We tremble as we watch an economy teeter on the edge of collapse, we clench our teeth awaiting headlines that scream "WAR!"
And, for Americans who truly value freedom, the greatest gutpunch has been how easy the nation's constitutional liberties have been jettisoned -- ostensibly in the name of security but, truth be told, so that the Bushies can enforce their oil-lubricated globo-cop unilateralism unimpeded by such trivialities as the Bill of Rights.
Earlier this month, Reichsmarshal John Ashcroft seriously proposed -- sigh, the lapdog mainstream press hardly noticed -- the creation of camps where U.S. citizens (not aliens) that he (not the courts) deems to be the "enemy" could be incarcerated without trial and stripped of their constitutional rights. (Did one of the clones from the Boys from Brazil escape and get a job as attorney general?)
And last week, W showed how much he adores free speech. When thousands of peaceful demonstrators in Portland, Ore., confronted the appointee-president with banners proclaiming "Drop Bush Not Bombs," dutifully patriotic authorities launched a police riot. Cops smashed citizens with batons and rubber bullets, and sprayed them with pepper gas. (Sigh, again, the mainstream press was out to lunch on this one, too.) There hadn't been such skull-cracking fun since Chicago circa 1968.
We'll see a lot more of that in the future. And, with the tumultuous disturbance in The Force, as I said, it's easy to understand why Americans eschew stridency and embrace insipidness.
The reality of, well, reality is enough to spoil a trip to the mall or the latest riveting "news" report that Elvis remains, despite reporters' tidal gush of hyperbole in recent days, thoroughly dead. God forbid that we should actually think about the truth.
Still, as the McKinney-haters gloat, and Barr the Gooder wonders if it was a vast left-wing conspiracy that did him in, here are a few thoughts.
As the French might say, one man's fish is another man's poisson. In Georgia, one black woman's appeal to African-Americans is denounced as "playing the race card" while a white fella's blatantly racist ad doesn't rate a whimper from pundits.
The black woman -- McKinney, of course -- deserved her drubbing. I looked for reasons to support her -- primarily her record on the environment and labor issues. And (I know this will make my good pal, the bow-tied conservative "Georgia Gang" harrumpher, Dick Williams, gag) but McKinney was on target suggesting that Dubya straight-faced lied when he said he had "no warning." Indeed, his pals are making bundles and bundles and bundles off the endless war. And, unless in the name of "fighting evil" he shuts down the presses, a lot more is going to come out.
Congress urgently lacks voices not beholden to the small groups of moneyed-influence peddlers and intimidators. Arab-Americans are becoming victims of the politics of exclusion. America doesn't need the awful Ariel Sharon as its de facto secretary of state.
All of those points, which attracted McKinney's attention, are important. And, there should be no debate over Americans' rights to criticize U.S. policies or those of other nations, say, Israel. (Sadly, it's groups such as the once grand Anti-Defamation League that spread the tired and, uh, defamatory canard that criticism of Israel is tantamount to anti-Semitism.)
The pro-Israel lobby -- which is not synonymous with the Jewish community, many of whose members vigorously disagree with the Likud government and are determined advocates for a peaceful solution in the Middle East -- did target McKinney as it has torpedoed many other politicians who didn't march in lockstep to its tune. Majette did arrange for mountains of contributions from out of the district and out of the state to arrive at the 11th hour -- in order to deter press scrutiny of her donors. (The AJC did, however, fall right into the McCarthyism of smearing McKinney by finding a handful of her donors that had "terrorist" associations. The paper disregarded the source of the accusations, an organized campaign that has slimed such candidates as Hillary Clinton in her senate race and one of America's finest congressmen, former Democratic Whip David Bonoir, in his bid for Michigan's governor.)
McKinney had issues, legitimate ones. She allowed the bigots in her camp to turn them into anti-Semitism. And, with her recycled endorsements, she succumbed to desperation rather than rising to principled campaigning.
What McKinney said was well within the boundaries of legitimate public discourse. It's how she said it -- and the divisive intent behind her words -- that made her a pariah. Her arrogance in snubbing the voters by avoiding debates and press interviews showed a disdain for democracy that's hard to stomach -- as evidenced by the lopsided vote count in Majette's favor.
At Creative Loafing, our editorial board (at least those who weren't away on work-release programs or who weren't sleeping off their last dose of Thorazine) had pretty much reached an impasse on the Majette-McKinney race. Our endorsement in the primary was going to be for "none of the above" -- McKinney had defeated herself and Majette is eons away from being ready for prime time.
Yet, although I was probably the most sympathetic to McKinney on issues -- Majette's policies place at least one of her feet well within the GOP camp -- I was the one who suggested a reconsideration. I urged CL to back Majette on the basis that there's hope for her while McKinney has proven herself hopeless. Since my logic, as always, was impeccable, my colleagues grabbed more beer from the cooler and belched assent.
One of McKinney's workers, a prominent activist who while a volunteer became disenchanted with her campaign, told me that he urged McKinney to go to north DeKalb and talk to the conservative WASPs, meet with the Jewish community.
"Even if they had trashed her, at least they would have felt she was willing to listen to their concerns," the activist said. "And some of those people might have felt less inclined to vote for Majette. But Cynthia wouldn't listen."
The ex-campaign worker also was dismayed by "Mafia-like" domination of the campaign by two detestable people, McKinney's father, state Rep. Billy "It's the J-E-W-S" McKinney, and Sherry "It's the White Devils" Dorsey, last seen in public watching her ex-sheriff hubby go to the Big House for murder.
Billy McKinney and Dorsey are not, despite their claims, the voices of the old-guard civil rights leadership. They are merely demagogues and manipulators. Rather than employ the humanity and vision of MLK -- to, perhaps, help find common ground among Arab-Americans and Jewish-Americans -- Billy McKinney prefers to utter vile epithets to divide citizens and bolster his own power.
Cynthia McKinney's fault, however, wasn't that she's racist. She isn't, although she should have divorced her dad years ago. Rather, she got locked into a rhetorical time warp that convinced her 2002 was really 1992. She didn't change. She didn't mature with the district. She didn't understand the dynamics of the emerging and influential black middle class -- indeed, that sophisticated group is anathema to the lowest-common-denominator politics of people such as Billy McKinney and Sherry Dorsey.
I've fallen into the trap I meant to point out, however. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, battalions of consultants and columnists, white DeKalb citizens, supporters of Israel -- hell, just about everybody -- denounced McKinney's alleged racism.
And no one paid attention to what was flowing through the gutters we call TV screens. Let's take Linder's commercials, for example. An Aryan Nation love fest or a KKK barbecue couldn't have been more racially pure than the Linder commercials. A succession of very, very white people paraded before the camera attesting to Linder's qualifications.
What was the hidden message? Black folks need not apply for the congressman's attention.
I called the Linder campaign and spokesman Scott Haggard tried to explain away the ethnic cleansing in the commercial as "not a scientific process." Racism seldom is.
Linder wasn't alone. From lieutenant governor hopeful Steve Stancil to District 11 congressional wannabe Phil Gingrey to would-be King Roy dethroner Bill Byrne, there was ample winking that signaled to white Georgians that these candidates were good ol' boys. And, let's not forget Saxby Chambliss, who fouled himself with anti-Arab racism and then compounded the sin by throwing his weight around to stop press coverage of the gaffe.
In Georgia, no one notices.
Senior Editor John Sugg can be reached at 404-614-1241 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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