Monday, September 6, 2010

Obama vs. the Status Quo

A blogger friend wrote a thoughtful blog post on the number of Americans who eagerly believe the flat out lies masquerading as news tossed about in the media and cyberspace about President Obama, his wife Michelle, and his administration. I think that he is correct about the people who orchestrate the lies and misinformation; they are not stupid and they act with well thought out deliberateness. The problem is that their target audience functions on a mix of fear and ignorance, a dangerous combination.

If their beliefs weren't so destructive, they would be laughable. Their litany goes something like this: Obama is a Muslim, who since birth has been laying the foundation to become president and destroy America and its Constitution that's why he faked his birth certificate. Michelle hates the United States and as a bonding exercise, the two of them burn the American flag. Presumably to diminish any opposition or just to strike terror in the hearts of Americans, the president supports using death panels to kill grandma.

Why would sane people fall for any of this? I have a theory and a lot of people won't like it. Ultimately I think it is because they perceive Obama as "other." It's not as simple as racism; most of these people would never think of themselves as racists and are genuinely appalled at exhibitions of racist beliefs. However, Obama makes them uncomfortable in ways that they can't quite fathom. It's not a new discomfort. They've always been uncomfortable with dealing with issues of race head-on. These are the people who believe that the most non-racist assertion that they can make is, "I don't see color. All people are alike."

They become defensive when there are those of us who tell them that being colorblind is not a desirable end. If you don't see my color, you don't really see me. All people are not alike; we are all of value but every group or subgroup has its shared cultural norms and beliefs that make the group unique. What I value most about my diverse group of friends is the diversity. Who wants a box of crayons of all one color?

Obama, who is both black and white, creates cognitive dissonance in many people. They can't admit that they are uncomfortable with his perceived race--black, so they are quick to adopt any other theories offered for their distrust of him. He lies; he's not really one of us; he's anti-American; any theory other than that an intelligent, articulate, well-educated black man scares the hell out them.

These people easily embrace black professional athletes, black performers, because they don't feel threatened by them. Black people who achieve in accepted categories are fine.

So how did Obama win? Because there was a massive get out the vote campaign. People who were desperate for change saw hope embodied in Obama. People went to the polls in record numbers, but it was a momentary fever of involvement; the thrill has long faded and the general apathy has returned in record numbers among those who were inspired to vote to put Obama in office. In addition, many of Obama's strongest supporters have succumbed to disillusionment. They read Obama's message as a promise to implement sweeping change with all deliberate speed. Unrealistic expectations engender disappointment. In spite of all that the Obama presidency has accomplished, there is more attention focused on complaining about what is yet to be done rather than being enthused about what has been done.

As the vocal support for the Obama administration has diminished, so has the criticism become louder. The more outrageous the allegations made against the president, the more that they are believed by those predisposed to fear what his election means to their way of life. Obama's election has rocked the fundamental beliefs of many Americans in the myth of Euro-ancestry superiority that has served them well since the beginnings of America. The country that they want back is the one that existed before the election of Barack Obama as president capsized their boat. What they fear most is the very thing that Obama made the cornerstone of his campaign--change. When the status quo serves your interests in maintaining your perceived superiority, the last thing that you want is someone suggesting that the times will be a-changin'.


Mark said...

Sometimes I entertain myself imagining what things would have been like had Hillary won. I wonder if she would have any more (or less) success, and whether they wouldn't have been just as brutal with her.
I do think Hillary and Barack should switch places for the second term. I just don't think Obama is cutthroat enough to be President. As it is the midterm results are going to mean nothing gets done domestically--he's going to have to become a foreign policy President and hope the pendulum swings back in 2012.
We are so screwed.

Vagabonde said...

I read your comment in Mature Landscaping blog. I understand what you say about the South – some people can be quite nice. Although my car battery went out and I waited for over 2 hours (2 miles from my home) for the AAA to come as no one would help me – but I live in Cobb County, Ga., where many people have moved from the north. I have lived in the West (San Francisco) the north-east (Philadelphia) and mid-west (Ohio) and feel that the south is beautiful but unless you are from the South (I am French originally) not a liberal and attend a church (we don't) you don’t have much chance to make friends– unless you live in a large city. I noticed you were born on March 26? That is my birthday also. I share it with Nancy Pelosi, also born on March 26, but the same year as me. I’ll come back and read more of your posts – I am behind on ready my usual posts as I have been away. Your examination of what people think of Obama is accurate unfortunately. It is a shame that so little is said about what he has accomplished so far.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

I think your theory is very valid here, Sheria. I think the current backlash to Obama is indeed a form of racism and very poorly disguised racism at that.

Anonymous said...

I also happen to believe that many people are constantly changing their "favorite" anchor in the cyclone.
It's American Borderline Personality-ism. Someone is(cue Tony Tiger) Greatttttttt. Until they are not.

Half the people I know who ditched Hillary for Obama are now saying they wish Hillary was president.


Sybil said...

Sheria, I am so so sad when I read such trash about Obama...It is almost beyond me how anyone can imagine such idiotic ideas far less pass them on. (I even have an American friend who is in that camp ! god help her,) and even though she knows my views she continues to send me the most diabolical rubbish that I delete right away, it still comes !! otherwise she seems as sane as I am..maybe that says a lot.. LOL !!
LOve sybil xx

Anonymous said...

The country they want back is the one where they could pretend not to see injustice.

Gee, had this been planned since before his birth (hence the birth certificate announcement in the Hawaii newspaper) wouldn't that really make him a. . . um... what's the word... ?... Messiah?

All those waiting for the second coming are going to be pretty upset if JC doesn't have blond hair and blue eyes. I hope he has a birth certificate.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Our current state of affairs is very difficult to fathom. Our President has made great strides, yet most do not know the depth of what he has accomplished. Between now and November, we will be subjected to sound bites and such, and the masses will become even more disillusioned. Very Sad State Of Affairs.

Octopus said...

I hope predictions of election doom and gloom are overblown, but I can’t shake off this dispirited feeling. The injustice of an obstructionist GOP getting away with murder offends me. Just when you think the tea party movement cannot possibly degenerate into more lunacy, their numbers rise in the polls. And the prospect of fanatics and lunatics taking control of Congress scares the hell out of me.

I understand what you are saying about cognitive dissonance, but President Obama faced the same provincial attitudes during the election but was able to overcome them. What is different this time?

There are commentators who say President Obama has been too aloof, allowed too many surrogates to manage his message, and allowed GOP cant to dominate the news. I find validity in this argument.

Loulou La Poule said...

Sometimes that the very intelligent person over-estimates the intelligence of his audience. I think that happens for Mr. Obama. I think he is actually surprised by the depth of ignorance he finds in America. And I think we are all amazed by the depths his opposition can sink to.

Yes, his color makes his opponents nervous in some deep way they can't quite grasp. And his positions on the rights of gays, on stem-cell research, and on abortion rights make them even more nervous, still. When Beck and Palin talk of restoring honor, I wonder where and when they think we lost it.

To what moment in history should we return? How about pre-Civil Rights, pre-Roe v. Wade, pre-Vatican II, pre....oh, wait a minute; we're all the way back into WWII, now! That moment, that romanticized American Dream never existed except in the Betty Furness ads for Westinghouse.

Pardon my rant.

Octopus said...

LouLou - “To what moment in history should we return? How about pre-Civil Rights, pre-Roe v. Wade, pre-Vatican II, pre....oh, wait a minute; we're all the way back into WWII, now!”

No need to apologize for a good rant. I share your perception and am inclined to extend your hypothesis. Sometimes, I feel, there are fossils of history still living among us … representatives of all previous ages vying to turn back the pages to their version of history: The Donna Reed Show contingent, exceptionalists, monopolists, monarchists, theocrats, even club wielding cave dwellers. Libertarians remind me of 1880s monopolists longing for a bygone era when there were no taxes and no regulations to thwart their overarching ambitions. How many of us are post-modernists living in contemporary times? It feels as if we are still fighting historical battles against Silurian forces.

Octopus said...

Here it is – what Nance and the cephalopod are talking about: Repeal of the 20th Century — 13 Achievements Conservatives Would Roll Back.

And here is the paradox: If they adore the 1800s so much, enough to revel in past inglorious injustices, we cannot send them back in time because to do so would change the timeline and reap havoc upon ourselves.

Instead, we must send them into the future so they will have no effect on our timeline. Far into future … say … moments before the sun goes supernova.

Beth said...

I share your assessment about some perceiving Obama as "other." I've used that same word myself in trying to understand the irrational response to him. What really perplexes me is anyone who says he is "stupid." Call the guy what you want, disagree with his policies, but calling him stupid is just...well, stupid! ;)