This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

August 6, 2009

Are We Worried Yet?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — pprscribe @ 4:01 pm

I understand the impulse to make jokes about “crazed Right-wingers” ranting about Barack Obama being (a) Muslim (or, as the sign-maker above believes, “muslin”), (b) a socialist, (c) evil incarnate, and/or (d) a secret Black Panther bent on destroying the White race.

But are we worried yet?

I understand the snickers about the Birther movement, and the ridiculousness of fake Kenyan birth certificates. I barely resisted making my own Kenyan birth certificate. I chuckled at Sarah Palin’s Canadian birth certificate.

But—are we worried yet?

I know it is easy to see mistakenly-sent email rants and cartoons and poor puns and jokes as just further evidence of how stupid They can be (while we feel ever the elitists that They claim we have been all along)…as further proof about how much They and their Party are Out of Touch and Unraveling at the Seams.

But are we worried yet?

I understand that many of us my age do not recall the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers or of King or of others, being merely babes or toddlers. I realize that those of us younger than I am do not even have any memories of the failed assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan. And I, too, found comical the endlessly replayed clips of former President George W. Bush being nearly knocked upside the head with a shoe—not fully recognizing it as the vulnerability and security breach that it was. But tell me—

Are we worried yet?

I hear how expressing safety concerns about President Obama and his family can sound as irrational as the conspiracy theories claiming Obama was some sort of Manchurian candidate. I read the same article as you probably did stating that “Since Mr Obama took office, the rate of threats against the president has increased 400 per cent from the 3,000 a year or so under President George W. Bush….” And probably like you, after reading this I clicked on to other news, merely shaking my head in mild dismay with the smug satisfaction that such news did not surprise someone as smart and worldly as me. But just between you and me and our computer monitors,

are we worried yet?

I get that random acts of violence by deranged, troubled individuals would likely happen were Barack Obama president or not. I understand that whenever a marginalized group is perceived as succeeding, members of that group can be at even greater risk of backlash, of being scapegoated. I recall from history books how the combination of general economic hardship plus the perception of an inferior group getting special privileges, jumping their turn in line ahead of others more deserving—how all of this can turn fairly level headed people into mobs with a grudge and a target at which to aim their sense of loss, anger, and frustration.

Are we worried yet?

I remember the line from the bad guy in one of my favorite horror movies: “It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.” I remember how that was supposed to help him de-humanize in his mind his soon-to-be victim, make her Other, so that it would be easier for him to treat her as prey and not as a fellow human. I know how in times of war, soldiers give harsh degrading nicknames to the people they are fighting against, learn to see them not just as enemies, but as undeserving of compassion. And I know that on the other side of the front, the other soldiers have been trained to do the same thing. So,

are we worried yet?

I understand that what we still call the “news” business is all about ratings, about branding, about money, about theater. I understand that some of the hate that passes for talk is partly or fully artifice. I also have read stories about research on people who watch a lot of local news who then overestimate the prevalence of street violence. I believe in freedom of speech and that talking heads do not kill people– Believe, though it may surprise you, in the rights of private citizens to have and bear (some) arms, and that guns do not kill people. I know that people kill people. I also believe that hate speech contributes to a certain toxic environment in which violence can (and does) thrive, though. And that firearms make killing fast, easy, impersonal. And more efficient.

I know. I understand. I hear, read, and see. I am sure we all know, understand, hear, read, and see.

Are we worried yet, though?

Are we?

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1 Comment »

  1. A little bit, as I walked thru the fair and saw the same day gun permit signs, and held Drew’s hand tighter and moved hurriedly down the crowded corridor.

    Comment by Aimee Laramore — August 15, 2009 @ 4:58 pm


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