When The Dog Whistle Becomes A Bull Horn

I dipped in and out of the confirmation hearings for Judge Jackson this week, because I hate myself exactly that much. I won’t dwell on it here any more than to ask you to consider the following fascinating thought experiment:

If, God forbid, there were an accident and Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley were both dangling from a cliff and you could only save one of them, where would you go for dinner?

I had assumed that America, and certainly the US Senate in 2022 would long ago have abandoned racist dog whistles, and though I think we can indeed say we have, it is only because we have exchanged them for race-baiting bull horns. Have Judge Jackson answer questions on Critical Race Theory? Why and how is that relevant, exactly? Oh right, because she’s Black. She is a champion of pedophiles? Gosh, to be fair, that DOES seem worth probing her on, that is if we lived in a universe in which that were true. On the plus said, she is, to the palpable shock of Louisiana’s John Kennedy (who is no Jack Kennedy), “articulate.”


I am not naive enough to think racism has ever been eradicated like Small Pox or even largely suppressed, like my impulse to exercise, but there was a time in American life in which racists knew they had to use their inside voices when voicing their bile when they were among decent society.

And let’s not kid ourselves: this isn’t just an American phenomenon. The division of people through prejudice and tribalism has infiltrated much of Europe as thoroughly and bafflingly as the Metric System (I know, a base ten measurement system makes more sense, but the one thing I swore I’d never write about on this site is math).

I’m not smart, educated, or awake enough to delve into the many factors and theories as to why. And I’m not pretending these aren’t critical topics for discussion. But my plea/complaint/question is more basic: why has much Western culture (I’m not qualified at all to speak of other cultures) become so stupidly, tribal? Like a “frat rush week” level of stupid kind of tribal?

Are we really that scared of the world that we take solace in blaming others for that fear? Has our increased skill in technology that makes us more interconnected with each other backfired so dramatically because our inventiveness has so outpaced our ability to increase our capacity for empathy?

Ironically, the grotesque invasion of Ukraine has, while being almost unimaginably vicious, barbaric, and murderous, has also shown humanity’s capacity for empathy for and willingness to sacrifice for strangers and our innate repugnance at the sight of human suffering. Surely, if the sight of slaughtered soldiers and citizens, families cleaved from each other, and millions desperately fleeing all they know and love to simply survive cannot show us that we are all the same, nothing can.

We all love, we all fear, we all bleed, we all cry and laugh; we are all capable of cruelty and kindness, and we each have the choice, every minute of every day, to make the world an inch more welcoming or alienating for others.

For anyone who’s come here looking for insight and answers, you are entitled to a full refund.

Most of us – God knows I number among this cohort – have little power to persuade or provoke much change within our own circles, let alone a world which seems to be spinning angrily off of its axis. I wish I had more wisdom, knowledge, and, if I had somehow acquired those qualities, I would find more chances to apply them in the hopes of making the world an inch easier for others now and to come.

But I don’t. I can’t even figure out half of the functions of my iPhone. There are times it seems the world is built to rip ourselves apart from our own selves and each other. I’m starting to believe our only hope to stop the former from happening is to to fight like hell against the latter where and whenever we see it.

9 thoughts on “When The Dog Whistle Becomes A Bull Horn

  1. Excellent post. I shouldn’t have read it in bed though- I woke my wife up laughing out loud at the Cruz-Hawley line haha

  2. Whilst reading this, a quote came to mind which I wanted to reference, only to find another quote attributed to Einstein too, so I’ll share both,

    “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” (Albert Einstein)

    “The rate of invention is exceeding the rate at which we can problem solve… As the writer and biochemist Isaac Asimov said, the saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” (Bruce Perry)

  3. I feel as angry and frustrated as you do over the situation, and am also a little awe inspired over humanity’s ability to shun the enemy and show some kindness. There will unfortunately always be people like Putin and there will always be wars.

  4. I read a stunning (to me anyway) article in Atlantic Mag recently about the January 6 insurrection, which cited the work of a non-profit group that was looking for background similarities in the attackers. The only one they found was that nearly all came from home districts that are no longer majority white. As you note,, racial hatred is being sponsored at the highest level of government.

  5. I listened to the astronomer who was the founder of SETI talk about the plan in the Reagan era for what the world would do if an asteroid was coming our way. The thought was that threat would make the world unite and we’d solve it together. Fast forward 40 years and we have the pandemic — oops, the world didn’t come together to solve that threat.

    Who knows when and if we’ll ever figure out as a collective that we are all the same but I think you are right, we can keep fighting at an individual level to promote empathy, kindness and humanity without waiting for our “leaders” to catch up.

    Great post, Jack!

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