Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Maureen Dowd reads the Henry Wiggen Blog, too ... Welcome aboard, Maureen. Race is not just a factor in America -- it is America

Well, add Maureen Dowd, the redoubtable columnist for the New York Times, to the list of The Henry Wiggen Blog readers.

Dowd's column yesterday, which vaulted like an Atlas rocket to number one on the Times most e-mailed list, was obviously written after reading "Message from a guy who feels alone sometimes in his fear of Obama and the shifting sands..." on this blog.

Dowd dared take our thinking a step farther. The money line in her column, buried pretty deep inside, was this: "Some people just can't believe a black man is president and will never accept it."

You can read the assertions of the discussion board poster we featured in "Message from a guy who feels alone..." in a similar manner. If you recall, he was "personally" hurt by this line in President Obama's speech to school children: "There is no excuse for failure." Our poster guy who "feels alone" sometimes in his fear of Obama, told us Obama's line to the school children about failure was "snobbish." He said not having an education sucked bad enough without the president rubbing it in. He said there were reasons for his academic failure, but he was still a noble human being.

And, he said, he didn't have to prove himself to Obama. He might just as easily have said, "And I don't have to prove myself to some uppity black man."

Or, "how did HE get ahead of me in line?"

To borrow a catch phrase from Richard Nixon, ( Or Lyndon Johnson, can't remember which ... and if you can you probably weren't there) what we have here is a vocal minority and a silent majority. The silent majority voted for Barack Obama in a landslide, accepted his presidency, and left the driving to the bus driver.

The vocal minority, as Dowd points out, could not accept the outcome. This is somewhat unprecedented in American presidential politics. Except for the still too-close-to-call 2000 election, Americans have been able to elect their presidents and let them be -- for a time. Nobody has to leave the country on a midnight flight, nobody hangs, nobody goes to prison, and nobody is tried for war crimes (so far) if they lose. The winner is, well, the winner, the will of the people, and life goes on. In due time we begin criticising the incumbent and organizing for the next election.

It is a sign of a civilized democracy when elections are conducted in this manner.

But, not this time. And, you have to ask yourself a simple question. Why? Why not this time?

In my opinion, Dowd nailed the reason. Race. And, she also cut through the fog to nail the signs of race in this rancor. "I've been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer," Dowd wrote, " -- 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."

I've long thought nearly everything in America has to do with race. Race is the cultural heritage of this country. (By the way, Henry Wiggen did not shy away from the role race played on the New York Mammoths.) First, no people, in my opinion, who deal in slaves ever recover fully from that stain. Second, the very nature of this democracy is diversity -- the delicate set of rules designed to allow the majority to rule and the minority to be protected. This is complicated for us because we have no idea what the perfect American society would look like. We are yet a dynamic nation -- perhaps the most perpetually immature developed nation on earth. I mean 'immature' in a good sense. Finally, race has just always been there nagging at us, underlying our whispers and our fears.

We have a long tradition of searching for Others to blame, probably because we are a nation composed of Others. When Woodrow Wilson wrote the history of America in five volumes, he provided a list of Others as virulently racist as anything any South Carolina senator might shout. "Ignorant and hostile Negro voting in the South should be stopped forthwith, though perhaps some of the methods (Lofflin -- lynching) were distasteful," he wrote.

But the soon-to-be-president didn't stop there. He could understand some of the prejudice against Asians, he wrote, with their "yellow skin and strange, debasing habits of life."

On a roll now, Wilson hacked into another set of Others. He saw yet more Others in the white skin of many of those in today's tea party revolution, those who sport long and complicated last names: those "multitudes of men of the lowest class from the south of Italy, and men of meaner sort out of Hungary and Poland, men of the ranks where there was neither skill nor energy nor any initiative of given intelligence ..." These men, he said, had often come to America, "to speak treasons elsewhere forbidden."

And, so, we come to a crossroad in America where a new president is, for some, an Other. They are so angry about this they can't believe it has happened. They discredit him by drawing Hitler mustaches on his picture or imagining him as the evil Joker from Batman comics, or questioning beyond all reason, his birthplace, in a desperate effort to roll back this unbelievable clock of history and disqualify him from the presidency before he even runs.

They need all this to soothe their anger and their fear. And now, even as we speak, he is telling young African Americans and Asians and Latinos (an emerging political force in South Carolina...) he sees no excuse for them not to succeed, for them not to be president. As our softball poster said, if you are white in America and missed out on an education, this just sucks.

-- Lofflin, saying 'Welcome aboard, Maureen.'

PPS: The Google advertisement on the page where this is written urges us to "Support Joe Wilson." Such irony.

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