Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Which One? That One



Basic rules of etiquette proscribe using the third person to refer to a present party. Therefore, it is rude to refer to Mrs. Smith as "she" when Mrs. Smith is standing right next to you; "she" is a female dog, a bitch. We have likely lost the distinction in our modern society (note: not civilization) and this type of rudeness will be excused or overlooked on the grounds of quaintness or of being too stiffly formal or European.

This rationale does not justify John McCain calling Barack Obama "That one" at last night's Presidential debate. The insinuation is that Barack Obama isn't human; he is, to quote Tennessee Williams, "one step removed."

In the first debate, McCain refused to so much as cast a glance at Senator Obama.

The "That one" comment is being sold hard on the news this morning, without any mention of its long roots in the history of American Presidential campaigns. The interesting thing about the 2008 election is that, for the very first time, we have a candidate who cannot express fear or contempt for African-Americans because he is one. This has allowed McCain to emerge, unlike his predecessors, with an open animus towards the African-American race that has been abstrusely extant in past Presidential elections, in the form of which candidate can be the more slyly prejudiced. He is making history, believe it or not, even as he makes himself into a horse's ass. There is no longer any need for a recondite language of bigotry to mask the pathological anger and disdain--why aren't we getting it?

No wonder Senator McCain is frustrated. Having free rein to liberate racism from the need to be furtive, he lets loose and what happens? The other guy gets the runaway horse. And what strange times we live in, for this to happen: The history of our former economic hegemony was predicated upon slave labor, and so is our decline, for we can define the minimum-wage job by no other terms, even as it has so badly backfired.

In his ill-cloaked bias, Senator McCain must feel that he is addressing a huge social problem that has, by virtue of Senator Obama's nomination, been shunted to the side in favor of the economy, of education, and of war, or of war plus altruism.
The GOP ticket is a hard sell, with its attack bunny and its lumbering, bolt-like candidate who appears full of indignation and resentment towards both his opponent and to the little pizza-eating guy on the street. "That one" appeared in the same debate where the Senator slapped down the question of another African-American with the arrogant response that the man probably hadn't heard of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Why would he? He's probably illiterate and wouldn't be seeking any mortgage in McCain Country--Next question?

The man who would be demagogue of this screwed-up nation of ours appears to have recently emerged from a deep-freeze of at least a quarter century's duration. The time spent in his capsule has done him no favors; he appears like an elderly fetus, lockjawed and uncomfortable, trying for a humor that comes up humorless and flashing a smile that is more like a large grimace.

Last week, Senator McCain dismissed a huge population of voters; that is, people who frequent pizza parlors, and by extension bowling alleys, NASCAR races, Burger King, Motel 6, Southwest Airlines, and Costco. He sent the attack bunny out to do his dirty work with the "terrorist" tautology, assuming that the average voter is so thick that he learns only by word-association games: Obama=terrorist.

However witless it may seem, this tactic is really quite clever. It is no more than flash-card technology, and in its primitiveness it is sublime. Sad to say that many of us have been unable to identify key political figures from their pictures alone, or to correctly position South Dakota underneath North. For this voter, the word+image is a powerful tool of recollection. Are we not all afraid of terrorists, and of getting our asses blown to kingdom come in a remote Wal-Mart?

Senator McCain's awkwardness was not limited to his jabs at Senator Obama. He also dismissed Tom Brokaw, weirdly, as if Mr. Brokaw had any interest at all in becoming Secretary of the Treasury, a job which, at last reckoning, was entirely thankless and not nearly so thrilling as the jobs Mr. Brokaw has held in the past, including being Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade.

So Senator McCain has a bad way with a joke, for this is what the "That one" comment is being called. Nearly everyone agrees that Senator McCain did nothing to further his ticket; it may even appear that Senator McCain does not even want to be President. What most have missed is his innovation, his breaking free from cabalistic semiotic code. His single most important achievement in the the 2008 election has been getting us to permit the openness of his hatred.

1 comment:

enc said...

McCain does seem out of it, like he's completely clueless about things. Why else would he risk alienating his core voting group— "people who frequent pizza parlors, and by extension bowling alleys, NASCAR races, Burger King, Motel 6, Southwest Airlines, and Costco?"

And by the way, I'd like to know: How many heroes does this guy have, anyway? Reagan? Roosevelt? Who else?