The girl seemed to take exception to prejudice being challenged.
”I’m English,” she said.
”So am I,” I said.
”Yes,” she said, presumably responding her perception that my accent was not local, “but I am English English.”
“So am I,” I said, “my family have been in Huish Episcopi parish for four hundred years. How long have your family been where you are?”
It was a sharp response, but I have realised that the sort of liberal democratic values in which I believe will only be preserved if moderates are prepared to challenge the increasing extremism from both the Right and the Left.
There seems now to be no sense of embarrassment in the expression of plain prejudice, perhaps the expression of prejudice has always been thus. It need produce no evidence for it to be considered a convincing reason to hold an opinion. Declaring one’s opinion regarding a group of people now seems to be regarded as legitimate political discourse. Sub-literate comments on social media are defended as people’s right to free speech.
In my own family, an aunt, now long dead, used to object to “the Irish.” Not once did she explain what she meant by “the Irish,” nor did she ever explain what it was that caused her objections. An uncle of a similar vintage objected to “the Asians,” he didn’t know any Asians, but that didn’t seem to matter.
Having a grandfather who suffered persecution at the hands of Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts, I grew up with stories of those who objected to “the Jews”.
Always there was some group upon which to pick, never mind that the complainers might confess that they knew not a single person from the group they hated, never mind that the chosen scapegoats were economically much poorer.
Living in a Protestant community in Northern Ireland, those demonised were “the Catholics”. Sometimes the term “Catholic” was not even used. Having moved to an area that was overwhelmingly Catholic and Nationalist, where I received nothing other than warm friendliness, I travelled to a town near Belfast to take a service one Sunday evening.
“Where are you from?” asked the churchwarden. I told him. “There are a lot of ‘them’ down there”, he replied.
Feigning ignorance of his meaning, I said, “are there?”
To have attempted a reasoned discussion was pointless, he had made up his mind.
There seem many like him now, people who seem to regard prejudice as reasonable and who would look askance if they were asked to justify their view. Prejudice by its nature admits of no reasoning.