Friday, October 29, 1999
should examine her own prejudices
Perhaps Ms. Satterthwaite falls prey to her personal prejudice in the midst of an earnest attempt to combat what she perceives as exclusivism. In her recent column Ms. Satterthwaite takes offense at words used by a candidate for Peachtree City Council who she leaves unnamed, but easily identifiable.
His first offense: use of the words lifelong Republican in a campaign mailing. She devotes her more forceful comments toward decrying his writing the following which appears in the Fayette/Coweta insert of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: ...this community should have `one of their own' serving on City Council namely a married, average-income professional who is raising children in a Christian environment.... the leaders of the city should be an accurate reflection of the people who live here and who share the same values.
Ms. Satterthwaite writes that herein she hears code words: I hear exclusion. Then she goes beyond writing what she hears to confidently, and presumptuously, asserting to know the candidate's heart.
Ms. Satterthwaite starts six sentences with the words, You don't mean. In these sentences she portrays the candidate as opposing (among others) underpaid single moms, widowers, Chinese restaurateurs, disabled attorneys, Hispanics, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and, probably Catholics. At least she qualifies the last charge.
So while we readers can figure the candidate guilty of ethnocentrism, classicism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia; on the charge of being anti-Catholic, we can merely hold him suspect. Having found the candidate guilty of these crimes, Ms. Satterthwaite calls for voters who classify their race as black or other to exercise sentence by joining her at the polls on Nov. 2 to vote against him.
Taking the whole of Ms. Satterthwaite's opinion piece, she seems to value the virtues of community and inclusion; noting her admittedly admirable civic activism; lamenting the loss of common courtesy on the cartways; decrying an increased use of no trespassing signs.
While loving community, she negatively stereotypes a man rearing his family in our community. The sole basis for impugning this man's character his use of the words, lifelong Republican, and words which she interprets as containing code. Rather than taking these words at face value, she suspects evil intent. I dare assert that most readers did not view the same words as code requiring deciphering.
When the candidate writes of raising children in a Christian environment, some may understand that to mean that he tries to live by the words of a Jew spoken almost 2000 years ago: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets (Matt 7:12 NIV). This Jew also quotes Leviticus 19:18 when saying that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves; the greatest being the beginning of the Jewish Shema (Deut 6:5) to love God with all of our being (Matt 22:37-40).
Elsewhere (Luke 10:25-37) someone asks the Teacher who qualifies as a neighbor. He tells the story of thieves beating a man and leaving him half dead. Two members belonging to the higher socioeconomic class pass the wounded man without rendering aid. Only a member of a religious and ethnic minority largely despised by those hearing the lesson, a Samaritan the Good Samaritan bandages the traveler's wounds and pays for his recovery.
Do such teachings present a threat to inclusivity; to our pluralistic democracy? Of course my respect for these teachings may give me an unrealistic positive prejudice toward this candidate, yet when Ms. Satterthwaite presumes the worst possible connotation from this candidate's words one counter to their usual meaning she herself seems to behave illiberally. I have to ask her to examine her own heart to see if she might not have presumed and then published from prejudice.