Monday, February 06, 2006

Bigot Is As Bigot Does

The State of Kansas has a tourism slogan which states, "Kansas: As Big As You Think." I don't know how their PR firm convinced them to play up the biggest complaint most Americans have against the state ("It takes so long to drive across Kansas!"), but somehow the tourism board has sunk millions of dollars into convincing you that it does, indeed, take forever to drive across Kansas.

So what? Most people don't know their state tourism slogans, and I would wager the same would hold true for most Kansans. Unless you try to recoup some of your confiscated taxes by ordering a tourism brochure, when would you see it?

But here is something you do see a lot when you're in Kansas: bumper stickers that have changed the state tourism slogan into a condemnation of the unenlightened views of the common Kansan with, "Kansas: As Bigoted As You Think."

From where I stand, it seems to be saying this: "You have a concept in your head of how bigoted the people of Kansas are. Well, you're one hundred percent right, brother! These people are downright intolerant! If you're not a Kansan, give silent thanks to Mother Earth; if you are a Kansan, hang your head in shame and get one of these bumper stickers."

An interesting argument, considering the definition of the word "bigot." As purloined from some dictionary website, the definition is:

bigot n : a prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from his own.
And what of that word "prejudiced?" It means:
prejudiced n. 1a. An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts. 1b.A preconceived preference or idea. 2. The act or state of holding unreasonable preconceived judgments or convictions. 3. Irrational suspicion or hatred of a particular group, race, or religion.

So in the final analysis, a bumper sticker which, on the surface, appears to be a condemnation of bigotry, in fact does not work without the reader's innate bigotry. You have to have a "preconceived judgment" of Kansas for the bumper sticker to validate it. What it really says is this: "You've got bigoted notions about how bigoted Kansans are. For some reason, your bigotry is to be condoned while their bigotry is to be condemned. Down with (certain forms of) bigotry!"

Why not get a bumper sticker that says what they really mean? "Kansas: I Don't Agree With Them"? What would be wrong with that?

The problem is that a sticker like that would only point out the two sides of the debate, without saying which side is "right." What they want is to paint one side as ignorantly opinionated. To that end, they are quite successful, but not exactly how they wanted to be.

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