Saturday, April 5, 2008

Partial credit for a laudable effort

Jon Henke has impressed me, there's no way around it. We clearly disagree about a lot, but he comes across as a person one can have an intelligent and interesting discussion with. His post on "the Confederate problem" is well considered and genuinely insightful, though I have a small problem with the placement of, to simplify, "get over it, white southerners don't mean offense" first. If, 100 years from now, some group of Germans tried to somehow celebrate the essential German-ness of Nazis*, would it matter whether they deplored the Holocaust?
I'm not a southerner, a'duh, but I think there's something more than rebellion expressed in choosing the Confederate flag as a symbol of "heritage". There's an implicit antagonism, as well, albeit perhaps very mild and not conscious in most cases. There's a hint of "you got a problem with it?" in that symbol, and, as Henke acknowledges, there is a legitimate problem here. As has been said before, there's about 300 years of history for southerners to celebrate, why focus on the symbol of the absolute nadir in that history?
There is one thing I have to take major issue with, tho, in the preceding post.

Fundamentally, what the netroots want is a Fighting Progressive. They want an unabashed liberal who will go toe to toe with the Republicans and punch them in the nose.

But what they have is a choice between a Fighting Pragmatist (Hillary Clinton) and a Kumbaya Progressive (Barack Obama).
I'm sorry, Jon, but you just don't get Obama. I hate to resort to sporting comparisons, but calling Obama a "kumbaya progressive" reminds me of supposed cries that Ted Williams coasted in the field, or that Mario Lemieux took it easy on the ice, but most of all it seems like someone calling Muhammad Ali "soft". Hillary leads with her chin as part of an aggressive but antagonistic style. McCain's entire campaign is based on jokes that play with the press core but no other portion of humanity, and when challenged he loses his shit. Obama keeps control of himself and channels that passion productively. He fights back so effectively it seems like he's doing nothing half the time.
Henke could be proven right in the general election, but I fully expect that when McCain and/or his surrogates try to go on the offensive they're going to find a lot more than a Dukakis/McGovern type coming back at them. It's gonna be Bugs Bunny versus Elmer Fudd. I might be wrong, but Obama is the first progressive I have any kind of confidence in since Mario Cuomo. My heart might yet be broken, but I'm a cynical fuck and Obama has still lured me in. I do know that for the first time in my life, I'll be casting a vote for someone.
In any case, faretheewell, Mr. Henke, and if they replace Megan with you we won't repurpose to go after you. Maybe Sully...

*- I mean this 100% hypothetically. I'm not suggesting that Nazis expressed anything inherent in Germans, at least not particular to them among the rest of humanity.


M. Bouffant said...

brad, as someone of 50% Kraut heritage (indeed, Bavarian Krauts who emigrated to Texas) I think there is a certain something in the Germanic mind/psyche/culture. I've heard stories that once ordered to recycle, for example, they're so good at it that there is more stuff to be recycled than facilities to recycle it.

Fuckin' eco-Nazis. Goldberg was right.

brad said...

Well, if you mean a tendency for efficiency contributed to the scale they were able to achieve in their atrocities, sure. I just mean the darker side of humanity that led to that horror doesn't seem unique to Germans.

NutellaonToast said...

I dunno, I'm gonna have to throw a BS flag on this play. Henke basis much of that post on the assumption that Southerners don't "mean it" as racist.

I doubt that is true for a significant chunk of them, and I bet a significant chunk of the ones that say it's true are lying, either to themselves or outrightly.

Granted, the South East is pretty much the only portion of America in which I've never spent a significant amount of time, but I'm basing this more on human nature (and interactions with central Pennsyltuckians) than I am about anything intrinsic to Southerners.

spencer said...

Well, I *have* spent a significant amount of time in the southeastern US, which may or may not make my observations worth a shit.

I think that a lot of southerners truly do believe there's nothing racist about their own Confederophilia. However, that's because down here, "racism" is defined very, very narrowly by whites - so narrowly that waving the flag that your great-great-grandpappy flew doesn't count. For a lot of these people, unless you explicitly use the phrase "I hate niggers" or burn a cross on someone's lawn, you can make a case that your actions aren't actually racist, per se - see, I was just flying that flag to celebrate mah heritage. I threw that fella's job application in the trash because mah customers wouldn't want to be waited on by one of them. I didn't rent mah house to those people because I didn't want to affect mah neighbor's property values. Etc, etc, etc.

Rationalization is the great southern pastime. People here are very good at it, having had hundreds of years of practice with some very ugly and difficult truths. I do think these people have convinced themselves that there's nothing racist about the Confederate battle flag and all that nonsense - but that certainly doesn't mean they're right.

NutellaonToast said...

right, they're lying to themselves.

I'm not into fucking other species, but my sheep sure is!