Four Pieces of Correspondence

Four Pieces of Correspondence November 8, 2012

Exhibit A:

Instead of clinging with those Libertarians who live in lala land, give serious consideration to what happened last night…and just who voted for this disaster.

All the so-called Americans who are receiving government assistance, the minorities and the ideologues.

Exhibit B:

I’ve got an idea. Let’s abandon our principles and champion abortion, gay marriage, obamacare, wonen in the priesthood, legalize marijuana and same sez marriage, reduced military, abandon Israel, buddy up to Ahmidinijad and Chavez, open the borders, and forty acres and a mule for all black people. That ought to do it.

There’s much to be said about these particular braindead responses to the suggestion that the Thing That Used to be Conservatism needs to take a fearless moral inventory instead of wrapping itself more tightly in the veil of unreality it has woven for itself. But what I want to focus on here is the simple, raw, undiluted racism both these responses telegraph. You know, like this and this:

Funnily enough, when a reader called the second guy on his racist remark, guess what he replied?

what is it about you people that you interpret everything as racist? I am less racist than you in all likely hood.

The likely hood that reader wears may or may not be white and pointy, but what I want to note here is simply that he repeats, without a movement of the grey matter, the braindead trope that “you people” (meaning, in this case, an appalled Catholic who takes seriously the teaching of the Church on racism) just automatically and reflexively label all conservatives racist–and uses it to lie about his racism.

Yes, yes.  I know.  There are shakedown artists in the black community.  Al Sharpton is a creep and Tawana Brawley was a fraud and Jesse Jackson is a crook.  Some professionally aggrieved grievance professionals need insensitivity training.  Duly noted.  But you know what?  That does not exhaust the matter because here’s the thing: this dude *is* a racist. So was the woman who declared minorities “so-called Americans”. And, you know, for some reason, as a result, I got the following mail from two of my African American readers, both of them serious about the faith, both basically social conservatives and serious Catholics on the core moral issues–and both of them deeply conflicted about what to do since so many in the Thing that Used to be Conservatism treat them with casual contempt. Why do conservatives lose elections and fail to get traction with people from minority communities? Could have something to do with things like this:

I’m writing this message in regards to some of the comments that I saw and to which I replied on your blog. I’m asking that you give serious chastisement to those who have made blatantly racist remarks, but more emphatically. I know it probably doesn’t mean SO much to you, and while you think it’s terribly wrong, that one should not ascribe to malice what one can merely ascribe to stupidity, to someone like me, it’s a lot more than stupid. It’s hurtful. It’s actually scary. It makes me wonder what all the people I attend mass with are thinking. I don’t know these people and they don’t know me, and generally they aren’t very friendly. When I see sentiment like that, I think “do they think that way, too?”. I’m a graduate student at Northwestern University with a bachelors cum laude from the University of Michigan for crying out loud. And I was grouped into a subset of the less appealing elements of my race merely for the fact that this skin that I bear is with me every moment of my life? I was utterly appalled, and I really feel that you should say something about it. While it isn’t necessarily the fault of conservatives that the conversation of race is in the open, I don’t think many of them are handling it very well at all. This just a humble request from one of your fans and followers. I hope you take the time to think this over, even if you decide that it wouldn’t be within prudence to fulfill my request. Thank you.

Another reader writes:

To My Brother In Christ,

Your article “Well That Didn’t Take Long” was a true blessing to me today. As an African American Traditional Catholic, I can’t tell you how this election has tormented me. The identity politics alone have left me feeling tortured and homeless–until I read not only your article but your responses to the comments that followed. I move between liberal and conservative communities–feeling ill at ease and alienated by the discourse I find in both. So thank you for providing (even if just for a moment) a sense of community to me. Thank you for speaking truth to power. Thank you for not conflating Republican and Christian/Catholic. Thank you for not excusing the racism that somehow gets swept under the rug (either as a necessary casualty or heaven forbid “Christian”). Thank you Thank you Thank you! Tonight I feel like someone gets it; and if you get it there must be others–evidenced by many of the thoughtful, articulate and truly Christian responses that followed.

Thank you for your example of putting Jesus and His Church front and center–above self-interest and above some worldly notion of “winning.”

Thanks for giving me hope! –In Christ,

There is not one good reason these two people–and many more like them–should have to feel this struggle. A smart politics informed by the Tradition instead of by Talk Radio would take them into account and regard them as the Church says to regard them–as human beings and not as “so-called Americans” or moochers or as part of the 47%. A stupid one, like the Thing that Used to be Conservatism, alienates these natural allies. It does the same thing with Latinos, telling them things like “Amnesty Equals Abortion” instead of treating with the reality that 12 million, hard-working, socially conservative, largely Catholic people who are integrated into our economy and only interested in a future for their families are not going anywhere. So–brilliantly–we equate them–in a Catholic organ of GOP agitprop–with “abortion” and then blame them for not voting for the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism. Smart.

Am I saying all or even most conservatives are racist? Of course not. I am, however, saying that the undercurrent of racism is pronounced enough in the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism that it has, for instance, fueled the years long delusion that Obama was born in Kenya (read: is a foreigner and, ‘ow you say?, only a “so-called American”) and that that he is a Muslim. Here’s more reality. Obama was born in Hawaii. He’s just not a Muslim. He is a garden variety secularized liberal Protestant from a politicized Black urban church tradition that sees the gospel almost exclusively in terms of “community organizing”.

Similarly, the right wing obsession with pointedly saying Obama’s middle name as though this is conclusive proof of something (in other words, that he is African and Muslim, and therefore a “so-called American” and a terrorist enemy who has infiltrated good–that is, “white” society) is likewise one of those common habits on the right that demonstrate once again the veil of unreality that the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism weaves around itself by a thousand little winks and nods. Sometimes, all the racism comes together in a perfect storm of repellent sickness, such as this little call for a lynching:

This was not on a Stormfront or KKK site. This was posted on the website of the Sacramento Republican Party.

All this filth is doubly duplicitous and delusional in that, while it clearly is about Obama’s race making him a “so-called American”, it is persistently denied to be so. And the lie is so thorough that those who practice it are actually outraged and offended when people like my last two correspondents see it for what it obviously is and name it as such. To people like them the wounded response is consistently given: “What is it about you people that you interpret everything as racist?”

Here’s the thing: to paraphrase Talleyrand, this is not merely sin, it’s stupid, politically speaking. Because once again, anybody with eyes in their head standing outside the epistemic closure bubble of the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism knows perfectly well that all this stuff is trading on racism and suggesting that the Kenyan Muslim (he is neither) is only a “so-called American”. Unsurprisingly, African-Americans get the message that they are unwelcome, just as “deport the wetbacks” does send a certain message to Hispanics. Mysteriously these people choose not to vote for a political movement that tolerates and, at the grass roots level, encourages such messages. Who can fathom the mysterious mind of the minority group member?

Solution: Stop putting up with sotto voce racist BS. Do it, not because it’s politically stupid, but because its a sin and God hates it. That means, among other things, stop already with the stupid crap about Obama being a “so-called American”, a Kenyan, a Muslim, etc. All that stupidity needs to go and reality needs to be addressed instead. Such stupidity springs from sin and, in this case, is a living laboratory demonstration of just how stupid sin can make people.

Or, go on pretending there’s no problem and losing elections–and ignoring God.  The consequences of the former are being felt by the Thing that Used to be Conservatism now.  They should be taken as a gracious chastisement from the hand of God so that we will start obeying God and discovering happier and eternal consequences later.

Update:  In my comboxes, a reader writes: ”

“Claiming that this stuff is even 10% of the reason why Mitt lost is just ridiculous.”

And a Latina reader replies:

No, it’s not.  Supposedly 7 out of 10 Latinos voted for Obama, and let me assure you, most of them did not do that because they think abortions are awesome.  They did it because for decades the GOP has made it clear, implicitly and explicitly, that we are not welcome in that party.  They did it because the Democratic party has made a point of addressing our concerns (poverty, immigration, education) in a compassionate way.

I did not vote for Obama this time around (he lost me forever when he passed the NDAA), but I have never felt welcome in the GOP.  I’m a white Latina (yes, that’s a thing, Latinos come in all colors) who passes for “regular” white, so I have been lucky enough not to experience much racism directly.  But my ability to “pass” means I also get to hear all sorts of comments made by conservatives and Republicans, things they say thoughtlessly or because they think their audience will agree with them.  Not all conservatives and Republicans are racist, by any means, but many of them are clueless and carry a lot of unexamined assumptions.

With all the hoopla of the presidential election, the media in the States has not paid much attention to what happened in Puerto Rico on Tuesday — for the first time, a majority of the population voted to become a state.  Long ago, Congress promised to make P.R. a state if the people want it,* so the GOP, which controls the House, now has a chance to rethink its approach to Latinos.  Will Republicans seize the opportunity to welcome P.R., to show that it cares about and values Latinos?  Or will the GOP continue to focus only on white men, even as that demographic shrinks?

*There are other factors at play, including economic factors and the fact that the new governor is of the Commonwealth party, but how Congress reacts to the vote is important.

Update II:

I’m Korean American and a lifelong Catholic. I suppose I do identify more with the progressive agenda, but I’m not a registered Democrat — and their support for unlimited abortion on demand is one reason (though not the only one). I’ve always been pro-life — I’ve worked in the pro-life movement — and I have held my nose and voted for Republicans in past elections because of it. But the direction the GOP/conservative movement has taken in recent years, their contempt (laced with thinly veiled racism) for the President, their leaders’ comments about “the end of the white establishment” and a MILLION more comments/articles/blog posts along those lines, and their dismissal of what they view as “racist identity politics” of people of color — this all creates an atmosphere in which people of color cannot help but feel uncomfortable and unwelcome, regardless of our personal politics or motivations.

I’ve had friends, good friends, Catholic friends, accuse me of playing the race card or contributing to the “over-hyphenization of America” or becoming embittered against all white people. This doesn’t sound like the conservatism I was raised with. It’s gone in a pretty scary and awful direction. I don’t feel that the GOP or its most avid white supporters WANT me in their party — unless I become one of those people of color who trots out the old line that race is completely unimportant to me personally and our society generally — so, for me, it’s been an easy choice not to go there where I’m neither accepted nor welcomed as the whole person I am. A lot of other Asian Americans evidently feel the same way, as 73% of us (according to exit polls) backed Obama this year.

What I hear from a lot of conservative white Catholics is that they feel attacked by the President or his policies or his party. They feel discriminated against. I wish more conservative white Christians of all faiths could understand why it is that so many people of color feel the same way about the conservative movement.

Time to escape the epistemic closure bubble and treat with reality.

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