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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Reality ChecK + Readers Responses

The Race Illusion
Jimmy Carter's Insult As Excuse-Making
'I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man'. Jimmy Carter
James Campion

Jimmy Carter, America's political equivalent of Liz Taylor, who emerges every so often to stammer out the most insane gibberish known to freethinking man, used the NBC Nightly News this week to offer his derision of Southern whites and summarily branded the opposing voices to this president, an African-American, and his policies as racist.

The former president's descent into dementia was evident a few years ago while promoting a book on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, unfortunately entitled Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, when an otherwise brilliant thinker haphazardly framed an almost amazingly infantile argument that would please many half-wits comparing the current Healthcare debate to Nazi Germany. And so it was then that Carter clearly established a preternatural need to turn vague comparisons into unflinching accusation, as if it were as simple as comparing a headache to decapitation.

Thus, his latest half-baked comments to a visibly flabbergasted Brian Williams, who was caught somewhere between the glee of a man with a scoop on his hands and an empathetic character wishing somehow the old fool would trail off into the sunset, has a familiar ring to it: Disrespect for the office of president, his policies and his authority, is nothing less than veiled racial discrimination.

Bad move. Not constructive. Distracting.

The thing is, although it was as cheap and weak as the defenders of the last president calling everyone unpatriotic, I get Carter's point. He is a proud Southerner, born and bred in a time when Jim Crow laws ruled and a random lynching was part of the Sunday morning church activities. He's nauseated by and sensitive to these issues, like say, Bill Cosby, who also felt the need to weigh in on the subject; a proud black man, who was wrongly denied his rights in a time of segregation and systemic violence against his people. I get it. We all get it.

However, nobody needs Jimmy Carter and Bill Cosby comparing those with opposing views to a sickeningly large number of card-carrying racist dummies in the South and by proxy their representatives like Joe Wilson from South Carolina, who has spent his entire time down there defending the flying of the Confederate Flag above the state capitol as some kind of noble Southern legacy, instead of what it actually represents; the total and utter defeat of America's greatest crime against humanity.

This is all common knowledge, but how it reflects on the current debate about Healthcare or any other discussion of our current president's policies, or how he is "treated" in the face of them, is patently unfair and frankly further muddies an already sludge-filled river of nonsense emanating from all sides.

Not to mention that broaching racism now flies in the face of the most momentous and game-changing elections in our great country's tarnished history. A mere nine months after a substantial majority of Americans of all race, creed and color were dancing in the streets, shouting soliloquies from rooftops and filling the columns of major international newspapers with well-deserved celebration, and after a remarkable number of whites, suburban, urban or otherwise (48%, in fact) voted for the first African-American to lead a major ticket for president of the United States, its suddenly all about race now?
Ill-timed. Ill-conceived. Insulting.

Especially in defense of the very man who while running for the nation's highest office never initiated the playing of the race card to curry favor or defend his right to lead. Only after ridiculous charges of terrorist sympathies and cloudy origins and a strange middle name was he forced to identify the elephant in the room; and even then he balked at the chance to challenge why his opponent, John McCain spent years trying to deny and eventually voted against making Martin Luther King Day a national holiday.

This president knew the score better than any of us when he decided to take on this challenge two years ago, something his Democratic opponent, a woman, didn't get until it was too late. Not being the white, Anglo-Saxon cookie-cutter would be an easy target, but at the same time cannot be touched for fear of being labeled, and to be labeled in this country is the nastiest of things. It keeps us from offering opinions that we really mean and then retract post-backlash.

What is most disturbing about posing even the most extremist dissent as racism is it lends itself to the promotion of Victimhood, another American staple. Oh, poor Mr. Obama. He has no chance against the rowdy, gun toting, Bible freaks! What? He's the fucking president. He was chosen as such during the most widely reported and highly attended election on record. He has the Constitution at his back and the army at his disposal.

Secondly, and most importantly, this entire mess completely ignores the main tactic used against presidents by their opponents; a scheme as old as the powdered wigs capping the skulls of the founders of this grand experiment. It is Politics 101, and it has been used against every chief executive since I've been sucking air -- Kennedy was a Roman Catholic beholden to the Pope, Reagan was a doddering old fart capable of incinerating us all, Bush senior was a wimp and his baby boy a dim bulb, Clinton was a slick hippy and our beloved Jimmy Carter a dumb hick.

The stereotype the opposition has laid on Barack Obama is less about his color than he being this media-created myth, a neophyte who is incapable of leadership and thus a tool of the Democratic machine. Who knows anything about this guy? The unknown newbie, ushered into an office he barely deserves to steal bald eagles and piss on the Constitution.
Blah, blah, blah.

No one in recent memory had flown into the White House on the wings of such reverent falderal as Barack Obama, and because of this the opposition must mock, deride, and take the guy down a peg or two. It is the very core of what we do here in this space; peck away at the two-dimensional façade and see what remains. Whining about it only emboldens the charade. This is why the president immediately derided Carter's comments as not constructive and hardly representative of his stance.

It will always play a big part of what's going down; but to reduce it to a political tactic equal to the boorish attacks it faintly hopes to defuse is amateurish at best and at its worst plain ugly. This president, this time, and this place are all the beginnings of a healing period on this subject that has rarely been as pivitol in the national politic.

Women and minorities received their day in the public arena like no other this past November. It was rousing success. One I thought impossible. To return now to the standard hue and cry is tired 20th century thinking.
It's the equivalent of painting those of us who think Sarah Palin a voodoo simpleton as misogynistic hate mongers.
Nice try.
© James Campion Sept 18th 2009
Hopeville in Autumn
James Campion

This past Wednesday, Barack Obama proved his political pedigree, unleashing his thus far unforeseen feral side in an historic address to congress upon its autumnal reconvening.

READERS RESPONSES September 28th 2009

Your column is a breath of fresh air. ("UN-AMERICAN" IS UN-AMERICAN -- Issue 8/19/09) How dare that prune faced bitch and her dog Hoyer call any protestor or anyone questioning them "unAmerican". Every incumbent congressman/woman needs to be voted out of office and now!!!

You are SO brilliant and funny.....! God bless the truth, no matter how much it may hurt ( CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?? AAHAHAHAAAA!!!!)

Paula DeMarta Mastroianni

I think you slipped into the insipidly moronic ... actually, the dangerously moronic. You're not even close with this one. The Declaration of Independence--the height of colonial eloquence--was based on drowning out opposing views? What the hell are you talking about? Rhetorical brilliance is not "drowning out" opposition nor is it "shouting down" opposition. Nor was the Declaration merely eloquent; it was an elegant display of logic. I never saw you miss the point so completely.

It's as if Clinton lunged at the line and passed the poison snake-baton to Obama... And he is off! Health care is a mess. We all know this to be true. Doctors and patients remain slaves in its grasp. Our current system boils and festers in our hands, but it is a rash that we all recognize, so we embrace. We lie fetal in its wake.
It kind of reminds me of the outrage that accompanied the introduction of Medicare. It was the end of the world back then too.
Peter Saveskie

JC --
Once again you are on the mark. (LAST TEMPTATION OF OBAMA -- Issue: 8/26/09) This is the progressives' last stand. Gettysburg indeed. Obama must stand up for what he was elected to do; crush the special interests, dissect these bloated, evil insurance conglomerates, and represent the people for a change.
Knowing the idiots who have to make the laws ultimately, I have my doubts.
Sarah Phillips

Mr. Campion:
Have there been any successful presidents, on the topic of reform, taxation, spending... don't they all look bad when viewed from some given angle or viewpoint?
Love it or hate it, you are absolutely right that the health reform legislation is the pivotal moment of the modern progressive, or liberal, movement. But in your analogy, is President Obama cast as General Meade...or General Lee?
Jonathan Young
N.Kingstown, RI

You are right to point out that the Reagan myth survived and grew despite his first two years or so of economic floundering and tax cut flip-flopping (not to mention Ollie North and Iran-Contra later). It was the full eight years of his tenure that resounded for all time, good or bad.
So, to compare this current healthcare debate in Obama's first year of office to Gettysburg is off the mark. A defeat would be more akin to the First Battle of Bull Run (or Manassas, as our Southern Friends prefer), where all the confidence and supposed superiority of the Yanks was squashed quickly and unexpectedly, leading to years of doubt and deadlock. By the time Gettysburg happened, the tide had turned, and the South was reduced to trying a Hail Mary Northern incursion that ultimately doomed them to total defeat. Obama's Gettysburg can only occur IF he loses the debate now and gets another shot later.
With so much time left on the game clock, even an Obama legislative win on healthcare is no guarantee of success, since it has been stated many times that the final plan will be subject to tweaks and adjustments that could offer many changes. As it stands, the program might not even be offered up until Term #2 of the Obama Presidency, so pundits like ourselves will have to wait a while to pass final judgment.
Chris Barrera

Hoo boy, you have to learn some history. Gettysburg was the "high water mark" of the Confederacy. The Union was hardly considered an unstoppable force. The Union was changing Generals faster than Steinbrenner changed managers. Add on to that, Union defeat after defeat at the hands of the more skilled Confederate generals.
Learn history before making analogies based on it. Waterloo was truly more applicable. Stimulus, Cap and Trade, many more victories did Obama need?
The One screwed up, listened to the left about his "mandate" and now you have Democrats saying this blunder will cost them at least 20 seats in the House in 2010.
Oh and give credit where credit is due. This was not a Republican victory over healthcare...this was pure conservatism provided by pure conservative activists.
Bill Roberts

Ah, yes. Finally, in a landscape of pundit nuisances with nary a scintilla of debating acumen, we have a commentator with a grasp of history and perspective. This is why I read this column; this is why after so many times of being pissed off and wanting to turn away, I come back again and again; because you get it. And so many times (with the rare exception of this time) I disagree. But you never disappoint with your rare and insightful knowledge of how things have progressed over the decades. When everyone is wailing like hyenas you are cutting through the din and offering up the most astute deconstruction of our system and its history.
Absolutely the idea that after eight months this health debate will be President Obama's Waterloo is laughable. This comes from people who are entitled perhaps to their opinions, however inane and goofy they sound, but not their facts. It is without question true that Gettysburg turned the tide in the favor of the Union. Until then the screw-ups of the generals (perhaps the screw-ups of Nancy Pelosi -- your favorite whipping gal -- and the congress?) and the shrewd duck and cover of Lee's Army (could they be the wounded and out-manned Republicans trying to stay politically relevant in a tide of sweeping change?) dragged the war on until it seemed that people would loose their stomach for more bloodshed (could it be the American people -- specifically the Independents who are leaving Obama by the droves as this gets uglier and seems less sensible and even less likely to occur?).
Because of these incredibly astute metaphors and their powerful punch, this is one of your most striking columns, a hard pill to swallow for the Left and an even sillier picture of the Right to turn away from.
It is why I keep reading James Campion.
F. Donald Braxton

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