Remember the old playground platitude, “Sticks and stones may break my bones,
but words will never hurt me”..? Paula Deen, celebrity chef–butter enthusiast–and newly former Food Network show host, is probably wishing America took that old adage a little closer to heart. Deen, a 66 year old chef from Georgia, admitted in a deposition to engaging in myriad forms of bigotry, including telling racial jokes, using racist language, and even desiring to plan a party where the help would be likened to “slaves.” Anyone with a national audience, such as Deen, would surely know that such brazen, insensitive behavior would be met with intense backlash. As a result of the instantaneous/resounding rejection of Deen’s brand of “humor,” the chef was compelled to make a 45-second plea for forgiveness, in the form of a, since-deleted, video. The fact that wrongs, like racially abusive language from public figures, are generally acknowledged by American society as “wrong,” and usually necessitate an swift/earnest video-taped appeal for forgiveness, serves as a testament to a society that’s learning from its past indiscretions, and racial insensitivity. That’s great. What’s not so great is that American society is unwilling to hold itself to a standard where ALL public figures are called to task for their myriad indiscretions.
Hold your horses.. I’m not calling for a politically-correct hellscape where every citizen has their ear pressed to the wall, waiting for someone to say something scary or unpleasant (though if that’s what you desire, I’m sure it’s just a few NSA keystrokes from reality). I’m merely questioning America’s ostensibly unquestioning acceptance of certain unconscionable, deplorable acts of violence, and injustice. I’m talking about racist policies like the “war on drugs,” which blatantly targets minorities for incarceration at rates that are clearly disproportionate. I’m talking about policies like enacting “crippling sanctions” on other nations, which was greeted with bi-partisan approval when discussed during the 2012 Presidential debates, despite them having a history of targeting the innocent civilian population of a given country. The sanctions against Iraq left upwards of 1 million Iraqis dead. I’m talking about policies like drone bombing half a dozen sovereign nations, resulting in the slaughtering of hundreds of innocent civilians. Where is the outrage? Where is the demand for an explanation? A video apology?!!
On June 9th, about 2 weeks after his televised speech about counterterrorism, drone-policy, and *gasp* transparency, President Obama ordered (what appears to be) a drone strike in Yemen. An Al Qaeda chief and other men were killed in the strike, as was the 10 year old brother of the targeted militant. The boy, named Abdulaziz, was guilty only of being in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Hardly a “crime.” Do you find it outrageous that an innocent 10 year old boy could/would be justifiably killed in an American strike? Perhaps it would help to give the act a more familiar context. Imagine that a group of KKK activists attacked some landmarks in China. China designated the KKK a terrorist organization, and claimed the authority to invade/occupy/police/drone various nations around the world where KKK were believed to be present. Imagine that China identified a particular KKK member in a building in Virginia, and decided to drone bomb it. Imagine an innocent 10 year old sibling of the KKK guy was killed in the bombing. Imagine his name was Pete, and he had lots of little school friends. Imagine he liked to draw, ride his bike, and one day hoped to be a doctor…or the President! Now, imagine that he is slaughtered by China, and NOTHING is done about it. No acknowledgement. Little to no compensation. No apology. Nothing. Now, imagine this happening HUNDREDS of times. Nearly 200 children slaughtered by American bombs dropped by American drones…and nothing. Imagine it being done in your name, with your funding.
The children’s adage about “sticks and stones” seems to have been turned on its head in America. While Americans tolerance for “words” that are deemed hurtful is decreasing, its tolerance for anything the state deems “necessary” seems to be increasing. Sticks, stones, and taxpayer-funded bombs are decimating the bodies of innocent children overseas, in addition to our moral authority as a virtuous, law-abiding nation. The policy of targeted-killing also seems to be perpetuating the very thing it aims to quell.. “terrorism.”
I think that Deen, the quirky celebrity chef whose country-cookin’ show aired daily on Food TV, said some despicably racist things, and was rightly terminated by her employer. We’ve learned throughout the centuries that “words” can indeed “hurt” you, and have consequences. Now..about those “sticks and stones”…