New Furor-ker

July 17, 2008

Dear Liberal America, and Other Yammering, Sanctimonious Schmucks:

Yes.  I’m talking to you.  I’m writing you this letter to inform you that as a member of the secular, humanist, progressive, academic elite, I think your candied revulsion to the New Yorker cover (link provided) needs to stop.  Never have such a large group of otherwise intelligent people acted so collectively stupid, and worse, solipsistic.

Here’s the deal: the cover is not, in any way, racist.  It isn’t damaging.  It isn’t even insensitive.  Not remotely.  So shut the hell up about it.

I had the misfortune of listening to a guest on NPR today tell me and the tri-state area all about how Barack Obama’s “thick, Africanized lips” and Michelle Obama’s afro were racist exaggerations that “promoted a sense of otherness, representing the two individuals in an us verses them equation,” (paraphrased).

Let’s start with the lips:  Here’s the thing… drawing a black guy to have big lips is not an inherently racist act. I would argue that the only inherently racist act is one of intent… which we can all agree certainly wouldn’t be coming from The New Yorker.  I’m not saying that when my 93 year old grandfather refers to his black neighbors as, “those colored people on the corner,” that he isn’t being inappropriate.  Of course he is.  But there’s no malice intended – it’s just the wrong term in the wrong time.  It’s an unfortunate anachronism that happens when people either are too old, too busy, too ignorant or simply too disinterested to learn the new word.  It’s a offensive maybe… but offensive and racist aren’t the same thing.  It depends on the person who hears it, and how they translate the speaker to mean.  It’s a transaction, a statement like that.  It’s not objectively this or that… not like a malicious, hateful barb cast with one intention in mind.  So let’s put a stop to that confusion right now. 

And yes, I get that I’m a white male, and that according to some (perhaps most) my opinion on this matter isn’t as important or worthy as one with more melanin.  To this thinking I would argue that beyond being male or my wanting of melanin, I am an American citizen, and both a student and a frequent client of the English language.  So stow it.  They’re two different things.

Back to Obama’s lips.

We’ve all seen political cartoons before.  We understand the nature of the caricature.  We’ve seen image after image of George W. Bush drawn with a dimwitted expression scrawled across his simian face… two dopey ears jutting from either side of his thick, Neanderthal-like head.  Hardly friendly.  Deserved, but unfriendly.  Cartoonists play on exaggerating elements to a person’s face or body… Taft was drawn as a giant tub of shit… and guess what… he was a giant tub of shit.  The man got stuck in his own bathtub.  Old white men are drawn with dome-like foreheads, wrinkled and crannied like angry old prunes.  Clinton was famously recreated with a swollen, reddish, phallic nose like a turgid radish napping on his face.  This is the nature of the business.  They’re going to exaggerate facial qualities.  Now this is just point A.  The point where I remind you of both the tradition of political cartooning.  I’ve got another point to follow in the next paragraph.  But, as a sub-point to point A. I would like to direct you to this image: (link provided).  Guess what my well-intentioned, Prius-humping friends… Barack Obama has large lips.

Sorry.  It’s not racial.  It’s not mean-spirited.  It’s just his face.

Personally, I rather like his lips.  I think they’re sensual and playful, yet also firm and severe… rather like a marshmallow peep.  (link provided)

On to my second point… and this acts as a segue to the rest of my diatribe… so pay attention.

The whole point behind the cartoon was exaggeration… because that’s what the media and the right wing has been doing with the Obama family from the beginning.  Hell, Hillary Clinton did it too.  The whole essence of the cartoon was to coalesce each individual absurd overstatement, racist suggestion, paranoid fantasy and downright, bald-faced lie into one steaming pile of high brow, New Yorker “fuck you!” to the morons who perpetrate such nonsense:  Michelle Obama with her combat fatigues, Kalashnikov and afro – the angry Black Panther radical.  The American flag in the fireplace – the suggestion of Barack’s lack of patriotism over that awful lapel pin, and the ludicrous image of him not putting his hand over his heart, much ballyhooed by right-wing radio fascists.  The traditional Kenyan dress that Obama wore – the suggestion that he is a former Madrassa student and current “Islamo-fascist” Muslim.  This, of course, bolstered by the image of Osama Bin Laden over his shoulder – “Obama… Osama… is there a connection!?!”  And of course… the butting fists – the famous “terrorist fist jab,” a big ol’ red-state high five to FOX NEWS.

While I’m not totally in love with the image – personally finding the cartoon gracing the cover of this month’s Harper’s to be far more interesting (link provided) – I have found myself a member of the precious minority of Americans who isn’t falling over his own hubris in an effort to castigate the editor of The New Yorker for it. 

I actually listened to people on the radio discuss what can and cannot be satirized today.  Left-leaning people… talking about censorship.  Have we all forgotten about that poor Dutch cartoonist who was the subject of so much ire after his infamous cartoons depicting Mohammed?  Don’t we remember the stampeding rush of liberals to his side… as we announced in one strong voice our support for the freedom of the press… for the freedom of ideas and expression?  Where are you people now?

You’re demanding a boycott of The New Yorker.  You’re all lining up to air your own particular grievances on NPR.  “It’s anti-Muslim!”  “It’s anti-black!”  “It’s anti-Obama!”  Are you kidding?

Have you all lost your sense of perspective? 

I don’t consider myself to be the smartest guy alive.  Not by far (the last year of this blog, notwithstanding).  I’m often perplexed by complex issues… dumbstruck by poetry and art… slow on the uptake of so many things.  I looked at the cover image… and I got it immediately.

The argument has been made that this image will, “reinforce certain American’s misconceptions about Barack and Michelle Obama, and therefore damage the hopes of his campaign come November.”

Balderdash.  That’s right… balderdash.  That’s not even bullshit… that’s fucking balderdash.

The Americans who look at am image like that and take it as fact… on the cover of one of the most liberal magazines in the country… already either believe this kind of schlock… or they’re going to forget about it in a week.  Wanna know how I know?  Because a week is about 6 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes and 50 seconds longer than the American attention span. 

Billy-Joe “Cooter” Ipswitch from Larry’s Hat, Arkansas walked up to his local newsstand today to buy a tin of skoal and saw the cover.  “Hrm,” he though, “that there sure looks a lot like one of them mooslims.  I sure do hate them mooslims, what with their bombs and IUD’s and funny hats an’ all.  I think this maight affect ma vote come Nov – Jumpi
n Jesus on a crutch that there’s Miley Cyrus on the cover of Teen Beat!   I’d sure love to bend her over my kitchen table, grab me a handfull of her pert, white haunch and…”

You get the idea.

What damages Obama’s chances is the endless debating we’ve found ourself in.  It’s the airtime we give to solipsistic, whining assholes who have hijacked this event and turned it into an opportunity to piss about their Politically Correct racial grievances.  It’s not all about you, people.  It’s not about me.  It’s not even about Obama.

It’s about or media… and how piss poor it has turned out to be.  It’s about how our money-drenched media system promotes flashy, dramatic fluff as news… playing on our most sensitive and vulnerable weaknesses – racial and monetary inequality, class frustration, terror-fears, etc – in order to keep us watching.  Keep us buying.

Every one of you Harvard-educated geniuses with your hearts bursting through your chests… and you blindly furious black leaders with your eyes dripping with phony outrage… you’re all part of the problem.

Obama is, too.  He pissed on about it, too.

Get some fucking perspective, people.  Seriously.  You’re all acting like a bunch of fucking children.

Of all the things going on in the world today… this is what we’re talking about.

You should all be ashamed.

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