Dear reader, play along with me for a few minutes and pretend you are a right-winger. And by right-winger, I don't mean you're simply conservative in matters fiscal, or that you vote GOP because that party is supportive of your chamber of commerce sensibility, or that you oppose the Democrat vision of what America should be mostly because your husband or boss or preacher opposes it.
No, I mean a real, piss-and-vinegar, obsessed, unashamed right-winger. Pretend there is not the tiniest corner of your consciousness that is not firmly right wing. For instance, you think any government effort to assist its citizens is as unnatural as homosexuality and mixed marriages. You think any decision that might touch upon your life should be left to the states, unless your state is controlled by liberals, in which case it should be left to Justice Antonin Scalia's Supreme Court. You think it's your birthright to own any weapon you can get your hands on, and you have no doubt in your mind who you'll be needing it for.
And above all, you hate President Barack Obama. Hate 'im, hate 'im, hate 'im! At first, you thought you were fooling people when you said it's because he's... oh, pick a reason... a socialist, a fascist, a Muslim, a Kenyan, a dictator, a weak leader, too corrupt, too uncompromising, too compromising, the worst president of all time, the man who destroyed America as we know it. All those, and more, have been used to explain why the fringe hate Obama so intensely.
But of course, you know those are all just interchangeable epithets you pick from the babbling right-wing thought stream, which provide them mostly to give you cover for the real reason you hate him. You know none of those accusations are true, don't you? You know exactly why you hate him, and you're not fooling anyone anymore. You're not even trying to disguise it anymore, are you?
It's spilling out all over the place, isn't it? The real reason. The dams are all busting at once, and the flood is just what you've been waiting for. Finally, it's all coming together. George Zimmerman's exoneration for justifiably murdering one of "them." The blessings of "Stand Your Ground" and the Supremes' nullifying of that damned Civil Rights Act. The stopping and frisking of those who should be stopped and frisked. The move by your favorite states to stem the vote of those for whom voting rights were a travesty in the first place. The shifting of the rising right-wing stars away from even pretending they appreciate the presence of you-know-who in our midst.
Yes, it's all coming together. You've waited 50 years for this, since those you-know-who's got their equal rights way back when. And now it's here. Vindication. Pay-back time. Any day now, you'll be able to say the whole "N" word with your head held high.
Ah, excuse me, dear reader, for getting you to take part in this. If I thought I had any real right-wingers reading this, I wouldn't have asked you to pretend you're one of them. But I am not delusional enough to think I have any right-wingers in the audience that I can address directly, not when they could be listening to Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity or on the Internet calling Obama (or Trayvon Martin, or Al Sharpton, or Oprah) every vile thing they can think to say under the veil of anonymity.
But lately--especially since the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech--I've been thinking a lot about this. As you've heard me say, I regard race relations as central to the entire American story. To consider what we are as a people and not examine it through the stark lens of black and white is like reading War and Peace with the parts about the Napoleonic Wars left out.
To one degree or another, everything about America involves the continuing conflict and intermittent resolutions of being brought together first as slave and master, then equals.
Our history, our politics, our religions, our music, our literature, our language, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, our future--every facet of our shared culture is haunted by some lingering element of this collision of races.
And now, with the advent of Obama--after decades of relative calm and remarkable advancement--the angry old tribal gods are rearing their ugly heads. Over the past 50 years, those who could not abide with racial equality fled the party that had nurtured minority rights to fruition, and combined their opposition under the banner of the other party. For the most part, they reined in their animus with polite language and endless platitudes.
But the longer they have had to swallow the reality of a black president, the more resentful they have become. Resentful and vicious. The pretense of civility, the veneer that temporarily contained their spite is melting away. And now it must be asked, How far do they intend to take it?
So, dear reader, bear with me. A few more seconds of pretending you are them, and you can go back to being a decent human being.
What is your goal, you right-winger? What do you envision as the result of this new round of savagery? Would you be content just to spit out "n----" any time you felt the urge? Or to keep you happy, must it go all the way back to the old ways? The segregation ways. The lynching ways. The old war with blood running from Africa to the water cannons and attack dogs of Alabama. Is this the future you wish upon your children? Upon your nation? Have you thought much about where this is heading? Or does any of this have anything at all to do with thought?