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The real reasons Obama is vilified

Politics in America can be mean, crude, nasty, and in many ways irrational. This is historic, going back at least to 1804 Burr/Hamilton duel that did in poor Alexander. But in many ways, the vitriol being waged against Barack Obama is making history, too – because much of it is beyond the pale, and even unprecedented in its viciousness.

The apparent reasons are obvious, but the real reasons are far more subtle, and worthy of exploring. Topping the “apparent” list would be the contention that he is a radical liberal, a tax-and-spend left-wing Democrat, or something on the edge of a Socialist. While this charge is easy to make, it really is not supported by the facts. Indeed, progressive Democrats criticize him for just the opposite – that he is essentially following in the footsteps of George Bush. In fact he has conceded all the Bush tax cuts; he fully executed Bush’s TARP program; he opted out of single-payer and/or even the public option in the Affordable Care Act (now deridingly called “Obamacare”); he kept Guantanamo open; and he has commenced offshore drilling. In short, he really has extended much of what Bush stood for, but that has not stopped the supposed portrayal of his liberal ways.

Then we have the absurd claims of the “Birthers.” Few if any of our former presidents have faced the charge that they were not “real” Americans. His middle name is Hussein, and his last name sounds like the despised (now departed) Osama. He went to Muslim school where he was exposed to … who knows what? Despite all evidence, even today there are those who hate Obama so much they still refute his citizenship.

Attached to that claim are the attacks on his loyalty. He did not put his hand over his heart during the playing of the national anthem; he did not have a flag lapel pin; his minister said angry things about our country; and Michele Bachmann charged that he had “anti-American” tendencies.

It’s not his policies
Politics and patriotism create just some of the vitriol spewed by the Obama haters, and while they appear to be the reason there is so much enmity for him, it is not his policies that have engendered the volume and intensity that borders on pure hate.

If not his policies, what of his color? That too would be an apparent reason, but while sheer bigotry may play a role, I do not believe that is the ultimate reason. However, it is related to the real reason. And what would that be?

In my opinion it is the xenophobic fear many (and mostly white) Americans have as our country changes from a largely white/European nation to one of color. Barack Obama is a metaphor, a symbol, a foreshadowing of that change. And to many white Americans that is unsettling, unpleasant, and frankly … scary! They hope, and believe that ridding the country of Obama will stop that trend, and as they say “take back our country.” These are telling words. Take back our country. To whom, from whom?

To start with, Obama is not just our first black president, he has that funny name. American presidents, of all historic parties, have had “solid European names” like Jefferson, Jackson, and more recently Johnson, Carter, Clinton and Bush. Not “Obama.” That’s the way it should be, according to conservative Americans. Moreover, Michelle Obama does not “look” like an American first lady. They were staid, “knew their place”… and were white! Again, as Michele Bachmann recently said: “everything I needed to know I learned in Iowa” – (note, not Indonesia, Chicago, or Columbia University). Iowa – that’s as American as apple pie, an America we still dream of.

While hostility toward a sitting president is not a new phenomenon, this one is different from the past. This time stifling immigration and stopping the coming change of “color” in America will not work. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, barring Chinese laborers from coming to the United States. The Immigration Act of 1924 established the national origins quota system, which was aimed at restricting southern and eastern Europeans; it also prohibited immigration of East Asians and Asian Indians. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished the national-origin quotas and opened the way for a surge in immigration. The result of this is what scares many Americans now.

Recent population growth driven by minorities
Non-Hispanic whites are projected to no longer make up the majority of the population by 2042, according to the Census Bureau. In 2050 they will compose just 46.3 percent of the population. Non-Hispanic whites made up 85 percent of the population in 1960. However, the U.S. population growth between 2000 and 2010 was driven almost exclusively by racial and ethnic minorities. And even worse news those who fear this change, it is projected that 82 percent of the increase in population from 2005 to 2050 will be due to that dreaded immigration.

No, the animus, the hostility, the enmity many now have against Obama is not legitimately based on his policies, politics, or agenda. It is based on something far deeper – a gut-wrenching fear of color change in our nation. The foreshadowing of an America we have not yet seen, but which is relentlessly approaching just over the horizon. Frankly, that is exceedingly frightening to a great many people; Barack Obama is simply the first one they can see coming over that hill. It really won’t change things; nevertheless, they desperately want him ousted in the futile hope that they can “take back our country.”

Myles Spicer of Minnetonka has spent his business career as a professional writer and owned several successful ad agencies over the past 45 years.

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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Tim Walker on 07/05/2011 - 11:20 am.

    100 percent spot on.

    I’ve been telling folks for a long time that the “Take back our country” slogan so often chanted by the Tea Partiers is inherently racist.

    And so was the McCain/Palin slogan used so often at their rallies: “We are the real America!” This, of course, implies that the other side (the Democrats, led by a black man) is un-American.

    Racist. Racist. Racist.

  2. Submitted by Joel Gingery on 07/05/2011 - 12:26 pm.

    This essay supports one of the main themes in H.W. Brand’s recent book “American Dreams,” that our unique American Dream attracts immigrants – indeed we ALL are immigrants – to take advantage of the unique opportunity to pursue our happiness as we see fit. Each new person, each wave of people, refreshes and nourishes the land while at the same time absorbing the essence of what has gone before, gradually changing our country, gradually reinventing, reinterpreting what it means to be American.

    But change must be non-threatening and fair; the aim is to increase people’s sense of security; to make everyone feel that the new society not only has room form them, but also that it offers a more fulfilling life than is possible in the current or old society.

    Each person must be able to see their place in the future society and feel that they can be the protagonist of that future. We have not done this well enough and the current backlash is one of the consequences.

  3. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 07/05/2011 - 01:35 pm.

    It would help if we could run the fearmongers off the talk radio and TV airwaves – those who keep their audience glued to their broadcasts and listening to their endless commercials by discovering what they’re afraid of and seeking to exacerbate and exploit (but NEVER EVER to assuage) those fears.

    Even though he didn’t feature any Hispanics, the idea that America would eventually be far more diverse was predicted by that visionary Gene Roddenberry on the bridge of the “Enterprise” in the original Star Trek TV series.

    Roddenberry showed us clearly that a more diverse population was nothing to fear and that such a population could work well together with mutual respect and admiration.

    I can only hope that we’ll soon begin to work on one of his even more radical Star Trek notions: that sometime in the 21st Century, the world would abolish poverty.

  4. Submitted by John Reinan on 07/05/2011 - 01:39 pm.

    In a related vein, Myles, it always bothers me when politicians talk about “heartland” values. I’m a Minnesota native and proud of what I see as our values of community, compassion, the importance of education and many other worthwhile beliefs.

    But the last time I checked, New York, San Francisco and other such places were part of the United States, too. The people living in those areas have every bit as much of a claim to represent American values as those of us living in the so-called heartland.

  5. Submitted by myles spicer on 07/05/2011 - 02:30 pm.

    As John and others have suggested, my thesis has a dark and negative spin, but let me do an epilogue.

    America has faced this problem of changing demographics before and constantly. And we have always been able to adapt, flourish and end up stronger though diversified (the influx of Eastern Europeans which frightened our natural born citizens in the early 20th century brought us the richest advance in culture and entertainment in our history).

    So it will be with the Hispanics, Asians, Africans and those of the Muslim faith that are joining us now. Fear not, America will remain strong throughout. They came here to share our dream, and so it will be.

  6. Submitted by Gary DeVaan on 07/05/2011 - 05:17 pm.

    FOX News, Not Racist, but Number One with Racists!

  7. Submitted by Neal Gendler on 07/05/2011 - 08:44 pm.

    Excellent piece, Myles. I hadn’t thought of the reason you suggest. You may well be right — I certainly can’t see any way you’re wrong — but it does make we wonder about the visceral hatred for Bill Clinton. He certainly fits the right-wing fanatics’ idea of a “real” American. Or maybe not; he has a professionally successful, independent wife (who wears slacks), which probably doesn’t fit the “real” American image.

    Obviously, I don’t qualify; my grandparents immigrated from eastern Europe before 1924, but after 1900, when the great-grandparents of many of today’s self-prolaimed real Americans had cheated the only true “real Americans” out of most of their country. I am, however, from Iowa, so maybe I’m an alternate.

    One quibble: The Birther Bigots don’t “refute” Obama’s citizenship, they rebut it. To refute means to prove something is false or erroneous. (I looked it up to make sure.)

    I’ve read your exellent letters and op-ed pieces in the Strib and applaud your thoughtfulness.

  8. Submitted by Joe Musich on 07/05/2011 - 10:00 pm.

    So how well does our local media including minnpost reflect the coming international complexion/culture of the future ? And I mean across the usual catagories of reporting.

  9. Submitted by F Ben Kautz on 07/05/2011 - 10:25 pm.

    Nice try. It is always the race card, not the need for a true vetting of Obama’s eligibility. Let’s cut to the chase and get this Birth Certificate thing out in the open. We are not racists to want to follow the constitution. Let’s cut out the obfuscations and get to the facts.
    Our nation is changing color because of this generations selfishness of not wanting to be inconvenienced by children and, yes, all those children who have been aborted.
    It is amazing the house of cards reasoning that can be used to cover the truth.

  10. Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/08/2011 - 08:55 am.

    Myles:

    What vitriol is being waged against President Obama? You assumed the case rather than building one.

    My sons were learning to read during the first term of George W. Bush. While traveling about town in the car, they would read bumper stickers. “What does #@%K Bush mean?” I have not seen vulgar and profane bumper stickers regarding our sitting President.

    I appreciate your reference to the Burr v. Hamilton duel. Aaron Burr was the sitting Vice President at the time that he killed Hamilton.

    A couple other examples of less than fair and friendly play. Three years following the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, Harry Truman made an analogy between the Republicans and the Nazis. During the 1860 political cycle, opponents of Abraham Lincoln referred to him as an “ape” and “stupid”. Back in 1828, opponents of Andrew Jackson charged that he was a cannibal, a murderer, and that his wife was a prostitute.

    If we could only return to such civility.

    Some words from our current POTUS, to an audience in Philadelphia in June, 2008, regarding Republicans, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” Such vitriol.

    Meanwhile, the June employment numbers indicate trouble, as unemployment edges up to 9.2%, the highest rate in six months. The recovery predicted by some economists for Q3 and Q4 may be slipping away.

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