Obama: “Now is Not the Time for Fear”

                                                                           Time photo by Callie Shell

By James M. Wall

Speaking at a rally in Chillicothe, Ohio, on October 10,  Barack Obama said:
Now is not the time for fear. Now is not the time for panic. Now is the time for resolve and steady leadership. We can meet this moment. We can come together to restore confidence in the American economy. We can renew that fundamental belief – that in America, our destiny is not written for us, but by us. That’s who we are, and that’s the country we need to be right now.

In his remarks at Chillicothe, Obama spoke of fear and he spoke of hope.  One day earlier,  John McCain offered a different vision at a rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin, evoking  “shouts of “Nobama” and “Socialist” at the mention of the Democratic presidential nominee,” according to the Washington Post.

When a media caravan moved through the crowd gathered for a midday town hall meeting, “there were boos, middle fingers turned up and thumbs turned down.”

James T. Harris, a local radio talk show host, urged McCain to  use Obama’s controversial former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and others, against him.

We have the good Reverend Wright. We have [the Rev. Michael L.] Pfleger. We have all of these shady characters that have surrounded him,” Harris bellowed. “We have corruption here in Wisconsin and voting across the nation. I am begging you, sir. I am begging you. Take it to him.” The crowd of thousands roared its approval.

      McCain: Obama is not an Arab. “He’s a decent family man.. .”

Even McCain finally realized that his desperate race-bating ads and rhetoric had stirred up emotions too dangerous to ignore. Unfortunately, his response to one woman’s rant revealed a racism that, alas, the nuance of which, went largely unnoticed by mainstream media.  Juan Cole, of Georgetown University, did notice:

The McCain attempt to connect race and terror on a subliminal level in his advertising, while projecting an image of taking the high road in his public appearances crashed and burned on Friday when he did not notice he was engaging in racist hate speech:

‘ Later, another supporter told McCain, “I don’t trust Obama…He’s an Arab.”

McCain stood shaking his head as she spoke, then quickly took the microphone from her.

“No, ma’am,” he said. “He’s a decent, family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with.”

Cole, an authority on Arabic culture and Islam, writes in his online column, Informed Consent, that what McCain should have said, was “there would be nothing wrong with being an Arab, but Obama is not.”

McCain reflects a racism that permeates segments of American culture, including, according to a disturbing new book just out on military leaders in our “war on terror” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The new book, Winter Soldiers: Iraq and Afghanistan: Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupation, edited by Aaron Glantz (Haymarket Books), demonstrates how “terrorist” and “Arab”  have become synonymous in our fear-driven culture. One contributor to the book is Michael Prysner, a corporal in the Army Reserve, who came home in February 2004. He writes:

. . . I began to hear new words like “towel-head,” and “camel jockey,” and the most disturbing, “sand nigger.” These words did not initially come from my fellow lower-enlisted soldiers, but from my superiors: my platoon sergeant, my first sergeant, my battalion commander. All the way up the chain of command, these viciously racist terms were suddenly acceptable.

When I got to Iraq in 2003, I learned a new word, “haji.” Haji was the enemy. Haji was every Iraqi. He was not a person, a father, a teacher, or a worker. It’s important to understand where this word came from. To Muslims, the most important thing is to take a pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj. Someone who has taken this pilgrimage is a haji. It’s something that, in traditional Islam, is the highest calling in the religion. We took the best thing from Islam and made it into the worst thing.

New York Times columnist Gail Collins evokes Lord of the Rings iconography in her recent lament over McCain’s descent into darkness:

During that last debate, while he was wandering around the stage, you almost expected to hear him start muttering: “We wants it. We needs it. Must have the precious.” Remember when McCain’s campaign ads were all about his being a prisoner of war? I really miss them. Now they’re all about the Evil That Is Obama.

The newest one, “Ambition,” has a woman, speaking in one of those sinister semiwhispers, saying: “When convenient, he worked with terrorist Bill Ayers. When discovered, he lied.” Then suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, she starts ranting about Congressional liberals and risky subprime loans. Then John McCain pops up to say he approved it.

Finally, you know the McCain campaign is in trouble when John Weaver, David Gergen, Frank Schaeffer (yes, Francis Schaeffer’s son) and Republican Congressman Ray LaHood, among others, call on McCain and Palin to wake up before it is too late. (For Schaeffer’s statement, click here.)

Look again at the face of the young boy in Callie Shell’s picture above. If this election proves to be a watershed, it will be because the promise of hope spoke with a more convincing voice than the ugly promise of four more years of fear.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

ONE MORE THING:

Barack Obama takes a soft tone in this ad that rejects the Bill Ayers smears and mocks McCain for trying to smear Bill Daley, the brother of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years.
This entry was posted in -Archive 2008, Politics and Elections, Religious Faith. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Obama: “Now is Not the Time for Fear”

  1. Pauline Coffman says:

    Jim, I knew I could count on you to explain where this wonderful phrase comes from! “We wants it. We needs it. Must have the precious.” Can you explain the context a bit more, please? What is it the speaker wants?

  2. wallwritings says:

    Glad to help:

    The creature who utters the phrase over and over again in The Lord of the Rings is Gollum, who is “tortured and wrought wretched by the lure of the One Ring, Gollum is a withered, piteous creature. Driven mad and twisted by his loss of the One Ring decades ago, he is compelled to haunt Middle-earth, searching everywhere for the only thing in the world he ever cared for, his precious. (the one ring to rule them all created by Sauron)”

    Jim Wall

  3. Jim,
    You’re doing a marvelous job with your blog on many levels. I’m envious! But, there’s no one out there I’d rather be hearing from these days. Your insight and ability to supply illuminating context for the important issue of our time are “the precious” — at least for some of us not seeking high political office.

    Just FYI, I did detect an uncharacteristic inaccuracy in your list of dissenting conservatives: Frank Schaeffer’s dad was Francis (not Franklin).

    Thanks, Jim, for continuing to provide us with model of column-writing excellence.

    Steve Swecker

  4. wallwritings says:

    Stephen,

    Good catch. My research notes clearly said Francis Schaeffer. But my writing brain changed it to Franklin. Now the posting has been corrected. Many thanks.

    Jim Wall

  5. bob johnson says:

    Now is not the time for fear, that comes later!

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