Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Brietbart, Sherrod, Obama

I'll admit that when I first saw the secretly edited video of Mrs. Sherrod's speech, my first reaction was that she should be dismissed from her Ag. Department job. And actually, since the story I happened to see, which included the video of the speech, also reported that she had been sacked, my reaction was--well, that was a good reaction on the part of the Obama Administration to something that was obviously unacceptable. The edited speech cast Mrs. Sherrod in a vivid and fairly well known stereotype--a lot of people, I'm assuming, have run into the mid-level beurocrat who takes out her "issues" on the random people who have the misfortune of getting into her line. White people are always bitching about the black secretary or office functionary. I expect black people find the same characters amongst the white counterparts. And. There is certainly some truth in a stereotype. What's false is the stereotyping activity. It's a mistake humans make, and can be traced back to the old lizard brain. "If they move, kill 'em." (Every line in the Wild Bunch tells a deeper truth.) And let me stress--"his" can replace "her" in the above paragraph, anywhere you wish. This isn't about gender stereotyping either, although I think Brietbart surely had that in mind as well.

It is with great relief that I learned last night of the secret edits to the Sherrod speech. My reactions were several. First, how could Breitbart get away with this yet again? Even with Fox News no less. And isn't it about time he can be actually charged with something, or at least sued in civil court. An awful lot of very ordinary and very innocent people--most of them black--are being slandered by his now predictable media games. There's the hundreds of Acorn employees. There's the folks down in the political offices in New Orleans. Now there's a very good person, Mrs. Sherrod, who's been cold-cocked by a public media frenzy which was entirely duped, and cold-cocked again by the NAACP, and yet again, by the Obama Administration. This is what liable laws are for, isn't it.

Hopefully by the time of this writing, Mrs. Sherrod already has her job back. I mean if she wants it--if it was me I would consider retiring and getting as far away from all this crap as possible. That's just me. The NAACP apologized with some elegance last night, live on Rachel Maddow in the person of Ben Jealous. It simply must be that the Administration will do likewise. And one would also hope everyone with even a modicum of good will will now view anything emerging from Office Brietbart as, per se, a likely lie or subterfuge, to be dismissed and stepped over like an unexpected puppy offering on the sidewalk. Mistakes which are grounded in sophisticated lies are not, in themselves, cause for stonewalling. Mr. Obama--fix this p.d.q.

But even more important, it seems to me that this event, now exposed, should be a learning moment for everyone who is not already committed to the full bore racist camp, hoping for some kind of idiotic "race war," aiming to convince everyone to take a bull shit "side." As Mr. Jealous said last night, the argument about the Federal Budget is an argument which has various sides. It can be held by economists and others without resort to much purple rhetoric, and no resort to the kind of signage we've seen far too much of in the Tea Party rallies--pictures of Obama as Hitler, the tossing around of hot words like "socialism" and "fascism" which have no relevance to the dry numbers that make up a budget. Certainly it's obvious that some people are worried about the national deficit and the national debt. But these worries should not prevail as policy choices via race-baiting. As Mr. Jealous put it, the Tea Party would actually be a better movement without the racism. To which I have to say, absolutely!

But even deeper, this exposure of Brietbart ought to teach us all something. I realize, of course, that whether people can actually learn these lessons permanently also depends on the old lizard brain. It blows my mind that after Vietnam we could still, as a nation, get behind the Iraq War, or even the Afganistan War, or that George Bush, who was at least present during the Vietnam era, could have grinned and called himself a "war President" as though he'd found the meaning of his life. But this is what he did. So it's hard to have but so much hope, but here's a big teaching moment, as they say. Let's look at how even people of obvious good will jumped to the wrong conclusion about Mrs. Sherrod. And also how the fine white farmer family she aided thirty years ago stood up for her, in the face of all this blather, which originated from a relative handful of folks with zero good will--people who were just fine with pushing her under the bus to serve the political end of damaging Mr. Obama's Administration.

The serve has been made. The ball rushes to Mr. Obama's end of the court. This is his moment.

Update--as driftglass points out, the racism strain in American history and politics is long and deep, and seems to fight for its survival with a will of its own. There is something sickeningly familiar to a southerner about the way so much of America found it so damned easy to see 9/11 as justifying an attack on Muslims. Even as we speak, the "Mosque at Ground Zero" "issue" is nothing more than yet another racist style argument, and Mr. Hannity makes it every day to the end of furthering Republican political interests.

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