Monday, October 13, 2008

McCain's Missed Opportunity

After some reflection, I think Jack was partially right. I shouldn't be ashamed of the woman who (erroneously) referred to Senator Obama as "an Arab." The thing of which I AM ashamed is John McCain's response.

My original note misquoted her. She actually said, "He's an...he's an...he's an Arab."

McCain replied, "No, ma'am...he's a decent, good family-man citizen..." a nice effort, trying to win back points his crew intentionally sacrificed that week--but wait a minute! The response blatantly implies that such things (decency, hard work, citizenship) are, by definition, NOT Arab. How could a reasonable Arab-American NOT hear the implicit slur?

The BEST I can infer her to have meant was that Obama is at once an Arab, a fundamentalist Muslim, AND a terrorist. I surmise that many Arab-Americans understand all too well that many prejudiced Americans equate all three.

Her ignorance (he is indeed not an Arab) and bigotry (clearly she means to say that Arabs are untrustworthy) are representative of a particular segment of White America that will never abandon its sad grip on white supremacism as a worldview. We can only hope and work if not to change their minds then to minimize their impact.

But McCain was there offered a magnificent opportunity to un-teach some terribly sad stereotypes, and he again chose tactics over strategy. Where he could have responded, "While Mr. Obama is most certainly not an Arab, being one would certainly not keep him from being a decent, good family man citizen..." He could have (once again) dis-equated Arabs from Muslims and Muslims from terrorists. He might have gone as far as to wish for a climate in America so racially tolerant as to elect an Arab-American president.

He might also have sprouted wings and flown under those Spanish power lines without crashing. Before I expect him to cure AIDS, I could at least expect him NOT to so willfully buy into the stereotype some of his most ardent supporters clearly espouse.

(Originally posted on Facebook)

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