Monday, February 23, 2009

We're "A Nation Of Cowards", and here's the reason why....

Eric Holder, the new Attorney General, says that we are a "nation of cowards" when it comes to discussing race.

Eric Holder has taken a lot of heat for this, but he is 100% correct. We don't talk about race, except in the most guarded terms. Then we change the subject as quickly as possible.

Here's the reason why. This is from The Huffington Post:

A cartoon likening the author of the stimulus bill, perhaps President Barack Obama, with a rabid chimpanzee graced the pages of the New York Post on Wednesday.
The drawing, from famed cartoonist Sean Delonas, is rife with violent imagery and racial undertones. In it, two befuddled-looking police officers holding guns look over the dead and bleeding chimpanzee that attacked a woman in Stamford, Connecticut.

At its most benign, the cartoon suggests that the stimulus bill was so bad, monkeys may as well have written it. Others believe it compares the president to a rabid chimp. Either way, the incorporation of violence and (on a darker level) race into politics is bound to be controversial. Perhaps that's what Delonas wanted.

Of course it's bound to be controversial. Hell, I can't believe I've gathered up the nerve to write anything about it. But let's start with a few obvious facts:

1) The cartoon isn't very funny.
2) Delonas has an editor who approved the cartoon's publication.
3) Look at the Huffington quote in italics above. They said "on a darker level", as if to imply that light is good and dark is bad. Silly, isn't it? But I find myself avoiding phrases like that all the time. If someone really wanted to make a racial issue of that sentence, they could easily do so.
4) The symbolism used in the cartoon is waaaay out there, especially in terms of the racist symbolism that was often used in the Deep South.
5) But the cartoon provides a muted commentary on the quality of the stimulus bill. A million monkeys at a million typewriters for a million years couldn't have produced anything as bad as that abomination.
6) Al Sharpton and Julian Bond and plenty of others are issuing critical statements attacking the New York Post, calling for the cartoonist's head, and doing whatever they can to get back in the limelight somewhere far away from the Obama glare.
7) Anyone who dares to talk about race in a public forum is insane. That includes Eric Holder. That includes me. There are a lot of sociologists who predict that within the next 20 generations or so there won't be any "races" left. This would eliminate racism, tribalism, and a host of other harmful isms, wouldn't it?
8) But getting back to the subject at hand....if I were a monkey, and someone drew a cartoon about me writing the stimulus bill? I'd be angry.


Dr Ralph said...

With the obvious exception of just how bad the stimulus package is, I'd say we are probably not too far apart on the rest of what you say.

My $.02 worth:

1) Not funny and poorly drawn. At first I thought the massacred ape was stuck to a vertical wall, held by his own vital juices.

2) Given that a lot of artists are idiots (I know this from personal experience), he may have missed the racist subtext of his cartoon. The editor who approved it, if he missed this, should be sent back to editing obituaries.

3) I watch what I say because language has great power. I choose to use its power carefully (don't snicker).

4) Context is everything. Anyone who says they are unaware of the racial symbolism of the monkey in our culture is a liar or idiot, or so naive as to be a danger to himself and others. I think this is generally your take, correct?

5) Muted commentary? Maybe. The other message screams at the top of its lungs. Again, allowing the real message to get lost in the uproar points to (at best)the general incompetency of those involved.

6) Getting back in the limelight? Your cynicism is showing, my friend. You're a better person than this.

7) No argument. I'm a fool, too.

8) Who am I to mess with your punch line just because I disagree?

The Whited Sepulchre said...

1) Now that you mention it, the perspective does get kinda goofy.
2) Voltaire's quote about disagreeing with what the cartoonist had to say, but defending his right to say it, blah blah blah....this was just a mistake. I wish we lived in a world where someone could throw this out there, but we don't. The cartoonist probably agrees with me 100% on Obama, the stimulus bill, etc., but he's done harm to the cause.
3) Yep. That's part of why I think the world will be a better place when we're all intermingled as in #4.
4) Yeah. But see my comment above about #2. I want cartoonists to be free to draw what they want to draw, whether it's the monkey that wrote the stimulus bill, or the prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban. I can't stand "organized sensitivity",,,,,except in a case like this where someone goes overboard and winds up giving aid and comfort to the enemy (so to speak).
5) Yep.
6) If cynicism is a vice, I'm the worst person I know. Perhaps I need to go to Reverend Al Sharpton's church and repent. Where is his church, anyway? Does he spend any time there?
7) One thing that concerns me, and I think it's a legit concern. I don't criticize Barack Obama. I dance around what I think are the problems with Obama. SO DO THE REPUBLICANS. They're acting like all the problems in the stimulus, the cabinet vetting, etc., are problems with Pelosi, Reid, or others. Some goofy stuff is going to be allowed to go through because....He....Is....Black.
8) Aw come on. Attack my last point. You feel like you can't do it, don't you? Huh? You're hesitating. It's because I'm black, isn't it?

Dr Ralph said...

There's a scene in Raiders of the Lost Are where Belloq says to Indy: "You and I are very much alike. Archeology is our religion, yet we have both fallen from the pure faith. Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. I am but a shadowy reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to make you like me."

I'm not sure whether which of us is Indy and which is Belloq.


2) I agree with Voltaire, with the caveat that while I defend your right to say something, I insist on retaining the right to disagree. You have the right to say anything you like but I (and others) have the right forcefully disagree. There's no such thing as a free lunch or a free ride.

6) I'm probably as cynical in my own way as you are, which is where my caution to you springs from. Don't make my mistakes.

7) I don't think it's necessarily because he's black. I think it's more because the honeymoon's not quite over (yet). Just wait - it won't last much longer. The Republicans still can't believe they lost.

8) We probably both agree there is a fair amount of bullshit in the stimulus package. Where we disagree is on is how much and where it is.

Interestingly enough, I had a few drinks with a friend who is a staunch conservative Republican, and he said when viewing the cartoon in question, his first take was that the monkey represented Obama. While he was no fan of our new president he thought the editor who allowed the cartoon to be run should be reading the help wanted ads.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

More recent commentary on Reverend Al's methods:

Dr Ralph said...

Sorry -- I'm not all that interested in defending the Reverend Al.

Or to quote you elsewhere: meh.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

The point of that link was to address the troublesome cynicism issue raised in #6.

It's a pretty good editorial, and shows that there's a reason for cynicism on some of this stuff.

Anonymous said...

Ralph!s mention of Voltaire, prompts me to recall what he said, when he grabbed the baby from the lady!s arms and said, "tell me everything you know"

Anne Cleveland