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When I heard Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s comments about African Americans and their dependence on government, I reacted the same way as I imagine many of you did. “Oh no. . . just what we need. . . . now we’re all racists.”
Many on the right have been rallying around Bundy and his stand against the federal government over grazing rights, but when he made a speech this week comparing the condition of blacks under slavery to their dependency on the government, several GOP politicians distanced themselves from him. Who can blame them, given this politically correct environment?
This situation reminds me of so many we’ve grappled with since the 2008 election. Anyone who steps out of line on the issue of race, sexuality, or gender will be labeled a racist, homophobe, or sexist. Whether it’s Todd Akin talking about rape, Mitt Romney referring to binders full of women, or Mozilla’s Brendan Eich supporting traditional marriage, the right is characterized as a hate group.
I’m not going to judge Republican politicians who have condemned Bundy’s statements. I understand how the political game is played, and when you’re gearing up for midterms and a hotly contested 2016 presidential election, you need to shed any potential albatrosses as quickly as possible.
But….for the rest of us, we need to make a stand.
Since 2008 and before, I’ve been watching the left pummel the right when it comes to issues of race, gender, and sexuality. Republicans have been characterized as hating blacks, wanting to keep women barefoot and pregnant in a 1950s kitchen, and denying gays equal rights under the law. I believe we lost the 2012 presidential election because of such demagoguery.
Time after time, the Democrats have attacked the GOP on contentious social issues. Debate over public policy and solutions to the growing debt, a struggling economy, and government inefficiency have fallen to the wayside as hot-button topics take center stage whenever a Republican or someone related to the GOP says something that’s either politically incorrect, unwise, or easily misconstrued.
Each time, the GOP scrambles like frightened rabbits. How can we fix this? What can we do to avoid these situations in the future? Who can we blame? How can we get people to see that we’re really not racists, homophobes, or sexists? I’ve even fallen for this as I’ve tried to figure out how to talk about women’s issues in the most non-offensive ways.
While it’s helpful to be wise, to consider strategy, and to think of ways to better communicate to groups who think we’re hostile to them, we have to be realistic about who is opposing us. No matter what we say, our words will be used against us, and when those words are particularly egregious and easily misunderstood, it’s even worse.
We have fallen into the trap of thinking that the left can be reasoned with, that if we just show them—and the rest of the country—that we’re really nice people who just care about liberty and want everyone to prosper, then they’ll stop categorizing us as racists and sexists.
But that’s where we’re wrong. The left doesn’t want to reason with us. This isn’t a matter of misunderstanding. The left wants to dominate us. Control us. Defeat us. Abuse us. They aren’t interested in the truth. They aren’t interested in context or intentions. They are only interested in what benefits their quest for power—and we are giving them that power by agreeing with them, even in part.
Instead of standing up for ourselves when accusations of racism or sexism are leveled at us because of something Bundy or Akin or Romney has said, we cower. We give ground. We give legitimacy to the accusation. As soon as we do that, we’ve lost. That’s because we’re not dealing with people who want to look reasonably at the issue. All they’re concerned about is finding something, anything, to make us feel guilty—to appear guilty—so they can defeat us.
When you’re dealing with someone who wants to abuse you, who wants to keep you in a cage, who wants to exercise power over you by defining who you are, you can’t give ground. As soon as you do, you’ve lost. You are weakened, and you have nothing to say in your defense. They’ve accused you of wrongdoing, and when you try to defend yourself or take back control, they silence you with your own admissions. You lose strength because you abdicate truth out of fear. You doubt yourself, and that doubt causes you to question everything you are. When you doubt—when you’re afraid—you can’t be bold.
The answer to those who falsely accuse is to remember who you are. Look the abuser in the eye and say, “I am not what you say I am.” You need to fight, even if that means a bloody nose or two. Republicans too easily forget who they are. They allow fear and doubt to seep in as accusations of racism and sexism, among other things, are leveled against them. They begin to believe what the opposition says, and they capitulate. When they do that, they’ve lost—and the ground will never be regained.
How do we respond when the left calls us all racists or worse? We come out fighting. Stand up for ourselves. Reject the accusation. Boldly assert what we actually do stand for. Show how those on other side are a bunch of hypocrites. Do not give ground! Tell them they’re the ones who are wrong.
There’s a place to say we disagree with those who have said something that can be mischaracterized. But when the accusations of evil—of hate, of racism or sexism—are transferred from the individual to all of us, we can’t forget who we are. We can’t allow ourselves to be defined by our enemies, by those who seek to defeat us and undermine our values.
We have to remember that we are the ones who love individuality and diversity, because we don’t think people should be controlled by a centralized power; that we are the ones who want to see individuals flourish as they compete to the best of their ability without government standing in their way; and that we are the ones who support liberty for all, no matter their skin color, their sexuality, or their gender.
We don’t lump people into groups to be manipulated. That’s the tactic of the left. We see people as individuals who want to pursue their dreams and who can do that best when a distant, oppressive bureaucracy isn’t creating laws that inhibit individual initiative in the name of “fairness” or “equality.”
If you want to be rightly understood, don’t let anyone else define you. Stand not only for what you believe but for who you are. Remember it. Even in the midst of fear, doubt, accusations, and threats, remember who you are. Don’t defend it; proclaim it. Don’t be defined by others—only then will you be free. Only then will you have the strength to fight. Only then will you overcome.