Sorry, Ronald Reagan, it was not “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican,” though people who believe in their hearts that God is a Republican may think otherwise. The 11th commandment was—or it should have been—Thou shalt not be a hypocrite. And it would’ve been, too, if Moses hadn't been such a colossal hypocrite himself…
And Moses said to the people, "Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Mid'ian"…And Moses sent them to war, a thousand from each tribe…And the people of Israel took captive the women of Mid'ian and their little ones; and they took as booty all their cattle, their flocks, and their goods. Then they brought the captives and the booty to Moses…And Moses was angry with the officers of the army…Moses said to them, "Have you let all the women live? Behold, these caused…the plague to come among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him."Thank you, Mr Thou Shalt Not Kill or Steal…we’ll get back to you when we need more guidance on the path of righteousness. Fact is, hypocrisy is called out more often in the Bible than same sex marriage (sodomy to put it old school) or abortion (zero mentions per se, but if you're going to hang it under the 6th commandment against killing you should have to allow for the same loopholes you allow for capital punishment and war...seems only fair).
Can’t be too hard on Ol’ Mose, though. Hypocrisy’s a bitch. It is insidious the way it creeps up on you. One minute you're riding the high road of self-regard, the next you're exposed as a fraud...a phony...a hypocrite. The reason it is so easy for us to fall into fraudulence has much to do with the stark difference between inner and outer reality. Unless we're insane, we have relative control over what goes on in our heads and it's easy to imagine the kind of person we would like to be. It's also relatively easy to articulate the kind of person we would like to be...the tongue is pretty much the PR department of the ego. Where it gets difficult is when we try practicing what we preach to the choir inside our heads because it's no longer simply a matter between I and me. Now others are involved...and circumstances beyond our control come into play...and it all gets incredibly more complicated living up to the standards we've created for ourselves in the imaginarium of our brains.
I'm as guilty as the next joker in the human comedy that is our existence. I can go on...and do...about the greed of the capitalist class, but I'll bet my next dividend statement that the Koch Brothers--who I view as the worst of the worst--are far more generous with their charitable contributions than I am. Now I can rationalize that any way I want...most conveniently through the US tax code...but the bottom line is that even on the purely Marxist basis of "from each according to their means," those bastards are more giving than I am. I realize this admission of mine may compromise my credibility in speaking out against greed in the future. There is a peculiar type of hypocrite who boasts a fetish for transparency--warts and all honesty--but who nonetheless is quick to punish those who willingly self-incriminate or confess their sins. It may be the most pernicious kind of hypocrisy because it so perverts full disclosure, but it does give me the rare opportunity to quote the Bible without irony:
Romans 2:1 Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.Alas, hypocrisy abounds...from the old cowboy who freeloads off government land while complaining about blacks living on government subsidies to the basketball team owner who makes a living off blacks (and gets his ya-yas off black women) but doesn't want black people at his games to the politicians who go to grotesque lengths to protect the lives of the unborn but unleash unspeakable cruelties on the born. It's all around us...a global worming, so to speak. Pointing hypocrisies out among religious fundamentalists and political conservatives, however, is like shooting fish in a barrel...or fish decals off the cargo doors of SUVs and pick-ups.
Where it more concerns me is among my kind...the liberal, progressive community...which should know better. There are infamous examples of liberal hypocrisy. Anti-fossil fuel crusader Al Gore profits off fossil fuels. Our liberal colleges, those bastions of free expression, impose Orwellian speech codes on their students. And just about the entire career of Ayaan Hirsi Ali: an atheist, a courageous champion of free speech, and a black woman terrorized by religious fundamentalists since birth, all of which should make her a liberal icon, instead the liberal community turns her into a pariah for criticizing Islam in terms no more harsh than standard issue lefties routinely use to criticize Catholicism.
Allow me to drill down a bit on the subject of liberal hypocrisy at the expense of the estimable Dan Savage. I like Savage...read his work often and agree with him most of the time...all of which unfortunately makes him a rich target here. Two years ago as part of his admirable "It Gets Better Project" to counter bullying of gay teenagers he was speaking at a conference of aspiring teen journalists when he went off on the Bible thusly:
We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people. The same way, the same way we have learned to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation. We ignore bullshit in the Bible about all sorts of things. The Bible is a radically pro-slavery document. Slave owners waved Bibles over their heads during the Civil War and justified it. The shortest book in the New Testament is a letter from Paul to a Christian slave owner about owning his Christian slave. And Paul doesn't say "Christians don't own people." Paul talks about how Christians own people.As a group of youthful Christian journalists rose up to walk out in him in protest, Savage lashed out at them, calling their protest “pansy-assed.” It’s almost Merriam-Webster worthy as an example of hypocrisy: An adult addressing a bunch of kids on the awfulness of bullying resorts to bullying some of those very kids. I seize on this because it arises out of some specious liberal logic that gays can’t be bullies because they’re the victims of bullies and blacks can’t be racists because they’re the victims of racism and women can’t be sexists because they’re the victims of sexism. It amounts to one big fat free pass for those so possessed by their own sense of victimhood and righteousness that they actually feel entitled to the right to demean others.
I don’t think I’m being too hard on Dan Savage...especially since he issued an apology for his behavior:
I would like to apologize for describing that walk out as a pansy-assed move. I wasn't calling the handful of students who left pansies (2800+ students, most of them Christian, stayed and listened), just the walk-out itself. But that's a distinction without a difference—kinda like when religious conservatives tell their gay friends that they "love the sinner, hate the sin." They're often shocked when their gay friends get upset because, hey, they were making a distinction between the person (lovable!) and the person's actions (not so much!). But gay people feel insulted by "love the sinner, hate the sin" because it is insulting. Likewise, my use of "pansy-assed" was insulting, it was name-calling, and it was wrong. And I apologize for saying it.Well, it was sort of an apology. At first it tries to minimize the grievance of the kids who were offended by casting them into a distinct minority, and then it tries to bring attention back to Savage’s grievance. I don’t want to make a blanket claim that this is a typically hypocritical characteristic of the liberal apology. (I haven’t made a study of the differences between liberal and conservative approaches to apology…though someone should). But I have noticed that what I call the Trojan horse apology is common among liberals. Often hidden within the apology is a repackaging of the offense that gave rise for the need of apology in the first place. In this case Savage is telling the kids, “Yeah, I’m sorry, but you still don’t get it that your religion made me do it.”
There’s one more vein of hypocrisy in the incident that I would like to tap into here. Liberals are supposed to be avid advocates of education as the engine for a progressive society. Yet in his presentation to these kids, Savage was more confrontational than educational. His inflammatory dismissal of the Bible as “bullshit” was the stuff of talk radio, not the classroom. His assumptions about what these kids actually already knew about the Bible was elitist gospel rather than illuminating.
If we as liberals really believe that education—of adults as well as kids—is the only way forward, we are going to have to work at becoming better educators than bitter hypocrites.