Thursday, September 24, 2015

Ben Carson is a bigot

Black conservatives often complain that people, by which they mean liberals and/or other black people (and those two groups are not mutually exclusive), try to question their blackness or expel them from the black community because they have conservative views. Well all "blackness" really means in the American context is that you are apparently descended in whole or in part from people who recently originated in what's commonly known as "Black Africa". It's a circular definition. Blackness, however defined, definitely doesn't automatically imply anything about an individual's voting patterns, his views on sexuality, religion, preferred music, stance on economics, feelings about whether nature or nurture are more important in human development, favored sports teams or anything else. So I agree that one shouldn't assume that blackness automatically means you are or should be beholden to a specific political theory, party or way of life. On the other hand, given the black experience in America, which only in the past fifty years has fitfully moved beyond formal exclusion, it is a little jarring to see a black person enthusiastically take up bigoted ideas that were just recently used against him and his. Dr. Ben Carson, famed surgeon, Republican presidential candidate and nutcase extraordinaire, has been providing us a clinic on this sort of dissonance.
Washington (CNN) Ben Carson says the United States should not elect a Muslim president.
"I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that," the retired neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Carson, meanwhile, was asked Sunday whether a president's faith should matter to voters. "I guess it depends on what that faith is," he said. "If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, no problem." Asked whether Islam is consistent with the Constitution, Carson said: "No, I don't -- I do not.
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This isn't the first time that Carson has said something stupid and/or offensive. I didn't expect too much intelligent discourse from someone who believes that the theory of evolution was inspired by Satan. I will say that every individual voter can decide on his or her own whether to vote for someone based on any number of reasons or characteristics, be they petty, bigoted or downright silly. You get to decide. Judging by their commentary, jokes, emails, letters, placards, and insults over the past seven years a sizable proportion of conservatives weren't thrilled with having a black man serve as President. No the real problem with Carson's declaration is not just that he reveals his inner bigot. No it's that Carson and his defenders don't seem to understand that Carson's implicit endorsement of a religious test for the office of President is directly contradicted by the United States Constitution, Article VI, paragraph 3: The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

So that is that. It looks like it's not Islam that is incompatible with the Constitution but Carson. But there are some questions for Carson and those of like mind. If they think the Presidency should be off limits to Muslims shouldn't citizenship also be off limits? Should Muslims have lower expectations for privacy and civil liberties? Should Muslims be deported? And if so where? If Islam isn't compatible with the Constitution, should conversions be banned? And what about interfaith marriages? Shouldn't we stop those as well? We certainly don't want our fair Christian maidens marrying those devious Muslims SOB's. Right?  And if, by contrast, Christianity and Judaism are compatible with the Constitution does Carson think that a Christian President should live by Jesus' directive to resist not evil? I guess we could get rid of the Defense Department and all local police departments. If a Jewish President has a drunk disrespectful son is Carson going to be the first to call for a stoning, as is explicitly ordered in Deuteronomy? Hmm. Or maybe, just maybe Carson recognizes that a Christian or Jewish person is not a mindless automaton who lives by every last single word in their holy book. Or maybe Carson does want to live by the Holy Bible and is projecting his desires onto Muslims.

The Republican Party has relied overmuch on hating the other. It has relied overmuch on wedding itself to a specific type of pugnacious evangelical. No matter how much Carson and his fellow candidates such as Huckabee might wish otherwise, the United States is not a theocracy. Taking gratuitous shots at an entire religion simply alienates members of that religion who might vote for you. And for someone like Carson, who was born before Brown v. Board of Education, when segregation and white supremacy was the law of the land, to engage in religious bigotry to seek favor with people who haven't wholly left behind racial bigotry, is beyond pathetic.
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