Hussein Obama has emboldened the hood rats, the welfare baby mommas and baby daddies, the cop killers and the ex-felons…. All the takers of society know that Obama got they back. Sadly, there is a minority of hard working whiteys that think that it’s all fine.
A passage from the writings of a right-wing paranoiac? Copy found on a white supremacist website? An excerpt from the first draft of Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention? Just another evening on FOX News?
No. Nope. Uh-uh. And, Well, obviously, it could be — but in this case, No.
No, this particular spray of societal venom came via social media. More specifically, it was a Facebook comment posted by a person who to all appearances and the best of my knowledge is an upstanding citizen and dedicated family man. To all appearances, that is, other than those that might be gleaned from his frequent (though not constant) online persona, many of whose utterances portray a terminally diseased political consciousness, or else a cynical dedication to keeping the social media pot not just stirred, but stoked dangerously and progressively nearer to boiling over.
Now, I’m not going to tell you this person’s name. First of all, and regardless of the fact that it’s not as if I’m “outing” him for comments that he saw fit to post in public, it is not my intent to single him out personally for something that has become as commonplace as dirt on a farm. That “something” would be the creeping reappearance — and growing acceptance — in public conversation of politicized racist language and the casual disparagement of minority populations.
Maybe it’s the quasi-anonymity that Facebook provides. Maybe it’s that strangely heady brew of literal distance and virtual intimacy — or is it the virtual telescoping of distance, coupled with the avoidance of actual intimacy? — that allows and encourages and compels productive and well-meaning people to make the vilest statements their minds can conjure without the slightest apparent compunction or recrimination.
Whatever it is, it’s pernicious. And from where I’m sitting, it’s not a hopeful sign for the future of our aging and ailing republic. Not for race relations or social progress. Not for education or immigration or the eradication of poverty. Not for children, not for the elderly and infirm, not for people for whom faith in the essential goodness of the American system in the 21st century is a luxury they cannot afford.
I bet you liberals can’t wait until you destroy America and make it a socialist country, another Facebook correspondent whom I know personally wrote on another thread last week. Let me know how that works out for you.
On another page, a “friend” of a “friend” — not someone I know, but who is known to me — was more direct (as well as much louder and considerably more task-specific): HANG/LYNCH OBAMA AND HILLARY NOW!!!
And it’s not confined to social media. As I write this, I’ve caught bits and pieces of the first couple of days of the Republicans’ convention in Cleveland. One of the things I’ve seen is the appearance, Monday night on MSNBC, of GOP Rep. Steve King, of Iowa. Responding to a comment by Esquire magazine writer Charles Pierce, to the effect that the Republicans’ base of “old white people” is disappearing, King courageously stood up for his race’s often overlooked contributions to history.
“This whole white business does get a little tired,” King said. “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people you’re talking about. Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”
With some visible incredulity, MSNBC host Chris Hayes ventured the obvious question:
“Than white people?”
Here, King should be given, however reluctantly, some credit for the aplomb with which he avoided the easy answer, which would have been something along the lines of, Yes, Chris. That’s exactly what I mean. White people. Or, as I sometimes think of us, with a tear in my eye, History’s Orphans.
But King did not rise to the bait, if such it was. Instead, he pivoted to take in the vast grandeur and scope of the ethnic diversity of a collective culture in which the population was a meager 85 percent white, as opposed to the 125 percent or more that liberal historians would have us all believe.
“Than Western civilization that’s rooted in western Europe, eastern Europe, and the United States of America, and every place that the footprint of Christianity settled the world,” King told Hayes. “That’s all of Western civilization.”
Inside the convention itself, noted conservative intellectual Antonio Sabato Jr. — who also is a reality television star and a former underwear model — told ABC News that he loves America. It’s because of that, he said, that he was compelled speak about the greatest single threat facing our country: The fact that President Barack Obama “definitely” is a Muslim.
“I don’t believe the guy is a Christian,” said Sabato. “I don’t believe the guy follows the God that I love and the Jesus that I love. If you follow his story, if you understand about Obama, I mean, that’s not a Christian name, is it?”
“I am [a Christian], and I don’t believe he is,” Sabato also said. “I believe that he’s on the other side…the Middle East, the bad side…. We’ve had a Muslim president for seven-and-a-half years.”
Glad as I am that we finally got that cleared up once and for all, I’m left with that same bad feeling about the future of our democracy. Do we care so little about the qualitative difference between opinion and knowledge? Do we want to live in a country that honors its heritage as a citadel of freedom and a beacon of progress — however grudging or incremental — or one whose foundational institutions and political power devolve into an open mockery of those very concepts? Do we believe in liberty and justice for all, or has our vision of what America is and does, of what it can and should accomplish by and with and for its people, changed in the face of the diversity and inclusion that once made our country the beacon and promise of the world?
Is America this…what? Confused? Angry? Divided? Adrift?
Are we this mean? Do we really want to be a place where the color of anyone’s skin matters more than the content of their character? Or where the well of freedom from which we all drink has been permanently poisoned by the rancor of racial suspicion and disharmony?
Does it have to be this way?
Let me be clear that I’m not laying all of the blame at the feet of my conservative friends — or “friends,” or friends of friends, as the case may be. We’re living in an age and culture in which the whole idea of human interaction is evolving, one outgrowth of which is that we have developed the remarkable equilibrium of being equally quick to insult another human being — their opinions, their background, their beliefs — and to become insulted when other people say things about us.
It’s no secret, I think, to say that liberals are as bad about this as conservatives — or vice versa, depending on your particular brand of poison. It’s just that, at this moment, what with the convention and all, and what with a buffoon as the nominee of their once reasonably mainstream major political party, the conservatives (or so-called) are making the most — and most egregious — noise.
Maybe we’ve just forgotten how to disagree. Maybe we’ve forgotten that disagreement is, in fact, implicit in the very principles on which the nation was founded.
A couple of years ago or so, I wrote in this space something that had to do with national politics. The specifics of that column are relevant only incidentally to the subject of this one, so let’s just suffice it to say that in the course of my customarily incisive analysis and commentary, I conveyed a substantial degree of sympathy for what might broadly be termed the progressive viewpoint, as well as for the current occupant of the White House.
Posted online, the column generated a fair, but far from overwhelming, amount of reaction and comments. One of these was from an individual whom I knew to be a regular reader — he had commented before, and we had conversed online occasionally — but of whose leanings on national political issues I previously had only the vaguest of clues.
You know a lot about Birmingham, this person wrote. Stick to that and keep the Obama worship between yourself and your fellow travelers on the liberal track.
Now, it seemed pretty clear to me that the remark was made tongue-in-cheek, but you never know these days (though the absence of misspellings and words and phrases and entire paragraphs rendered in ALL CAPS!!! hinted at the possibility). As it turned out, that was the case — and so began a more direct and regular correspondence with a person with whom, despite our differences on matters of “conservative” and “liberal” viewpoints, I find myself in firm agreement on, shall we say, more local matters.
And maybe that’s the point of all of this. Maybe the way past our racial divide starts locally, right here at home in Birmingham. Maybe if we focus on ways to come together — around an inclusive image of ourselves, around big accomplishments built on small actions, around a shared ideal of Birmingham’s greatness — maybe that’s our way forward in these uncertain times.
Maybe a better America starts with each of us.