Let's define hate speech. Hate speech is a form of speech intended to attack, disparage, or degrade a number of social or ethnic groups. Individuals within these groups may share an ethnicity, race, nationality, religion, physical or developmental disability, or sexual orientation.
There's a line with me, a line that I can be pushed toward with minor resistance, but once pushed over it there is no turning back. I have been known to lose my temper and have had to apologize for the things I've said while angry, but this is not something I'm going to apologize for. The truth of the matter is that Zeb Bell is a liar and he and those who have set up Zeb's Rebs have absolutely no right to accuse the Idaho progressive blogosphere of hate speech.
The assertion that the bloggers who have monitored and reported on the hatred, racism and bigotry broadcasting from the home of Zeb Bell are guilty of hate speech is ridiculous and baseless. I have often been offended listening to the filth flowing freely from Zeb Bell's mouth, my belief system has been shaken and offended, but on a deeply personal level I have not been offended until now.
Where do I even begin? The smoke has been shooting out of my ears for nearly twenty-four hours and as hard as I've tried to calm my anger and put into words my response to this asinine accusation, I haven't been able to. I haven't been able to because I am amazed and shocked. I can't speak for the entire progressive blogosphere or even those who have closely monitored Zeb, but I can speak for myself. Obviously, Zeb Bell doesn't know me at all.
I've never said anything in my entire life that would be classified as hate speech. I have never said anything out of anger or innocence that would be classified as such and I would never dream of doing so. Despite who I could have grown up to be, despite growing up in the same area Zeb and so many like him raise their children, I grew up to be an immensely sensitive individual. I was blessed to have a grandmother who taught me that every human being was equal. She never stood on a soapbox and she never referred to historic documents and her knowledge of them as a way of teaching me that all men are in fact equal. Could she have? Of course. My grandmother is many things, one of them being incredibly intelligent, but she didn't have to spout off that phrase from the Declaration of Independence and point to any sense of patriotism to teach me about equality because she taught by example.
In the fifth grade we were assigned reports on one of the fifty states. My classmates and I were called up to the front to each draw a state's name out of a hat and my state turned out to be Alabama. Even at the age of ten I had a certain appreciation for history. As I wrote my report, concentrating on the history of Alabama, I was introduced to racism for the first time through the story of George Wallace. I can still remember sitting at that small, circular table in the far end of my grandparents' kitchen, staring at the exposed brick wall, wondering what happened to Governor Wallace that made him hate another person so much. My grandmother sat me down, showed me a picture of Wallace standing in front of the Foster Auditorium door at the University of Alabama and explained to me that entire section of the country I was born in hadn't seen a large population as human beings simply because of the color of their skin. To this day I remember that conversation and remember the tone of her voice, the way she was talking to me as if she were breaking some terrible news to me, and I realize now that maybe she was.
I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard the n-word and how completely dark and empty it felt. I cringe every time I hear the r-word and correct my friends and even my own family when they use it. I've struggled to understand my mother's belief that being gay is a choice, just as I've struggled to understand the absolute hatred her husband holds for Hispanics. I've known for awhile that both my father, who wouldn't even consider being kind enough to use the term 'Hispanics' as a label, and grandfather, his parents were born and raised in the Jim Crow South, are racist. Knowing doesn't make it any easier to understand or accept. My own struggle to understand how they could believe as they do has only made me appreciate the example my wonderful grandmother set for me.
My distance from the Zeb Bell monitoring of late has been for my own sake, for my mental health and my own sanity, mostly because the negativity drags me down and my sensitivity to what is said on the show makes it all the more difficult to endure daily. If you listen to the hate day after day you either stop finding it so offensive or it just eats at you day after day. In anticipation of the news that Zeb had started a blog, Wordsmith said she is to the point of expecting "something more outlandish than the last thing." Unfortunately, it's true. My partner in all things Zeb Bell, the editor of the MountainGoat Report, takes it all in stride, rarely losing her head. Perhaps she is further removed from the area and the area's particular brand of hate, but whatever the case may be, I just don't handle it as well as she does. Up until yesterday, the distance from "Zeb at the Ranch" had been much needed and well spent, but yesterday something changed.
Not surprisingly, Zeb has sunk to the low of grade school bickering. He's employed that often used come-back "no, you are" like a grade school bully who just got called a name. Turning the tables are we, Zeb? Well, do what you must, but at the end of the day I can look myself in the mirror and know with complete certainty that I have never been guilty of hate speech. Can you do the same? Yeah, I didn't think so.