The first thing most anti-Obama people will tell you is that this is not an issue of race. They’ll tell you that claiming it to be about race is just another way in which the liberals are trying to distract the public from their “true” arguments. “Just because we don’t agree with the president doesn’t mean we’re racist.” True enough. And I would much rather believe what’s happening out there is more about ideological differences and not race-related at all. But the level of violent, repugnant, misinformed hatred that is swelling out there suggests much of it is.
You think Joe Wilson’s conduct unbecoming an adult, no less a Congressperson, has no roots in race? You mean the South Carolinian who belonged to the Sons of Confederate Vetarans who led a campaign in 2000 to keep the Confederate flag waving above his state capitol? The one who claimed anyone who said ’48 segregationist candidate for president Strom Thurmond had a black daughter was simply involved in a “smear” campaign? Even after it had been proven and admitted?
And let’s take a look for a moment at what it was that caused Congressman Wilson to yell “You lie!” at the President of the United States during a nationally televised address. Was it the suggestion that we should engage in a preemptive war against another country for a purpose that had no basis in truth or reality? A war that cost us thousands more American lives than the 9/11 attacks themselves? No. It was the misguided notion that illegal immigrants may be able to get health care coverage in the United States. That taxpayer dollars and/or federal funds may go to helping human beings that are here illegally. Human beings from other countries. But suggest spending enough money to create an unheard of deficit and rob over 100,000 human beings of their lives, and we don’t hear a peep from anyone in Congress during that Presidential address. No, it was the horrifying possibility that illegal immigrants may find a way to get health care coverage that caused Congressman Wilson to have his uncontrollable “emotional outburst” and interrupt Obama’s speech to call him a liar. And that’s just assuming Wilson even believes his own accusation. Which opens up a whole other can of worms suggesting a straight-forward attempt to delegitimize President Obama on national television while playing into the xenophobic fears of a segment of Americans already twisted by lies and accusations about our current president.
Folks like Stan, the friendly and well-spoken gentleman who commented on my recent post “Rep. Joe Wilson Of S.C. Calls Obama A Liar During President’s Speech To Congress” and stated that he wasn’t racist because he’d happily vote for Bill Cosby as president while simultaneously calling Obama a “joke of a president” and stating “this man has no business being President until he shows a copy of his birth certificate. He will not because he was born in Kenya.” Stan then went on to tell us how both Obama “and his wife have both quoted excerpts from Saul Alinskys’ book ”Rules For Radicals”.” While continuing to tell us how “not scary” he was and how much he was not a racist, Stan then went on to state that “God loves us all the same, but this man [Obama] managed to get to Harvard despite not having the grades or finances to do so.”
There’s a level of fear out there, a level of craziness that one hopes is just the death throes of a segment of America that the educated and grown-up had dreamed would no longer be a part of our culture as we moved into the 21st century. But it is. And having a half-black president has brought it bubbling to the surface for everyone to witness. This is both a frightening thing and a good thing. We need to see it. We need to face it and understand it and address it straight on.
From the loud-mouthed Rush Limbaughs and Bill O’Reillys, the juvenile and spoiled Glenn Becks and Sean Hannitys, to the “everyman” and “everywoman” out on the street with their signs held high demonstrating for the whole world how easily manipulated they are; how their own fears and hatred can so effortlessly be used to turn them into angry, violent pawns. Here are just a few:
“This isn’t the Republican Party. This is just the fringe, the crazies,” some will say. Well, Joe Wilson has proven that to be wrong. This isn’t the mentality out on the street alone, this has made its way into Congress. And the support for Wilson’s 1st grade (not to mention completely incorrect) commentary shows us that this is, indeed, the new face of the Republican Party. Just in case Sarah Palin’s nomination for Vice President and her post-election fear-mongering hadn’t convinced you.
So where are the true Republicans? The ones who also recognize that this is not the America anyone has fought for? That this is, by any world standard, backwards and embarrassing. I know they’re out there. There are many Republicans (and even some Democrats) who simply do not agree with Obama and are engaged in healthy debate and not interested in fear-based lies. And once in a while some Republican member speaks up and says, “That was wrong. You should apologize.” But that’s not enough. Where is the movement by the Republican Party to reclaim its own dignity? And in so doing return some dignity to the United States of America?
The roots of racism run deep in this country. And we are a fearful nation. And that fear has been worked on diligently, sculpted and fertilized by the previous administration and many administrations before it. And our country is filled with grown-ups who have yet to mentally or emotionally reach adulthood. We are still an immature nation. But we are not ALL children. And that is not meant as a separation of Democrat and Republican. There are children and adults on both sides. However, right now, the Republican Party has become the embodiment of that racism and immaturity.
Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times Maureen Dowd wrote a piece recently that I highly recommend. In it she observes:
I’ve been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer — the frantic efforts to paint our first black president as the Other, a foreigner, socialist, fascist, Marxist, racist, Commie, Nazi; a cad who would snuff old people; a snake who would indoctrinate kids — had much to do with race.
…But Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president — no Democrat ever shouted “liar” at W. when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq — convinced me: Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it.
…Now [Obama]’s at the center of a period of racial turbulence sparked by his ascension. Even if he and the coterie of white male advisers around him don’t choose to openly acknowledge it, this president is the ultimate civil rights figure — a black man whose legitimacy is constantly challenged by a loco fringe.
For two centuries, the South has feared a takeover by blacks or the feds. In Obama, they have both.
The state that fired the first shot of the Civil War has now given us this: Senator Jim DeMint exhorted conservatives to “break” the president by upending his health care plan. Rusty DePass, a G.O.P. activist, said that a gorilla that escaped from a zoo was “just one of Michelle’s ancestors.” Lovelorn Mark Sanford tried to refuse the president’s stimulus money. And now Joe Wilson.
“A good many people in South Carolina really reject the notion that we’re part of the union,” said Don Fowler, the former Democratic Party chief who teaches politics at the University of South Carolina. He observed that when slavery was destroyed by outside forces and segregation was undone by civil rights leaders and Congress, it bred xenophobia.
…It may be President Obama’s very air of elegance and erudition that raises hackles in some. “My father used to say to me, ‘Boy, don’t get above your raising,’ ” Fowler said. “Some people are prejudiced anyway, and then they look at his education and mannerisms and get more angry at him.”
Call it what you want. Mask it behind any cause you tell yourself it is. But what’s happening in America today is clear for all the world to see. And history will recognize it clear as a cloudless sky. How we respond to it, face it, and move beyond it will also be recorded for all to see. And our children’s children will read about it. And some parts of it will be cause for shame. Let’s hope there’s another part to America’s future history that allows us to feel proud as well. And to finally grow up and properly enter adulthood.