A Double Dose of Poison
by PlainWords, Thu Mar 13, 2008 at 03:10:15 PM EDT
In a recent Diary called "The View From Ferraro's District," the author writes with some sensitivity about the people in Geraldine Ferraro's district. We are told that it is a "middle class Italian, Irish and Jewish-American community;" the people there are at least 40% "white, Italians" but there are also "Filipinos..., Hispanics, West Indians, Polish, Irish, and Arab...and one pro-Clinton African-American family." They are "good people... anti-war, pro-choice, homosexuality doesn't bother us," and they don't like Bush. The author observes that "there is excitement for Hillary Clinton, or no one at all. Obama didn't even crack 30% here."
And then, the point of that Diary: After Ferraro's comments "the whole community seemed to rise up and scream 'Thank you Congresswoman, at least somebody had the gall to say it!'" The author concludes that these people are racists, not "blatant racist," but "much more the feeling that minorities get special treatment because of other people's racism." I respectfully disagree. I think the author is looking down on those people, patronizing them, as if their feelings are not valid. But their grievances are real and so is their pain, and I do not think they are racists, blatant or any other kind.
Many "liberals" have fallen into the habit of assuming that all statements about race are racist. This is why allegations of "political correctness" have teeth. People can see with their own eyes that it ain't so, and it makes them distrust the whole liberal agenda.
Think about affirmative action for example. Now, to some people -- and I'm one of them -- this means programs designed to ensure that African Americans are given a fair chance at jobs and promotions, particularly in places where that has not been the case in the past. It might even mean, and sometimes should mean, quotas.
But to other people -- and sometimes I'm one of them, too -- it means giving jobs to people because of their race and denying those jobs to other people because of their race. Be honest: we've all seen this happen. It's certainly not the rule, but it does happen. And well-off white "liberals" and "progressives" who have never felt the sting of being denied -- people like Ted Kennedy and John Kerry -- can be damn irritating when they lecture working-class stiffs about how racist they are for being angry about being cheated out of a job or a promotion.
And that is what Ferraro's people, rightly or wrongly, see happening now. They see their candidate getting trashed while Obama gets a free ride, but they are not supposed to say what they see, because if they do, they are racist.
Obama's white "liberal" handlers have used the race card - and he himself has used it - to de-legitimize his opponent, to stop her from making any kind of unfavorable comparison between his record and hers, because that would be "negative." They have ruled out whole categories of words. She can't mention great black Americans like Martin Luther King. Her campaign can't use words like "fairy tale" or "unqualified," or any words that amount to fighting back, because that's racist, and negative. Her ads can't show white mothers caring for their sleeping children (What would they say if the ad showed black children?!) because suggesting that Obama can't keep the country as safe as she can is racist, and negative. Everything she does and says is viewed through the assumption of her racism; everything he says and does is viewed through the assumption of his legitimacy. In the end, her crime is that she is running against a black man. "His time has come" and she is just in the way.
I know this is hard for his followers to see. They are understandably excited by the historic meaning of his candidacy - and that's real. But it's also real that his whole campaign is based on "belief," essentially religious belief, unexamined belief. He is a box of detergent with the label "NEW" slapped on and no one is supposed to look at the ingredients to see if they are changed from the old detergent. It doesn't seem to matter that if he were a wealthy liberal white man - like John Edwards - making passionate but content-lite speeches about change, instead of a wealthy liberal black man making passionate but content-lite speeches about change, he would have had to drop out before February.
The irony is, it turns out that Obama is the racist. Videos - apparently there are lots of them - are now hitting the public showing the pastor of his church preaching hate. He preaches that America deserved what happened on 9/11. He preaches "God damn America!" and that's only the top of the iceberg. Of course, Obama will say he does not agree with this, but for twenty years he attended the church - was married by that pastor, had his children blessed by him - and he never spoke out against the preaching of hate. But now, when he is running for President, he suddenly says he does not agree with that and that he will bring us together. How can someone who has never stood up against hate when it was right in his own church bring us together?
We've come to a sad pass in this country when working people are supposed to just shut their mouths and not notice unfairness or even hate, when racism is exclusively a one-way street and something that only white people can be guilty of, when we have contests over whose suffering has been worse - blacks or poor whites, women or African Americans, working-class whites or middle-class blacks - and the arbiters of who has suffered most are the wealthy and privileged who haven't suffered the sting of denial at all.
There is something else ugly at work here. Along with the racism - I won't call it "reverse" racism; there is no forward or reverse to racism. Along with the racism, there is something else. That something else is sexism. Oh yeah, I can hear the moans already. The "progressive" boys are laughing now. "Oh you're not going to mention THAT, are you?"
Women are not supposed to ever mention sexism. It's whining. It's the little girl in the playground falling down and crying just because you hit her. But you see, the reason she falls down and cries is that she is supposed to. The role that is definitely not okay for her is fighting back. Let me remind you that women - including black women - did not get the vote in this country until 70 years after black men, and to get the vote it took the work of four generations of women; it took a grueling state-by-state struggle, hunger strikes, prison, and the greatest organizing effort in the history of this country, although you would never know it from our schoolbooks.
We women are not supposed to mention sexism even though we have a President who holds hands with the leader of a country where a woman cannot vote or go outside without a bag over her head, and a "progressive" Presidential candidate who accuses his opponent of letting her "claws out" when she dares to try to win, and who is ready to sit down with the leader of a country that has thrown women back into the dark ages. We are not supposed to acknowledge that the candidacy of a woman for President of the United States is a historic event of immense significance not only for our own country but for the entire world, a world that still has nations where girl babies are routinely killed, nations where teachers who teach girls may be killed, nations where infibulation is widespread, nations where polygamy is common, nations where mass rape is a common tactic of war, nations where women are confined to segregated areas of public places and denied the most basic rights of employment, nations where a woman cannot travel without her husband's permission.
And we are not supposed to mention the sexism that has come out of the woodwork right here in America, out in the open like roaches caught in the light. Roaches like Chris Matthews, who gets "a shiver up his leg" when he sees Obama but identifies Clinton as a "she-devil" and a witch, David Shuster, who calls Clinton a pimp and implies her daughter is a prostitute, Jesse Jackson, Jr., who hates Hillary for shedding tears about the wrong things, Tucker Carlson ("I mean it's not missiles in Cuba; it's a WOMEN'S conference."), Tim Russert... The whole "progressive" community is piling on, in places like DailyKOS, which last week was trashing Hillary for making Obama's skin look darker (really, I'm not making that up). And there are more than a handful of aggressor-identifying women like Samantha Power ("You just look at [Hillary Clinton] and think, Ergh") who are camp-followers after the "progressive" sexists.
I'm not starry-eyed about Hillary Clinton. She has faults. Real ones that matter. There are no perfect candidates. There is no politician that I "believe in." But if a comparable statement to any of the above were made about blacks it would generate a national firestorm. For anyone in the media it would be career-ending. But the dirty truth of America is that it's perfectly okay to disrespect, to slur, to slander, to sneer at, and to denigrate women. And women are noticing. Many women are more than just angry. They are seething.
This will have long-term fallout for the progressive agenda in America, because women now know that they are not included. The favored ones like Power and Huffington and Dowd can go on their way, over the cliff, but for millions of women they and the whole "progressive" community - and the media - have lost all credibility.
We have a double dose of poison here. It pervades the Democratic party; it corrupts "liberal" America; it stinks up the whole "progressive" community.
I wish I had a good wrap-up for this, but I don't. Maybe we need to lose another election, or several, before the lesson sinks in. Is that what it will take? Can we afford it? Can America afford it?