Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hate in America

At a dinner party, two friends--both middle-class, white, male, left-leaning and Democratic--nursed scotch and got a jump on mourning the loss of the 2008 Presidential election. Certain Hilary’s going to be the DFLer, they've already turned over the election to the Republican. Who could be a farting goat (and probably is). And would still beat Hilary. All my guys want is a win—sorta hoping to save the country, so the stakes seem high.

And they’re certain the Republicans have the following on Hilary: she's divisive and strident. She’s limp enough to lose a single fidelity war, let alone wage a real battle against millions. She's got History. A record. There are the pant suits, the hair style, the polysyllabic words. Don't get them going on the laugh (cackle and that rhymes with witch) unless there's more scotch. They don’t (necessarily) hold these views, but here – the land of fleshy thighs and high-pitched voices—is where the Republicans will find their fuel.

My friends started getting on my nerves.

In a recent LA Times column Mariel Garza made the astute, if blindingly unoriginal and repetitious (and therefore, tremendously discouraging) observation that much of left-wing Ann Coulter critique has sunk to ridiculing hair, thighs, nose and voice. "It's her words" that are her "worst feature," Garza reminds us. But we're too busy chortling over a hem line to deconstruct Coulter's faulty logic. Who wins? Garza tossed out the "S" word: sexism. There’s a narrative we’re allowed to deconstruct female pundits or politicians and it has nothing to do with politics.

So my friends have a line on Hilary because it’s one we’ve heard before. It’s okay to demean a woman’s body. Sport, even. But what would the Republicans do with a Black man?

Ashraf Rushdy wrote a jaw-dropping essay for Transition that has been reprinted in more than one edition of The Best American Essays. In "Exquisite Corpse, " he tells the story of Maggie Till Bradley, an African American mother who in 1955 insisted that the decomposing, water-sodden, mottled, and partially dismembered body of her 13 year old son be displayed in an open casket. "Come see what they did to my baby," she cried. Tens of thousands did. Emmitt had been lynched by white boys, bored, in need of Activity. Rushdy has more grotesque bodies in store for his reader. His point? White people can't begin to imagine Black suffering in this country. We can't begin to fully grasp the underlying narratives of contempt and how that narrative plays out on Black bodies.

African American masculinity has long housed white fear, resentment and fascination. We’re still rolling through a national history where Black manhood was once so potent that African-American men could be killed for simply looking at white women.

As I told my friends, I’m scared too. If it's acceptable to use the trappings of femininity to trash a woman, what will those witty Republicans do with a black man? We haven’t yet seen their toy box and it could be every bit as fun as the one they’ve opened for Hilary.

I’ll take whoever the Democrats give me, white, black, female –hey, even that farting goat---and run hard, because winning matters. Barack or Hilary, either one, faces ideological battles of the subterranean sort, in addition to the good ole left-right fight.

Make mine a double.


Anonymous said...

Commenting on "Hate in America"--The sad fact is, I'm convinced, that the men who made the anti-Clinton remarks are sexist to the core. Their statements reveal their delight in Clinton's (possible) loss. No woman could measure up, given this mind-set.

Anonymous said...

As long as I'm commenting, may I also mention homophobic, humorless "humorist" Garrison Keillor? Under the human disguise he reveals himself as a pompous, over-inflated bag of methane.

Somebody light a match, then run.

Anonymous said...

Well, at least the comments aren't hateful!

Anonymous said...

Well-written, Mary, as always. You're right--Obama and Clinton will probably be attacked on the basis of their gender and/or their race, and that does nothing to improve the tenor of the debate or discern the best candidate.

However, in this race, what is the progressive choice? Who is the progressive candidate? It's certainly not Clinton--check out her health care policy. And I'm not sure it's Obama, either. The candidate most in touch with the realities of race and class seems to be Edwards, to me. I'm persuadable on Kucinich, but to me, he hasn't clearly articulated why he's in the race again.

Where are you leaning this days? Given the realities of racism and sexism you so eloquently described, what is the anti-racist and anti-sexist choice in this field?

Anonymous said...

Here's what it comes down to for me: when it comes to electing a progressive woman candidate, or a progressive candidate of color, I'm willing to fight. But is Clinton really worth fighting for? Obama might be... but Clinton?

Anonymous said...

A little bit of hope...
Two years ago, while vacationing in Tennessee, my family and I came upon a man and his wife and (probably mentally disabled)daughter at the river where we stopped to picnic. The man started talking with his loud, southern accent about this country and the bad situation we are in, etc, and I just half listened because I was sure he was probably not speaking from my political, left of center, bias. . . but then he got to the part about who he hoped to vote for in the next election and he got my attention - Hillary!

Minnesota Matron said...

Oh goodie: people are talking! Erin, I am with you on the candidate problem. Clinton certainly doesn't represent change and I don't really know about Obama. John Edwards sounds the best on paper, but can we choose one more rich white guy when there's a woman and a Black man in the mix? That just seems wrong. If I had to choose (and I'm not silly enough to think I'm choosing, unless I have a HUGE checkbook), I'd pick Barack and cross my fingers.

Anonymous said...

"John Edwards sounds the best on paper, but can we choose one more rich white guy when there's a woman and a Black man in the mix? That just seems wrong."

Yeah, I know... but I always come back to Edwards has more of a record than Barack does (and certainly Clinton). Obama voted badly on the bankruptcy bill, of all things--the bill that would force folks who go into bankruptcy because of serious medical illness (and the subsequent bills that follow) and STILL allow creditors to follow them.

I don't have a good feel for what Barack does when he's pressured by powerful lobbies.

Hrm. I appreciate your thoughts, though. I'm still torn on the issue.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Clinton has pulled no punches about who she is. Throughout the course of her campaign she has presented herself as a feminist. She has made no apologies for her identity. It's naive in the extreme to speak in terms of "anti-racist, anti-sexist" choices as coming from anywhere outside the Democratic Party at this point in history when one is discussing an electable presidential candidate. Personally and politically, I find this situation sad and offensive, but there it is. Grass-roots, local organizing at neighborhood levels is of much more use, I think, and has more immediate and progressive results.