Take a Torch to the Faux Shaming

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Tyranny gets more efficient, and subtle, with time.

Technology and its capacity to surround us in group-think groom us to shuffle meekly to the back of the bus, to put our heads down, and keep our opinions to ourselves.

If you’ve got any relationship to any of the intersectional oppression classes (male, white, heterosexual, Christian, Jewish, employer, investor), then it is very clear that any reasoned defense of your positions will not be tolerated. Dare to make the ghastly mistake of getting “uppity” (i.e., being so sure of your position that you laugh at those who mock you), you will be labeled unclean and outside the camp—a social and economic leper. Expect the relationship killing epithets to be applied: racist, bigot, hatemonger, along with the various shades of phobia to imply you are mentally unstable to boot.

No, of course there are no separate drinking fountains. Water cannons will not be deployed. They don’t need any of that. You can enjoy free speech all you like, but if you express an unapproved opinion, don’t be surprised if you lose your banking and social media privileges.

You could lose your job or your contracts. You could find yourself declared “anathema” by the deacons in the local “woke church.”

And what would you be complaining about? Whoever claimed you could eat, and freely exchange ideas at the same time? “You can speak all you like, but we reserve the right to take your bank account, your platform, your business, and your respectability if you say something we don’t like.” Welcome to Mao country.

Our own First Amendment fight has two dimensions: government-imposed censorship and private, culturally imposed censorship. On the first front, the court is on our side. A federal judge, indeed an Obama appointee, made it very clear that school officials “. . . cannot terminate the [field trips to Riley’s Farm] for unconstitutional, retaliatory reasons.” We have reason to believe we will prevail in our case, and we hope it will embolden conservatives in any economic relationship with a public entity to get downright obstinate, and threatening, with public officials who hate the bill of rights.

But we need to face up to the reality that there are more pernicious forms of censorship that have nothing to do with the government or courts of law: the silence born of internalized shame. If you’ve censored yourself, out of some foggy sensitivity to crimes this generation has never endured, you empower those who would silence you. If you indulge their ridiculous grievance narratives, you fill their bank accounts.

It’s time to respond in a different way.

Drain their accounts. Scoff at their tantrums. Walk out on their shallow “woke” sermons.

Although I appreciate the dutifully conditioned old school liberals (and even some alleged “conservatives”) who respond to our case by saying, “I detest Jim Riley’s hateful language, but support his first amendment rights,” I do grow weary of the notion that there was anything “hateful” in my posts. I do grow weary of the way liberals, routinely, use ridicule as a tool even as it is considered out of bounds for conservatives.

When we allow conservative ideas to be jailed under the “poisonous, hateful” charge, we embolden this bigotry. We need to fight for the first amendment, yes, but we must also ridicule snowflake disfellowship. It must be met with a uniform chorus of mockery. When people are unable to engage in rational exchanges about the nature of things, when they don’t give a damn if their opponent is right or wrong, but simply demonstrate contempt for him and the wish that he would die or disappear so he’ll stop asking prying questions about some sacred cow, how can we not mock that? “That bastard Socrates is making us look bad. Get the hemlock.”

“Privilege”: The Absurd Distraction
There is no disputing that non-whites historically have been deprived of their natural rights in America more often than whites and for reasons that are intolerable. When that happens, however, there are legal remedies, and they should be used. But the neo-Marxists who phrase the resulting disparity in people’s enjoyment of their basic rights as “privilege” for those whose rights are abused less—is a lie and an intentional one. They chose that word for a reason.

Why? Because to decent and normal people, the solution, when somebody is being denied a right, is to stop the denial. Solve the problem. Drop the hammer on the bastard who’s interfering with the right. Sue him or prosecute him until the rubble bounces. But that doesn’t answer the desire of the Marxist heart, however. It doesn’t give them enough power. Their preference would be to turn around and deny other people their fundamental rights—to even things out. Basically, it’s a “you guys oppressed us for years; now it’s our turn to oppress you” posture. But that naturally raises the problem that it’s not right to deprive people of their rights. (That’s why they’re called “rights.”) So what do “progressives” do?

Easy. Re-define rights as “privileges.” “Privileges,” can be taken away. The word even suggests that perhaps they should be taken away. And, of course, that’s the entire point behind the whole obnoxious doctrine of “white privilege.”

Critical Race Theory—the New Racism
Both the old racism (white supremacy) and the new racism (critical race theory) create, brittle false group identities that prevent us from seeing each other as individuals. Real people want to be judged on their own merits and to be seen for themselves. False people, identity-grievance addicts, are perfectly willing to accept unmerited privilege and actually become blind to the world itself—Jussie Smollett style.

Encouraging a child to believe that the odds are stacked against him, that oppressors are anxious to oppose his progress, is an invitation for him to go out seeking a victim pilgrimage. It has become a collective kind of child abuse in this country, and it appears to have become so cherished a part of the cultural psyche that you can stage fake hate crimes without being charged for them.

Critical race theory, in truth, encourages a kind of patronizing if well-intentioned blindness. Have you ever fallen into a crowd of folks who love you in a condescending way? Think of yourself as the dean of students’ son, unable to prove your crewing talents on your own, but coddled and flattered because the team needs the dean’s support. Or imagine yourself as the only un-credentialed contributor in a scholarly journal and getting the feeling you are being humored. It could just be as simple as being the younger brother of a football hero, getting the feeling that every one of your mistakes is being ignored, out of courtesy to your big bro. More appropriate here, for this example, imagine your family has endured a huge tragedy, everyone burned in a fire but you. You get the feeling that no one is hearing what you say, the real you, because you are being seen as the sole survivor. You don’t get to do anything but be your tragedy.

When we treat people of color as though there is some monumental debt we need to honor with each passing moment, we’re not seeing real people. We are virtue-signaling our debt to and our shame for other people; people who lived long ago. We are treating people like gentle idiots, because, above all, we want to be seen as gentle ourselves.

This isn’t kindness or gentleness. The best sort of friend is the one who sees you for what you are, who praises you when you really accomplish something and holds you to account when you don’t. If you can’t rebuke, and insult, and kid a person of color, you are the racist, because you aren’t seeing a real person. You are using that person to fight old battles that were won long ago, by people who were more honest than you are.

Intersectional Shame: Doing the Devil’s Work For Him
Intersectionality and critical race theory are doing the same work that Democrats in the KKK of the South did 70 years ago: demanding that the oppressed internalize shame based on their identity. This is a lot easier than passing laws. If you can make a man accept the inevitability of his deserving the back of the bus, you don’t have to write tickets or haul him off to jail. You train him to put his head down—and in the Jim Crow days, apologize for his race.

These days, it’s as clear as the nose on Joe Biden’s face: Christians, Jews, heterosexuals, men, and those of European descent are being ordered to accept collective guilt and internalize it, lower their heads, keep their eyes on the floor and never ask any questions. What is the demonizing of Ben Shapiro and Alan Dershowitz and pro-lifers on college campuses but a very clear demand that we see their very identity, their beliefs, as so ugly they deserve no decent place in the public square?

Let’s be honest: this is two standards of justice for two different levels of pigmentation. It is cultural and legal Jim Crow, internalized, without the water cannons. If you are at the wrong end of the intersectional equation, and you aren’t getting angry and “uppity” when you can’t speak, can’t get a job, can’t get a contract—then you are internalizing a false shame, validating a ridiculous “oppressor” label, and you are making it easier for the new identity fascists.

But I Agree with You
Some of you may be thinking, “Wait, I see this nonsense for what it is.”

Of course you do. But when was the last time you decided to become a real (or even just a kindly) objector at one of those ridiculous HR sensitivity meetings? Have you ever wondered how a group of women could sit and be scolded as racists, even accused of being subhuman, by “sensitivity trainers” like Ashleigh Shackleford without protesting?

When was the last time you asked your child’s high school history teacher to back up her ridiculous claims about white nationalism? Have you ever wondered why your wife won’t let you engage the young millennial know-nothings in your family on holidays? You might be the only sane voice in their lives, but you’ve been sent on a Jim Crow guilt trip by the culture. You are an old white guy. You must be crazy. Get to the back of the bus, grandpa.

And if you think your “conservative” Christian fellowship is on board with your fight against “social justice,” you might want to do some checking. Even “conservative” Southern Baptist Al Mohler can’t bring himself to protest the “woke” church. I’m told a few of my good friends and relatives like the pastor Matt Chandler, but just listen to this wolf in sheep’s clothing. He “loves” his white evangelical congregants, but apparently they just have a great deal to both a) learn and b) apologize for, (not sin mind you, but that very chic race-based guilt).

The Rosa Parks/Galatians Spirit
It is both liberating, and dangerous, to speak the truth. You will be called horrible names. The false guilt many Americans have been made to feel about race and identity draws its power, after all, from some real ugliness in our past, but ask any son who struggles to live past his own father’s legacy: there is great freedom in knowing we stand before God, and our fellow man, alone. We are judged for our own sins and not those of our ancestors. Our personal burden is heavy enough, without accepting debts that political and theological con men are asking us to assume. It is time to step into the light, step into the freedom, and scorn the faux victims.

Let’s remember what we have. The American story really is like no other. A public school teacher told me that it was once the job of the school systems to make immigrants into Americans, and this reflects a New Testament truth: no one has any cause either to boast or beg. Neither do the native children nor those grafted into the tree have any cause to shame any member of our adopted family, or pay the debts of others, long dead.

Stop empowering bullies. Stop apologizing. It’s time to get a little “uppity.”

Photo Credit: iStock/Getty Images

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About James Patrick Riley

James Riley is the owner and operator of Riley's Farm in Oak Glen, California and the creator of "Courage, New Hampshire," a television drama seen on PBS stations across the country. The father of six children, Riley performs "Patrick Henry" and supervises a living history program visited by hundreds of thousands of school children. He holds a degree in history from Stanford University.