News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's the racism, stupid.

Most progressives do not want to believe that the U.S. has regressed to the culture that their predecessors fought against during the civil rights movement. They, and many of the regressives, like to think that the election of a black president was evidence that the country has surmounted the racial hatred that shaped so much of American history. A few of us have noted that Barack Obama's success has agitated old hatreds back into life and, even though there is some reluctance for the demonstrators to openly shout old KKK slogans, the banners they unfurl contain obvious elements of racial hatred and the mindless cant that feeds a primal need to vent a rage that resides in the reptilian cortex and vanquishes any intellect they might possess.

The distorted renditions of Obama on the posters and signs follow the pattern of crude distortions that characterized the posters used to generate hate against the Jews in Germany of the 1930s and 1940s. One has to be in the advanced stages of dementia or cultural imbecility to miss the meaning of Obama painted as The Joker in white face.

The technique is a familiar to those of us who were sent to Germany to make the transition from the occupation of the country to a protectorate of NATO. In addition to setting up a missile air defense, with careful focus on what was then East Germany, we were charged with monitoring the propaganda we encountered. The Third Reich exploited racial and political hatreds as the motive force behind its fascist agenda. Part of our job was to note any outbreaks of ethnic hatred and report it so that the intelligence services could deal with it. The G.I.s who were sent to Germany at that time received constant troop information and education on the analysis of information we came across. At that time, there were many white American troops who were not too happy at having to share equal status with their African-American fellows. We were dealing with racism both internally and externally. The desegregation of the American military was a major factor in the civil rights movement, and Dwight Eisenhower and his military staff understood its importance and implication for the United States.

The tell-tale aspect of the so-called tea parties is the angry repetition of slogans and accusations that have repeatedly been debunked as total fabrications. To anyone who has a fundamental grasp of rhetoric and the general semantics of communication, it is apparent that the subjects of health-care, big government, bail-outs (that kept the nation from total economic collapse), the birther contention, undocumented workers, are merely plain, old-fashioned racism. One poster that has a picture of Obama with the slogan "undocumented worker" had his complexion considerably darkened to make sure no one missed his African blood.

The contention that the treatment of Obama is a tit-for-tat retaliation for the opposition shown his predecessor can be made only be ignoring the essential facts that define the differences. The circumstances of George W. Bush's 2000 election made many people wary of his political machinations, but after 9/11 he received near unanimous support from Congress and the people. Distrust and contempt grew out of what he did with that support as he used 9/11 as a pretext for violating the well-established standards for preserving the civil liberties of Americans and for declaring war. When no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, no links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, and the brutalities of Abu Ghraib and the use of torture came to light, a growing number of people expressed resentment at having their trust betrayed. Obama has not betrayed anyone or committed any breaches of trust, although his detractors constantly accuse him of those acts without any credible evidence. He continued the program of bail-outs instituted by the Bush administration, but the Republicans attack them as liberal profligacy and a design to take over the total economy by big government.

The attacks on Obama began early in the transition period shortly after the election, and they have had one constant theme: who does that uppity boy think he is? They have further elaborated on the theme that you can't trust those boys because they lie, cheat, steal, and stink. The raw racism was present throughout the campaign and the transition, and became a full-fledged point of attack by the time he was inaugurated. To anyone who lived through Jim Crow with any degree of sentience and perception, the attacks on Obama were familiar.

Clarence Page has noted that the success of Obama has produced intensified attacks on Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton, Jim Wright, Charles Rangel, and all black leaders. The attacks have not been directed at their policies but at their persons, as racial-driven attacks always are.

A number of people are finally dropping their America-is-better-than-racism blinders and looking at the real substance that comprises the attacks on Obama. Maureen Dowd has stated that Rep.Joe Wilson shouted out "You lie" when his message was clearly "You lie, boy." Wilson's past attitudes and activities provide a context for her contention.  The psychology of the attacks on Obama is further explored in the New York Times Opinionator

Susan Jacoby further examines the racist aspects of the anti-Obama attacks in the Washington Post:

No one wants to admit this--the white male talking heads on cable TV are searching for almost any explanation other than racism--because what it says about the state of our union at the moment is too disturbing. Or should I say, the state of our disunion. Racism is a very real, driving force in the dangerous belligerence that animates the spectrum of irrationality from the birthers to the gunslingers.
She points out what the attacks have done to any debate:
 The new practitioners of the paranoid style are impervious to reason and facts It is impossible to have a rational discussion about policy differences with people who run around screaming about killing Granny and calling the president a communist, a socialist, and a Nazi.
The right wing raises the objection that any criticism of Obama will be termed racist, and some of the tea-party celebrants insist that they are merely good folks out registering their dissent.

But their defenders make no effort to explain the crude and stupid name-calling, the intensely perverse false accusations and libels, or the overall belligerence and mindless rage with which the partiers conduct themselves.  On the apologist's part, there is no attempt to explain the racist imagery on the signs and in the words of the protesters.  They are in a racist rage, but do not have the courage to voice the racist basis for their opposition. 

Jimmy Carter spots the racism in the protests, and has said as much.  President Obama cannot and will not  join the talk about racism.  Confronting the racism would divert attention from  the many more vital repairs he needs to make to the country.  However, NAACP chairman Benjamin Jealous concurs with Carter.  He said,  "He is correct that the so-called tea party folks are unfortunately part of a lineage of groups that have throughout the history of our country sought to divide us,  Over the past several decades, the number of people committed to a truly multiracial society has increased and the number of people who are really committed to a vision of white supremacy and old racial hierarchy is at an all-time low, but there is a much larger ambiguous uncommitted middle, and the Republican Party's far-right-wing contingent is definitely fighting hard for those people in the middle." 

John R. Bohrer sees the hate as a more generalized characteristic of the faction that is driving Republican politics:

Think back to the fall of 2007 (even earlier than that, maybe). Hillary Clinton was the Democratic front-runner, staking out a cautious path to the White House. And what did we see on what seemed like every Republican website? Big ads for black t-shirts showing Hillary with a red slash over her neck, sandwiched between the words, "RE-DEFEAT COMMUNISM; 2008."

He points out that the putative leadership of the GOP in people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh  is certainly  exploiting the racist elements and welcoming them into their hate brigades. 

Whatever the prime object of their hatred, these people jeopardize the quest for equality, freedom, and justice more than any outside Islamic terrorists ever could.  The spirit of Timothy McVeigh pervades their words and their actions, as is evident in the signage they display.

The White House has to take a very quiet and gentle approach to try to keep the country together.  Open confrontations with the lurking violence in the hate factions would scuttle any chance for health-care reform, plunge the nation  into depression, and generally unleash the
violence that is looking for some reasons to break out.  So, how do people of good will and good purpose react?  Take a lesson from the civil rights movement.

While the street clashes of the Movement receive much attention, little is acknowledged about the people who quietly worked through boycotts.  They would refuse to patronize any companies that sponsored people like Beck and Limbaugh on the air.  They refused to patoronize local businesses, banks, and education institutions that in any way supported he racism that oppressed so many people.  People in the North provided means for blacks in the South to buy groceries, appliances, and other necessites without having to patronize those who supported the racist regimes.

A parallel is the automobile industry.  When people found that the Japanese designed and built cars were far more economical, reliable, and affordable than American cars, they bought what was best for them and sent the Big Three to Washington to beg for money for their survival.

The best way to deao with hate is not to feed it. What you buy and who you buy it from makes the difference.  Don't confront the haters.  Just don't feed them. 

1 comment:

Douglas said...

I am amazed that people who probably are not racists will rush to defend racists who attack Obama on the health insurance issue.

Perhaps they should remember "Sleep with dogs and you wake up with fleas."

The insurance companies will exploit and incite anything including racism and red scare and yellow peril believers.

Republicans in Congress and Blue Dog Democrats with a yellow Republican stripe down their backs keep expressing awe about all the grassroots opposition even when they know it has been incited with misleading ads and misleading agitation from the big money in the big health insurance industry.

Saving health insurance companies is another variation of saving buggy whip companies.

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