Confessions of a Bigot

Bigot: a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief or opinion.

Twin Towers, September 9
Twin Towers collapse September 11, 2011

On September 11, 2001, I was on a flight from Boston to New York City. On the final approach to New York’s La Guardia airport at 8:40 a.m. we flew over the World Trade Center. I was marveling at its beauty and the New York City skyline. Eight minutes later, the world was tragically changed.

For over an hour, my wife did not know if I was alive or dead. I had tried to call her, but all circuits were busy with calls from frantic relatives to fliers that day or from fliers to relatives to assure them they were OK. For the next hours and days, the attention of the world was riveted on death, destruction and terror.

A few days later, on September 26, I was at the airport in Boston preparing to fly to Stockholm, Sweden. The airport was fairly empty—people were afraid to fly so soon after the attack. As I waited to board the plane, I (along with many others) turned our attention to an Arabic man who was also getting ready to board.

A Muslim man
A Muslim man

As I watched him, two thoughts kept circling in my head: I had a feeling of empathy for this man who was now being viewed with suspicion by almost everyone—including me.

But my other thought was a concern that he may be a danger to my safety, wondering if he was “planning another attack.” I found myself fabricating reasons to be suspicious of him.

I was being a bigot.

There are certainly individuals who belong to groups that evilly intend to cause harm—and do—whether physical, mental or spiritual. They must be searched out, fought and defeated.

But I believe there are two ways to abuse that sentiment about freedom:

1. “Fighting back” against an organization or individual based on prejudice without first determining their true beliefs and intentions.

2. Judging others harshly through a jaundiced, predetermined eye because you assume you know what they are.

That was me. I was intolerant. I was a bigot, and I did not like it.

As L. Ron Hubbard wrote: “It requires real strength to love Man. And to love him despite all invitations to do otherwise, all provocations and all reasons why one should not.

Happiness and strength endure only in the absence of hate. To hate alone is the road to disaster. To love is the road to strength. To love in spite of all is the secret of greatness. And may very well be the greatest secret in this universe.

Bernard Percy
Author, educator, international lecturer, proud dad of three adult daughters, husband (for 45 years), and a Scientologist (since 1968). He has had eight books published on education and family relationships; he was a New York City elementary school teacher for 12 years and he has a master's degree in childhood education from Columbia University.