Sunday, September 20, 2009
You do not have to be an expert in history to know that hatred, blind, bigoted, ignorant, cruel hatred is a pervasive element in the human psyche. Perhaps, given the bloody record from the beginning of time, it is one of the most dominant features of the human condition.
The litany of hatred is infinite. Yes, there are people who hate blacks because they are black. People hate Jews because they are Jews. People hate Moslems because they are Moslems. Buddhists hate Moslems, Moslems hate Buddhists. There are endless sub categories, Shiites hate Sunnis, Hutus hate Tutsis. The point has been made. The sad fact is that this endless menu of hate has had horrendous, appalling, painful and murderous consequences, resulting in the deaths of millions of our fellow creatures.
Even in enlightened America where our Declaration of Independence proudly proclaimed that “all men are created equal” it has taken more than two centuries and a bloody civil war that took 700,000 lives to begin the process of “equalizing”, a condition that is still a work in progress. Even the most dispassionate observer can point to this progress with pride, optimism and impatience.
What prompts me to offer these historical and contemporary clichés is the current absurdity that any criticism of President Obama is a litmus test on racism. That is an insult to the innate intelligence and maturity of the American people who, despite all the parsing and hullabaloo gave a resounding electoral slap in the kisser to the idea that we are still an ignorant racist nation.
In a strange way, I feel sorry for President Obama, who wisely has rejected the characterization. The attempt to racialize his Presidency is a direct blow to his credibility and legitimacy. People who attempt to use this sledgehammer of stupidity are doing all of us a disservice. Yes, there are white people out there who continue to hate blacks and black people out there who continue to hate whites. We all know they are on the fringes, hardly mainstream considering the evidence of the last election.
Besides, the President is neither all black or all white, which makes the charge ludicrous. Indeed, the situation is made even more bizarre by a senile and increasingly shrill ex-President, Jimmy Carter, our worst chief executive in modern history, making overheated and absurd statements that tend to embolden rather than cool the ever-present forces of bigotry. The poor man is obviously suffering from a galloping case of white guilt caused by generations of his southern ancestors who abused, tortured and enslaved black people.
President Obama is right not to dip his toe into this simmering and bitter cocktail. Indeed, the growing middle class of black Americans should slap down such criticism before it gets out of hand, especially by some black politicians, who seem to be sprouting increasingly desperate methods to assure themselves re-election.
Sure there are minefields out there that continue to inhibit people’s aspirations because of prejudice and bigotry, but there are multitudes of people who have learned how to pick their way safely through these aberrant minefields of nastiness and hatred and take advantage of the vast opportunities offered in our multi-cultured, multi-layered, multi-racial landscape of opportunity.
It is both dangerous and foolhardy to label anyone who disagrees with President Obama a racist. It is time to declare it outside the rules of political combat. Such an act is antithetical to our concept of democracy. Worse, it sets up a false barrier to protest.
I, for one, would fight vigorously against anyone who would inhibit my right to protest, however vehemently, against the policies of any President, including our present one.
In my lifetime, I have seen all Presidents since Franklin Roosevelt publicly praised, lauded, vilified and disparaged. I have seen them cursed and satirized and burned in effigy in the streets and castigated in the media. So what else is new? Why should Obama be given a pass? Besides, he is well aware that he is the target of the opposition and is undoubtedly prepared for the virulent antagonism to his policies. He also knows that race is the joker in the deck and that most card games are played sans jokers. Race, for him, is a joker. It must be thrown out of the deck.
I will always remember the ugly hatred of my colleagues in the Pentagon, during my service in the Korean War, who berated President Truman for multifarious sins of commission and omission. He was characterized as the stupid haberdasher way out of his depth when he ascended to the Presidency after Roosevelt died in office. He is now a revered ex-President.
I keenly remember Johnson literally driven out of office by anti-war protestors and, of course, Richard Nixon who was roundly and universally condemned in the Watergate affair, which forced his resignation. And then there was Carter, contrived in his folksy sweater, telling us we were, to paraphrase, lazy and worthless, because we didn’t harken to his clarion bleat. History has proved us right on that call which moved him forthwith out of the White House and left him free to grouse, carp and castigate.
I often wondered how George W. Bush, could get up to work in the morning after the withering whipping he took from the media and the political left and right. History is still out on that one, although his Vice President can’t seem to shake off the lingering anger and personal animosity.
So now we have Obama, the ambitious upstart, black-white President, an amalgam of all of us, making a grand attempt at changes that most of the American people are not sure they want. Whatever the merits of his program, he is indulging in public relations gone amuck. It is one of the cardinal rules of public relations, of which I was once a practitioner, to know when to walk, albeit temporarily, off the stage. We’ve all heard his act so many times that he’s getting too repetitive and his speeches and pronouncements are quickly becoming somewhat boring clichés.
I know that sounds harsh, but he is really squandering his capital at breakneck speed. For the record, I am worried about the consequences of our astounding deficit, the terrible unemployment numbers and his ambivalent and dangerous foreign policy.
You can call me a horse’s ass or worse for my opinions. I will take no umbrage. But call me a racist and I will go along with Helena in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, don’t “bait me with this foul derision.”