I read this article on John Galliano, and it’s kind of like the straw that broke the camel’s back.
There have been a spate of anti-Semitic rants spewed in the past few years by movie stars or other public figures. All of them, invariably seem to have been followed by demurely muttered apologies accompanied by addiction or substance abuse explanations, or mental instability. Well, I think I can agree with the mental instability claim. But, sorry, the ‘I’m a bigot because I lost mental control’ tactic isn’t working for me.
I don’t experience substance abuse. But lots of things can trigger lack of impulse control: lack of sleep, lack of blood sugar, some idiot almost clipping you on the road, bi-polar disorder, whatever. The mode doesn’t matter as much as the fact of emotional turmoil and imbalance. I’ve felt it myself, just not through drugs or alcohol. But you know what? While I won’t deny homicidal urges, and I certainly won’t deny cussing streaks that would make a trucker blush, someone’s upbringing and the decisions they make do to some extent govern how they react in anger. I can understand someone who punches a wall when they’re drunk. I did it when I was a teenager. I can even understand isolated incidents where someone hauls off and slugs the guy with whom they’re arguing. I’ve been in bars. That’s why they have bouncers, because this is not an uncommon impulse in many adults, right, wrong, or indifferent. And though I’m not a violent person, I can understand the impulse.
But never, ever, ever, in all my years have I had an instance of anger in which I was even tempted to call another person a racial or ethnic slur. The repulsiveness of such a thing was too deeply ingrained. I’m a writer and I can’t even write a character that says racial slurs. I cringe when I hear them. If I ever write a historical fiction piece, I’ll have to get over that, but the point is, at no point did it ever occur to me as an option for behavior.
People lose control of their impulses when they drink or use drugs sometimes, or when they’re just plain angry, I get that. But the fact that the impulse is there, to go off on a particular group of people because of their ethnic background is far more troubling to me than their lack of control. It means that even when they’re calm, that particular brand of poison is always there, beneath the surface.