Tuesday, March 18, 2008

HOPE-A-DOPE. After days of pummeling over his pastor, Barack Obama gives a speech. As you may have heard, he's very good at that. But to see how good, you should survey conservative reactions to this one.

Take Obama's reminiscence on his grandmother:
I can no more disown [Rev. Wright] than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother -- a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.
At National Review, Amy Holmes: "Meanwhile, in an effort to lay blame everywhere, Obama called out his own grandmother for admitting to her, now, not so secret fear of young black male strangers." Backyard Conservative: "omg Obama's white grandmother is still alive--and he exploits and shames her before the world. What a shameless, nasty thing to do--to get himself out of a tight spot. That is a personal betrayal." Red State: "Then he got to Reverend Wright and his grandmother, throwing them both under the bus..."

Though reading comprehension is always an issue with these people, even someone not accustomed to their peculiar ways can clearly see that their misapprehension is in this case willful, purposeful, and fearful.

Like the quoted portion of it, Obama's whole speech emphasizes common ground between white and black people, not just by addressing the commonality of our hopes but also acknowledging the divisiveness of our fears. We should treat the fears rather than the people as the problem, he suggests, because "if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together" to take care of the other pressing issues of the day, from which these fears are an unneeded and (he also suggests) intentional distraction.

You may find this eloquent or cunning, or both. But you have to parse it beyond all reason to get what these tormented souls got from it. You have to be painfully anxious to blunt its effect to interject, when Obama talks about "the Christians in the lion's den," that "Daniel was not a Christian" (necessitating a long explanation afterwards: "I'm well aware that Christians were fed to lions in Roman arenas. But Daniel was the one thrown into the lion's den..."). To shrug it all off by saying, after endless prior vivisection of Obama's words, that you can't believe what he says anyway because he's so good at saying it, you have to be the Ole Perfesser.

To answer Obama with quotes from Chris Rock and Bill Cosby, you have to be one of the people Dave Chappelle ran to Africa to get away from.

Another alternative is to be plain nuts, as the speech has clearly (and easily, I would imagine) driven the Review's John Derbyshire, who offers his own, very different reading of the sort of cringe-worthy comments Obama heard from his grandma:
In observing American racial attitudes and politics, the interest is in the variety of ways white Americans smother their despair. Some, of course, don't. They are the kind of people whose groups you find on the Southern Poverty Law Center's "hate" list, though many of them are not noticably hateful, only, as they would put it, "realistic."
(Pause to point out that these are the sort of Klans, Fronts, and Prides to which Derbyshire refers.)
It's always there, though, and in all but the toughest (i.e. most liberal) cases, put me in a room with a white American for a couple of hours and I can work them round to the point where they are telling me about their last mugging, the last time some black DMV clerk insulted them, or whatever. And when you get your white American to that point, the mixture of relief and rage with which it all spills out is like a boil bursting.
Whatever else you can say about Derbyshire, you can't say he didn't get what Obama was saying. He knows how racial hatred festers. But the solution he prefers is to "retreat into our respective corners," where he and his fellow-sufferers can lance their boils and celebrate their own private kind of racial unity.

As usual with these guys, it's easier to see what they're really getting at once they've snapped.


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