What’s Wrong With This Picture?Posted in Articles, Democracy, Race Relations
I recently went to a local post office to mail some long overdue letters to friends and parishioners. As I approached the mail box, I was greeted by a young man campaigning for a politician running for President of the United States. I noticed by his table a picture of President Obama with an Adolf Hitler mustache planted squarely on his face. The young man extended his hand shake to me, politely greeted me and then launched into a soliloquy about the evils of Obama and the need to get him out of office.
I listened to him as he eloquently droned on about the problems with the Democratic Party and how the president is destroying America. I responded with a thoughtful diatribe about the problem not being the president per se but the political system of stalemate and gridlock that prevents any progressive legislation from ever going through Congress.
I also stated that the American political system is broken and that some folks with money have bought off politicians with cash and favors. “Until we fix the entire system, get money out of politics, hold representatives responsible for their decisions, and enforce laws such as Glass-Steagall, reverse the Citizens United decision stating that Corporations are people, we will continue to have problems with our broken political system,” I said.
At issue here was not simply his one sided castigation of President Obama for the political mess in Washington, but the picture of the President with the Hitler mustache that not only smacked of racism but anti-Semitism.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Not once in all my days have I ever seen a Hitler mustache plastered on the facial images of any of our Presidents.
Of all the presidents, good or bad, well or ill, progressive or regressive, hawk or dove, populist or elitist, who have marched across the stage of human history and set foot on the American political landscape, none has been caricatured with imagery so inflammatory or debasing.
To calibrate the policies of Barack Obama with that of Adolf Hitler is not only demeaning but reflective of the social and racial pathologies which still wound and divide many people in our nation.
President Obama has at least tried to reach out to the Republicans who keep slapping his hand away and stonewalling legislation designed to help the many who are in need in this nation. While no president can please all of the people all of the time, few presidents in recent memory have taken so many giant steps to reconcile himself to the opposition in order to pass bi partisan legislation and implement policies to help all of the American people.
And although this young man and I spoke to each other in civil tones, I could not dissuade him from his position or compel him to see any good in the president’s policies and efforts. After some friendly debate, I finally realized that certain reasoning could not put into his mind what certain reasoning had not put there in the first place.
It is sad that we are still dealing with issues of race in America in 2012. It is even sadder that many of the vitriolic comments and criticisms leveled at the President have not been directed at other presidents whose policies were far worse and did much more harm to our nation.
Without playing the race card here, it makes me wonder whether some of these demeaning images are rooted in deep seated racism for a president who happens to be African American. No matter what good he seeks to do, it appears that certain forces will always demonize the man and criminalize his efforts rather than applaud them as helpful to our nation.
The criminalization of black folks in general and black men in particular is often the painful and woeful symptoms of racist thinking. The problem with racism is the broad brush condemnation of an entire group of people based upon personal pathologies and prejudices rather than assessing each individual person on the merits of his or her personal character and accomplishments.
As we ramp up for the 2012 presidential election, I suspect that we will regrettably hear and see more of these denigrating images of President Obama and my prayer is that caring, honest Americans of every color, hue and persuasion will see through these painful images, rise above them and support his efforts to move America forward.