Thursday, October 16, 2008

Self-censorship

When it comes to politics, I can be pretty awkward. I have a really hard time finding a comfortable place to draw the line when ranting about any of the many things I feel strongly about. Sometimes, I err much too far on the side of caution, missing opportunities to stand up for something I fiercely believe in because I don't like the possibility of confrontation or hurt feelings it might bring. Other times, I take and make politics too personal, blustering about why I'm right and you're wrong and risking damage to very important family and friendship relationships. This week, I was guilty of the former: I deleted a recent blog post after it had been up a day or two because I started second-guessing myself, worrying that I might upset someone who reads it and deciding that I'd rather be safe than sorry. But since then, I've had several people say they were sorry to see the post had been deleted, and since I honestly meant no disrespect to anyone with an opinion different from mine, I have decided to repost it. Of course, before I do, I have to do some clarifying.

Since I first heard Barack Obama speak at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, I had grand visions of a President Obama bringing a badly divided country to new heights of unity, all of us standing together behind a sense of common purpose and a shared pride in America and Americanism. I still see that potential. But recently, I have watched too many YouTubes of narrow-minded people expressing irrational fears about Obama being a terrorist, anti-white, a radical leftist, dangerous, un-American. These people, I am certain, represent a tiny fringe; most McCain supporters, I am certain, are good people who believe in their candidate as passionately as I believe in mine. But it only takes one unstable person to do something dangerous, dramatic and history-changing. Something I prefer not to mention because it is unspeakable, but something that I think could lead to unrest, violence, economic upheaval, international instability and racial and cultural polarization like we haven't seen in a long time. That's why I've been deeply uneasy with Sen. McCain's apparent unwillingness to condemn outright the worst statements of the lunatic fringe that have been showing up on all the YouTubes and Keith Olbermann's "Worst Persons" lists.

There is too much at risk here, too much potential for ruinous effects on the country Sen. McCain bravely fought for and was tortured for, for him to stay silent for fear of alienating a constituency he would do better without. I am suspicious that the McCain campaign - led not by McCain, whom I've always seen as honorable, but by cynical strategists who don't have the good of the country in mind - wants to stoke this anti-Obama fear, wants to let people believe the black guy with a funny name is too cozy with terrorists without the candidate himself having to come out and say it. And I know that the McCain who has long had the respect of this country's moderates and independents (and many Republicans and Democrats) would never have been able to stomach the kind of campaign that is now being run by the new McCain, an old man who knows this is probably his last chance and will desperately do what it takes to win.

That said, let me restate one more time: The scary McCain supporters I talk about are by no means indicative of all McCain supporters. By posting the second of the two YouTubes below, I definitely do not mean to characterize all McCain supporters - or even most, or even many, or even a substantial minority - as being like these people. I just mean it to illustrate how an absence of leadership from McCain when it comes to quelling this nest of hate and extremism really disappoints and disgusts me.

If you're still reading... Here it is, the post I wrote, then deleted, and now am posting again:

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I don't believe John McCain believes Barack Obama is a terrorist. I'm sure he doesn't. They have worked together in the Senate as colleagues. McCain speaks respectfully of Obama, stands on the stage with him at debates, shakes his hand. He took the microphone away from a woman at a campaign event who claimed Obama was an Arab. McCain knows Obama isn't a terrorist, or a terrorist sympathizer, or "paling around with terrorists" like Sarah Palin claimed. If he had reason to believe that Obama was somehow in league with terrorists, that's a serious thing, and it would be McCain's duty to address it head-on. If McCain thinks Obama is a terrorist, he should ask him bluntly about it at every debate, call him on it in every speech he gives. He should call for an FBI investigation into Obama's history and his associations. It would be his obligation. Clearly, McCain doesn't believe Obama poses a terrorist risk to America - or, if he does, he is guilty of letting it slide.

So if McCain knows that Obama is not a terrorist, it is likewise his duty to squash any and all implications that he is. The next president will take office when we are in the middle of two wars, an economic crisis, a culture war that has split our country in half. The next president will need the support of an American population united behind a common cause, behind the shared purpose of making America safe and economically secure. He will not need to have approximately half the country suspicious that the new president is a secret terrorist set on taking over the government for radical Islamists.

But McCain does neither of these things. He doesn't openly accuse Obama of being a terrorist sympathizer and call on him to answer those charges. But he also doesn't take a proactive approach to killing those rumors. He treads the middle ground, which is the most cowardly and dishonorable place to be in an issue of this importance. He lets his surrogates (including his own running mate) imply - not too subtly - that Obama is a terrorist lover. He approves of ads like the one above, claiming that Obama is "too risky for America." With this ad, he isn't altruistically trying to warn the American people about a threat facing them. He sees the opportunity for a desperate last grasp at scaring Americans into voting for him. He feels he can take the high road with lines like this one from the ad: "Obama's friendship with terrorist Ayers isn't the issue. The issue is Barack Obama's judgment and candor." But who would honestly believe that anyone watching that ad is going to walk away thinking about judgment and candor? Who, after seeing the mug shot-style photos and the pictures of the Pentagon and hearing the serious scary music in the background would focus on "judgment" rather than "that guy with the funny name is friends with terrorists?!" This approach isn't going to win the election for McCain. What it is going to do is cripple President Obama's ability to take on the important issues we are facing, and McCain is letting it happen without any regard for how he is harming the country.

There are three weeks left until Election Day. At this point, I don't expect to change anyone's mind about which candidate they will vote for. What I am most concerned about is having a bitterly divided post-election country where nothing can get done. I'm scared of what people who buy into this innuendo are capable of doing. People like this:





5 comments:

Brian said...

I share your fears about the unspeakable and I also share your hope in Obama. I've found I have a hard time with family members who support McCain--how can people who love and support me vote for someone so ghastly, so staunch, so OLD? I've found it best to keep my mouth shut, so as to not alienate those relationships. For instance, it's very possible my brother and I will not be talking until after election day. If they can't see it's a time for change, a time for hope, and a time for Obama--that's their deal. I just don't need to be involved with it. Ugh. Is it December yet?

amelia said...

I hope I didn't make you feel guilty Doug! I totally feel you on not wanting to post political posts - I would piss off about half the people that read my blog, including family. I love reading yours because they are always intelligient and well thought out - I miss all our political discussions when you lived here. Anyway, another excellent point Doug.

Jacelle said...

Woah Doug. SO well said/written. You are very thoughtful on this and fair and I am glad to see it reposted. Thanks for your insight. Luvs

SB said...

I'm glad that you put your original post back up. I really liked it. I actually wanted to post a link to it on my blog and was disapointed when I saw that you had removed it. I love your political posts. I find them extremely well written, well thought out, and for the most part unbiased. I can't imagine anyone being offended. Please don't stop posting political topics.

King Jimmie said...

My middle name is Ryan, and this one time, there was this one kid named Ryan who punched a baby. It would only make sense then, that I too am a baby-puncher.