Monday, September 07, 2009


The anti-Obama bigotry

You’ve surely heard the latest right-wing insanity, which hit the news last week: President Obama has made a videotaped speech, talking directly to school children. It’s intended to be shown at schools on Tuesday. And some wing-nut parents, fired up by the conservative media, are objecting, refusing to have their kids exposed to this... this... um... this speech by the President of the United States.

According to NPR’s report, most of the school districts in the Dallas suburbs, for example, will not be showing the speech to the children. And what are they worried about?

[...] one lesson plan suggested the students write about how they might help the president to improve public education. For parents who don’t want to help the president, that sounded like indoctrination.

Oh, my heavens! How dare the president think to approach school children with the idea that they can take part in things, and can actually help make a difference! Of course, that’s not really what the objections are about; this is:

NPR: But at the bottom of it all, [parent Wendy] Carlin says she doesn’t trust the president. She believes if he’s not trying to influence the students directly, a liberal message might be subliminal.

Ms Carlin: Well, it doesn’t matter what I’ve heard he’s gonna say, he usually changes it up anyway.

You can’t trust him. He usually changes it up. He’s inscrutable. He’s not even a real American, you know.

A few weeks ago, Greg Laden had a rant over at Quiche Moraine about how this sort of idiocy about the president is thinly disguising racism, and at first I didn’t buy it. He’s seeing racism when it’s really something else, I thought. Sure, some people don’t like having a black president, but they’re a tiny minority, and what we’re seeing here is something else, I thought. But the more I thought, and the more I see this stuff happening — the lies about Mr Obama’s birthplace, the lies showing up in the health-care debate, and so on — the more I think Greg is right.

It’s not acceptable to say that a black man doesn’t belong in the White House, so they say that he wasn’t born in America, and doesn’t belong in the White House.

It’s not acceptable to say that you can’t trust a black man, so they say that he “usually changes it up”, or that he’s lying about his religion and he’s really a Muslim, so you can’t trust him.

It’s not acceptable to say that a black man can’t lead us in health-care reform, so they say he’s like Hitler, espousing Nazi policies, so we can’t accept his health-care reform.

It’s not acceptable to say that they don’t want a black president talking to their children, so they make up shit about political “indoctrination” and “subliminal” liberal messages, or compare him to Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il (as Mark Steyn did last week), and won’t allow their children to listen to the president.

This garbage has no basis in ideology, and no one has tried to make things like this up about other presidents, no matter how much they disliked or disagreed with them. The only conclusion I can come to, when I look at all of it and think about it for a while, is to agree with Greg Laden that it’s all a proxy for racism.

From the Times article:

“The thing that concerned me most about it was it seemed like a direct channel from the president of the United States into the classroom, to my child,” said Brett Curtis, an engineer from Pearland, Tex., who said he would keep his three children home.

“I don’t want our schools turned over to some socialist movement.”

Can you imagine parents actually refusing to have their kids watch a speech by the president in earlier years and earlier administrations? My parents would have been thrilled if my brothers and I had had a chance to see President Kennedy, President Johnson, or even President Nixon, whom they disliked, speak directly to us in our schools. They’d have been thrilled if we’d gotten the message that the president wanted our help.

Even as much as I despised our 43rd president, had I had school-age children and had that president prepared a video address to them, it would never have occurred to me to demand that they not be exposed to it. Quite the opposite: I would want them to see what he had to say, and I’d have taken the opportunity to discuss it with them afterward. It would be a learning experience, where the kids could think for themselves and, you know, learn.

But these are people who are afraid of learning, afraid to have their hatred, ignorance, and idiocy exposed. If anyone who falls outside their acceptable group should speak to their children, the children might, just might, actually see another way of thinking. They might actually understand that people other than their parents can have something worth listening to. They might actually see their parents for the narrow-minded bigots that they are.

Update, 6 p.m.: Here’s the text of the president’s speech, as officially released by the White House. Of course, there’s no telling whether he changed it up on the video.

Update, 8 Sep: Here are two appropriate political cartoons, by David Fitzsimmons and John Cole. I love what’s on the guy’s t-shirt in the Fitzsimmons cartoon. [Thanks to Lisa Simeone for the pointer to the Cole cartoon.]


Sue VanHattum said...

Thank you! Well said.

Thomas J. Brown said...

" one has tried to make things like this up about other presidents, no matter how much they disliked or disagreed with them."

I've noticed this as well, and it has unfortunately brought me to the same conclusion. I find it really strange and off-putting, so I guess all we can hope for is for some of the more rational Republicans to look at the lies their party is spewing and decide that perhaps they're not the "Grand Old Party" after all.

"I would want them to see what he had to say, and I’d have taken the opportunity to discuss it with them afterward."

When I read this, I pointed at the computer screen and said (out loud), "exactly!"

This speaks to our society's current trend of parents not taking responsibility for their own children. For some reason, most parents these days seem to think that teaching their kids should only be done in school by teachers.

My wife and I are trying to have our first and we both look forward to helping him or her learn as much as he or she possibly can. We actually want to know what they're learning in school and help supplement that education (not to mention fact-check what they're being taught). Perhaps it's because my wife's parents were teachers, and perhaps it's because I went to a school that puts a heavy emphasis on education (I went to Punahou, the same school from which Obama graduated), but really I think it's just common sense that, as parents, our job is to give our kids the benefit of our time in this world so they grow up to be smart, well-mannered human beings that are capable of thinking for themselves.

scouter573 said...

They did this today in our school district - our kids were not even given the option to listen. Worst of all, we were not told. We get asked all the time about "contentious" subjects like mature movies, vaccinations, and potentially offensive historical literature (Huck Finn), but they couldn't be bothered to ask the parents, they just decided for us. So we're writing letters to the principals and the Board of Education. Cowards.