Friday, May 23, 2008

America is not America

Yes, I would appear to have contradicted myself but hear me out. Last night my wife and I watched the finale of this season's episode of Boston Legal. Two themes dominated -- one was on the nature of friendship. The other was what does America stand for? The conflict that drove the latter theme was that the city of Concord, MA wanted Alan Shore, a liberal lawyer with Crane, Poole, and Schmidt, to bring an action against the United States to sever its relationship to the country. The second theme was driven by the fact that Denny Crane, who has "Mad Cow" (aka Alzheimers) and is a cognitively impaired (but mostly in regard to his behaviors) patriot and Alan's best friend decides to defend the US against this secession law suit.

Alan was very good as an advocate for Concord's suit. Denny was, to everyone's great surprise, a good deal better. He countered Alan's argument that the US under George Bush has ceased to abide by the values held by the founding fathers of the country in allowing torture, imprisonment of people, including Americans, without any access to family members, to say nothing of lawyers, invading another country for totally fabricated reasons, etc. We all know what the Bush Administration has done. Denny responded by pointing out that America has been violating the principles held by the founding fathers, as embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. from the very beginning His argument, then, was that there is nothing new under the American sun.

Is Denny right? During my time working for Civil Rights in the early 60's and against the Vietnam War in the mid-60's to the mid-70's I wondered why I was getting so worked up about how Blacks were being treated in Texas, where I was living during the time of my civil rights activity, or our fighting in Vietnam in order ostensibly to make S. Vietnam free of Communist rule. (America's actions toward Vietnam began with our canceling an election that would have unified Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh, who, by the way, had been an ally in WW II, which was totally at variance with our professed values.) The answer I came up with was that the values I was taught in civics class in Junior High or High School seemed to be being violated and I believed it was my duty to do what I could to bring our behaviors in line with our values. We were taught about all the wonderful things we stood for and the wonderful actions we had taken to help others. We were not taught about all the rotten things we have done, such as imprisonment of perfectly innocent Japanese Americans during WW II, among very many other quite rotten things. Had our text book and teacher been honest, I might not have grown up to be the Idealist I came to be (and still am despite all the evidence that it is a pretty hopeless perspective on the world). I shouldn't forget, of course, that my parents promoted the same values as those taught in my civics classes. I suspect that ver few parents tell their kids the ugly truths about America.)

The way Conservatives talk, they had their brains frozen after their educations in all the wonderful things America stands for. The result is that they brand anyone who draws attention to our flaws as a traitor.

America was not America when it was founded. The language of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is totally inconsistent with slavery and Founding Fathers knew this but chose to ignore this inconvenient truth in order to form our "more perfect union." Note now that slavery -- at least the sort of slavery that Blacks had to endure -- does not now exist. At the height of my disdain for the United States (I would cringe during the playing of the national anthem) for its failure to provide equal opportunities to all people and and its fighting in Vietnam on behalf of puppet leaders, my wife and I went to Edinburgh, Scotland, where I did research at the University of Edinburgh. While there it became apparent to me that Great Britain was some 20 years behind the US in its race relations and that did it have the military power of the US the UK would likely be engaged in even worse military atrocities. At the time, if memory serves, the UK was the only country that continued to supply arms to the White government of S. Africa. I decided that maybe the US was not as bad as I thought it was.

I learned from that experience that the values I believed America stands for are less a reality than an ambition. It is our ambition that minorities of all sorts (even when they are majorities, as in the case of women) should have equal opportunities but that is not yet a reality. With a simple change from the quite evil government of George Bush, to an administration led by Obama or Clinton (I'm much less sure of McCain) we will make a quantum leap toward making America's values a bit more of a reality.

Sadly, Obama is going to get the nomination in the Democratic Party to run for President and he is going to lose. America's reality is that it is too racist to elect a Black man -- even one who is very different from the sorts of Blacks who have run in the past (with perhaps the exception of Shirley Chisholm) that White America has been afraid of in some sense of the term. However, if the superdelegates in the Democratic Party were to see this truth for what it is -- a truth that the voters in Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and now Kentucky have made quite evident -- and decide to move over to Clinton's side, then Hillary would lose as well, for Blacks would be very, very angry at this. What they would do, I do not know.

So, my prediction is that America is insufficiently evolved to elect a Black man and that is a shame

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6:11 PM

Blogger Ben said...

During my time working for Civil Rights in the early 60's and against the Vietnam War in the mid-60's to the mid-70's...

Funny thing about the Vietnam War is that the Vietnamese boat people didn't start arriving until after the fall of Saigon and the ensuing "peace." Obviously, the boat people fleeing for their lives misunderstood the Communists just as much as we did. Seriously, there has been an anti-war movement in every war from the American revolution onwards, and they've been wrong every single time. Do you see a pattern here?

The way Conservatives talk, they had their brains frozen after their educations in all the wonderful things America stands for. The result is that they brand anyone who draws attention to our flaws as a traitor.

Oh, please. I've had my brain frozen many times, largely because I have a perverse love of Slurpees. Now, maybe my memory isn't too great, but aside from a few muckrakers like Coulter, most prominent conservatives don't hurl "traitor" around lightly. Anti-American or unpatriotic, sure, but those are just factual. If you resent your country or cringe at its symbols, you're not patriotic, it's a simple fact. And, likewise, if you single America out for special criticism or hold it to an absurdly high standard, you're anti-American. Mindless hatred of your country is no more an enlightened view than mindless love of your country, just as dissent has no more inherent validity than agreement.

And sorry, but if you want sympathy because you get flak from the occasional nut, walk a mile in my shoes, brother, and listen to *countless* liberals throw "fascist" and "chickenhawk" around. And once I enlisted, chickenhawk changed to Myrmidon and jack-booted thug.

If you take that sort of thing seriously, I don't know what to tell you because I can't imagine how you survived childhood.

Obama is going to get the nomination in the Democratic Party to run for President and he is going to lose. America's reality is that it is too racist to elect a Black man

There are too many variables to declare, as you have, that we know what the overriding factor will be. But let's at least get ourselves a political Drake equation: the decision will be made by a set of demographics that vote on varying factors.

1. Dem base and Rep base will vote for their man. That's the "my granddaddy voted X, my daddy voted X, I'm voting X!" demographic.

2. Phobia demographic. They will vote because of very simple suspicions. Against Obama: "he's Muslim" (a surprising number of people I've talked to believe this) or "he's Black." Against McCain: "he's too old" (ageism) and "he's still crazy after what happened at Hanoi Hilton." Yes, I'm serious, people have and will continue to discriminate against McCain for being a POW.

3. Issues voters. In many elections, this block is quite large. In this one, not so much: Obama is very inexperienced, his foreign policy is incomprehensible and his domestic policy has been rejected by voters since Carter was booted out. McCain is a solid candidate on all three counts.

4. Disgust voters. This block will solidly favor Obama because Bush has destroyed his own reputation to finish what he started in Iraq and the GOP congress has sucked.

5. Swing voters. They don't follow the news and form an opinion until the last minute, so they vote on whatever random event happens. Smug idiots, more or less.

I'm not saying this is the only way to slice the numbers, but you have to at least start with something like this before you can make a claim that America, as a whole, is racist. And then you still need numbers!

Personally, I'm not worried about American racism in politics because I've seen other countries (in Europe mostly) where there are actual bona fide white supremacist parties running, or where there is terrible tension over Muslim immigration. Does it bother me that there is racism at all? Sure. But the solution is the same its always been: blacks keep building communities, living their lives and proving, over and over again, that they're people like anyone else. Handwringing by whites has never, not once, done a damned thing about it.

One thing you have to accept about life: you hurt someone and they have to do all the healing.

4:32 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

I like your last statement -- You hurt someone and they have to do all the healing. Johnson and Nixon caused a lot of Americans to get hurt, to say nothing of dying, and, other than McNamarra, only the injured soldiers had to heal. Ditto the current Iraq campaign under Bush. Both were stupid wars that did not need to be fought. We accepted a date certain for a general election throughout Vietnam but we democracy lovers canceled the election because that would put Ho Chi Minh in power. After we fought as long as the American people would tolerate, guess who was in power?

You are quire wrong about some wars being wrong. WWI was an accidental war started by an assassination (as a kind of catylst. How many other major wars were started by an assignation? WWII was righteous on our part. The Korean War is dicier because S. Korea engaged in a number of provocative acts but was possibly righteous. The Vietnam war was stupid. Our invasion of Grenada was a joke -- Reagan needed a win after the terrible bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut Operation "Just Cause" is better pronounced as "juscuz). America loves wars. We are in them almost all of the time. Check it out.

I am worried about American racism but agree -- indeed I made clear in the post if you had cared to read it carefully -- that Euro-racism is worse. In fact, I have no love for Europe except as a vacation site.

I think we agree about voters. You have provided the basis for understanding why America put Bush in power. His second term should never have happened. I'll give you his first term. Oh, right, I can't give it to you. The Supremes gave it to you by a vote along strict partisan lines proving that the Supremes as as corrupt as is the Administration and the Congress as a whole.

7:36 AM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

Very intelligent posts here. I don't know if there's much I can add, but I'll try.

I simply can't agree with the idea McCain would be a bad president at this point. From everything I've seen, he's exactly the kind of president I want, and have wanted since he first ran in a primary. So, now my statements have been premised, I will proceed.

I think LG made a very astute observation. America's ideals are just that--ideals. Ideals simply can't be perfectly attained from the get-go, and I don't think they ever can be perfectly attained. Perhaps this is simply my Christian world-view, but I don't believe that world-view has ever been countered in this respect. What sets us apart is our striving for those ideals, and this is why we should be patriotic.

Regarding war, I have made enough comments about it, and don't think I need to go back into it.

Regarding the Democratic contest, I have some other observations, unrelated or not. At the start, I found Obama appealing, and despised Clinton. As it has gone on, I have learned to despise Obama for a number of reasons, and these reasons I'm sure are shared by others and will lead to his ultimate defeat. It's not only race, although I'm sure this will play some part. Regarding Clinton, I have learned to hate her less and less, and actually I think I could live with her in the White House again. Not that I would be happy about it, but it would be tolerable. Obama would not.

11:13 AM


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