If there was any doubt that much of the vitriol aimed at America’s first black president is personal rather than political, a story out of Sedalia, Missouri this morning should put that doubt to rest. According to the Associated Press:
A clown wearing a President Barack Obama mask (pictured above) appeared at a Missouri State Fair rodeo this weekend and the announcer asked the enthusiastic spectators if they wanted to see “Obama run down by a bull.”
A witness was quoted as saying “everybody screamed” and “just went wild.”
This was no political protest. This was personal. The white families gathered to watch the antics that entertained their forbears hate the very idea of a black president. Last night, on some TV show I caught as I was browsing by, I heard a bunch of old white men defending the Ku Klux Klan as a “Christian” organization.
To me that is blatant blasphemy. It will be taken into consideration when the time comes for these monsters to answer to a higher power for their crimes on Earth.
I wonder at President Obama’s forbearance. I have never heard him strike back with personal venom against his vilifiers. He resists the ad hominem approach so typical of his political opponents and seeks to argue each issue on its merits.
The KKK spokesmen I saw on TV – some of them in ludicrous regalia reminiscent of the Crusades – insisted that black people are genetically inferior to white people, suggesting that non-whites have inherently low intelligence.
Yet it’s not the black Americans who are stooping to the kind of malice I recall from the Jamaican schoolyards of my youth, when little children would scream in the heat of an argument, “You face favor…”
It’s white America that’s producing the childish – and obviously illogical – rhetoric
Of course, white Americans are not all Neanderthals. The racists are a small minority and are becoming fewer as old attitudes die out. But (to borrow an image from poet Dylan Thomas) they are not going gentle into that good night. They rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And their “over-the-top” rhetoric provides fodder for a sensationalist media, stoking animosity against the president. It is this animosity that Republicans hope to use as political ammunition. With threadbare arguments and no proposals of value to offer voters, their best hope for political domination is the primitive strategy of tribal divisiveness.
It is a strategy that can cause great damage to the ethos of a nation, damage that is magnified when children are exposed to the ugliness, as they were in Sedalia.
America deserves better. Humankind deserves better.