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September 21, 2009 - Ray Hall (Archive)
When one examines what drives the current crop of political protestors it is difficult to determine whether they are opposed to President Obama or his policies. Former President Carter suggests the opposition is against President Obama the man; racist, and he is joined in that assessment by Bill Cosby, however, the notable exception is President Obama.

President Obama’s rejection of racism might be a matter of practical politics, but why would President Carter and Bill Cosby reach that conclusion and why do so many repel from the suggestion?

A large part of the fault rests with the protestors I think. Protestors do not add clarity and present categorical ambiguity instead. They are opposed to excessive government spending, they claim they are losing their freedoms and the oft repeated phrase “I want my country back” suggests a metaphor indicating a time when our nation was commonly separated by skin color. Some protestors even suggest a deep hatred for government.

If massive government spending were the issue surely those in the forefront today would have filled the streets over the Iraq war that has cost taxpayers multiple times more than would a national health insurance program. The struggle to preserve individual freedoms must always be uppermost regardless of President or Party. To maintain patriotic consistency surely those protesting today would have screamed bloody murder when the ‘Patriot Act’ was signed sealed and delivered during the Bush Administration.

Protestors pontificate old and familiar answers in lieu of questions. “Less spending” is an answer, where can we cut spending is the question. “Smaller government” is an old, repackaged answer. How small should the government become remains the question. Preservation of individual rights is a good answer, but would protestors favor repealing the “Patriot Act’ in its entirety?

Distrust of governments is good social policy and I am not troubled by those who oppose President Obama, or any President for that matter, on matters of policy. We are all entitled to our opinions, however, none are entitled to our own facts. There are no death panels in any health bill and I will not lose a single individual freedom in a national health care plan.

It remains unclear why so many of the protestors are so angry at the Federal Government since the Federal government is much less intrusive than state and local governments. For most citizens the greater intrusions come at the local level and local taxation is even more vexing, yet there is hardly a word of protest at the centers of local governments.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) a social writer and longshoreman philosopher might have had the answer when he wrote in Reflections on the Human Condition that “Mass movements use irrationality to shut out the intellect, to turn people into predictable, mindless machines.” If for some reason Hoffer’s reasoning does not fit the current situation then why is racism an unreasonable conclusion?

The tragedy might be that we are unaware of our racism; that people of many colors remain unassimilated, so distant in our lives that we accept that condition as normal. People often tell me that they “have black” friends when they really mean they have “black” acquaintances. When was the last time they had a black friend in their home as a dinner guest? When was the last time they went to a movie with a black or Latino couple? When was the last time I had a black friend in my home as a dinner guest or vise versa? I would have to say never.

It remains difficult to confront, but the real losers in our nation’s Jim Crow era might have been generations of white children who missed assimilating and being exposed to black culture and black society.


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