Tuesday, April 15, 2008

a little exercise for those who find no offense--UPDATED

I'll warn you upfront: I'm off the deep end on something.

It started like this: I woke up this morning, clicked on my internet icon, and the home page for my local paper came up, with the following easily-seen headline: Obama's Truth Apparently Too Painful For Americans

The title was in reference to an video editorial posted by Bob Ray Sanders of the Fort Worth Star Telegram. Here is the link to the editorial.

I couldn't take it. I sent the following e-mail to Mr Sanders:

"Let's put the proverbial shoe on the other foot. . .

Let's say there was a national political figure who you didn't support entirely. There were parts of his/her policies that you agreed with, but on the whole this person didn't expect you to support their candidacy. And this politician, on a visit to Ft Worth, got verbally wandering during a campaign stop and started talking about you and your perceived non-support, and said the following:

"Well, that Bob Ray, like a lot of journalists, he has been let down by the last 25 years of government. Both Republican and Democratic administrations haven't realized his hopes, and so it's not surprising then that he's become bitter, the he clings to liberal bias or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like him, or anti-secrecy sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain his frustration."

How do you like that "truth"?

Now ask yourself: how are the words above different from what Obama said the other day?

Wouldn't you be up in arms the next day, using all the might of your pen to flush this politician's career down the toilet bowl?

And for all I know, you don't agree with a single issue that was sited above. The point is: you don't have to. This politician took your perceived lack of support, lumped you in with a whole bunch of people whom you may OR MAY NOT share ideology with, and then said some remarkably unflattering things about those people with whom you were lumped in with.

How do you like being someone who clings to "antipathy to people who aren't like you" all because you're a journalist? How do you think people from "small towns in Pennsyvania and the midwest" like being told they "cling to" antipathy to people who aren't like them simply because they're from a small town?

Now I'm curious: you undoubtedly would bring all of your considerable skills to bear on this politician. I just wonder if you'd ever use the word "elitism" in your charges?

At least can you understand why someone else might use that word?

It isn't about the bitterness--although don't you like how you're painted as bitter despite the fact you, individually, may not be such.

It's about the generalizations of a broad swath of people in as "robots", all easily described in 32 words that apply equally to them all.

This, from a candidate who purports to be about giving voice to all people?

Sincerely, John"

I know, I know, clumsy analogy as a means for comparison, poor climax at the end, etc. So it's imperfect to say the least--and I don't even need my wife to arrive at that conclusion. But at least it's a start, right?

Mr Sanders responded--and I never doubted he would. That's one thing I love about Texas. But that's an article for another day.

To say the least, he was underwhelmed. I can't blame him--again, the analogy I drew was almost as clumsy as his paraphrasing of Obama's words in the video. In summary, he basically said that he doesn't see anything in my above postulations that would get him too bent out of shape.

Fair enough. I guess people can disagree, right?

Did I mention I'm off the deep end on this?

I'm seriously debating sending him the following response:

"Mr Sanders:

I don't know what I was thinking, assuming that you could look at anything through unbiased eyes. First of all, as a resident of a big city, you have no idea what kinds of values are actually held by people of a small town, so you probably have no clue how accurate or inaccurate Obama's words were since they played to your own bigoted stereotypes of those folks. And as a member of the media, you're already so in the tank for Obama that the man can do no wrong. Lastly, I should have known that you'd never find a reason to question the words from the mouth of a successful black man. I mean, Obama didn't do it to Wright, so why should you do it to him, right?

Thanks for letting me see your true colors. I'll know not to take you or your opinions seriously in the future.

HOPING you get all that you deserve for your FAITH in Obama -- John"

I'm willing to bet I'd get some misshaping there, don't you think?

So tell me, would that be too far?


Was it because I accused him of racism? Well, here's the thing: I didn't. I accused him of sympathy to those that are like him. . .which is exactly what Obama accused the midwesterners of. (Either that, or those folks have no sympathy for anybody. I guess we could explore that if option you want to, but I don't think that's any more flattering of a proposition for Obama.) So that can't be offensive to those who saw no offense in Obama's remarks, right?

Was it because I IMPLIED that he, as a member of various "groups" that he is a part of--perhaps even not by choice--has no ability to make his own valid judgements? Well, that's exactly what Obama implied about all those people in the midwest the other day. Really, it is--read the whole quote. Don't take somebody else's lame summary of the quote, read the thing yourself. Heck, just scroll down a couple inches and you'll have "the original" right there for comparison.

I even threw in a little bit of religion, although what I said CERTAINLY won't be as offensive to Mr Sanders personally as what Obama said towards the religious-leaning people of the midwest.

Yes, I called out his ignorance. Actually, I called him ignorant--he may not be, mind you, but I called him ignorant. That's how generalizations work, right? And I called him bigoted. Again, nothing that Obama didn't do--although mine is admittedly more obvious. Isn't "bigotry" acceptably definable as "antipathy to people who aren't like them"? I think so. . .I'm just trying to make it easier for Sanders to connect the dots. I'm a giver, after all.

The final line is nothing that Obama didn't imply, either. By accusing small-towners of being part of all those groups--the religious, the gun-toters, the anti-traders, the anti-immigrationists, and the xenophobes--he took all the opinions of the subscribers of those positions and discounted their validity.

So where am I off-base?

For the record, I meant to be offensive to Mr. Sanders. I just wanted to see if : a) he could actually feel offended; and b) where that line was.

I hope to enjoy part c) of my plan, which is to make him talk about my offending comments and how much of a relation they bear to Obama's words.

UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson takes my crude "exercise" above and does it one better--as I would expect from somebody of his immense skill. And he's absolutely right: if these comments were made about black inner-city America, where the statements themselves would have at least as much truth on the surface as Obama's statements about small midwestern towns, there would be no more primary on the Democratic side, and Hillary would be looking into retirement rather than potentially occupying the White House or, as a parting gift, the Governor's mansion in New York.


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