Sunday, October 12, 2008

Love Thy (Terrorist) Neighbor


Someone should tell John McCain that it is impossible to douse the flames of fear. Now that Senator McCain has attempted to control the uncontrollable--the emotions of the people--he seems unable to understand that his reversal is as good as fuel to the fire.

As of Friday, Democratic candidate Barack Obama is "a decent man, (a) family man" with whom Senator McCain just happens to have "disagreements." Barack Obama is also a "citizen," a word that McCain feebly used in the hopes of interlocking Senator Obama with the madding crowd, some of whom are uncivilized citizens of the non-ideal civilization otherwise known as America.

For some of these citizens, September 11, 2001 is the official birth date of the Arab-equals-Muslim confoundment. This confusion has always existed across our prairies and amid our amber waves, yet the events of that day eternally cemented the two in the minds of many.

Senator McCain's response was to a woman who called Senator Obama "an Arab." She likely meant "a Muslim," but befuddlement is in our Bill of Rights and we defend it proudly, especially on national TV and in other fora where we make asses of ourselves. What she meant wasn't necessarily relevant, because Senator McCain's clumsy response had all the thwack of someone getting hit in the face with a large ham: Arabs (or Muslims) are not decent, are not family men, and are not citizens (of America).

There are over two millions persons of Arab descent in America, and nearly seven million Muslims. Most of these are citizens, and surely somewhere among them are decent men and family men and guys who like to watch baseball in the dog days of summer.

So bumbling was Senator McCain's defense that it might well--in all its gaucherie-- have included our national pastime. "Yeah, and I've seen him toss a ball with the neighborhood kids. So there."

Our new national pastime is Muslim hating, a flare-up of religious hostility no less contagious and parlous than the anti-Semitism of America in the 1930s.

For his faute-de-mieux defense, Senator McCain was jeered. Jeered! They came to watch the further tarring of the terrorist and instead they got a nostrum of questionable value. Senator McCain's poorly phrased reply put the issue not in resolution or repair but in limbo, and in limbo it lies while the crowd calls out for more. We will have our Coliseum!

Whom can we blame for the McCain-Palin ticket's misapprehension of simple human psychology? As of Friday, this ticket has done nothing but confuse the crowd, who primarily took their cues from Sarah Palin. Once confused, without leadership, we are directionless, and without direction we are dangerous. Hardly an intellect, Ms. Palin still ultimately bears responsibility for her utterances, even if such a definition of literacy as to research Westbrook Pegler before quoting him would elude many of us. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is just a convenient sound bite: Pegler was a rabid anti-Semite who called Jewish immigrants "geese." And somewhat obscure to the average American, of whose company Ms. Palin so proudly keeps.

Senator McCain found himself caught in a political trap from which there was no clear way of escape and no immediate way to clear conscience either. Should he have
confronted us with a primer on linguistic, cultural, and religious identity and how they are not always intertwined? Has anyone asked him to define them? Could he have? And what about us, would we have listened? It's frightening stuff, this ignorance, but equally frightening is deafness. It may be too late to love thy terrorist neighbor.

Here is where Senator McCain's remoteness will truly work against him: Will anyone pay attention? It is also where Senator McCain should take on that leadership role--an unprecedented one to be sure--and go on national TV to bash some sense into our ugly little heads. Scholars not, we aren't known for digging at the root of things. We leave that to the Greeks, to Pilatus and Socrates, and not to our overstuffed numbskull population who appear to gorge mostly on the type of junk Ms. Palin was dishing up with her "terrorist pal" obiter dictum. That's the food of the Gods these days, or so it appears.

We are standing at the brink of war, once again, waving our flag as wildly as we ever have. This war now supersedes the war on behalf of the wage-earning classes that has been fought to so little effect recently. This is just the stuff that has burned so brightly for so many years and now threatens to engulf us, one liberty at a time.

Outside of some well-intentioned editorial, it isn't even clear if we are aware that this problem exists in the first place. It certainly isn't supper-table chat, at least not in my neck of woods. At this moment, several weeks before the election, we are as divided as ever. What did you do this weekend, and do you wonder if John McCain spent part of his in a crash course on successfully handling hostile face-offs? Three weeks away from voting, McCain stands poised to miss the single greatest opportunity to show his true leadership qualities, even if he learned them under a 48-hour time constraint.

(Thanks to David Ballard for the image concept and two cents' worth.)

1 comment:

enc said...

I'm continually amazed that our politician's statements are taken as the "truth," instead of at (uninformed) face value.