“You have always taught us that liberty is the same thing as capitalism, as if life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness cannot be crushed by greed. Your American Dream is financial, not ethical. Thank you. You have taught us well.”
– the Chinese Ambassador to C. J. Craig in the 7th season of The West Wing
In the wake of President Obama’s dismal performance at the first debate in Denver, Colorado, I read the following article in a recent issue of the Atlantic Monthly that, in my mind, begins to make sense of the whole thing. It maps out a case for the near impossibility for a black person to express public anger (even when justified) in our so-called “post-racial” culture without triggering a sense of primal fear in a good portion of the American public. Not that this is an excuse for Obama’s “bad night” (which could conceivably cost the election) but it puts into context the image of Obama staring down at his notes looking rather weary while a white guy looking like he stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting proceeds to dress him down. Perhaps if we could come up with an acceptable form of the phrase “You Lie!” (voiced openly by a white congressman in the middle of one of Obama’s State of the Union addresses) – something like Joe Biden’s “Malarkey” – then a black man could navigate the shoals of national politics without the forced pretense of polite respect.
Another article I liked, written by Bill Clinton, appeared in a recent issue of Time Magazine. It’s an upbeat presentation of a longer view and broader vision which is the key to successful politics and the reason Bill Clinton is one of the most successful politicians of the past half century.