By James M. Wall
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.