“I think our enemy stands on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”
-- Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), at a breakfast for the Cobb County Republican Party
When I first read this quote, my initial reaction -- after unclenching my teeth and typing fingers was what a perfect example of the divisiveness of the Republican Party towards America. It's one thing to disagree with a person's politics or policies, but when you're a representative of one of the two major political parties, calling the President of the United States you're "enemy" says you don't believe in the two-party system of democracy and just want to mandate your views. Yes, yes, I know he's using a sense of hyperbole and metaphor, but after six years of watching this, the hyperbole is only in degrees.
But the more I read the quote, and the more I thought about what I wanted to say about it...the more I realized it was something else.
This wasn't merely political. Because it is so hyperbolically metaphoric. It's an attitude, a sensibility of us versus them, and as much as there is an element of that in politics, the two parties are ingrained as part of the ongoing process. So, there seemed more at play here. And what isn't as ingrained is having a Black man as the President of the United States.
I hesitated thinking that this was outright racist, but it was hard not to look its elements, especially coming from a representative representing the Deep South and speaking in the heart of the Old Confederacy. But still, as much as it seems dancing around that line, it was still an awkward thought.
And then I saw this --
That Rep. Westmoreland (R-GA) is the very same oh-so-fine fellow who, when Barack Obama was the Democratic nominee for president, said, "
“He was unaware that the word had racial overtones and he had absolutely no intention of using a word that can be considered offensive.”
It's worth noting that Rep. Westmoreland (R-GA) was born in Georgia in 1950, when the state was deeply segregated. It stretches most of all human sanity to believe that someone growing up in Georgia during the 1950s and 1960s would know that the word, "uppity" when addressed towards a Black man and woman would not have racial overtones. The word has racial overtones, racial undertones, and racial tones circling around and through all other racial tones.
But then, Rep. Westmoreland (R-GA) is also the same congressman who, according to the Associate Press, "led opposition to renewing the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He also was one of two House members last year [that would be 2007] who opposed giving the Justice Department more money to crack unsolved civil rights killings.”
Which brings us back to Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) saying that “I think our enemy stands on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” -- and fairly wondering whether such a statement could oh-dear possibly be racist.
I do believe it just possibly could.
But then, I am unaware that a well-bred Southern Gentleman of the Old Confederacy could ever actually have racial overtones.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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