It has become cliché for conservative leaders to make bigoted statements. Being a racist just excites the new conservative base these days. It’s why I am surprised Lindsey Graham even bothered to try and clarify his recent racist statements about Iranians.
As he sat down with Donald Trump’s unofficial ego boosting team on Fox & Friends, they continued insulting Elizabeth Warren and her DNA test. The conversation lightheartedly went to Graham taking a DNA test of his own.
“I’ll probably be Iranian,” he said. “That’d be, like, terrible.”
That would be, like, terrible. For Iranians like myself.
Host Brian Kilmeade who is, at this point in the Trump era, skilled in redirecting offensive Republican comments, suggested Graham was actually talking about Iranian leadership and not the Iranian people as a whole. Graham later tried to clarify that was actually his intention.
As an Iranian-American, I don’t mind saying that I was upset for a moment. I can’t say I am surprised either. I would be more upset if it turned out Graham was actually descended from the great Persian Empire. However, as a South Carolinian who is supposed to be represented by this man, I had to consider if he truly thinks Iranian-Americans are so deplorable genetically that he would make such a ridiculous statement. I came to two possible conclusions.
He is either a bigot or he is ignorant.
Perhaps Kilmeade was right and Graham was honest in saying his statement was about being related to Iranian leadership. Well, this suggests Graham has no idea how DNA and genetics actually work and maybe he should just keep his mouth shut. This is the ignorance “branch.” Iranian DNA has nothing to do with Iranian leadership. It’s like being worried that your DNA would reveal you’re a Democrat.
Graham went on to say, “Well if you know anything about me, name one person who’s been a bigger defender of the Iranian people to fight back against their oppressor,” he said.
My father for one. I can name lots of other people I personally know who are more passionate about the rights of the Iranian people than the white senator from South Carolina. Let me guess, you’re also on the forefront of advocacy for support for sexual assault victims?
Let’s be honest. Graham’s desire for the Iranian people to fight back against their “oppressor” has nothing to do with the Iranian people. It is about having another ally against a proclaimed enemy of the United States. It’s political.
If Graham were truly passionate about the Iranian people, he would have been incapable of such a “terrible” faux pas. It is easy for such a statement to come off his tongue because he doesn’t care about people who don’t belong at the country club. Furthermore, the fact that he could have picked any race of people and he went with Iranians suggests that he wasn’t being ignorant. It was a simple expression of how he feels. Off the cuff remarks like that tend to reflect an honest view.
The unsettling aspect is that a Republican bigot is acceptable and celebrated in the modern political world. Everyone who wants to eat at Trump’s table has conformed to the idea of regressing America back to when it was “great.” You know, the good ol’ days when white folks didn’t have to share lunch counters with black folks. The last two years have shown that you can’t be offensive enough to repulse the white evangelical base for Republicans, so it’s politically savvy to be clear about your disgust with those who aren’t white. It works. But for those who care more about people than politics, Graham’s words should be considered disgusting and an indication of his character. Not that it will matter to conservative South Carolinians.
Now, I am of direct Iranian descent. I am a Persian. I am not offended by Graham’s words because he doesn’t have that kind of power. I come from a long line of proud people and an even longer line that reaches back to Adam. Instead, here’s an olive branch to join a world where “terrible” is not the first word you think of when you consider those who aren’t like you, Mr. Graham.
In the words of Cyrus the Great, “All men have their frailties; and whoever seeks a friend without imperfections, will never find what he seeks.”
Nobody’s perfect. Just don’t be a bigot. Of course, maybe it’s genetic.