Monday, October 12, 2009

Some of Us Are More Equal than Others, or Hold the Dionne

Yes, it has been quiet around here. Not so quiet in real-- er, physical-- life. I think the capper was last week's passing of one of our community elders who was also one of my former students. An IT colleague's heart attack the same week was a close second. So I shifted to mostly reactive mode, commenting & composting elsewhere, as my online cohort (see sidebar) provided the regenerative fodder I needed. Thanx & a tip o' th' battered fedora to P6, Sea Mist, soulbrother v.2. Thanks even to JJP, where there is far too much mess going on in the comments, but I learned a couple things scrolling through.

If it's all right with you, at this point I'm going to catch up bit by bit, item by item, on matters of human (in)equality in current events, until the task completely overwhelms me.


In that case let's just pick one. The fact that there are so many to choose from is telling.

One should always be wary of citing a columnist whose name sounds like a boutique brand of mustard, but E. J. Dionne's Washington Post column of October 12 cuts across several current issues and is worthwhile for that reason. Here's the disease in terms of the latest symptom, the Nobel Peace Prize award to President Obama:
His opponents are describing the award as premature. The deeper problem is that the Nobel will underscore the extent to which Obama is a cosmopolitan figure, much loved in European capitals because he is the change they have been looking for. [emphasis mine]
Yes, now the President is reviled for being much loved. I will go a step further and suggest that Obama is not just a cosmopolitan figure, but is truly cosmopolitan in the sense described by Kwame Anthony Appiah in Cosmopolitanism. As Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says in her review of Appiah's book, "Cosmopolitanism... provokes attacks from the left for whom it is dilettante and elitist. The right despises it because cosmopolitans make bad nationalists and patriots. All authoritarians detest the internationalist spirit."

That about wraps it up, as wrapped as it can be without bringing race directly into it. Had Dionne stayed with this theme... But no, he had to go there even as he denied the whiteness of "angry white men" (his quotes):
There is no doubt that some of the anger is fueled by racial feeling, which is not the same as saying that all opposition to Obama is explained by racism. Most Obama opponents are simply conservative Republicans who disagree with him. But there are too many racist signs at rallies and too many overtly racial pronouncements in the fever swamps of the right-wing media to deny that racism is part of the anti-Obama mix.
This is the current race-not-race meme as it has evolved across the media. No longer able to deny the racist displays, statements, jokes and diatribes that have been there since Obama announced his candidacy (thanks, YouTube) pundits seek to acknowledge and then immediately nullify them. "Most Obama opponents are simply conservative Republicans..." perhaps, but they're conservative Republicans who tolerate, support, laugh with as opposed to laughing at, and definitely fail to decry the bigots in their midst. When called on it, our angry white non-racist conservatives will briefly denounce the occasional bad apple or isolated instance, no pattern and certainly no systemic issues here, folks, and then they move on, as if that settles the matter.

Let me throw Dionne a bone. I commend him for citing the example of Australia's One Nation party. That does allow us to pick up a hint, a soupçon of a pattern across former British colonies such as ours.
Though [Australian deputy PM] Gillard diplomatically avoided direct comment on American politics, she said what's happening here reminded her of the rise of Pauline Hanson, a politician who caused a sensation in Australian politics in the 1990s by creating One Nation, a xenophobic and protectionist political party tinged with racism.
Hanson to Palin... there and back again. Hm. Go on, now.

[Editor's note: Hat tip to P6 whose earlier post on the reappearance of invisibility caused me to slow down and read and not merely skim the Dionne original. Also for the single-word linking trick.]

No comments: