Ladies and gentlemen, I am not one to holler racism at every turn, and I do not sign on to former President Jimmy Carter’s declaration that “the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that’s he an African-American.”
It may be so or it may not; I have no way of knowing. I do believe the intensely demonstrated animosity needs explaining, and I have been grappling with explanations myself, explanations that so far have not included race, since I have seen no compelling evidence of such a thing.
But who knows what is in the hearts of our fellow citizens who sputter with rage at a president when he proposes something seemingly so benign as an extension of government health care?
Who knows what is in the hearts of those who zanily insist he is not an American but was born in either Kenya or Indonesia and clandestinely insinuated himself into our nation? Or who insist he is a communist? Or even a Nazi? Could it be a deep-down repugnance for a dark-skinned man with nappy hair?
In the case of Rep. Joe Wilson, who famously shouted “You lie,” we do know, despite his son’s guarantee that good old dad has “not a racist bone in his body,” that as recently as the year 2000 he voted to keep the Confederate flag flying over the South Carolina statehouse (he was on the short end of a 36-7 vote).
And we know he waxed indignant when an old tan-colored lady stepped forward after the death of Sen. Strom Thurmond in 2003 to say she was Thurmond’s daughter, the product of a union between that patriarch of segregation when he was a lad of 22 and a 16-year-old Negro housemaid.
Though Thurmond’s family admitted the truth of the claim, Rep. Wilson said the disclosure was “unseemly” and expressed hope that it wouldn’t “diminish” Thurmond’s contribution to our country, which, as we know, consisted largely of fighting against equal rights for black Americans.
So we might fairly be suspicous of the purity of Joe Wilson’s bones, but as for the rest of my sputtering-with-rage countrymen, I don’t know.
They did flood Wilson with $2 million in unsolicited donations within a week of his famous shout-out.
I just wish the psychiatric profession would lay aside for a season its work of revising the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and put some representative sputterers on the couch, to see what might emerge.
I mean, when you get a major cable television channel, Fox Propaganda, as I call it, dedicating itself to the smear and slander of a president who appears basically honest and basically competent (unlike his predecessor) and you get millions of Americans eagerly watching it day after day — watching, believing and taking guidance from such mountebanks as Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck, you’ve got something on your hands that needs explaining.
Imagine — just imagine — people showing up at demonstrations and town hall meetings with posters showing President Obama, of all people, with a Hitler moustache.
What is he supposed to be? A bleeding-heart liberal? A socialist? A communist? A Nazi? It all seems to run together in their fevered minds. He’s evil, that’s all. A dark-skinned intruder from an alien land, masquerading as an American.
Put him in a tailored suit, make him cool and intelligent (a Harvard Law grad), stand him up in front of Congress, and do you get the very picture of an uppity Negro in the minds of some Americans? Americans like a South Carolina politician, maybe, with a soft spot in his heart for the Confederate flag?
“There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president,” says Jimmy Carter.
I don’t claim he’s right, but I wouldn’t say it’s impossible.
I have been focusing on other recesses of our psyches, the recesses where lurk primitive urges to face down our fellow man with weapon in hand and not to contribute to any supposed common good, which I believe is at the root of tax resistance (“What’s mine is mine”) as well as at the root of gun fanaticism (“I’ll give you my gun when you take it from my cold, dead hands!”).
But maybe race is part of it too. Something has to explain what’s going on.
I’m still working on this, and any suggestions that you, the reader, might have will be welcome.
Of course I have already been getting suggestions, more than you can imagine, though admittedly a lot of them are more concerned with diagnosing me than the problem I have outlined.
The dominant view expressed so far is that I am a liberal, which seems to be the worst insult many correspondents can come up with, at least when they can’t think of socialist or communist. This must come from an excess of listening to Rush Limbaugh and the above-mentioned mountebanks, which I am now convinced is harmful to one’s vocabulary if not to one’s mental health.
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