Sunday morning, on one of the political talk shows, a conservative politician called President Obama “a liar.” Of course, we all remember the white congressman from South Carolina shouting out, “You lie” during the president’s State of the Union address several years ago. That congressman never risked re-election from his mostly white right-wing gerrymandered district.
Lately I’ve been pondering if the white-right culture’s incivility to the president and, in particular, their attempt to dismiss him as a “liar” is racist. As I’ve thought about it, I’ve been tempted to think that racism may be the BEST thing this could be.
What I mean is that I know from my own life’s experience that racism is an evil that can be changed. As a lifelong Southerner, I understand how irrational racial prejudice is, how it infiltrates the very DNA of a culture so completely that it is nearly impossible for those infected to recognize it, let alone combat it. Still, I know it can be done, so that leaves me with a shred of hope if what we are hearing from the white-right is old-fashioned racism. So, older white men are fighting their inevitable loss of power and remain subconsciously incredulous that a black man is president. Still, even their life-long attitudes can change, thus there is some hope.
I wonder if it might not be worse news if that isn’t what it is. It could be worse if what we are seeing is just the most public expression of the death of civility in our society. Perhaps it isn’t just racism, but an expression of the narcissistic people’s willingness to destroy anyone or anything that doesn’t agree with their vision of how life “ought” to be.
It is the attitude that is threatening to destroy our nation. It could destroy the human race because Jesus knew that, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it abides alone.” Unless we are willing to let go of “my” way and seek God’s way—the way of grace, mutuality, and civility—there really is no hope.