Thursday, August 12, 2010
Joe Conason--Beam, Mote, Eyes
Conason starts, of course, with the thoroughly disproved accusation of racial epithets by tea partiers towards Black Caucus Congressmen when the horrible health care "reform" bill was passed. Then there is the key quote, from NRO, which Conason makes fun of (I'll return to this in a bit):
Here is the complete list of really horrible racist things Conason trots out:
That these things are even remotely newsworthy leads me to one conclusion: Racism in America is dead. We had slavery, then we had Jim Crow-and now we have the occasional public utterance of a bad word. Real racism has been reduced to de minimis levels, while charges of racism seem to increase.
1. Comparing the life under the Obama Administration to Planet of the Apes.
2. Laura Ingraham in her satiric book The Obama Diaries used words like "uppity" and showed Michelle Obama often eating ribs.
3. A church fair had popguns fired at a cardboard simulacra of President Obama.
4. On the Jersey Shore, boardwalk game existed with baseball hurled at clay simulacra of President Obama.
5. Threats of violence against President Obama.
Perhaps you underwhelmed by the accusations, particularly the last one and particularly if you can remember the feted books, movies and on air comments with George Bush assassinated. I think that if this is all Conason has to complain about, racist actions in America really are de minimus. There is one thing that Conservative racists have in spades (if I can use that word and remain a non-racist)--principaled, honest opposition to the policies and agendo of the Obama Administration.
Now a little history, just for context. Conason twice says that Conservatives opposed Civil Rights legislation. In 1964, there were some Conservatives who opposed the legislation, most, like Barry Goldwater and the denizens of National Review, on reasoned constitutional grounds, but the major opposition to the bill came from Southern Democrats who opposed it as a bloc and solely because of their racists mind sets. Republicans voted for the '64 Act in greater percentages vis a vis their representation in the Congress than the percentage of Democrats, and President Johnson could not have passed it without Republican support.
Conason says that "leading figures on the right cannot seem to suppress their inner Klansman these days." Really, who? Glenn Beck and Laura Ingraham? That's it? For making fun of the President? That's all you have? Oh, and Joe, the Klan membership was 99.9% Democrat. The last surviving Klansman in the Senate was recently deceased Democratic Senator Byrd. I have to admit that I don't know the current political party affiliation of today's KKK, all 12 of them, but I do know that no one has been lynched by Democrats, hiding their identity under white sheets, since 1968. That seems like progress to me.
The most recent racist murders were by a properly fired black man seeking out and methodically killing only whites at his former place of employment. I wonder if Mr. Conason counts that as racial progress.
UPDATE: James Taranto takes on the same column here, and comes to a similar conclusion although far more elegantly. Here's a sample thereof:
In colonial days, black Africans were brought to America in chains and enslaved--literally made the property of other people. So deeply ingrained was the practice of slavery that it was written into the Constitution. It was abolished only after more than 75 years and a horrific and bloody civil war.
Although blacks formally were granted freedom and legal equality after the Civil War, in practice they remained second-class citizens. Particularly in the South, they were subjected to a regime of discrimination so pervasive that it is no exaggeration to describe it as totalitarian, enforced as it was through violence and terror by both the state and the majority population.
Overcoming this system of white supremacy was a century-long struggle, culminating with the landmark civil rights legislation of the 1960s. Today black Americans are full citizens, their civil and political rights secured by law. A black man has even been elected president of the United States.
Despite this progress, the struggle continues. Slavery and Jim Crow are history, but it falls to our generation to rid America of the scourge of . . . offensive carnival games.
You see the problem. It's not that Conason is wrong exactly, but that his level of righteous outrage is so wildly disproportionate to the trifling offenses he is describing. Had we ever seen evidence that he has a sense of humor, we would assume that this column is satire. But we haven't, and it's not.