Everyone who hopes for the best but fears the worst cannot escape finding himself afflicted with a rather jarring, almost schizophrenic sense of psychic discombobulation from time to time. One who has fully abandoned himself to pessimism, on the other hand, has no such problem; since he always expects the worst, he isn’t in the least shaken when bad things happen. But the persistence of hope can have a devastating impact upon a person’s psyche. Hope leads to mental dislocation, because it muddles one’s perceptions. Hope springs eternal, entirely of its own volition; one cannot choose to do without it, because—being a force of nature—it won’t be ignored. Hope causes a person to wonder if things really are as dire as they seem, even when they clearly are, since (as hope seductively whispers), “Surely it’s not that bad.”
Every epoch is haunted by ubiquitous sinister spirits which plague the minds of men. It is useless to pretend otherwise. An earnest assessment of human history will reveal that certain types of people have always been prone to a certain moral hysteria, a fear and loathing of “dangerous” ideas and behaviors that are viewed as posing a kind of unhygienic threat of contagion to all that is good and decent. These sort of men tend to make their influence felt in various ways; they are nothing if not persistent; their crusader spirit fires them to lobby for their cause mercilessly, and the squeaky wheel, as ever, is the one that gets the grease.
Of course, most people are not crusading busybodies. Instead, the mass of men are the sort who want to avoid trouble, whose first and enduring impulse is to “get along” with others. They are, in other words, conformists. This sort is quite willing to mouth the mandatory slogans and repeat the pseudo-sacred shibboleths of the Zeitgeist, since they know instinctively that doing so will help them avoid attracting the wrong kind of attention.
The typical conformist is certainly not a “bad” person, by any stretch; he is simply not a terribly bold or brave person. Everyone must pick his battles, but the conformist nearly always passes on this prospect. He is, in Burke’s dictum, the good man who allows evil to prevail by doing nothing to stop it.
But just how prevalent is the conformist class’s cowardice? And how totally ruthless are the crusaders whose routinely cow the conformists into docility? These questions provoke confusion in the mind of the nonconforming Zeitgeist-defier, the one discussed above, who hopes for the best but fears the worst. “Surely,” hope again seductively whispers in his ear, “it can’t be that bad.” There may be tons of cruel fanatics and legions of worthless cowards in the world, but after all isn’t reason still a force to be reckoned with? Don’t most people still see the wisdom of such qualities as moderation and restraint?
Hope, as always, springs eternal. But then reality intrudes, spoiling everything.
What witches were to 17th Century Salem and Communists were to 1950s America, so are “racists” and “homophobes” within the current dispensation. I put these names in quotes because they mean little in a definitional sense—they are, in fact, little more than slurs, terms by which outsiders are marginalized and held up for ridicule and contempt. But names can never hurt us; rather, it is the stigma attached to such odious labels that does us in. This holds particularly true if you happen not to be incredibly rich and require gainful employment in order to support yourself and your family.
I have two particular recent cases in mind which illustrate the fearsome persistence of social stigma, demonstrating the power it has to wreck careers and put livelihoods in peril. They are two examples out of possibly hundreds, to be sure, but they are illustrative of a general trend, which is but the latest manifestation of an age-old proclivity to shun, spit upon, and otherwise cruelly castigate those considered outside of the circle of social acceptability.
The first recent case involves Frank Borzellieri, a colorful and outspoken NYC-born goombah gadfly.
A few years ago, this curly-haired spitfire had caused quite a stir for a number of articles he wrote for the Leader-Observer, all of which weighed in on various forbidden subjects regarding the biological reality of racial differences; Borzellieri asserted, inter alia, that Whites were on average more intelligent than Blacks and Hispanics, and that Blacks and Hispanics were more prone to violent crime than Whites. His style of writing, however, wasn’t dryly academic in tone; he didn’t display charts or graphs and discourse in a professorial manner; instead, he wrote satirically, with a tone of mischievous insouciance, like an edgier Dave Barry.
I recall meeting Borzellieri briefly at the 2004 American Renaissance conference, where he gave an amusing talk about his experiences with various community activists who wanted to shut him up and intimidate his publisher into ceasing to carry his columns. At the time, Borzellieri served on a Manhattan school board and worked as an adjunct professor of journalism at New York Community College. I asked him if, living in the Bronx as he did, he had a lot of students who were Black and Hispanic. He owned that he did, indeed. I asked if they ever complained about the content of his columns, and he indicated that it hadn’t become an issue with them. “I tell them, ‘diversity’ is good, so how about let’s have some diversity of thought!” he exclaimed.
From our brief conversation, I saw that this fiery, funny little guy probably had a superb rapport with his students, whatever race they were. His down-to-earth, no-nonsense manner, combined with a twinkly-eyed amiability and good humor, no doubt made him a fine teacher. I could easily see his kids immensely enjoying his company. (Truth be told, I rather envied this quality about him, being a teacher myself, but one with no such easy rapport with students, or with people in general, for that matter…)
In the intervening years, Borzellieri was able to advance in the educational establishment. Most recently, he’d been appointed principal of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic school in the Bronx. But then his past, apparently, caught up with him. After the school weathered a barrage of complaints from—who else?—“community activists,” for his controversial writings, Borzellieri was dismissed from his post in August.
Apparently, it was assumed that refraining from parroting rote multiculturalist dogma can only mean one is unfit for a position where one presides as administrator over an ethnically “diverse” population. I’m not sure what Borzellieri is doing with himself now, and I’m sure he has no memory of our abovementioned exchange a few years ago, but I wish him well.
The charge of being a “racist” lands one in roughly the same position as Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter, with a bold “R” on his chest for all to see, signifying his unworthiness to be a part of polite and civilized society. But when it comes to degrees of official ignominy, those tagged with the scarlet “H” of “homophobe” aren’t much better off today. Soon, in fact, their persona non grata status may well exceed that of the “racists,” if current trends are any indication.
On a purely aesthetic level, I personally find the “homophobe” slur even more risibly absurd. “Racism,” at least, actually used to sort of mean something—i.e., “unreasonably prejudice or malice towards members of a different race”—before it became an all-encompassing means of shaming ideological heretics and thus lost all definitional bearing in reality.
But “homophobia” has never been anything but an intellectually dishonest nonsense word whose sole purpose is to cast aspersions on anyone expressing dissent from mandated PC-norms regarding homosexuality. The –phobia suffix is in fact, completely inaccurate and misleading, even if one is trying in good faith to understand what makes some people dislike gays. Who actually fears the homo? What’s he going to do that’s so menacing? Will he break into your home at night and redecorate your kitchen? Hold you at gunpoint and give you a bad haircut? Tie you up, force your pupils open, and make you watch old black-and-white movies starring Bettie Davis until you wretch and beg for mercy?
Gays flatter themselves to think that we straights find them the least bit intimidating. The truth is, we simply tend to find gay sex gross. That’s all. Repulsion is not fear. If our disgust hurts your feelings, O noble queer brethren, please know we’re not trying to be rude, just honest.
In any case, the fact that “homophobia” is a term patently devoid of meaning didn’t stop Florida high-school history teacher Jerry Buell—a 22-year veteran in his field—from getting suspended from his post at Mount Dora High School last month for posting a comment on his Facebook page regarding New York legalizing gay marriage. Among other things, Buell said that the sight of two men kissing on the news made him want to throw up, and he likened sodomic unions to “cesspools.”
Someone somewhere anonymously complained—it is still unclear who this person was— and the Lake County school system responded by pulling Buell from his post and placing him in administrative duties. Later, Buell contended that he was “tossed into a blender” at a moment’s notice by administrators, simply for speaking his mind on his private social network page.
It is worth noting that no one ever complained about Buell’s actual behavior in the classroom towards gay students; his mere expression of his beliefs was enough to land him in hot water with his higher-ups. The man obviously has strong religiously informed conservative opinions, but then so does a large portion of the citizenry; indeed, if everyone who shared Jerry Buell’s disgust at the sight of two dudes in lip-lock were forced out of his job, the unemployment rate would skyrocket to previously unheard of proportions.
Buell’s story, however, has a happier ending than Borzellieri’s. He has became a cause célèbre of the religious right, and even won an endorsement from the left-leaning ACLU. Following a two-week suspension, the Lake County school board has allowed Buell to return to his classroom, albeit somewhat grudgingly, and now the superintendent has moved on…to giving him grief for mentioning Jesus Christ on his class syllabi.
Personally, I hope he writes a book about his ordeal, makes a ton of money, and tells the worthless bureaucrats who dicked him around to go sodomize themselves in Hell. That’s what I would do, anyway. But something tells me that Buell will stick with teaching; like Borzellieri, it seems, this recently elected “teacher of the year” truly enjoys the company of his students.
In the wake of cases like Borzellieri and Buell, a dark question lingers ominously: how many more will be threatened with dismissal from our professions for the offense of expressing un-kosher opinions in our private time? How safe are any of us confessed and incorrigible thought-criminals, really? How stout are our supposed allies, who may not agree with us, but think we should have the right to say what we speak out without forfeiting our ability to feed ourselves and our families?
Hope springs eternal: surely, it’s not that bad, we reflect. We tell ourselves that people don’t really like the type of heavy-handed, ideological browbeating on display in cases like this, that even liberals are discomfited by such grinding totalitarian tendencies found among some in their own ranks.
But… we can never be sure. We hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and try to find a way to behave prudently without lapsing into obsequious cravenness, to be bold without being foolish. And we pray, if we feel so inclined, as we wait patiently for the guillotine blade to drop on our necks. Whatever will be, will be.