I think there should be a word for people who call others names unfairly. Years ago I was publicly shouted down as a “Nazi” for daring to speak out at a town hall meeting to oppose the expansion of a Chabad Lubavitch prayer center in a residential neighborhood. I found the experience ironic since I was probably a bigger Zionist than some of the leftist Jews in the auditorium. Just this week Mozilla’s CEO Brendan Eich was forced to step down for his donation to a group fighting gay marriage in California 8 years ago. Ian McCullogh, writing for Forbes, has publicly called Eich a “homophobe” and deserving of losing his job, even though no one has explained how opposing gay marriage makes one homophobic. Either the people throwing around the term don’t understand its weight, or the term itself means nothing. Similarly one of my childhood heroes Hank Aaron has come out and called me and others “racist” for opposing Obama.
As my friend Adam told me at the time, there is plenty of real anti-Semitism around so making it up isn’t necessary, and the same is true about racism and homophobia. I live among African-Americans, and I also happen to know there are more than a few white supremacists around these parts. Ask me which ones I’d rather hang out with or have my son marry. Similarly I have more gay friends than the average Southerner, and it pisses me off to no end when I hear about the hassles they still have to put up with at the hands of true homophobes. Yet while I support gay marriage, I deplore the attacks on Mozilla’s Eich that led to his resignation. As for racism, I still think Barack Obama is the worst president this country has had since Nixon. Hammerin’ Hank thinks I’m a klansman for believing that. Hank, you disappoint me.
The people who resort to name calling for anyone who disagrees with them deserve their own special derogatory name. They need to be called out and shamed for their behavior just as the true bigots need to be for their action. Anyone who is truly a racist would be proud to be called one. True Nazis aren’t upset about being called Nazi after all. But those who are slandered by your name calling deserve to fight back with their own special word that shames people who attack them unfairly.
I’ll let you know if I come up with something beyond “flaming asshat.”