Slips of the Tongue and Things to Chew
I had a rant the other day – when it was the Che Guevara/Obama supporter controversy – and I knew it would be impossible for me to ever be a mainstream politician. I give a buck to the woman selling the Communist newspaper outside the lefty folk singers’ shows. And I’ve bought the bean pie and taken the newspaper. Some of the stuff I read resonates at times, but mostly I’m excited that people are fiercely passionate about questioning the status quo. It may not make sense to me. And there’s enough contradiction in all these dogmas, from communism to religion to the “American Dream” to fuel ironic monologue’s long after the sun dies. But it’s committed work. And the more this poor guy misspeaks, the more I believe in him.
Barack Obama is getting caught in so many mulatto moments, creating a national mulatto moment, and making clear that sometimes in those mulatto moments of multi-lingual encounters, we fall prey to the language that we suspect our listener can hear. Those are the uncomfortable moments when you let a cultural offense slip by and then find yourself in a situation where you’ve said something in a way that could be interpreted as offensive. But you want to avoid the time it takes to deliver “Barack Obama’s Speech on Race” which may or may not be received. So you figure your friends know you’re not elitist, or racist, or sexist and you let it go in the moment. I mean, you probably figure, I’ve spent literal years of my life trying to deconstruct bias in an effort to foster community and understanding, in conversations with lovers, family members, in public, in art…. I’ll just let this one go. Then someone, who hasn’t asked you what you meant by your “gaffe,” decides to interpret it for you. This person shapes it into something that fits his/her world view or aim. Then it’s turned against you.
So a “typical white person” becomes a racist remark, when in fact a “typical person” of any background in America may have the same reaction as Grammy Dunham, if you believe computer test simulations. And expressing that people cling to the things that they have left to empower them becomes an elitist observation, or a borderline racist appeal when Howard Dean said he wanted to bring the Confederate Flag bumper sticker truckers into the fold of the Democratic Party. All of these cases are situations where the speakers are trying to reach out, to say “I feel your pain” (or “their pain” depending on the audience). And yet the great pain feeler of the 90s reacts like the child of privilege when he claims no racial or ill intent in some of his statements recently. And even if you give the benefit of the doubt, to the intentions Bill or Hillary, or anyone else who thinks their “politically incorrect” statement is innocuous, a person who wishes to create real dialogue will acknowledge their words are legitimately heard differently by those from a different perspective.
In debate, I think the rule is to never give your opponent’s perspective any real credence. I prefer a dialogue between interested parties in life and in Government. Admit your mistakes, consider the different perspectives, and let’s move on. I kind of agree with Frank Rich from a couple weeks ago that it’s silly for the Dems to say that John McCain wants a hundred year war. Look at all these candidates’ long records and there’s no need to twist. Obama will be the most effective leader.
So, I got back into this electoral politics thing again…
Well here’s my religious thought of the day: God as a verb rather than a noun. I heard Chris Hedges float that idea the other day and I’m enjoying the chew.