainly have come a long way in those 40 years!

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I was recently told, “War time was not the time to question the existence of God”

Just like the America’s intelligencia tolerated slavery and bigotry in our history, I sometimes get the inkling that we tolerate the hate and superstitions of organized and unorganized religion and its blurring influences because there is never a good time to take on ignorance, mysticism and bigotry.

When the economy is going good, I hear “Thank God” exclaimed on the market floor.

For some, there is never a good time to question the existence of God.

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