10.17.2008

Race Card

You’ve seen those old 20th century postcards depicting lynchings in America. There are museum exhibits of these cards that were sent through the mails , just like you, or I would send a card from our latest vacation spot, like Las Vegas or the Virgin Islands.

When I look at those, it’s not the mangled man or woman, hands tied behind their back, dangling at the end of the rope, slowly twisting in the wind that horrifies me. It’s the crowd surrounding the spectacle that terrifies me. The looks on the faces of the men and women who had witnessed the killing of another human being, for no other reason than they were black and had offended some white woman or crossed some invisible line drawn in the dirt, by some white man.

Washington Post columnist, Charles Krauthammer, opened his column today, which he titled; “Who’s Playing the Race Card?” with these words:

“Let me get this straight. A couple of agitated yahoos in a rally of thousands yell something offensive and incendiary, and John McCain and Sarah Palin are not just guilty by association -- with total strangers, mind you -- but worse: guilty according to the New York Times of "race-baiting and xenophobia."
Mr. Krauthammer goes on to argue that McCain and Palin are being vilified for injecting race into the campaign when actually it was Barack Obama who brought up the subject.. He maintains that McCain and Palin should be held guiltless when a couple of “yahoos” as he calls them, shout obscenities every time Palin or McCain say Obama. Continuing his reasoning, since McCain and Palin can be held accountable for these stranger actions, Obama should be held accountable for his past associations with William Ayers, Reverend Jeremiah Wright and the organization ACORN.

Mr. Krauthammer’s argument is comparing apples to oranges. The McCain/Palin role in their campaign rallies is more like the one or two guys who beat the black man, found the rope and tree and strung him up as the crowd watches in not so silent approval.

If this scenario was also happening at Obama rallies when Obama/Biden invoked the names of McCain/Palin, then Krauthammer might have an argument. But I’ve personably attended these rallies on both sides, since I do live in the swing state of Ohio. There are no similarities.

Until shamed into speaking, McCain/Palin stood silently smiling, while the rage spread through their crowds. Obama’s press releases tell you up front “don’t bring homemade signs, and he shushes the crowd as soon as anyone tries to take his opponent’s names in vain.

I don’t worry about who surrounds me when I’m at an Obama rally. I do worry when the rhetoric starts to heat up at a McCain/Palin rally If the violent rhetoric was happening on both sides within the same type of situation, then Krauthammer would have an argument. He doesn’t. His column is merely a thinly veiled attack from the right attempting to paint Obama as a shady man with a shady past. The extreme right can’t beat him on issues, so they slam him with mud balls.

Now if Obama were to suddenly flood the market with campaign advertisements that talked about, say, Palin’s husband’s affiliations with the secessionists of Alaska, or her affiliations with the African witch doctor, or McCain’s past affiliations with General John Singlelaub or current affiliation with Oliver North, or pastor John Hagee, or even McCain’s past affiliation with ACORN, then Krauthammer would have had justification for some of the things he stated in his column. There is even a white supremacist group hiding in McCain’s past. But none of this has been brought up by the Obama campaign, in ads or at campaign rallies.

The scenario that I opened with, is ugly. It doesn’t feel good to even talk about or to write about. It is an open wound on all of us over the age of 45. But as long as the Charles Krauthammer’s of the world refuse to take responsibility for their own racial blindness while at the same time justifying the racist subtexts that still permeate American politics, I will continue to bring it up.

Obama may be our next president...a black man in the White House...But he is only the beginning of true racial healing in America. Columns like those written by Charles Krauthammer show us that we still have a very long way to go.





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