Monday, January 07, 2008
This morning, I pointed to an optimistic assessment of what an Obama presidency might look like and concluded that it was perhaps the first "ray of hope for something less than a disaster (short- or long-term) so far out of this contest." Today, Christopher Hitchens, in a column that asks lots of hard questions that have needed to be asked for quite some time, implies that there might not be quite so much cause for short-term optimism.
First, the hard questions:
Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois is the current beneficiary of a tsunami of drool. He sometimes claims credit on behalf of all Americans regardless of race, color, creed, blah blah blah, though his recent speeches appear also to claim a victory for blackness while his supporters -- most especially the white ones -- sob happily that at last we can have an African-American chief executive. ...Thank you, Mr. Hitchens!
... Isn't there something pathetic and embarrassing about this emphasis on shade? And why is a man with a white mother considered to be "black," anyway? Is it for this that we fought so hard to get over Plessy v. Ferguson? Would we accept, if Obama's mother had also been Jewish, that he would therefore be the first Jewish president? The more that people claim Obama's mere identity to be a "breakthrough," the more they demonstrate that they have failed to emancipate themselves from the original categories of identity that acted as a fetter upon clear thought. ... [bold added]
We will know that racism is no longer just on life support, but good and dead, when the mere fact that someone being "the first [fill in the minority du jour here] [fill in the occupation here]" stops being treated as newsworthy. Or, as a "first" I knew in my childhood put it when asked about being such a "first": "I don't think it's a big deal." The reporter at least had the integrity to quote him on that score.
But Hitchens isn't done yet. He digs around in Obama's background a little and finds that he is a member of a racist, creationist, church:
Sen. Obama is a congregant of a church in Chicago called Trinity United Church of Christ. I recommend that you take a brisk tour of its Web site. Run by the sort of character that the press often guardedly describes as "flamboyant" -- a man calling himself the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. -- this bizarre outfit describes itself as "Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian" and speaks of "a chosen people" whose nature we are allowed to assume is "Afrocentric." Trinity United sells creationist books and its home page includes a graphic link to a thing called Goodsearch -- the name is surmounted with a halo in its logo -- which announces cheerily that "Every time you search or shop online! Our Church earns money." [Goodsearch, which I use as well, is configurable. Use it here and the Ayn Rand Institute makes money. --ed] Much or most of what Trinity United says is harmless and boring, rather like Gov. Mike Huckabee's idiotic belief that his own success in Iowa is comparable to the "miracle" of the loaves and fishes, and the site offers a volume called Bad Girls of the Bible: Exploring Women of Questionable Virtue, which I have added to my cart, but nobody who wants to be taken seriously can possibly be associated with such a substandard and shade-oriented place."Amen, brother!" so to speak.
The unspoken agreement to concede the black community to the sway of the pulpit is itself a form of racist condescension. [The phrase "the soft bigotry of low expectations" comes to mind. --ed] [bold added]
Not only that, but Hitchens also jogged my own memory of a very different assessment of what an Obama presidency would look like -- what life might be like if a big pal of Jim Wallis were in charge:
It is quite likely that our next presidential election will be a race between two candidates who each wish to impose socialized medicine, neither of whom will fight the current war the way it ought to be fought (if at all), and neither of whom is exactly a huge defender of freedom of speech. At least Obama would not surrender while claiming to wage war or pretend that elements of socialized medicine (or carbon taxes for that matter) are compatible with capitalism. And at least his conservative opposition will be more likely to oppose restrictions on freedom of speech with a Democrat in the White House. Best yet, Obama would openly tie his uniformly horrendous policy positions to his Christian faith, reminding many Americans, through his results, of the danger posed by injecting religion into politics. [bold added]At first, I thought I would add that if this did not hasten a realignment of Christian conservatives behind the Democrats, then they would at least find themselves out of power -- until I realized that perhaps this is a significant part of what Obama means when he speaks of "reaching out" to conservatives. Yes. Barack Obama might conceivably surround himself with religionists. But even so, at least religious goals would have stopped masquerading as capitalism on his watch.
And whose assessment of Obama was that in April? Mine. (I called it, " White Guilt, Meet Religious Left".) Obama's charisma, Hitchens' "tsunami of drool", and (as I pointed out in April) a dose of white guilt, are poised to sweep Obama into power. This is not necessarily bad in and of itself, but if opponents don't stop drooling sooner or later, Obama, sans significant opposition, will be able to do much more short-term damage than he should.
I recommend reading the entire Hitchens piece and reviewing mine. (And I don't do the latter that often.)