From Within The Veil
DuBois said the problem of the 20th Century would be the problem of the
color line; solidly within the color line in the culture of the United
States stands African Americans, obscured from view by something
similar to a veil -- those within are visible behind that veil, but
precisely how clearly? Those within obviously see beyond that veil, but
again . . . exactly how clearly? I believe the challenge of the 21st
Century will prove to be the same as the challenge of the 20th Century
(the color line) but with this distinct difference: the "special"
burden presented by the challenge and that burden which must be
shouldered will no longer be on those from without the veil. No, the
special burden in the 21st Century will be on those of us within the
veil. As it should be.
W.E.B. DuBois said the problem of the 20th Century would be the problem of the color line; solidly within the color line in the culture of the United States stands African Americans, obscured from view by something similar to a veil -- those within are visible behind that veil, but precisely how clearly? Those within obviously see beyond that veil, but again . . . exactly how clearly? I believe the challenge of the 21st Century will prove to be the same as the challenge of the 20th Century (the color line) but with this distinct difference: the "special" burden presented by the challenge and that burden which must be shouldered will no longer be on those from without the veil. No, the special burden in the 21st Century will be on those of us within the veil. As it should be.
[this is the third of five parts on McCain's 2008 Campaign for President]
I’ll go ahead and predict it right now: Gwen Ifill, author of The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama and moderator of last night’s Vice Presidential Debate, is going to go down in history as a symbolic footnote of establishment cluelessness due to her “Age of Obama” book set to be released by Inauguration Day 2009. Age of Obama? Hell no. Age of Palin? Oh, yes! That said,Gwen was basically fair last night. Fair, however, is not the word to use when describing the absolute riot that broke out when Palin was announced as McCain's VP pick.The response reminded me of the Deep South's controlling power structure back during the civil rights agitations of the 1950s and '60s.
There was a very clear and present danger that appeared on the scene and upset the status quo. And it made for some very ugly situations.
Bull Connor Lives
Most of us know who Bull Connor is; we've seen the images from Birmingham, Alabama of the snarling dogs, etc. Like all human beings, however, Bull Connor was more complicated than the negative iconic figure he has become in the history books. That's what happens when you come down on the wrong side of history and that's what's going to happen with the outrageous attacks by the far left on Sarah Palin and her family. You don't need the links. She, and they, have been trashed all over the place and some of that has been documented on this blog.
She has been viciously mocked in a desperate attempt to caricature her as nothing more than a mere cartoon – yet she is unyielding.
She has been forced to see her family shat upon by people who can’t comprehend that family values isn’t so much about being perfect but far more about properly responding to challenging situations -- yet, still she rises.
She has been stalked by one gotcha-seeking journalist after another-- yet they have failed in their efforts to force her out of this race or irreparably wound her candidacy.
And now she has not only survived the national debate with a prototypical Washington politician (repeatedly rejected in primary after primary by his own party for their nomination as standard-bearer in the race for President), she clearly won the thing.
The Force of a Man and the Grace of a Woman
She, ladies and gentlemen, is one hell of a woman and I'd like to take this opportunity to liken her to a class of American women I know quite a bit about. Women who have much in common with her but who wouldn’t think to draw such a parallel: African American women.
To accomplish my task, I want to share a disturbing 50-year old photograph with you from the American South. It’s virtually impossible for me to summon up the words that might provide sufficient enough explanation for you to comprehend what I feel when I obsess on this picture but I doubt if words will really be necessary:
This is a picture of Dorothy Counts in Charlotte, North Carolina and the day is September 4, 1957. Surrounded by a pack of wolves, she's trying to make her way to the neighborhood school. She's 15 years old. I damn near lost my mind when I first saw this photograph within the last year. On first sight, I could not for the life of me understand why her father or other black people were nowhere to be found. I've since come to understand there was a certain staging at play that day. The white man in the white shirt directly behind her was her protector and probably helped think through the staging of this event for maximum political effect while not allowing a tense event to get completely out of control. Dorothy's father had dropped the two of them off up at the top of the road and entrusted his daughter's safety to this guy.
Needless to say, this is an extremely difficult picture for many people to live down and surely contributed to the integration efforts in North Carolina.
There’s so much to see in that picture but try as you might, you can’t objectively place Barack Obama within the context of the photograph. He has been cherry-picked, and favored, and promoted at every step along the way since he arrived at Columbia University as an undergraduate way back in the day. Cherry-picked and placed in Chicago. Cherry-picked and given millions of dollars to run a program that failed and funneled money to who-knows-where. Cherry-picked and placed at Harvard Law School, cherry-picked and placed on Harvard Law Review. Cherry-picked and placed into the Illinois legislature, cherry-picked and given the 2004 prime time convention speech, etc.
In fact, Mr. Obama and his supporters are taking advantage of the conscious and subconscious American memory of moments such as depicted in the above photograph to escape necessary review while trying to win the single most important political job in the world.
Sarah Palin, however, does fit within that picture and has achieved against the odds at every step of the way in her climb up the political ladder.
Instead of some Charlotte neighborhood we’re vicariously viewing official Washington, D.C. as they surround Sarah Palin; they are not pleased that a supposedly unqualified interloper from some neighborhood no one knows anything about at all (beyond rumors, that is) has entered their midst. They yell, they scream, they seek to intimidate – they heap upon her much rebuke and scorn. All because she’s a fellow American, objectively qualified to enter, who not only had the temerity in her youth of aspiring to the highest office in the land -- she's actually trying do so without going through the Ivy League!
And did you hear: she's oversexed, loose, irresponsible, an intellectual lightweight, devious, from an inferior family, etc. By now, I do hope you're recognizing the similarities of such a litany with the historical slandering (by some) of black women in America. And Palin is something of an athlete, too, and led her high school basketball team to a state championship!?! Come on -- that's stereotypical black female, all the way. As Harvey Mansfield proclaimed in his great piece where he asked this dangerous question, "Was feminism necessary?", she has the strength of a man and the grace of a woman.
What an appropriate line.
I love women like that, women who know how to exhibit strength and grace. In fact, I'm married to one and my mother is the exact same way. I'm sure that's one reason why I was immediately attracted to the idea of Sarah Palin as Vice President. The wonder to me is why so few seem able to see this obvious similarity.
Of course, I do know why they can't see it. They are being told not to see it. Is this a black thing or a battle of the sexes thing? Probably both. Mansfield wrote:
As sex goes up in social estimation, love goes down. The trouble with love is that it narrows your options and endangers your independence. If you loved a man, you might actually want to put up with, or even admire, his ways. You may be sure that I am not the first one to notice that feminist women are unerotic.
If none of what I am saying were true, feminists would be welcoming Sarah Palin with embraces as warm as they are capable of. They should be happy that their cause has spread to conservatives and become bipartisan. In fact, they see the Palin choice as a gross deceit, and their response is close to fury. Doesn't this suggest that feminism is not in behalf of the women's movement--but rather to promote radical adventures above and beyond its concern for women?
Yes, it surely does. And this provides an important window into the crisis of black male - black female relationships so lamented in black communities all over this country. The same is true for the larger culture and the war between the sexes. That's why Sarah is such a phenomenon. Her mere presence, her existence, touches and concerns so many people in so many different ways that it is totally unique in American history.
The Palin Effect
What effect, you might ask? Well, we're going to be writing about this woman for decades. She is literally standing on the edge of history! Consider this: after being told by those presumed to be far more knowledgeable and worldly that she was an embarrassment and (incredibly) not even female, she remains undeterred and insistent that she will in fact enter the protected kingdom and she will not, in fact, be intimidated. That’s Sarah Palin, ladies and gentlemen, and that's why I see her when I see that photograph above of Dorothy Counts.
Noemie Emery a week or two ago detailed the effect of Sarah Palin on our body politic. The first effect:
Call off the funeral. Three weeks ago, the wisdom was that the conservative movement was over and done with. It had burned itself out, taking the Republican party down with it, and setting the stage for the biggest explosion of liberal governance since perhaps the New Deal.
Official Washington, D.C. can deal with or at least tolerate country club Republicans. But Sarah Freakin' Palin? She gives them the vapors with a quickness! Whatever the psychologica state-of-mind of the D.C. establishment, Emery in essence says Palin proves the point that the big tent Republican Party of multiple coalitions of the willing wasn't, contrary to conventional wisdom, going away.
The second effect:
Angry White Women. Palin's pick was a hand grenade tossed into the old-fashioned feminist movement's aged and tottering hulk. "Can someone please tell me what the hell happened?" pled Michelle Cottle of the New Republic, as Sarah made landfall.
I addressed part of the Michelle Cottle bewilderment in a post on September 9th. Palin undeniably connects with women across the political spectrum. To that end, Emery goes on to note some uncomfortable truths for many feminists, such as the fact that women are less in favor of unfettered abortion rights than men are and that George W. Bush won the white female vote in 2004. These uncomfortable truths largely account for the hysterical attacks by the new Bull Connor's of the far left on an obviously qualified woman.
The third effect:
Hillary's Angle. As fate had it, the phone finally rang at three in the morning chez Hillary Clinton, and this time, it was a true crisis: It was Barack Obama, begging her to save his rear end.
I'm one of those folks completely unconcerned by polls that presume to show a clear Barack Obama lead, nationally. It makes no sense to me that in a time of financial crisis the country will vote to hand the reigns of the Presidency over to a man like Barack Obama and his sidekick Joe Biden. No way, no how, no Obama. All of these polling outfits are off -- all of them. It's almost as if Rush Limbaugh's Operation Chaos is still in full effect and all the numbers are being thrown off. Unfortunately, they are dangerously setting the stage for world-class bitching and moaning after Obama loses this race and a dedicated cadre insist the election was stolen from The Chosen One.
I have consistently asserted that Sarah Palin is a political earthquake severely underestimated in the official media of this nation and all associated entities. History is going to prove this to be far more the "Age of Palin" rather than the "Age of Obama."For this reason, it is difficult to overestimate her effect on this political race.
Finally, as an undergraduate at the University of Florida in the 1980s, the Communist Party USA tried to recruit me as a member. I had completed a tour in the United States Army, served in a unit that guarded the East German-Czechoslovak border, and had a Top Secret military clearance. My willingness to observe things for myself and make up my own mind based on my own observations probably made me an interesting candidate to the CPUSA. That, and my one-year subscription to the Communist Party magazine, that is. In the next edition of this series, the fourth of five and titled "Operation Connect the Dots," I'm going to explain why this experience (among others) allowed me to spot Barack Obama from a mile away and why I believe America should reject his candidacy.