Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hate speech.

Literally. Via Fixer...
Arizona Sen. John McCain refused to apologize yesterday for his use of a racial slur to condemn the North Vietnamese prison guards who tortured and held him captive during the war.

"I hate the gooks," McCain said yesterday in response to a question from reporters aboard his campaign bus. "I will hate them as long as I live."
It's my regular practice to call people out on hate speech. I don't use it, and I don't want to hear it. I confess to two exceptions - when veterans of the Pacific Campaign during WWII refer to 'Japs,' I tend to let it slide, and when combat vets of my war refer to the enemy they faced as "gooks," I'm similarly indulgent.

De-humanizing the enemy is a central component of military conditioning for combat. It's hard enough, even when your and your buddies' lives are at stake, to actually lock, load, identify your target, take aim and kill without reflecting that that target is, like you, a person. A person with a family, with hopes and fears, just doing what he is told, like you, and probably not understanding it much better than you.

Nope, that's impermissible thought in combat. And that de-humanization is powerful mojo. It gets you through the war and helps you cope with the memories of war and the changes war has wrought within you. I'm not going to call out a guy who's looked the enemy in the eye and opened fire.

Of course, I'm talking about private conversations with private citizens. John McCain is a United States Senator. He wants to be the President of the United States. His language, as he admits, is born of hatred. It's a hatred that I don't begrudge him, but language that his position, I think, obliges him to forgo. If I heard that John McCain, in private conversation, had referred to his captors as 'gooks,' I'd be inclined to take a pass on passing judgment. In fact, it's language that he has used repeatedly, in public, to the press, on the record.

We get it, Senator. You'll always You'll always consider your captors 'gooks.' You've got, in my opinion, the right. What you call them, on the other hand? Surely a modicum of self-restraint can't be to much to expect of a prospective chief executive.

No hate speech in the White House.

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