So Glad We're Beyond Race

« January 2008 »

Memo to Barack Obama: SORRY.

We are such a nation of assholes. Really. In the past week or so, Obama's win in Iowa and his second-place finish in New Hampshire have elicited an ocean of commentary from that group of special people who are paid good money to talk shit about shit. While those of us who do it for free look on in horror. And to make sure that horror is equally shared, please enjoy this trip through Obamamania in the clinical sense of the word, in a very special color-blind edition of SPASTIC TOPIC MONKEY FRIDAY.

At the bottom of the crazy ladder we have James Lileks, who took one of his periodic breaks from writing books about awful food and ugly furniture to reprise his role as Minnesota's Unfortunately Set In His Ways And Slightly Racist Uncle. In discussing the Iowa results, he praised Giuliani and McCain, which tells you everything you need to know about the political insight of James Lileks. He then went on to place himself in early contention for a 2008 award for passive-aggressive punditry. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"I do not want a National Dad or even a Cool Brother (double-meaning unintended) for the President; I want someone with JFK’s optimism, Roosevelt’s steel, Truman’s irascibility, and so forth. But it’s all for naught if the Obamaboom continues, because he has the zeitgeist at his back and a sail the size of an IMAX screen. People will vote for him because they want to be part of something larger, and that’s a rare and potent thing these days. Whether that’s a wise thing to do in perilous times depends on whether people think we’re living in perilous times, I suppose. We’ll see."

Allow me to translate. "Go and ahead and vote for Obama. See if I care. Just don't come crying to me when your special 'first black president'* gets you blown up in a suicide bombing. And, as always, GET OFFA MY LAWN."

But we're just getting started. Let's turn to Christopher Hitchens, who took one of his periodic breaks from writing books about how all religions suck but Islam sucks more to drink heavily. And then he (presumably) took one of those periodic breaks from the heavy drinking to castigate people for voting for Barack Obama, because they're clearly only voting for him because he's black, and we're supposed to be beyond that now. AQT!

"Isn't there something pathetic and embarrassing about this emphasis on shade? And why is a man with a white mother considered to be 'black,' anyway? Is it for this that we fought so hard to get over Plessy v. Ferguson? Would we accept, if Obama's mother had also been Jewish, that he would therefore be the first Jewish president? The more that people claim Obama's mere identity to be a 'breakthrough,' the more they demonstrate that they have failed to emancipate themselves from the original categories of identity that acted as a fetter upon clear thought."

Allow me to answer Hitchens' questions in the order he posed them. Fuck you, you drunken prick. Because if you're dark enough to not get served at Denny's, you're black in America. Probably, especially since ethnic Jewishness is reckoned in a matrilineal fashion, although the media tends to focus on "followers of the religion" rather than "members of the ethnicity".

And while his last sentence wasn't technically a question, claiming that we're so egalitarian now that having a black man gain entry to the highest position in the land, for the first time ever, in a job held previously by 43 white men, a position no African-American has ever been higher than FIFTH IN LINE FOR - to claim that wouldn't be a breakthrough or a big deal? That's fucking ludicrous. Hitchens is, in essence, asking us to move beyond race so that we can elect another white man as President. Since Hitchens is not an idiot, I can only assume that he feels Obama will be insufficiently vigorous in Hitchens pet project, bombing the shit out of Arabs, and is willfully concocting specious arguments to derail the Obama train.

Now, if you want a crazy motherfucker who actually believes his specious argument about Obama, you have to turn to Adam Yoshida, a conservative blogger who slightly derails my introductory bit about people who get paid to say stupid shit. Yoshida does it for free, because he's a true believer. A true believer in the danger of Obama. First, to establish Yoshida's analytical bonafides, here's the advice he's giving the Democrats for 2008:

"If Brad Henry, Mike Easley, or Phil Bredesen were set to be their nominee the Democrats would be looking at something like a five to ten point win right about now." I think I speak for all of us when I say, Who, Who, and Fucking Whodesen? But that's just the horshit d'oeuvre. Yoshida really doesn't like Obama:

"Every time I see his face – pale and strangely off-putting like that of a transsexual – my blood boils." Note the misdirection. Yoshida hates Obama because of how PALE he is. Also, Adam Yoshida has no problem with us believing that transsexuals make his blood boil. Take that however you want. But what he really hates about Obama is that he might possibly be out to destroy us all.

"Indeed, we know – thanks to Hillary Clinton’s discovery of a youthful ‘essay’ – that Obama had political ambitions from a very early age. Islam has a specific doctrine, known as “al-Taqiyya”, which permits the followers of Allah to conceal their true faith when among unbelievers. Now, let’s be very clear – I’m not saying that Obama is a concealed Moslem, a Manchurian candidate, waiting to seize the office of the Presidency in the service of sinister interests. But, on the other hand, it’s impossible to rule it out. These things are, after all, unfalsifiable by their very nature. Is Barak Hussein Obama secretly a Moslem, pretending otherwise under the cover of a goofy Black Nationalist church? I can’t prove it and I, personally, don’t believe it – but neither I nor anyone who isn’t a telepath can disprove it either. Unfalsifiable."

I mention this not to refute it or be outraged at it, because Yoshida's clearly engaging in deliberately provocative dickery. But talk like Yoshida's is precisely the kind of thing that gets put out there so that other people, who would get in trouble for saying it that openly, can hint at it obliquely, thereby reinforcing it in the minds of the crazy people reading the chain e-mails, Canadian conservative blogs, or old Ron Paul newsletters**. And if Obama keeps winning things, you'll keep hearing more of it, and worse. But it's OUR pathetic and embarrassing emphasis on shade, of course.

*It is impossible to spell out the sneering sarcasm my imagination is making this phrase sound like. Feel free to add it yourself.

**If you don't get this joke now, you will at some point next week.