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Old 02-29-2008, 12:16 PM   #1
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"The Republican Party--for people with the education of a 4th grader....

....the morality of a first grader, and the bigoted stranger anxiety and fear of the dark of a one-year-old."


I have a wonderful aunt in Louisiana whom I love dearly and who is one of my favorite aunts. But she keeps forwarding me these inflammatory, idiotic, Republican-oriented email forwards. The latest called Barack Obama unpatriotic for not wearing a US flag pin on his lapel, and called Michelle Obama a bigot for writing her Princeton senior thesis about her dilemma as a black student at an Ivy League school. Some of you may have seen this email or some iteration of it. Without posting that original email (which is too long), I'd like to post my response for discussion:

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Aside from white millionaires, the messages of the Republican party are designed to appeal to people with the education of a fourth grader, the morality of a first grader, and the bigoted stranger anxiety and fear of the dark of a one-year-old---and that email is a depressing example of this.

The email denounces Barack Obama for not wearing a half-inch pin of the US flag on his suit jacket lapel, claiming he's unpatriotic for not doing so. The email also degrades Mrs. Obama for her "pride in my country" comment, and talks about how, for example, she should have felt pride as the US brought an end to the USSR. Yes, she should feel pride in that the way that we did it was through a ridiculous arms race, wasting billions of our own dollars and causing the Soviet Union to waste billions of their own, robbing it from their people (which we knew would happen and accepted as attrition), and ultimately creating an excess of nuclear and non-nuclear weapons, many of which are in the hands of anti-American groups at this moment. Awe-inspiring. The email talks about how Mrs. Obama should have felt pride as people on United Flight 93 fought off terrorists (funny how Republicans repeatedly need to rely on the raw emotions of September 11th to make a point). The email assumes that only Americans could have done that, and that had those passengers been European, African, Asian, Australian or Kiwi, they surely would've let the terrorists take over the plane. If Mrs. Obama were like me, she probably did feel a bit of pride in how all Americans banded together after September 11th. But like mine, her pride was probably chipped away a few days later when Muslim Americans were beaten to death in Baltimore; when mosques were vandalized across the country; when the Afghan restaurant on Jefferson-Davis Highway in Alexandria, VA nearly went out of business because nobody would eat there; her pride in America probably eroded when we abandoned human rights in the treatment of our "prisoners" in Guantanamo, some of whom are still there 6 years later without charges or trials, and some of whom have been beaten to death or near-death in the name of our country (or just for a good picture); she probably questioned her pride when mere weeks after we invaded Iraq and fought people who decry American greed and commercialism, Starbucks showed up in Iraq (for the Iraqis' benefit, or for ours?); and her pride probably took a further hit when she realized that our "success" in Afghanistan doesn't exist, and that we'd forgotten about that country altogether in order to attend to another country that we've personally placed in ruin. Wow---pride.

But I must come back and ask this singular question: Since when was patriotism only related to September 11th? When did patriotism become exemplified by wearing a flag on your lapel? Why is it no longer patriotic to make sure that everyone has a good education, that everyone has access to good healthcare? When was fighting for what the founding fathers fought for--namely, equal, civil rights for ALL people regardless of color, sex, or sexuality (yes, gay marriage IS a civil right, and "civil unions" are nothing but a rehash of "separate but equal"), and other issues like the separation of religion from government--when did these causes stop being patriotic?

Had September 11th been committed by Americans, a la Oklahoma City, would it have really inspired "patriotism?" Or had it been committed by a group in Europe, for example, would we have done the same as we've done in the Middle East? Would we have bombed the shit out of Spain? Luckily, conveniently, it was committed by a small sect of Muslims in the Middle East---people of a culture that many Americans know nothing about, subscribing to a small, radical sect of a religion that most Americans know nothing about. It's funny how much of the Republican base is in middle America, while the coasts and major cities tend to go Democratic. People in the places where one is more likely to know someone who is Muslim or Middle Eastern somehow are also more likely to vote against this backward view of "patriotism," against blindly sweeping views about other races or ethnicities, and against the inhumane treatment of people in the name of our "national security" and pride. Funny how it's a larger proportion of people in middle America, who are likely to have never met a Muslim, who likely didn't go to school with someone named Aziz or Mohamed, and who surprisingly are in a section of the country that is LEAST likely to be subject to a terrorist attack---it's funny how it's these people who are so quick to subscribe to these dim notions of patriotism and to fall for the twisted Republican message of fear of the unknown.

This inability (or unwillingness) to get out of one's closed-minded box and understand another person's experience is exemplified by the email's discussion of Michelle Obama's college thesis. The email points out that Michelle felt like her white professors and classmates saw her as "black first and a student second." Is this really so hard to understand? Think about it. How many black students do you think were at Princeton when she was there? The Association of Black Princeton Alumni (http://www.princeton-abpa.org/dynamic.asp?id=news_1980s) lists only NINE other black students in Michelle Obama's class of 1985. I can imagine that a black person might stand out. But it's so very easy for the white reader to say "get over it" or state that she has "a chip on her shoulder." Imagine that in your class of several hundred, only NINE other people look like you, only NINE other people know anything about your sub-culture, and only NINE other people don't use the white way of life as the filter through which to define "normal." (It's true, isn't it? Black is "black," but white is "normal." Tell me I'm wrong.) The email then goes on to criticize Michelle Obama for fearing that becoming a successful Princeton graduate might alienate her from other, less "successful" blacks, and the email states that she should be happy because she can now make hundreds of thousands of dollars. The email fails to even attempt to understand this: that for many blacks, there is a pressure NOT to succeed, that there is a feeling among some blacks that monetary success via "white" means equals assimilation into white culture and abandonment of black culture (yes, ignorance works both ways)---and that a black student is pressured by this whether she agrees with it or not. Sound ridiculous? Let me put it in "white" terminology: Think of the girl in high school who was really bright, but pretended to be stupid so that she didn't look like a "nerd." Everyone knows such a girl. It's the same thing--she's afraid of success in school for fear of looking unattractive. You can tell her that she's stupid for giving in to the pressure, but it's equally as stupid to fail to recognize that the pressure exists. In her thesis, Michelle Obama recognizes that the pressure not to succeed in the black community exists---she makes no claim of giving in to it, and yet her mere recognition of the problem is criticized by the email.

In fact, Obama's conclusion--to use her success to benefit the black community--is a refusal to give in to the pressure not to succeed, and yet by the email's wording, the email somehow implies that even her conclusion is something for which Obama deserves criticism. Is it wrong for her to use her success to help the black community? Would one argue that it is wrong because she used the "white" system of Princeton and then uses the fruit of that to help blacks specifically? Was it, then, not equally as "wrong" for Italian or Irish or Polish immigrants in the early 1900s to send money they made in America back home to help their families there? Surely, we wouldn't say THAT was wrong---seeing as how many of us are descendants of those very same immigrants? Are we, whites, forgetting our roots, and then chastising successful blacks like Michelle Obama for struggling with the prospect of losing their own?

It seems that we have, in fact, forgotten our roots. We make claims about what America and Americans stand for, and yet seem to have forgotten what America was MEANT to stand for. We act as if everyone inside this country and outside of it should share the same opinions as us, and forget that America was created as a celebration of difference. We inject personal, religious views into political decisions and forget that America was created specifically to avoid just that. We use fear-mongering as a political tool, referencing September 11th at every possible moment, or utilizing Barack Obama's middle name of Hussein in order to instill bigoted fears and then coyly play innocent when called out on it. We talk about the word "liberal" as if it's a dirty word, when "liberal" is what allowed women to vote, fought for all people being created equal, brought schools out of one-room shacks, and took us to the moon--the very things for which we take pride in our country.

It's time that we remembered where we come from, and stop letting a few closed-minded, power-hungry bigots tell us what we're supposed to stand for.

Forward THIS email to anyone who thinks that America stands for equality, ingenuity and hope, and that patriotism is more about what you do than what you wear on your lapel.
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Old 02-29-2008, 01:17 PM   #2
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Re: "The Republican Party--for people with the education of a 4th grader....

Quote:
Originally posted by Utoo
....the morality of a first grader, and the bigoted stranger anxiety and fear of the dark of a one-year-old."


Now why would you want to go and insult first graders and one year olds like that?

I find most first graders to have a much higher sence of morality than most adults and especially the "moral right".
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Old 02-29-2008, 01:54 PM   #3
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I'm all on board, but honestly, it's too wordy. No one would read it except those already in the choir.
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Old 02-29-2008, 02:12 PM   #4
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I know. It's my damn English minor.
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Old 02-29-2008, 02:30 PM   #5
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Ha! I totally agree with what it says, I'm just thinking about the typical email forward - they're usually short and cheesy.
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Old 02-29-2008, 03:02 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by corianderstem
Ha! I totally agree with what it says, I'm just thinking about the typical email forward - they're usually short and cheesy.
Yeah, this one though was pretty long. I didn't really intend my response to be used as a forward (the bit on the bottom was just for zing! ). If I really had wanted it to be a forward, I would've talked about angels, good luck, and pictures of kittens wearing funny outfits. hehe
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Old 02-29-2008, 03:10 PM   #7
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Um how do you know it's not Hillary's people sending out these emails? I mean that photo her campaign released was pretty ridiculous and now this new ad campaign...

Quote:
It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing.
Something’s happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call, whether it’s someone who already knows the world’s leaders, knows the military — someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world.
It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?
ridiculous. i guess "fear mongering" isn't restricted to the republican party.
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Old 02-29-2008, 08:57 PM   #8
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Old 03-01-2008, 02:43 PM   #9
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I like the overall message, but if you are sending that as a reply to beloved relatives who unfortunately have fallen for the conservative party line, I don't think it will be very effective. For one thing, it's too long, and the first line will probably only insult and antagonize the intended audience.

I have my own dear aunt who forwarded me an anti-Muslim e-mail a year or so ago. I just sent her a short reply debunking the claims she was making, asking how she would feel if someone talked about Christians the same way the e-mail was referring to Muslims, and telling her that I love her, but please, please, never send me another e-mail like that again. It must have worked because she never sent me anything like that again and she's still speaking to me. She's never referred to the e-mail I sent her though - out of shame, I hope.

My only regret is I didn't send a reply to everyone else she had forwarded the e-mail to. My sister did that later on when she got the anti-Muslim Obama e-mail. I'm so proud of my baby sister!
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Old 03-01-2008, 03:29 PM   #10
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^ I know, it's far too long. Luckily, though, my aunt loves political rants, so she ate it up. She was a little miffed by the first line...oops:..but got over it enough to write an equally long reply. Of course, in the reply she defended her position by saying that Michelle Obama was guilty of "racial whining" with regard to her college thesis and "first time I'm proud of my country" statement. She then went on to ask if Michelle was so concerned about losing her connection with the black community, what had she done to help them since? I was all too happy to trounce on the first statement, and then to list multiple things Michelle Obama's done for the black community. My aunt also used the lame talking points of Barack not having leadership experience and having nice words but no substance. I was happy to give her the correct information on both of those points. I'd post my second reply, but it's far too long (surprise surprise! ).
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Old 03-01-2008, 06:22 PM   #11
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Bravo!! Excellent rebuttal.

And I'd love to read your second reply.
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Old 03-02-2008, 04:37 PM   #12
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^Yes, I'd like to read it too.
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Old 03-02-2008, 05:54 PM   #13
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Good Lord, people. Hillary isn't the devil, Republicans aren't idiots, and for god's sake, can we try to elevate the level of civil discourse? Joining the cesspool of current conversation doesn't make anyone more enlightened.
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Old 03-02-2008, 06:14 PM   #14
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Here's Michelle Obama's essay, by the way. I read a few pages. It starts out with the notoriously unexciting college paperese so I didn't get too far. Maybe later. And the typeface is giving me uncomfortable college flashbacks.


http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0208/8642.html
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Old 03-02-2008, 06:40 PM   #15
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Why not just tell your aunt that you find the emails she's been forwarding to you to be base fearmongering, that all this does is annoy you, and that while you're always delighted to hear from her personally, could she please stop forwarding you political emails?
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Old 03-02-2008, 06:43 PM   #16
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Thanks, for the interest, folks! The response isn't much shorter, but if you're interested... Her response to my email stated that there was no link between the forward she sent and the Repubs, which is true; she then stated that she saw Michelle Obama's comments as "racial whining," doubted that she's ever done anything for the black community she was afraid of alienating, and then questioned Barack's experience and that he could do anything besides give good speeches. Here's my response to that! (oh, and Bono's shades, I don't see a link for Michelle's thesis in your post, but there is a link below in my text; you're right--it's pretty boring and not inflammatory at all).
___________________________

I'll first touch on the Republican comment. You're absolutely right that there was nothing in that email that stated that it was from the Republican side. In fact, I agree that much of the anti-Obama stuff has come from the Clinton campaign. There have been moments where she's acted as twistedly as Karl Rove ever did; I think that's what happens when you put "President" on your resume before you get elected. Still, that forward teemed with ideas that the Republican party has been espousing for the last 8 years, especially the notions of "true patriotism" and all the repeated Sept. 11th referencing, etc., all tapping into the basic, maddening emotions of fear and "us vs. them" that the Republican party specialized in during the 2004 elections. And if the email and its like have in fact been created by the Clinton campaign, their purpose is not to sway Dems--I know of no one who voted Democratic in the last election who's either received or spread such forwards--but to sway the independent & republicans who've been voting for Obama in open primaries, such as Texas. It's people who voted for Bush the last time who somehow gave in to the notion that only the Republican party owns patriotism, or that the most pressing issue for the country is fear of the outside world.

As for the Michelle Obama portion, let me start by saying that you can read Michelle Obama's full thesis here: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0208/8642.html by clicking on "Part 1," "Part 2," etc. (her main thoughts are in parts 1 & 3). While Princeton has restricted access to the paper, the Obama campaign felt there was nothing to hide and released it immediately when this newspaper asked for a copy. In fact, there really isn't anything to hide---there's nothing inflammatory about the paper at all, and it's quite a dry read.

But as for the topic, we disagree on our interpretation of what her purpose was. I don't see it as complaining or whining at all. Nowhere, for instance, does she make the claim that her grades were affected by her being black, nor does she claim that she was treated unfairly by being seen as "black first and a student second." That, indeed, would be whining. Instead, I see her raising the issue of her experience, reflecting upon it, researching the experiences of others, and publishing the work for discussion. But often when people talk about their different experiences due to their race, sex, or other personal experience, it's looked upon by others as whining. Take the 16-page paper I wrote in med school about my concerns with attitudes in medical education at Georgetown. I received a lot of praise from many people for that paper. A lot of med students felt that I had written things that ought to be said, but that everyone else had shrugged their shoulders and accepted as "the way it is." Many of the administrators, however, felt that I was complaining; one actually told me that it was the "writing of a whiner." But I'll tell you what---within two years, they made changes to the medical curriculum based on points in my paper. It does take a great deal of fortitude to be able to shrug off unfair experiences, and I really respect that. But I don't think that raising the issue for debate is whining. The purpose of a senior thesis is to raise an issue for reflection, research, and discussion, and that's exactly what Michelle Obama does in her paper. And if one would like to see something changed, then one has to raise the issue for discussion---the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

All of that said, none of the hoopla over this paper really even applies to it at all. When one reads it, one sees that all she did was study blacks' and whites' attitudes to each other and themselves pre-Princeton, during Princeton, and post-Princeton by using questionnaires. Again, pretty boring and not worth any of the ire that's been built about it.

As for what work she's done for blacks since graduating, I believe she has done quite a bit. In 1993, she created an organization called Public Allies Chicago, the purpose of which was to train young adults to become leaders in the public sector. Being Chicago, many of those young adults were black. When she was associate dean at the University of Chicago, she created the university's first ever community service program. At Georgetown, our community service groups specifically helped the poor, underrepresented people of DC, most of whom are black. I imagine that creating a community service program--under which dozens of student-run programs with myriad purposes--did a lot to help the black community of Chicago. When she took the position of vice president of community and external affairs for the University of Chicago Hospitals, she took over the hospitals' business diversity program and developed programs for "staff diversity and minority contracting," directly helping blacks by providing them with jobs. These actions seem to me like she's used her position as a Princeton-educated, successful black to help less successful blacks. In terms of 'in the trenches' work like working at soup kitchens, etc., I don't know what she has or hasn't done. If that's the only kind of work we're looking for, then maybe she hasn't done what she said in her thesis she would do. If that really is the case, should we really hold her to that? She was maybe 21, 22 years old when she wrote that college paper. In my application to med school, I had to write an essay about what goals I had for my future private practice. If my practice years from now doesn't hold true to those goals, should I really be held accountable for an essay I wrote when I was 21?

On to Senor Obama....Barry, as we like to call him. I think that you touch on two general misconceptions about him that many, many people have and that Clinton & McCain are trying to use against him--namely, a supposed lack of leadership experience and that his words hold no substance. First, the experience. In terms of government, he's been in either the Illinois State Legislature or the US Senate for 11 years. I'll point out that JFK--everyone's favorite president and to whom Barack is most often compared---was only an elected official for 14 years prior to becoming president. Prior to that, Barack spent five years as a community organizer, which means that he led poor communities in getting themselves things that would better their situation, i.e., employment centers, etc. (he didn't get the things, he got people moving to do it for themselves). During law school, he was elected to be the first black president of the Harvard Law Review--an impressive leadership role for the law school. After law school, he worked for a firm where he represented community leaders, paying back what he had gained from his own community organizing experience. If we count a teacher as a leader, then I'll note that he taught at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years. But if we only want to count political leadership, then he has 11 years of experience there. During that time, he personally proposed, sponsored, or co-sponsored dozens of bills at the state and federal level, ranging from welfare reform and immigration reform (one of which happened to be co-sponsored by McCain), to environmental acts, to military and foreign relations bills. I'll let you read his wikipedia article for a more complete list (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_obama). He also sits on Senate Committees for Foreign Relations; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; and Veterans' Affairs, and he is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus (from wikipedia). Basically, he's not sitting around doing nothing.

As for the emptiness of his words, that's a lame talking point that Clinton and McCain have used and that, unfortunately, people who haven't listened to a full speech nor read his proposals have come to blindly believe. I encourage you to go to his website (www.barackobama.com), click on "Issues," and browse through the wealth of information there. Obama's website has his positions laid out in more depth and detail than either Clinton or McCain, or anyone else who was in the primaries. It takes a lot of time to go through it all, believe me. And, for further reading pleasure, he also lists the corresponding evidence from his political record for each issue. Better still, his ideas are genuine and some a good bit creative, while the ideas on McCain's and especially Clinton's sites look to beleaguered by ties to existing or failed programs that are personal pet projects, a la McCain or Clinton especially.

The fact of the matter is that Barack Obama's positions and plans are equally as thought-out as his opponents, if not even more so. He has a successful history of leadership, without requiring 71 years to rack one up like McCain. Most impressive, however, is that Obama actually has the characteristics of a good leader. People said that Bush was dumb, but he surrounded himself with good people. Well, by the second term, most of those people had abandoned him----while Bush may have been great for a backyard barbecue, he doesn't inspire shit. Obama has activated the American people in a way that really hasn't been seen since JFK prodded us to ask what we can do for our country. People genuinely want to follow this guy, and it's not just because he's a good speaker--he has the ideas and the message to boot. There's a reason why half of Bill Clinton's advisers jumped ship and are on the Obama campaign. There's a reason why Democratic primary turnout is at a record high. And there's a reason why people are excited again about what this country can do. You can't do that with just talk.
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Old 03-02-2008, 06:44 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
Why not just tell your aunt that you find the emails she's been forwarding to you to be base fearmongering, that all this does is annoy you, and that while you're always delighted to hear from her personally, could she please stop forwarding you political emails?
Yep, did that after this second response.
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Old 03-02-2008, 07:06 PM   #18
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Oops. Added link. Not that I needed to since you subsequently linked it but it's better than looking like an ass.
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