- There are only two people that can fix this mess.
Life as a liberal was much less complicated when we could just blame W. for everything that went wrong. As it turns out, having a likable President and feeling empowered to contribute to social change is a real pain in the ass. In my early twenties when I felt like the world was hopeless, I felt a lot more comfortable to write-off my interest in the future and let the hippies be angry on my behalf.
Then Obama came along, and made me believe things could get better. Cripes. Now that I can’t blame Bush anymore, I have to think about issues and how to contribute something positive. When I went to the Sarah Palin rally last October, and heard thousands of maniacs chanting “DRILL BABY DRILL,” I took solace in a hope that eventually the mob would break up and reorganize around a more reasonable issue.
Then Obama was elected, the health care battle was won, and all the while the Tea Party was providing comedic relief. America was moving forward, not backward—for the first time in my adulthood. Now, in the course of about 14 minutes, institutional racism is fashionable, the Gulf of Mexico looks like Galactus pooped in it and a small minority of Republicans is mad at Obama for making BP pay for the boom-boom they made in the ocean.
In times like this I’m left with two choices: remember the advice my dad gave me—“It’s impossible to win an argument with a crazy person” and push forward, or just give up again like I did in my early twenties.
Usually the latter is a more amicable option. A few months ago I was walking out of Radioshack to my car, and a kindly old gentleman, pointing toward a bumper sticker on my car, asked me how the “change” was working out for me. Thinking the old-timer was just looking for some good-hearted banter; I laughed and told him I loved it. The weary old man, now on the sidewalk, yelled at me across the parking lot and called me a faggot and gave me the finger. That was the end of our exchange, as I laughed nearly to tears, considering the rich life full of love and happiness which this man will live on to enjoy.
As passionately as I believe things are getting better—and will continue to, I also understand that it’s going to take time, as does anything that is worthwhile. The difference between my perception of today’s muck and the 2008 muck is that I can trust that the commander of the ship knows what he’s doing, and has the country’s best interest at heart—because he’s much smarter and a much better person than I am. The change is there, you just have to look a little harder to find it than most people would like.
In spite of (or perhaps because of) the progress, some seem determined to keep slipping on banana peels and stepping on rakes. The entire message of the Obama campaign—to me—was this: despite political differences, there is common moral ground which all sides can work from to move forward. But when certain sects of moderates and even republicans acknowledged the practical value of some of Obama’s ideology regarding the recession and health care, there were others who decided that republican politics just weren’t quite crazy enough anymore.
Enter: the Tea Party, the oil spill, republicans and tea party members who blamed Obama for the oil spill, republicans and tea party members who were pissed off when Obama made BP pay for the oil spill, and institutional racism becoming cool again.
Rand Paul said that private businesses should be allowed to refuse service to minorities, but that he would have marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Southern Republican primaries are heating up with each politician trying to out-crazy the last, running on campaign promises of permissible racial profiling and anti-Spanish language-ism. It’s such a new and unfathomable conviction that I had to make up a phrase to describe it. They really need to start shooting these commercials in Hi-Def, so that I can be 100% sure I’m not watching campaign ads from the 1970’s.
I can’t help but wonder if the Arizona immigration laws would have been put in place if Bush was still president; it is not coincidental that a year into Obama’s presidency Arizona politicians would suddenly feel that minorities posed any greater threat than they did in October of 2008. Racist ideology is rooted in fear, and right now there are people who may subconsciously feel like an alpha dog backed into a corner. No one could have realistically expected that White Americans, who may or may not even know that they are racist, would not push back...if only to get out the metaphorical ruler, and show that they are not afraid to push back.
It’s tempting to ignore the extremist nuts, but with each racist law that isn’t rallied against and crushed, more and more people are becoming comfortable with their racism. Today I read that Tony LaRussa, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, supports the Arizona law and empathizes with the Tea Party. His paycheck is heavily staked in the performance and partnership of Latino players—namely Albert Pujols. If boycotting the Arizona games is going too far, than surely Pujols, Molina, and the other Latino players whom LaRussa needs (much more than they need him)have a golden opportunity to take a stand.
So I know what I want Pujols to do, and how I’m going to vote. But what else can I do from Indiana, a state that hasn’t acted on the racial profiling initiatives and doesn’t drill for oil? I can write about it—point out the hypocrisies and make snarky comments on Twitter. But a few hits on the NUVO website and 45 characters on Twitter aren’t going to make Tony LaRussa publicly apologize, or compel the governor of Arizona hand in her resignation. They won’t even make those maniacs at the Palin rally stop chanting “DRILL BABY DRILL." A blog isn’t going to knock over that stupid billboard on 465 with a picture of Ahmadinejad smiling mischievously, presumably getting filthy rich because Obama doesn’t want to increase off-shore drilling.
I want to believe in the man at the top, because as inconvenient as it might be—I find comfort in a politician much smarter and selfless than I could be on my best day. We’re here, we care and we hope—but we need some direction, quick.
Rand Paul won the Republican primary in Kentucky despite speaking out against one of the central principals of the Civil Rights Act. If it happened in Kentucky, it can happen here too.
Despite the stereotypes and jokes, Indiana is much closer to Kentucky than people think.
I want someone to tell me what to boycott and how to make racism a sin of political suicide; I want to make good on those hopes I had in junior high history class that if I was alive in the 60’s I would have been on the right side of the battle. But I need someone smarter than me to lead the way.
Otherwise, this red state that turned blue in November of ’08 will be once again flush-faced with embarrassment, as the inverse relationship between fear and common sense creeps north.