There is nothing more American than having a bit of a fondness for foreign historical monarchs. (Perhaps living in a Republic makes us more fascinated with them as a result? No? That’s just me? Okay, then!) One of my favorites is Queen Victoria. During her long and prosperous reign, England produced some of its finest poets and writers. Unlike most female monarchs, Victoria had a genuine love for her husband. Her marriage to Prince Albert was full of shyness, sweetness, and innocent romance (and yes, the occasional argument, since she had a bit of a temper, too!). But that’s not what most people remember about her, particularly abroad. What most people remember is the statement she made famous: “We are not amused!” It was her response to a “comical” tale that offended her sense of morality and honor. The “we” was collective “we” as opposed to merely expressing her opinion, since she intimated that none of her ladies were “amused” by the ribald joke, either.
There are many instances in my life, and in our culture, which prompts a similar reaction from me, and that often causes me to think fondly of Victoria.
Recently, I was phone-polled by a state agency looking to predict the outcome of the November election. I quite enjoyed sharing my opinion (and enthusiastically punching buttons) until we got to one of the last questions. “What is your race? For White press 1, for Black press 2, for Hispanic press 3…” That annoyed me. I considered hanging up but was afraid they might discount my response if I did not finish out the poll, so I answered a series of intrusive questions intended to identify me not as an individual, but as one of many “similar” individuals within a certain group of people in a certain age bracket. Are you a man or a woman? Would you identify yourself as Conservative, Liberal, or Independent?
We were not amused!
I get the reason for such polls, but I don’t really like answering a lot of intrusive questions. Unfortunately, that seems to be the norm these days. I am constantly astonished at the things people ask (and respond to) without so much as batting an eyelash. Matters which would have been considered “none of your business” back when my grandfather was digging fence post holes. Consider the census. It serves a reasonably decent and even worthwhile purpose, since it allows additional congressmen to be re-assigned to growing districts and removed from ones diminishing in population. However, somewhere along the way, some bureaucrat decided he had uses for more information than what our Founders intended (which was simply “how many people live in this residence?”) and started adding on questions. Intrusive questions. “None of your business” questions like “what is your race?” “How much is your annual income?” (Why is that the government’s business? If you turn in your tax papers, they know this already… what do they want with that particular information, if it’s not to “generalize” about certain areas?) Etc. Questions that most of the old ranchers around would spit tobacco at, hike up their jeans, and drawl, “That ain’t none of yer dern business.”
We’re accustomed to sharing private information, so much so that we don’t notice when the answer to a question is in fact no one’s business. Our world is currently designed in such a way as to assist us in sharing everything about our daily lives. People are very open. Too open. I don’t need to know the intimate details of someone’s illness in order to pray for them, do I? And I am not all that thrilled about Google taking photos-from-the-air of my house either. (Go type your address into Google Maps and see if they’ve shared your yard with the entire world, too!) Even the government is catching on to how useful this invasion of privacy is—over the summer, a state government used it to fine a bunch of their constituents who were discovered to have installed pools without the appropriate permits. No warrant. No legal search. Just areal shots checked against permits. But when the story came out, almost no one noticed, or cared. It didn’t strike them as an invasion of privacy… because they’re used to not having any.
Which brings us back to the profiling questions at the end of the poll. It is my theory that these sorts of questions may hint toward racism, which gets a lot of face time in the media these days. No one can have an opinion on anything without running the risk of being called a racist. But you also cannot apply for anything these days without filling in a race box. This was done to “help” minorities, but doesn’t that imply they need help? Isn’t it racism to hand out special treatment based on race? Why do I have to check my race when filling out a form to purchase a hand gun? Is one race of people more likely to commit crimes with hand guns than another? Are they profiling me according to race? Is that Constitutional? And these polls… does it help anyone to be lumped into an ethnic group? Does it make my opinion any more valid? Is it actually offensive for a journalist to stick a camera in your face at a rally and say, “What are you doing here?” based on your skin color? Is it any of their business?
Racism is dying (if not mostly dead already) but what we are exchanging it for is hyper political correctness and a willingness to share personal information without thought or consideration of the potential consequences. Over time, we have permitted our liberties to be eroded one by one in small and seemingly unimportant ways. We just sighed and filled out the census questionnaires instead of saying, “Show us where in the Constitution you are permitted to ask me these questions.” I’m as guilty of it as the rest of you. It’s not until recently that I have started wondering, “What business is it of theirs?” on matters of race, religion, political affiliation, and sex. If I want someone to know something, I will tell them about it. But living around ranchers has taught me one thing: not all questions are appreciated. If you want to avoid looking like a “greenhorn,” never ask a man how many cattle he runs or the size of his spread. It ain’t the government’s business, and it ain’t yours either.
I’m rather of the opinion that few people care anymore what color your skin is, just about the way in which you conduct yourself and whether or not you mind your own business. The only “racism” that exists will die out once the media and our government stop asking us our race, and defining us by our skin tone.
Until then? We are not amused. ♥