Friday, February 22, 2008

A Bullet for Obama?

'In America,' Sudhir Venkatesh said to me, 'you can never underestimate race as a governing principle for creating division and framing how we make sense of the world.' Many years ago, one of the first things I noticed about America was racial division. I also noticed a good deal of casual racism among whites. I remember a perfectly respectable, educated white woman say the sight of a black man with a white woman made her shudder. The fact that I noticed this indicates that it contrasted with my experience in Britain. I thought there was one thing of which I could be sure - America would never have a black president in my lifetime. We had - have - our problems, but America's have always seemed to be worse. Things have changed - that woman could not now make that remark in polite society - but Venkatesh's comment made me wonder how much. I remember the fuss about Murray and Herrnstein's book The Bell Curve which made much of the poor performance of blacks in IQ tests and I remember perfectly decent, non-racist Americans shrugging their shoulders and saying, well, yes, sadly it's true. In fact, the whole argument suffered from a fundamental conceptual flaw on which I have posted before. This made me wonder if those perfectly decent people wanted to believe. And, anyway, irrespective of the arguments, it's just plain wicked to start labelling people and restricting their lives just because of some dumb statistics. It's equally wicked to turn race into a cheap political scam - a favourite trick of our own Ken Livingstone and many other unregenerate lefties - but these are two sides of the same racist coin. All of which is inspired by the thought that Barack Obama may be assassinated. This has been discussed and the hate sites - for example, here, here and here - are certainly enraged by his success. America probably has no more murderous nutters per thousand of population than we do, but she also has a much more intense awareness of race, the ludicrously easy availability of guns and a lively tradition of political assassination. And if he were killed, what then? I don't know, I just wonder.

13 comments:

  1. race is a depressing subject. looking at Obama, he doesn't look very black to me - according to his wiki bio., his mum, Stanley, was white. now I don't know about you but I think it's more remarkable that his mum has a rather old-fashioned bloke's name than a black husband.
    if this global-society of ours was predominantly black, would he be regarded as a ''whitey''? I believe he might.

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  2. i'm sort of assuming he either won't win the election or if he does he'll be shot by 'a crazed loner'.

    In the first case i gather the scale of electoral fraud (or inconsistencies, if you like) is considerable over in the New World. It will be interesting if the polls show him way ahead of McCain and McCain wins anyway, or if he wins then take a bullet in the head. Either will further undermine what confidence there is in the American democractic process; i mean, no one would really believe the gunman was some Aryan Brotherhood type acting on his own, or no one except the 'Oswald was the shooter' people, anyway.

    Man i love a good conspiracy!

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  3. Obama seems to be 'black' in a new and different way - compare and contrast the odious Jesse Jackson. Partly this is down to Obama's unusual background, but isn't it also because, well, times have changed? They might even have changed enough for America to be through with political assassinations (if only because politics seems so much less important than it once was). Let's hope so.

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  4. I have heard it said that the possibility of Obama being assassinated is one reason why Clinton should strongly consider the Vice Presidency. It might be her only chance.

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  5. Here's an easier way of making sure Obama never gets there:

    http://www.michaelparenti.org/stolenelections.html

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  6. she has...a lively tradition of political assassination.

    Compared to New Zealand, maybe, but I doubt statistics would bear that out when compared to Europe, Russia, Ireland, Latin America, probably Asia, certainly Africa, etc. There is, however, a lively European tradition of warning about the imminence of assassination, fascism and all kinds of other mayhem in America.

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  7. I said 'lively' to indicate recent, Peter

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  8. Well, Bryan, without benefit of research I count two assassinations since the '60s (John Lennon and the Mayor of San Francisco)and attempts on Reagan's and Ford's lives. No Congressmen, Governors, activists, running dogs of capitalism, etc. This over forty years in a population of 300 million. Given all those guns and race/ideology polarizations, they should make a movie called "The Assassins that Couldn't Shoot Straight".

    Are you counting the ones in the Robert Ludlum books?

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  9. Good heavens, what do you all think the Secret Service is for? Obama is no more likely to be assassinated than all the other presidents who have been shot at. Indeed, it was Ronald Reagan who actually *took* a hit -- he, a very white conservative president.

    America is indeed plagued by racism, which dates back to slavery. However, it seems to me that racism is growing apace in Europe and G.B. There seems to be a huge divide between young Muslims and old-style British Christians (subway terrorists were homegrown, I believe). And the Paki/Indian vs. white Briton divide is still huge. What do you suppose is meant by Dodi Fayed's father's insistence that Diana was killed so she could not marry him?

    Racism, I fear, has no country to call its own. It's everywhere.

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  11. Others have addressed these concerns quite convincingly: http://acropolisreview.com/2008/02/endorsements-of-barack-obama.html

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