I usually try to take some time to just stop and think about the events of the week to develop an idea for Friday's post. This week has been more difficult than usual, what with Peeper being ill yesterday and myself the day before that, the weather (brutally hot today and threatening more for tomorrow) and the usual distractions of work and worry.
What has helped me has been two discussions: one with an on-line acquaintance and fellow adoptive parent about race and power and the twisted legacies of the imperial and colonial pasts that still tangle both the old colonial powers such as England, France and the U.S.
The other was over breakfast this morning with another debating partner, this one about U.S. politics and power, the way we've been led, the choices we've made and the choices we have soon to make.
And it occurred to me that this autumn we are going to be - bar a freak of man or nature - presented with perhaps the most stark and divisive choice the electorate of this country has had to make since the election of 1860.
The past eight years have been a watershed. All the contradictions that have been splitting our nation from itself have been sharpened by the conservative ideologues that have run the nation so badly for nearly a decade.
What began as a rebellion against taxation has become a mindless refusal to pay the price of civil government no matter the need. What was once a longing for the comforting pablum of Sunday School religion has become an aggressive demand for hierophantic supremacy. The one-time desire for economic liberality has become acephalic deregulation, fiduciary recklessness, unleashed – and unpunished - criminal greed and peculation. Disgust with the protests against American misdeeds had become a fierce desire for others, mostly poorer than ourselves, to fight enemies in part created by those deeds and wrath and hatred toward those who dissent with these policies.
It’s almost as though in the space of eight years the GOP has become a freakish example of the parodistic effects of age, as ideas often become stiff and shrill exaggerations of the richer beliefs formed in our maturity.
So the Republicans will offer us Senator McCain. Ignoring the eyewash about this man as some sort of “maverick”, he brings us more of what his faction has provided for the past eight years: red war, crony capitalism, fiscal recklessness, religious rhetoric, the old, hard, iron ways of the rule of the strong, the rich, the well-born and the able.
The Democrats reply with Senator Obama. To my eyes he summarizes everything wrong with the present opposition party in this country. Given the multifarious misdeeds, lies, deceptions and evasions of the preceding eight years it should be possible to stand up for a handful of simple truths; freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom from hate. Rejection of the sneaking, the torturing, the greed and the foolishness that have stamped the previous administration as perhaps the worst since Buchanan’s. Instead we were forced to choose between two candidates with many flaws and weaknesses, whose most prominent characteristic was their savaging of each other rather than the ability to remain focused on the Republican enemy of both.
But now we have the choice. It would seem that a nation of honorable and decent people would have little to decide: on the one hand, decency, on the other, deceit. One the one hand, promised judgment, on the other, moronic wrath. One the one hand, the future, on the other, the past.
BUT…hand in hand with the deceit and the wrath is the past in the form we are most comfortable with: a pink and white Caucasian grandpa, rosily well fed and sleek with inherited wealth.
Decency and judgment and the future takes the form of the despised slave, the wretched freedman, the mocked minstrel and the frightening underclass, who represents all the things that so many of our ancestors taught us to hate and fear.
I love my country. And because I love my country I am not blind to her faults. And one of her greatest has been her heritage of race hatred and racial oppression. The very Founder who wrote the immortal words that in this land "all Men are created equal" was at the very time he wrote those words the owner of human souls for no better reason than the color of their skin. The legacy of race hate and fear is a powerful force right this very minute. And to break with the past eight years of mendacity and hidden brutality by rejecting the candidate that stands for them - as I believe we must do - we as Americans will have to fight and defeat the force of racism in the most difficult terrain of all: our own hearts.
I still believe that our system is badly broken, perhaps irretrievably so. But this isn't about the long view. This is about today. About the weight of so much proven wrong against an untried but hopeful right. But a right that will demand that we, those of us who have been raised in the America where (if we were white) we never needed to think about or fear the consequence our race, will need to place a man with a dark skin above ourselves, in the rostrum of our Capitol, and say: "There. There is my choice. There is my representative, and the Chief Executive of my nation."
Now the razor's sharp edge of the last eight years’ contradictions has been laid against our throats.
I believe – I truly believe – that here we are offered the choice of Satan on the mountaintop: on the one hand the past, with all it’s comfort and wealth, if only we but embrace the man whose ideas speak to the social, racial and political smallness in each of us, if we but choose to make our nation a meaner place founded on the principal of “I’ve got mine, fuck you, Jack!”
On the other, a man who gives us at least the hope of turning to embrace an uncertain future but one which provides an alternative to clanging Roman wars and ratlike scrambling greed. And – to choose this path was must START by crossing the great racial divide that has been with us since before the first African slave set foot in the New World.
For if we cannot bring ourselves to place a man whose skin is darker than our own in a place to lead us; if our fear of the dark "other" is greater than our shame and hate of the things that our current "leaders" have done in our name...
Well, perhaps we have indeed lost our souls.
Do you think we can choose the future by choosing to reject one of the deepest division of our national past? Is that too high a price to ask?
What price the soul of a nation?
Update 5/20: In case anyone questions my characterization of the GOP spear-carriers as racist morons, here is George Packer:
"John Preston, who is the county’s circuit-court judge and also its amateur historian, Harvard-educated, with a flag pin on his lapel, said, “Obama is considered an élitist.” He added, “There’s a racial component, obviously, to it. Thousands of people won’t publicly say it, but they won’t vote for a black man—on both sides, Democrat and Republican. It won’t show up in the polls, because they won’t admit it. The elephant’s in the room, but nobody will say it. Sad to say it, but it’s true.” Later, I spoke with half a dozen men eating lunch at the Pigeon Roost Dairy Bar outside town, and none of them had any trouble saying it. They announced their refusal to vote for a black man, without hesitation or apology. “He’s a Muslim, isn’t he?” an aging mine electrician asked. “I won’t vote for a colored man. He’ll put too many coloreds in jobs. Colored are O.K.—they’ve done well, good for them, look where they came from. But radical coloreds, no—like that Farrakhan, or that senator from New York, Rangel. There’d be riots in the streets, like the sixties.” No speech, on race or élitism or anything else, would move them. Here was one part of the white working class—maybe not representative, but at least significant—and in an Obama-McCain race they would never be the swing vote. It is a brutal fact, and Obama probably shouldn’t even mention it."
These people are planning to vote for the party that promises to shower benefits on the two-yacht family because that party promises them it will keep the niggers down and jail anyone providing someone, somewhere, an abortion. This kind of thinking is the thinking of a moron; I cannot put it any more cleverly than that.