I'm a bigot. Or at least I've been told I am. Most likely by people who don't even know the meaning of the word. Or at least by people who have been trained to use the word to describe anyone who is "less tolerant" than they perceive themselves to be. Certainly by people who don't know me. If they knew any of these things they would know that I'm not a bigot.
1.a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.
Those of you who know me know that definition simply does not describe me. I am quite open to argument and honest debate and I've even been persuaded to change my opinion on occasion. It may or may not describe you, I don't know. That is the reason you will never find me making that accusation of someone. The following definition would be more aptly applied to me, and most likely to you as well. I have yet to meet someone to whom the following definition does not apply.
1.the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually.
Now that's something I am guilty of. But like I said before, you are too. We all have a tendency to associate or not with groups based on the characteristics of that group. Even in such innocuous situations as determining which church to attend. "Oh, I could never go there, they believe that a woman can't be a Pastor." (My church does not espouse that opinion, by the way. Although I have quite happily attended some that do.) Or, "How can you attend a church that professes that homosexuality is a sin?". "What," you may ask when invited to attend Mass by a friend, "You do know I'm Baptist, don't you?". You get the idea. All of God's children discriminate against one another all the time.
We all discriminate in other ways as well. I tend not to hang out with liars, cheats, and thieves. You may choose not to enter a certain part of town after a certain hour of the night. Some of you may feel very uncomfortable if required to attend a formal function that is outside your normal social circle. Still others are afraid of groups of guys on Harley-Davidsons wearing black leather and denim.
The one way that is most familiar to you, my readers, is in political ideology. Many on the left will quite proudly say that they do not desire to attend some bi-partisan event or function, simply because those intolerant Republicans will be there. While I always smile at the irony of such a statement, I don't deny that there are Republicans that may express the same or similar opinion from time to time. I say this from experience. The experience of attempting to persuade liberals to attend a blog conference in Martinsville this past summer.
The source of the bigot tag being placed upon me is an obscure, offhand comment I made some time back, in reply to a friend. That friend and I knew that I was referring, in the form of a rather obtuse joke, to the story from the recent past concerning Abu Ghraib prison and the charges made at the time that soldiers had flushed a Koran.
That remark certainly does not mean that I would desecrate in any way your copy of the Koran. Your copy of the Koran is sacred to me simply because it is yours. The only meaning that can be drawn from my comment is that a copy that may somehow find itself in my possession would mean no more to me than a John Grisham novel. It may go on my bookshelf, but it will never be considered a sacred text by me.
Does that mean that I'm intolerant of Muslims, of course not. It simply means I will tend to discriminate in my choice of what I consider sacred. Just like you do when you eat a cheeseburger. What? You didn't know that cows are sacred to Hindus, and Jews who keep kosher consider it a sin to combine meat and dairy?