Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
In “Police see racist motive behind French shootings” and “British teacher used Nazi antics to rile neighbors” (both March 21st stories) we see once more the common misuse of words. In the terrible French synagogue shooting story we read that a fear of attacks on minorities in France“raise fears of a racist killer on the loose.” In the British story we read that the accused Briton, Geoffrey Butler, denies charges of “racially aggravated harassment” of his German neighbors. Neither story mentioned the races of the victims or the supposed perpetrators. In the case of Mr. Butler and his German neighbors it seems unlikely that they are of different races, and we should remember that “British” and “German” are merely nationalities. In the synagogue shooting story we ought to remember that Judaism is a religion, not a race or a nationality. I reject suggestions that conflict between ethnic or religious groups amounts to “racism.” Similarly, disagreement with or dislike of homosexuality does not equate with “fear” of homosexuality, despite almost blanket use of the word “homophobia” to describe so many crimes against gays. And in one more example, I question the use of “terrorist” or “terrorism” to describe things that are merely terrible. With a clever semantic trick I might easily use “terrorism” to describe something terrific.
So I agree with Michael Kinsley’s comment in his essay “Not quite the worst presidential campaign ever” (March 21) that we would all do best to develop a thicker skin. These days people more and more want government legislation and police enforcement to protect us from our own feelings and to blame them on others. It seems that we are becoming less human - or possible just more infantile - as our civilization ages.
But I could be wrong.
Published on Thursday, March 29, 2012 as “Infantile use of ‘racism’ label.”
The paper deleted my closing disclaimer, “But I could be wrong.” And, I am quite disappointed that the sentence “With a clever semantic trick I might easily use“terrorism” to describe something terrific” was also deleted because I think it is an important point. I ought to have written “I reject suggestions that conflict between ethnic or religious groups necessarilyamounts to “racism,” rather than “I reject suggestions that conflict between ethnic or religious groups amounts to “racism” because that is what I mean, and the sentence as it was printed might rile too many people and cause a bitter rebuttal. We’ll see.