Friday, July 16, 2010

A Line Between Racism and Disrespect

The NAACP is pursuing its own mandate in "condemning racism within the Tea Party movement" while a Congresswoman stirs members by proclaiming, "Those who used to wear sheets are now being able to walk down the aisle and speak as a patriot because you will not speak loudly about the lack of integrity of this movement."

Garbled syntax aside, is raising racism to the top of issues presented by the Tea Party in the best interests of the first African-American president or the dangers facing American democracy now?

Barack Obama's election did not end racism in America, so it is no surprise that mouthy morons like Glenn Beck would accuse him of "a deep-seated hatred for white people" or loony Rep. Steve King would discover "a default mechanism in him that breaks down the side of race--on the side that favors the black person."

In normal times, such disgusting rhetoric would be background static, but economic anxiety has pushed fear to the forefront, just as it did during the Great Depression against FDR, who famously had to defend even his dog Fala against partisan attacks.

But the main issue now is not fringe hatred of the President's skin color but the climate of disrespect for his office that has been fostered by wall-to-wall Republican opposition in Congress, powered by persistent attacks not only on his policies but the motives behind them.

Conservative Columnist Charles Krauthammer interprets Obama's response to inherited economic chaos as a "structural alteration of the U.S. budget. The stimulus, the vast expansion of domestic spending, the creation of ruinous deficits as far as the eye can see are not easily reversed."

A sane debate over this assertion would be healthy for American democracy in this election year, but on both sides of the ideological spectrum, there are only accusations and personal attacks.

Oddly enough, David Brooks sheds light on all this in parsing the rants of actor Mel Gibson as part of a change in self-esteem in which an overwhelming majority of Americans now consider themselves "an important person," as opposed to a fraction who did sixty years ago. In Gibson's rage, Brooks notes:

"It is striking how morally righteous he is...It is striking how quickly he reverts to the vocabulary of purity and disgust. It is striking how much he believes he deserves. It is striking how much he seems to derive satisfaction from his own righteous indignation."

Gibson's self-importance, however loathsome, is at least fueled by his moviemaking success but, in this era of Baby Boomer narcissism, what entitles his Tea Party counterparts to vent so disrespectfully against the President of the United States?


David Goodloe said...

Interesting piece.

I minored in history in college and, if memory serves me correctly, FDR took the Republicans to task for attacking his dog in the 1940s, long after America had entered the war and while he was campaigning for re-election.

And, furthermore, if I remember my history, the criticism of FDR in that regard had nothing to do with fear but with alleged misuse of public funds.

Correct me if I'm wrong.

Fuzzy Slippers said...

Weird. I seem to remember a great deal of disrespectful ranting about President Bush. Or is it just THIS president who deserves the respect of his office? (that's a hypothetical, I am fully aware that bashing President Bush is "free speech," but bashing BO is "disrespectful ranting." And yes, I think it's beneath you. Far beneath you.)