Last time, I wrote about three experiences of racism directed against African Americans that I've witnessed in Tucson. I got several e-mails explaining to me, in the most earnest and plain language possible--I'm a little thick, apparently--the holes in the reasoning that led to my conclusions. They assured me that my evidence was anecdotal and not indicative of any greater trend.
I'm as white as any other white person in Tucson, which means I don't have many black friends. During the times I wrote about, however, something identifiable as "racist" to any reasonably aware person occurred. I know all about statistics, and what is and isn't anecdotal evidence. I done went to college.
I also know that right now across this great nation, millions of cornpones are grabbing ropes. They imagine Barack Hussein Obama has called John McCain's vice presidential pick a pig. In other words, one a there'n has attacked one of our'n.
What Obama was really talking about was John McCain's ideas of change regarding economic policy, health care, taxes and education. Obama said they weren't actually different from any of Dubya's, and that you "can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig." He went on to add, "You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper; it's still going to stink after eight years."
He didn't refer to Sarah Palin anywhere, unless "old stinky fish wrapped in paper" is some code I don't know. Maybe if you switch the letters around and use your secret Fox News decoder ring, it spells "Sarah Palin."
I, too, found Obama's remarks offensive: I'm fond of pigs. They're already beautiful and don't need lipstick. Unlike Mrs. Palin, who undoubtedly does. If I had a knocked-up 17-year-old daughter, I'd probably never sleep at night and would need as much makeup as I could get. But I don't think insulting pigs was what Sen. Obama was talking about, either.
I wish it was all a tempest in a teapot. But it's not. When this passes, there will be something else designed to firmly secure Obama into the category of big, bad other. Republican strategists are smart, the most cynical products ever produced by DNA. They know the American people, and they know that a lot of them aren't going to elect a government based on what they believe themselves to be-- decent, fair and reasonably smart--but what they're afraid they might actually be: venal, angry and desperate. Racism lives in those last three. These people want a government that can catch them if and when they fall, so that should they ever plummet into that tiniest of dark places that dwells in all human spirits, they can get away with it.
That is how the Third Reich happened: venality and anger writ large.
What will bring the Democrats down in the coming presidential election is their denial of this venality and anger. Republican strategists not only acknowledge it, but live to exploit it. They know damn well that you can't guard against something you won't admit exists. As a result, the Democratic Party may very well be hoisted on its own self-righteous petard. Turning a statement on policy into the kind of populist gossip that may be twisted and drawn until it's turned into a black man defaming the virtue of a white woman is just the opening volley in what will be a continuing series of assaults on something Barack Obama, no matter his policies, has no control over: his skin color.
I'd like to add that for all its despicableness, this strategy is fucking brilliant.
A few months ago, an interviewer on National Public Radio spoke with a disappointed Southern male Hillary supporter. When asked whether he would throw his support behind Barack Obama, he said "no." When asked why not, he said, "Because he's black. And a lot of people down here feel the same way." He didn't explain himself further. He didn't need to.
A voting booth is like a bathroom stall: Once a person gets in there, nobody really knows what he does in there, and he knows it.
I believe this fact, and this fact alone, will determine who will be our next president. I hope I'm wrong. I really do.