January 15, 2008
The Knives Come Out
By Mary Lyon
I don't know - we must all just be crazy. It's not bad enough that slams of sexism and racism are flying through the air between the Clinton and Obama camps. That's just a little bit of it. But all of it bothers me.
We Democrats are on the rough end of what could be the most revolutionary, history-making, and and earth-shaking presidential election ever. If our side prevails, at least from the assessments this early in the game, we would be witnessing the ascendence of either the first female president or
the first African-American president. EITHER ONE would symbolize a huge leap forward for our country, considering how both women and blacks have been the largest groups to live with disenfranchisement through our history, and what distance both groups have had to travel toward equal footing in our society.
Clinton and Obama/Obama and Clinton, should NOT be sniping at each other. For one thing, the knee-jerk media loves nothing so much
as a fight. Guess what will keep getting all the coverage? Now, it's stories about "Democrats in Disarray" when we're supposed to see that label laminated to the GOP now. For another thing, if that's all reporters and pundits can see, that means no attention whatsoever paid to other worthy voices like John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich, who are as deserving for their views and policy proposals as the so-called "top two." We're not only better than this, we have much better things to do. We should be making history, and preparing the talking points and perceptions NOW: that the new century is effectively starting THIS November - a few years late, almost a full decade into the second millennium. The years we've just been through since January 2001 should go down in history as little more than an aberration, a large but temporary boil on the skin, perhaps an abnormal pimple on the complexion of our young country, a bad, but momentary flare-up of political acne, if you will.
No outbreak of leprosy. Just a big, fat zit.
I've said this before, but I don't mind being a nag. We should be over this by now, ESPECIALLY we progressives and liberals. But America in general should be over this by now. It's long past time for us to grow up as a nation and get beyond it. For us to bicker amongst ourselves is ridiculous, triggering visions of two boxing kangaroos, bodies bobbing and weaving, paws flapping and slapping. It's distracting, draining, and counter-productive, not to mention disgraceful. The last things we Democrats should be fighting over, within our own camp, are racism and sexism. Aren't we the team that's distinguished by its tolerance and its genuinely big tent? Aren't we the group that, by its very composition, means that those particular demons aren't tearing at us from within? Isn't there more than enough incoming flack for us to battle from outside adversaries traditionally more comfortable with the white male status quo, instead of each other? Can't we just get along?
I expect the fear-and-smear tactics to come at us from operatives across the aisle, and some among them have already started to deliver. They delight in trying to kick Hillary Clinton around, although they still seem to find it irresistable to target the guy they love to hate every bit as much: her dreaded husband. Perhaps it's their version of "buy one, get one free." As long as a Clinton walks the earth, these darlings can be counted on to flatulate themselves with Bil-lary battery. But within hours of the Iowa caucus results, others among them wasted no time trying to pick Barack Obama apart. There arrived in my mailbox such an email from a longtime acquaintance. Breathlessly, with several tons of hysterics and not a few untruths, the large-font type screeched ridiculously about Blacks! Muslims! His middle name is Mohammed! Islam! Madrassas! That Africa-centered church in Chicago! Slumps and looks the other way when everybody else is saluting the flag! Gasp! Oh, the Humanity! Pass it on! Oh, for Pete's sake.
What I began doing several years ago after receiving one too many of these shrill, inflammatory, deceitful, steaming electronic propaganda piles was to respond, either through extended research or a summary of facts I already knew (or both). And I wouldn't merely reply to the sender himself/herself. I went back several levels of emails, since these were usually forwards of forwards, and sent my rebuttal to every email address I spotted therein. As soon as I was satisfied that I'd set the record straight on this anti-Obama spam, lo and behold, here came a second one making similar distorted insinuations. Oy. I guess the Pox Noise/Limbaugh loyalists have more time on their hands (and air in their heads) than I realized. But some of these sounded as though they'd spewed straight out of the entrails of the KKK.
On the heels of this particular screed galloped yet another email scud missile, this one wasting Bill Clinton for avoiding Vietnam, and failing in the war on terror. I could not leave it unchallenged, either. I ardently believe that our side shouldn't EVER let the other guys get the last word. So again, I went to work, marveling at how we can still obsess on student deferments versus sheer Bush gaming the system to weasel out of the Texas Air National Guard prematurely, a shirking of duty that would have sent any other less well-connected airman straight to the Southeast Asian front. And, about that war on terror, I enjoyed pointing out that the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center attack were tracked down and brought to justice on Clinton's watch. The second World Trade Center attack, with Junior on duty, has produced no such satisfactory conclusions. just where is Osama, anyway? Perhaps, according to them, he's running for president. Oh, woe! The world is surely coming to an end! These awful people simply cannot be allowed back into the White House! Oh, Huckabee help us!
I found the responses here (and I DID get responses) to be illuminating, in my own tiny little microcosm of erzatz public opinion polling. A woman I had never met emailed me with a resounding "thank you" for saying what she'd felt all along, but was too frustrated and discouraged to try to confront. A second reply arrived, forgiving me for having been taken in by the Clintons, referencing Whitewater, and declaring that George was doing just fine. The original sender, I was later told, thought momentarily of responding and then opted for "delete". Curiously, I have yet to see any responses, either pro or con, to the Obama smear, which could be illuminating in and of itself. Does it mean that anti-Clintonism is safe as a surrogate for sexism this season? Racism on the other hand has no such cover. Was somebody shamed silent?
As of this writing, perhaps the Republicans do still own the "disarray" concept, now that the Michigan GOP primary is history. With Mitt Romney finally grabbing a gold medal in the third round, and with apologies to Abbott and Costello, we now have a situation in which Who, What, and I Don't Know all claim they're on first. Whatever. I think it's most important for everyone on OUR side to keep our eyes on the prize - facing one of THEM for the White House, and relentlessly pounding home the reasons why WE, not they, belong there.
I'd like to see us aiming all of our attacks outward toward the GOP opposition, instead of dissipating our energy nitpicking some oppositional crumbs among ourselves.