9.17.2009

Self-examination

Former President Jimmy Carter in an address to Emory University students Wednesday:

“When a radical fringe element of demonstrators and others begin to attack the president of the United States as an animal or as a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler, or when they wave signs in the air that said we should have buried Obama with Kennedy, those kinds of things are beyond the bounds,

“I think people who are guilty of that kind of personal attack against Obama have been influenced to a major degree by a belief that he should not be president because he happens to be African-American.

“It’s a racist attitude, and my hope is and my expectation is that in the future both Democratic leaders and Republican leaders will take the initiative in condemning that kind of unprecedented attack on the president of the United States.”

Yes, these attacks are unprecedented because Obama’s presidency is unprecedented. As our former president reminds us, these attacks are from “a radical fringe element” in our society. Or, are they?

So many times over the last few days I have thought about the following quote from President Theodore Roosevelt:

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

So, are we on the left hypocritical in condemning the right, having so arduously criticized George W. Bush?.

Yes, we spoofed his slaughter of the King’s English. He did so himself.

But, we also criticized his policies, most notably an unnecessary war for which we are still paying the price in blood and treasure.

We fought against his efforts, in tandem with a Republican-heavy legislative branch, to overturn all that had been accomplished in this country for decades.

We exposed the many scandals at every level of his administration.

Throughout Bush’s tenure as president, I – and many bloggers I count as friends - struggled to …

Well, Thomas Jefferson in stating his aim when writing the Declaration of Independence said it best: “To place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent.”

That’s pretty lofty, but it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if folks turn a deaf ear to facts.

To be honest, we on the left also have our “radical fringe element,” and, yes, I recall seeing references in blog comments comparing Bush to Hitler.

Here’s the difference:

President Carter got it wrong. The truly egregious comments about President Obama are not limited to a radical fringe element. The most damning lies are coming from a former GOP candidate, Republican governors and Republican members of the U.S. Congress.

To construe every criticism of President Obama as “racist” would be a mistake and, in my opinion, unfair to him.

But, how does one explain personal attacks so devoid of facts they border on the absurd?

Are the racists out there only on the right’s fringe, or are they front and center in the Party which once claimed Abraham Lincoln?

I would like to believe the answer to the latter question is “no,” but, as Carter challenged, leaders of both parties must take the initiative to condemn racism against our president, however subtle or disguised it might be.

There are currently 178 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. Earlier this week, 179 House members failed to censure Joe Wilson (R-SC) for wrongly calling the president of the United States a liar.

Not much in the way of condemnation of a man who voted to keep the Confederate battle flag flying over South Carolina's statehouse.

The election of President Obama was a positive statement about race relations in this country. Failure to reinforce this will not bode well for the Republican Party or America.

9 comments:

Falzone for America said...

Can't see that much could bode well for the Republicans except that too many voters are just red necked enough to join their ranks.

That's why they've adopted such a grungy dishonest persona and still have a substantial minority in congress.

Obama was a brave soul to take up this work in the first place.

by Michael Boh said...

Great post BJ, but I believe that many of those on the far-right carrying offensive signs are protesting from a position of racism and/or bigotry, or at the very least they reject our legitimate choice of president for insane reasons. I have been a protester for many years, but I never tried to 'delegitimize' the president (except in the case of election fraud/ignoring legitimate ballots, but those concerns turned out the be true).

Not all, but many seem angry deep inside, and I think its flowing from a dark place. There's too much evidence that something is different about today's protests. Many of them reject him as a legitimate president, and to me that is unacceptable. They need to stop acting treating Obama like he's their whipping boy. He's our president, and he deserves more respect.

Ranch Chimp said...

Good Morning Ms.BJ!

I am one that believe's that "race" does play a factor toward's Obama. This play's more with my age and older...I am 53 year's old. We have a very segregated America.It's not only the south as former President Carter has pointed out.Probably the most racist city I have lived in had to be Brooklyn(NYC) and Los Angeles was very heavy on that as well...more violent oriented in them two town's in particular, you have it certainly in Texas and Dallas as well ... not as violent though as NYC or LA. The only reason at my age that race hasnt been too much issue to me ever...is because I associated with many black's over the year's on the street's, in everyday life...and in black communities,dated out of my race and so on. It's when we isolate, segregate ourselve's that race sometime's reflect's more.If I would have grown up for instance with my white family, not have left home at 13..and stayed in their irish,german,jewish,italian area of Brooklyn...or was raised in Dallas 1960'...I probably would not feel very comfortable around black people.It goes back to my childhood...and I had problem's as well as a teen...and it was black people who helped me through some of my toughest time's .. so you can see how that alone had impacted me and how I feel and socialize with/about race.When I was down and out in other word's at a time... it just happened to be black folk's that helped me pull through...if not for a few..I would not be alive right now.I dont think that most race idea folk's these day's want to harm black's...but I do feel that they feel insecure about having a Leader who is black, and even may feel that he may turn on the country and them because of past oppression perhap's,however...Obama is a far cry from a Rev.Sharpton or Jackson,and I dont think Obama like's to even talk race. I have even met white men my age...that dont like to see a white woman with a black man...I dont think it is so much hatred as it is disapproval in many cases(by hatred I mean those who want to kill based on race...and you find that amongst black's and white's,I have met many black's that were racist as well.Most people stay with their own culture and race still, as far as marriage,dating,association...and much has to do with "class" as well. I'll shut up now..Thanx and good post! Take Care :)

Sue said...

very well said BJ. We have deepseeded problems with race in this country, I was naive to think electing Obama would help things ease, but it has become worse and scary.

Infidel753 said...

To construe every criticism of President Obama as “racist” would be a mistake and, in my opinion, unfair to him. But, how does one explain personal attacks so devoid of facts they border on the absurd?

Very good points. I actually think racism is only part of the problem -- it's clearly a factor in some cases, but most likely we'd be seeing a lot of the same kind of unhinged reaction to any Democratic President.

The right wing has become dominated by a kind of fanaticism and absolutism that simply wasn't so central even ten years ago. Obama's 7% landslide in a high-turnout election, without any complicating factor like Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996, has brought home to them that the "silent majority" no longer exists, that the political center of gravity of the country has fundamentally shifted, and that the right is losing control, perhaps forever.

Regardless of how big a factor racism is, the overall situation is very disturbing. People who denounce a rather modest health-care reform plan as the second coming of Hitler or a Communist take-over (or both at once!) are clearly not thinking rationally.

We've already seen the beginnings of right-wing terrorism, as with the George Tiller murder, and I think it's going to get worse before it subsides. Maybe a lot worse.

Frodo, Rep. Gingrey's nightmare said...

As wrong it is to subscribe all disagreement to race, so is it also wrong to neglect race from the quotient. The one true constant, as Mr. Chimp of the Ranch so eloquently implied above, is "ignorance."

Frodo's grandfather, about whom he has commented before, believed that all black people smelled bad. Important it is to note that the only blacks he ever knew were working people with whom he came into contact on public transportation after a day of manual labor, or in a barnyard. Frodo's grandfather would never have voted for a black man, because, to him, they all smelled bad.

President Carter is right, and he is wrong. Every one of us in Middle Earth knows at least one other who would never vote for a black man. What Frodo has learned is that nothing is gained, outside of appropriate legal action, by confronting your grandfather.

Rep. Wilson is an officer in the South Carolina National Guard. What, pray tell, would have happened if, while on active duty, he had told his Commanding General "You lie."? Answer, he'd have been court-martialed for insubordination.

The censure was appropriate, and those who voted against it exercised poor judgment, all of them. The number included Frodo's Congressman, who will hear from atleast one voice in the night that thinks he is a true dimwit.

Sue said...

BTW BJ, I clicked over to 'I see my dreams' and 2,880 visitors have graced your blog since you said you were giving up blogging! So glad you are still here AND doing a terrific job!! (Tom had the same inclination as I did!)

Sue said...

yes Infidel we would see unhinged reactions to any Dem president, but this is very different. The president is half black therefore its not your normal unhinging, you have added in, monkeys, watermelons, African voodoo etc etc,,. Thats the difference

Anonymous said...

GREAT POST!!! Don't fret. This is a wonderful time in American history. I am actually glad that the racists are speaking because racism must have its voice to reason with it. Without a voice it becomes a coded language and a secret and will become something so similar to the Nazi's that we will start fleeing this country. Now is the time to change our feelings from anger and frustration into feelings of compassion. Ignorance has never been vanquished by force. Stopping them from talking will not stop them from feeling.

I love the Roosevelt quote!

The only statement in the post that I think we can look at differently is the one speaking of the leaders condemning that kind of attack. I think our leaders should use this opportunity to educate those people just as you are doing with this post.

Love,
Phillip