Small Town Opinions

I love living in my town. It’s a beautiful village on Cape Cod, and has all the amenities of a small town, among which are a good library, friendly people, and a decent small-town newspaper. My only frustration is that my beautiful small town is in that bluest of blue states, Massachusetts; and as such, almost all parts of village life have a decidedly leftward tilt.

Our newspaper, the Harwich Oracle, recently published an opinion piece by one Joe Burns, a regular columnist for the Oracle (and as far as I can tell, many other smallish papers as well). Mr. Burns entitled his latest piece, “Conquering Cowardice” and wrote with great glibness about recent comments made by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and about the political cartoon by Sean Delonas which was published in the New York Post last week.  I thought I’d like to respond, and have offered my thoughts to the Oracle for publication; but I also thought I’d share them here. Mr. Burns’ original article can be read in all its glory here.

Joe Burns is up to his usual tricks in his latest article, “Conquering Cowardice”, which was published in the Oracle on Wednesday, 2/25.

In it, Mr. Burns opined that, while a comment made recently by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder might have made him or others wince (while insinuating that A.G. Holder’s intent was pure), a political cartoon printed last week in the New York Post must be racist, as it depicted two policemen having shot a chimpanzee labeled STIMULUS, one officer saying to the other, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

Mr. Burns begins by using a specious grammatical dispute: “That rationale conveniently ignored that the cartoon caption referred to ‘someone,’ an individual rather than a branch of government, and that Obama is the individual most often identified with the stimulus plan.” Burns then trots out the argument that some interpret the cartoon as depicting President Obama as the chimp, and therefore is clearly racist.

Aside from the fact that the cartoonist might have found it awkward to have the caption say, “They’ll have to find some other deliberative body of legislators to write the next stimulus bill,” it is common, when referring to a group or body of people, to refer to it in the singular rather than the plural. Mr. Burns is being far too literal for a one-panel political cartoon. So when I say that dog won’t hunt, please be advised that I’m not referring to an actual dog.

And I don’t know where Mr. Burns has been for the past few weeks, as most of the coverage I’ve seen of the stimulus bill and its passage centered on Congress, its failure to actually read the bill that it blindly passed (see, I’m referring to a deliberative body as a singular entity), and its inclusion of vast amounts of pork. Pres. Obama’s press coverage was mostly that, despite the breakneck speed of Congress to pass the bill, the President dawdled for three days before he actually signed it.

Next, let’s examine what A.G. Holder said in his address to Justice Department employees who were recognizing Black History Month:

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”

Mr. Burns argues that Holder’s comment was a “distraction… and while it may have been confrontational in character its intent seemed a desire to bridge a divide.”

I don’t take quite as charitable a view of Mr. Holder’s remarks as does Mr. Burns. I’m of the opinion that a country which “celebrates” Black History Month, has just elected a black president, and, just as a matter of course, currently has a black Attorney General (not to mention two previous black Secretaries of State, and a black Supreme Court justice) probably doesn’t need to be lectured on things racial as much as some other countries.

The fact, sad to some, is that now that a black man, an African American, a bi-racial person, whatever the term du jour is, has been elected President of the U.S., all the race baiters–all the Jesse Jacksons, the Al Sharptons, the Charlie Rangels, all those who gin up the culture of victimization — are scared spitless that they’re out of a job. You can’t continue to cry grievance when the epitome of all you claim to be fighting for has just been elected to the most powerful position in the world. What will they do now?

The problem is not, as A.G. Holder claimed, that we are a nation of cowards when it comes to discussing race.

The problem is not, as Mr. Burns claims, that “…It’s in confronting ourselves. It’s in not having the courage to examine our own racism or allow others to challenge those beliefs. It’s in holding on to the denials, scapegoating and all the other defenses we use as an excuse for our own frustrations, failures and fears…”

The problem is that we need to stop discussing race and get on with our lives. We need to stop identifying problems based on skin color, gender, ethnic origin, whatever, and start bearing responsibility for our own problems and facing up to our own challenges.

We need to concentrate on what should always be the issue: the content of the character, rather than the color of the skin.



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