Friday, January 23, 2009

Bitter People

Are you nourishing yourself with a toxic stew of fear, trepidation and resentment, given Barack Obama's Inauguration? Some are, and they continue to "reach out" to me and Democratic friends with baseless complaints and venom.

I'm not naming names, because I'm not one to gossip. And I'm not referring to the millions of people who didn't vote for Obama; I'm referring to the millions of bitter people who didn't vote for Obama. He spoke of their ilk while on the campaign trail.

Mayhill Fowler, Huffington Post blogger, broke the infamous "bitter" story in April 2008; explaining that

... when he spoke to a group of his wealthier Golden State backers at a San Francisco fund-raiser last Sunday, Barack Obama took a shot at explaining the yawning cultural gap that separates a Turkeyfoot from a Marin County. "You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama said. "And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Obama made a problematic judgment call in trying to explain working class culture to a much wealthier audience. He described blue collar Pennsylvanians with a series of what in the eyes of Californians might be considered pure negatives: guns, clinging to religion, antipathy, xenophobia.
Yeah, so his comments were a 'problematic judgment call'; they also resonate with truth; particularly the "antipathy to people who aren't like them" descriptor. It's a given that simply disliking President Obama doesn't make one a racist. To believe so would be primitive black and white thinking; something to avoid.

The bitter ones are disgruntled, and many are lashing out. It seems they bristled with animosity even before Obama won the Primary, though "their people" had been in charge for some years. Why so angry? Many of them specialized in forwarding scurrilous anti-Obama e-mails around the country, keying cars with Obama bumper stickers, and painting his political signs with racist graffiti. Gotta love 'em!

On the night of Obama's Inauguration, at least two self-identified white women, one from North Carolina's Triad, called into C-Span whining. They claim to have voted for Obama, but were miffed that his "Caucasian roots" had been "overlooked." Huh? Was Inauguration Day that ominous? You couldn't hold out 24 hours before complaining? All those happy black people--scary!

If my Party had presided over eight years of assorted disasters, I'd put a lid on the condescension and contempt at this point. Maybe I'd be...listening? Besides, the bitter ones don't necessarily bother to assail the Democratic Party platform; they hope to denigrate by calling Obama "Messiah" and referencing his "Coronation." Such critiques are shallow. They're hatched from base impulses that whisper, "If 'they' win, then somehow I lose."

I'm not rattled by substantive criticism of Obama; I think it's healthy, as I'm not into groupthink. Obama, in my opinion, is a brilliant, open minded, charismatic Democratic politician; not particularly radical; who just happens to be biracial and bicultural. Of course many Democrats, and others, are celebrating like mad. What if an intelligent, appealing Libertarian or Republican candidate had been elected instead? Would the bitter white folk not be excited?

Some of the bitter people voted for Obama, or have multi-racial families. Marriage to a person of a different race doesn't, of course, "cure" one of racism, anymore than a romantic partnership with a woman obviates sexism. I suspect much of the malevolence aimed those who of us who dare respect him springs from racism; often unexamined and denied. Rise above your instincts! We all have racism within us. It helps to partake in a little self-awareness occasionally, though that may be a threatening prospect. Reportedly, Obama himself values the practice.

Bitter (white) people: if you favor the status quo, you're right to feel threatened. He's in. You didn't stop it. You can't take it away. No matter what happens or doesn't--things here are different. Barack Obama is proof of that. But calm down. Change happens slowly. My hope is that every one of us, bitter or not, will be positively impacted.

Our children need not assume every President will be an old white man; perhaps a dumb one, at that. That reality is necessary for the healthy growth of our country. I suppose healthy growth also means we may be challenged to consider others once in a while, instead of solely our individual personal interests (bank accounts) and those of our immediate family--scary!

So, where do we go from here? Change--or be left behind.