February 25, 2008

The Discomfiture of the Caucasians

Now that Barack Obama appears to be the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, we are beginning to see the first signs of overt racism from what you might call the White Establishment. The form such racism takes is subtle, an obeisance to the "enlightened" age in which we live, but its telltale feature is the condescension of those who have always thought they owned the system to someone they view as getting above his place in society. I thought about this while speed-reading through William Kristol's latest steaming pile in the New York Times, called "It's All About Him." Kristol's "thesis," if you want to call it that, is that Barack Obama's reasons for not wearing an American flag lapel pin are "grandiose" (I kid you not), because instead of simply saying that he chose to discontinue wearing this decal, he framed it in terms of a "more patriotic" reaction to 9/11; namely, his resolve to "speak out on the issues." This, Kristol reasons, is in some way unbearably egotistical and a clue to an underlying personality derangement.

Of course, Kristol must know that the flag pin has taken on the sinister characteristics of the Death's Head in Nazi iconography -- it's worn by all the Neoconservatives, such as himself, as a clubby reminder that they own the franchise on nationalism and power. And as the soft, squishy, preppy scion of wealthy and highly-educated parents who saw to it that Billy attended the Collegiate Preparatory School in Manhattan before his matriculation at Harvard, who did things the old-fashioned way (by having the track greased by family influence), he's naturally impatient with anyone who doesn't see what a great place America is. Even if that someone is from a background where his forebears first entered the country in 1619 as slaves, where by a 1645 court decree an African could legally be held in captivity for life, with no recourse; where he was viewed, in fact, as 3/5ths of a person for some (white) purposes and as a nonentity for all other reasons. Even if the American black constituted one-third of the population of the slave states (4 million out of a total population of 12 million in the 15 slave states in 1860), they were essentially invisible. Go back through all the names and faces of the 43 American Presidents -- all white, all Northern European. What the hell is Barack Obama doing on the verge of becoming the President?

It's got guys like William Kristol very, very worried. It threatens the established order of things, the one where people like him always win, where class and privilege (look at George W. Bush!) carry the day versus talent and brains because that's the way things are supposed to be. The system has certainly taken care of William Kristol; all he had to do was attend elite schools and then go into his dad's business of selling conservative bullshit.

So it must be especially galling when an American Negro begins dissing his preferred form of patriotism, the gaudy display of symbols and insignia, and talking all this trash about "struggling" Americans who need government help. Kristol deplores the "nanny state;" the idea is to make it on your own, just like William Kristol did, through diligence and hard work. There's a great irony there, of course; those in the comfy class actually hate the idea that someone without their advantages, from the lower classes, could become president of the United States through skill, cunning and hard work. It's what they hated, really, about Bill Clinton. He outsmarted them. And now here comes another preternaturally gifted politician, a guy who keeps getting cooler and sharper as he grows into his role, as he realizes once again that he's just one of those guys who frigging win, even on the biggest stage of all -- and William Kristol and David Brooks and Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly and the rest of them are absolutely freaking out, because it's ten times worse this time around -- this guy's a Negro. What makes it worse is that Obama was absolutely right about the Iraq War (he called it a "dumb idea" before the invasion) and Kristol's most famous, most frequently quoted line is his howler about there "being a lot of 'pop psychology' that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni," as he assured us the Iraq War would be a cakewalk that would cost America virtually nothing.

Which means that Little Billy not only has to deal with the idea that Obama is hipper, sharper and better looking than he is - he has to come to terms with the inconvenient reality that Obama is smarter than he is, which in Kristol's pasty, dough-colored world was the only advantage he thought he had left. And now Obama won't even wear his merit badge.

I am reminded of the great line from J.D. Salinger's book "Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters," in a footnote though it was, that sometimes the Universe is so bountiful in its sense of justice that one might believe "in a cosmic Santa Claus."

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