To Hell with the Other
Mitt Romney’s “not elegantly stated” remarks expressed a disposition that’s not exclusive to him or to his base. As I wrote previously, disdain for otherness–a deep-seated and disordering belief that being other is bad–remains prevalent in our supposedly pluralistic society.
Romney played on this belief in a particularly ugly way, depicting those who support his opponent as irresponsible moochers, dividing the country into the binary oppositions of the vicious and the virtuous, the takers and the makers, and the undeserving poor and the deserving rich. Nonetheless, the fundamental problem here isn’t with this particular message, despicable as it is. The disordering belief in the immorality of otherness has given it breath, and it’s in the “others can go to hell” spirit of this belief that the real villainy lies.
I’m pleased to see the push back and criticism Romney’s received for his disparaging statements, but until we progress to a true pluralism that celebrates other people as both the same and different from us, hucksters like Romney will continue to play on some kind of disdain for the other because there’s ample motivation for them to do so. Until we as a society come to perceive hostility toward otherness as a vice worth shunning and hospitality toward others as virtue worth cherishing, the class and culture war-mongering sowers of discord will reign.