Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My Representative

Bill Sali’s remarks about Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison are still echoing around the blogosphere, though the traditional media have moved on. What bothers me the most, even more than what Sali said, is the thinking and attitudes underneath the comments.

According to this broad definition, Sali is guilty of prejudice. Probably almost everyone is, to an extent.
Affective Prejudice refers to what people like and dislike. An example of affective prejudice might be found, for example, in attitudes toward members of particular classes such as race, ethnicity, national origin, or creed.
According to this one, he is also a bigot.
A bigot is a prejudiced person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles, or identities differing from his or her own. …

Bigot is often used as a pejorative term against a person who is obstinately devoted to prejudices even when these views are challenged or proven to be false.
Sali never budged from his original premise that anyone in Congress who is not Jewish or Christian will work ill for the country. He apologized if this view offends anyone, but he still holds the view. How is this different from saying that anyone in Congress who is not white will be bad for the country? I don't think Sali is racially prejudiced or bigoted, but he sure seems to be a religious bigot. So there’s that.

What’s worse for Idahoans is Sali’s position that if you don’t agree with him, you’re wrong. Sali is very conservative, is a religious fundamentalist, and is anti-abortion. Many people in Idaho do agree with all this, but not that many. If you’re conservative, but not very conservative, you’re wrong. If you’re religious but not a fundamentalist, you’re wrong. If you hate abortion and want to outlaw it, leaving exceptions only for extreme circumstances, you’re wrong. If you want low taxes, but are willing to pay taxes for important government services, you’re wrong.

Does Sali really represent Idaho and Idahoans? I don’t expect my representative to hold my exact same views (In Idaho? Har!), but I also don’t expect my representative to think I’m wrong if I don’t share his views. I expect my Representative to have an open mind, listen to his constituents, gather facts and make an informed decision. Remember, Sali has stated that it doesn’t take a lot of critical thinking to be a legislator. I guess not, if his mind rejects anything that doesn't conform to his previously formed beliefs.

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