We got to the dog park early this morning and I decided to back into the parking space rather than pull in front first. (We all need a little variety in our lives). So, of course the rear of my car was at the sidewalk.
Gracie and I puttered around for about forty-five minutes and hob-nobbed with the other people and critters that had come out for their morning constitutional. But it began to get hot very quickly and we decided to go home.
When we got back to the car a woman was standing and reading the bumper stickers I had placed on it. I said, “Good morning” to her and as I opened the door for Gracie to get in she looked at me and said, “Why do you hate President Obama?”
I responded, “I don’t hate the President or anybody else. I simply believe that his policies are bad for the country and for the American people.”
The woman, who was white said, “The way we have treated black people in this country is a national disgrace. You should know that. And Romney belongs to a kooky cult religion.”
She had now introduced the two topics that I was taught as a child not to discuss, politics and religion. It was getting warmer by the minute and I didn’t want to leave Gracie in the car even with the windows rolled down. I knew this would have been a long and fruitless conversation if I pursued it, so I simply said, “That’s the thing about America that makes this a great country. We are all free to express our opinions. Thank you for sharing yours with me.”
I got in the car and we went home.
I learned something from this brief exchange. Apparently some people actually do read bumper stickers. And I also learned that there is an assumption of guilt on the part of many that they would be committing an act of racism if they were to vote against the President. They will find every possible excuse to justify their decision to return the worst President since Jimmy Carter back to the White House for a second term.
Through my life I have heard many jokes – more than a few of which were racist and demeaning. The repertoire poked fun at blacks, Jews, Catholics, Poles, Italians and gays among other groups.
All such jokes rely on an underlying assumption that there is some specific characteristic about the target group which exists universally among all members of that group. An example would be that all gay men have limp wrists and lisp when they talk as they flit around the room in an effeminate manner. Or that black people are shiftless and lazy and not as bright as white people or Orientals.
The late Rock Hudson was the fantasy idol of women throughout America who viewed him as the soul of masculinity and desirability – only to be shocked to learn that he was gay.
Oprah Winfrey started from very humble beginnings to become one of the wealthiest and most influential women in the world. She did it through hard work and personal effort.
So we know that, just citing these two examples among many, the stereotypes are wrong. But those who like to pigeon-hole people into convenient slots so that they have a nice orderly and limited view of the world will continue to hang on to their false assumptions rather than be confused by the facts.
And that brings me back to my thoughts on my morning conversation with the lady at the park. Her argument was that not voting for President Obama is an act of racism. I would argue the exact opposite. Voting for an ineffective person simply because of race merely serves to confirm the old stereotypes that underlie jokes about blacks – that they are shiftless and lazy and not as bright as white people or Orientals.
Then there was the second point this lady made about Governor Romney’s faith – that it was a “kooky cult.” I am not sure how she defines either of those words, but I do know that when Christianity had its beginnings it also was viewed as a cult.
I am not intimately familiar with the underlying faith to which Mormons hold but I do have a few neighbors who are members of LDS. They are dedicated to their faith and have raised their children to be polite and thoughtful of others. If that’s the result of being raised in a cult, we would do well to have more cultists on planet earth.
There will probably always be people who cast their ballot based solely on the race of the individual running for election. That is, in my view, such a poor way to make a decision – but we often make poor decisions. I hope never to have developed the narrowness of mind to become a member of that group.
Had the President truly guided us out of the recession and had he inspired confidence through his statesmanship he could have had the greatest legacy in the world. He could have forever buried jokes about black people. And had that occurred I would probably vote for him this November. But his record in office is abysmal and I don’t see how it is likely to improve with an additional four more years.
As to Governor Romney, he wouldn’t have been my first choice as a nominee. That has nothing to do with his religion. But to my mind, he is clearly the better choice and, barring a life-changing event, will receive my vote this fall.
Until the election when I need some levity I just think back to the Carter administration. It was a bad time economically, just as today, but at least we had the President’s brother around for amusement. And, of course, we had “Billy Beer.”
After four years of that we realized that the “joke was on us.”