A Significant Part Of Obama’s Message

The Right has gotten themselves up in a tizzy because Obama apparently insulted middle Americans.  You know, the pro-gun, pro-God, anti-Government, anti-Illegal Immigration folks that never seem to vote for us anyway.

This is something we’re going to have to expect more of in the future, and ready ourselves for.  While I truly appreciate the way Obama’s mind works, and think it’s the kind of mind that would serve us best as president, his thought processes and manner of expressing himself don’t lend themselves favorably to soundbites.

He employs clauses and justifications, and his arguments are typically layered and require hearing them in full and then allowing for time to digest as opposed to simply picking which slogan fits neatest on a bumper sticker.  Because of this structure of communication that he employs, it is far easier to take something out of context, or to under analyze it for mass consumption and turn around and use it against him.

And that’s about what happens here.

This is the quote in question:

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

The first thing that I want to ask is, where is he wrong?  Does anyone doubt that the Rust Belt has suffered significantly over the past few decades?  Globalization, improved technology and processes, free trade deals, and a shifting in the paradigms that govern our economy seem to have hit the hardest in those regions that were specifically geared towards an older economy from a bygone age.

Now, “economy,” is an intimidating word.  It represents an overly complicated monster with fancy terms and abstract numbers that seem to have little to do with whatever it is most people get up every day to go do, or how much money gets put into the bank account, or how much money you have to take out of the bank account to pay your mortgage, your utilities, and your grocery bills.  We know that it does, but there’s a gap filled with technobabble that prevents it from being a personal issue.

At least, that’s the case until it hits you square in the gut.

Then it becomes very personal, but the nature of the beast does not change.  Watching your plant close down doesn’t all of a sudden turn you into an economist who can turn around, crunch some numbers deep into the night, and provide a working alternative solution to the job loss and hunger and pain that has resulted from the economy monster turning its teeth and claws upon you.

In dire times, when our situation worsens through no fault of our own, and we find few acceptable avenues to improve things, we do turn our attentions elsewhere.  We find scapegoats and bastions of comfort to aid us through a terrible time.

Of course people will turn to religion in tough times.  As my wife once told me upon my new found spirituality early in my military career, “There’s no atheists in the trenches.”  (Please, no atheists in the trenches argument, that’s not the point of this post)

Of course people will turn apathetic or antagonistic to a government that turned its back on them during the toughest of time.  Of course they are going to find someone to blame, such as illegal immigrants, and they will turn to anything to make their world view and existence better.

We see this on the other side of the world in the nation we currently occupy, if you are inclined to open your eyes beyond the most rudimentary black and white concepts of black and white and good and evil.  Are there instances of good and evil in Iraq?  To be sure, there are, but understand that people have turned to radical Islam and militias and insurgencies out of a desire to again impose control over the world around them, or at least have a view that there is a benevolent presence that is trying to shape the course of events in their favor.

So Obama’s speech is not a condemnation of the people of the outlying Pennsylvania, but as Mayhill Fowler suggests (in a kind of backhanded way), an introduction into its peoples, an attempt for people who don’t necessarily understand why or how people who hold different views or think differently are the way they are.

This has been a significant part of Obama’s message from the beginning, and one that makes much sense given the patchwork heritage that he comes from.  Essentially, it is a plea to all Americans to get over themselves.  To not blindly assume that we all ride on a high horse, and that just because someone holds a different opinion or viewpoint doesn’t automatically make them bad or wrong.

And he challenges us to see our own flaws.

It’s an important first step, and one that is going to be extremely difficult to take.  We don’t like to recognize our flaws; I only emphasize mine when I know I’m going to broach a subject I don’t readily understand.  There’s no courage in this because I’m not announcing my humanity in a desire to better understand myself or others, but instead to save myself further embarrassment, to prevent being seen as even more flawed than I’m willing to admit.

Everyone has a similar barrier, and these barriers have connected and reinforced themselves and created a cultural stigma against taking them down.  In a way, it’s as if the politically correct movement came too early, and had too lasting of an effect.

We weren’t mature enough for it, curbing out language before understanding the underlying motivations behind why some words are hurtful, and others are not.  We created a situation where we only sought not to hurt, as opposed to seeking to heal.

And as anyone who has scraped their knee, anyone who has had their parent pour hydrogen peroxide or alcohol on a nasty cut, can tell you, sometimes you have to go through a little pain in order for the healing to take.

If we were to liken the social wounds of this country to real ones, we have not treated our wounds, but instead ignored them, and worn clothing over them to cover up the scars.  We grin through our winces and slow our stride so as not to appear to limp.  The whole time the wound becomes infected and rots.  It spreads and becomes more painful until sometimes the scar can not be held at bay any longer and flares up and debilitates us.

We then throw a bandage over it, stay off our feet for a little while, and go back to doing what we were doing before.

We thus live in a reality of one of two extremes.  We either hide who we are and what we feel as illustrated in my example above, or, for a smaller few of us, we revel in it.  We can’t say that, okay, maybe I’m a little bit racist, we either hide any racially bigoted thought in polite society, or we join the Aryan Nation.  We can’t say we are put off by the redneck culture, we either adopt an elitist stance and look down upon them, or we don’t say anything at all, applying our own rationales to arguments targeted at them that are never likely to work.

In short, we all suffer from a terrible case of having to get over ourselves.  We need to understand that people are going to disagree with us, and at times act and hold views that offends us.  And they need to have the same understanding about us.  I don’t understand what on earth people see in guns that makes so many of them rabid collectors, for instance, but does my lack of understanding mean that I am justified in denigrating them?  Am I justified in saying they’re stupid, or beneath me?

The answer to that of course is no.

So we have to get over ourselves.  We have to be willing to hear things we don’t want to hear, and understand that this country wasn’t tailor made for us, this world wasn’t tailor made for us.  Instead this country was created with a basic framework to allow people of all sorts to come together and form a greater community.  It has evolved and shifted and morphed over the decades and centuries, and it will continue to do so.

But as it does, the cracks that divide us are likely to only propagate and divide us further, and eventually the foundation upon which this community sits will no longer be able to bear the burden of its myriad grievances and animosities.  So long as we continue to turn away from the kind of painful healing that is required, America will eventually fail.

As for Obama, I respect what he’s doing.  It’s easy for a politician to tell everyone they’re great; that’s essentially what they are supposed to do.  Pandering is imprinted in our political make up.  And to be sure, Obama has done plenty of pandering during this presidential election.  But he’s also begun to scratch away at the surface of this other, this alternative to pandering.  It is not a condemnation, but instead an illumination that we all need.  That the African American community needs to work on its attitude towards the LGBT community, and that the wine track liberals needs to work on looking down its collective nose at midwesterners.  That white people need to understand that the grievances of the African American community did not magically disappear at the end of slavery, or Jim Crow, just as the African American community needs to understand that White People might have a grievance or two as well that needs to be understood.

In the speech that made him famous, Obama said, “There is no black America or white America, there is the United States  of America… we are one people, all pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes…”  It was a beautiful sentiment, one that tore the roof off of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and pretty much upstaged every other speaker that week.

It was the kind of America so many of us wish for, but what has to be understood is that we don’t wish for it and it automatically happens.  We have to put in the work for it, and we have to realize we’re going to feel some pain too.  It’s going to be hurtful and messy, but then, sometimes, that’s exactly what’s needed in order to heal.

More from Memeorandum:  Ben Smith’s Blogs, The Corner, The Swamp, Spin Cycle, Fox News, The Caucus, MSNBC, American Street, FOX Embeds, Political Punch, TPM Election Central, Boston Globe, Real Clear Politics, The Campaign Spot and Confederate Yankee.   TalkLeft, Weekly Standard Blog, Hot Air, Oliver Willis (Go check him out, seriously.  McCain is not the right person to bring up elitism), Little Green Footballs, The Democratic Daily, Vodkapundit, Below The Beltway, Redstate, American Spectator, Slog and Maggie’s Farm, protein wisdom and The Jawa Report.

 

20 Responses to “A Significant Part Of Obama’s Message”

  1. from swimming freestyle:

    “Barack Obama is a remarkably eloquent man and turning into a remarkably capable politician. But if the Senator believes it’s smart to insult voters from a state critical to your success, he’s hit one of the worst false notes yet in his campaign.

    Yeah, I know what his campaign said, and that may have been what he meant. But a sophisticated candidate doesn’t refer to voters in language that can be construed as derogatory or insulting. Obama asserted Pennsylvania voters are bitter and so simple and lacking in maturity and intelligence that they address their frustration by clinging to primitive and reactionary crutches rather than addressing their problems in constructive ways.

    It’s divisive. And not the way to attract the voters you need most.”

    http://swimmingfreestyle.typepad.com

  2. MC says:

    I’d suggest that you keep some of those neurons you are peddling and actually get the issue.

    Obama made the statement in San Francisco.

    He wouldn’t say it in Pennsylvania. Get it?

  3. I’d suggest you take superman’s cape off and listen. Yeah, of course he was making the statement in California. Have you not comprehended how some liberals view the people that Obama talks about? This wasn’t Obama going to folks in Pennsylvania and saying, “Jeez, you guys suck,” this was him talking to Californians and saying, “Try to understand their experience.”

    Get it?

  4. MC says:

    Yes I get it. I’m sorry you don’t.

    …And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations…

    That’s not a statement about experience, it’s condescending demagoguery. Try imagining him making that statement in the great state of Pennsylvania – come on, I know some of those axons are a bit rusty, but I know you can do it – just substitute ‘you’ for ‘they’ or ‘them’, ‘your’ for ‘their’ – a few times.

    Didn’t your mother teach you not to talk poorly about other folks when they aren’t in the room? Obama’s didn’t.

  5. JD says:

    When did it become a smear to call gun-lovin’ god-bothering midwesterners just that?

  6. DM Metzger says:

    MC, I suggest you refrain from any more personal attacks.

    Debate the issues. Argue the candidates in good faith Don’t attack the staff of this site, myself and Kyle included. Consider this fair warning.

  7. MC says:

    Personal attacks? Ha. You’re the one offering brain cells.

    Don’t trackback to a post and call the “right … in a tizzy” and offer a feeble defense for a major blunder by your candidate if you don’t want to hear the truth.

    Crank down the sensitivity would you? Or stop pinging. Up to you…

  8. RH Potfry says:

    what liberals seem to forget is that it doesn’t matter what they think, and how they over-intellectualize these types of gaffes, it’s how America hears it.

    What they heard was a cold, detached, clinical analysis of the heartland of America by a man who clearly views them as intellectual inferiors.

    Add this to the dainty bowling expedition, and it spells the end.

    Obama can no longer win.

  9. Mike S says:

    “In dire times, when our situation worsens through no fault of our own, and we find few acceptable avenues to improve things, we do turn our attentions elsewhere. We find scapegoats and bastions of comfort to aid us through a terrible time.”
    ______________________

    The above is as succint a description of the Marxist concept of “false consciousness” than anyone might wish to find.

    Too bad it is so ridiculous.

    Most people – most people who don’t cling to what their favorite Poli Sci professor told them in college – understand that those “other avenues” are not merely refuges from their dreary lives. For that matter, most people probably don’t consider their lives all that dreary.

    Astonishingly, people have found value in religion long before they lost their jobs. Amazingly, even common people can conceive of legitimate, even compelling, justifications for their stances on bearing arms or illegal immigration.

    But go ahead and insult the rubes. Doubtless they’ll make allowances for your ignorance.

  10. I too am a bit mystified why Obama’s comments have struck such a negative chord with conservatives and liberals alike. I’m a middle of the road kind of guy, so I often shrug my shoulders and shake my head at both parties. Having seen some of these mining towns and railroad towns and steel mill towns and factory towns firsthand, Obama’s comments ring true. Very true. McCain and Clinton, however, are blasting Obama as if he has slighted Pennsylvanians with his statement. Is it really that hard for McCain and Clinton to understand that bitterness does exist here in the good ol’ USA? Perhaps you have to see and experience these towns to understand.

    The working class struggling to make a living in the Rust Belt or the residents of Appalachia struggling to simply survive don’t get a lot of press. I’m not sure that “bitter” is the best word to use, but there is a sense of abandonment and disconnect with the powers-at-be in Washington. We are still proud, patriotic Americans, but many of us have simply lost faith that the Federal Government can be a positive force in our lives. Kyle E. Moore says in his post:

    We thus live in a reality of one of two extremes. We either hide who we are and what we feel as illustrated in my example above, or, for a smaller few of us, we revel in it. We can’t say that, okay, maybe I’m a little bit racist, we either hide any racially bigoted thought in polite society, or we join the Aryan Nation. We can’t say we are put off by the redneck culture, we either adopt an elitist stance and look down upon them, or we don’t say anything at all, applying our own rationales to arguments targeted at them that are never likely to work.

    This brings up a good point. It’s difficult to walk in another’s shoes, and those of us who enjoy listening to our latest adult alternative bands while driving our hybrids to Starbucks are simply a product of our experiences. Had we been raised in a different location and exposed to different types of people, education, job opportunities, and entertainment, we too might be listening to country music while driving our pickups to the Dairy Queen. (For the record, I like both Adult Alternative and Country music, Starbucks and DQ, and I drive a crossover — I’ve had some odd influences in my life LOL). Is one way of life superior to another? I’m sure some of you will say yes, but search your heart a minute — do you really think your car or music make you better?

    Looking at Obama’s comments for a second, he characterized some people in these small towns as being “bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” We’ve already talked about the bitter part. As for clinging to religion, who among us is going to suggest that a person’s religion should have a bearing on their rightness or wrongness? (If you say yes, welcome to the Dark Ages.) About being “anti-immigrant… or anti-trade,” don’t forget that many of these people have lost jobs to outsourcing and less than favorable trade conditions. Are we surprised they don’t support these policies — in America they have just as much right to be against an idea as they have to support it. The guns part of the argument I will not go into for sake of brevity, but suffice it to say the parties and lobbies have made guns such a polarized issue that it’s quite difficult to have a non-emotional stance about gun control (personally, I am for more gun control, but that’s just me).

    So to paraphrase John Bradford, when you see one of those bitter people who may have a different viewpoint than you, just remember, “There but for the grace of God, goes I.”

  11. AMERICANS ARE BITTER!

    IS HIIARY CLINTON THE BUZZ?
    IS HILLARY CLINTON OUT OF TOUCH WITH AMERICA AND PENNSYLVANIA?

    WHAT IS THE TRUTH AND CAN AMERICA TRUST AGAIN?

    CAN PEOPLE TELL AMERICA ANYTHING AND GET AWAY WITH IT?

    In the news did Hillary Clinton come under fire about inconsistent statements?
    Several Americans in the Military are under sniper fire in this war.
    Many of our Military go to a real war each day and find themselves under dangerous sniper fire.

    WHY WOULD HILLARY CLINTON TALK ABOUT A SNIPER FIRE EXPERIENCE IN BOSNIA?

    Our Military cling to guns and religion to live each day.

    (YES, AMERICANS ARE BITTER ABOUT THIS WAR AND CLING TO RELIGION EACH DAY)

    WHY WOULD AMERICA SEND A FIRST LADY INTO BOSNIA SNIPER FIRE A DANGEROUS AREA?

    IS THIS ABOUT WINNING A CONTEST WHEN AMERICA HAVE PROBLEMS?

    AMERICA PROBLEMS:

    What are President Bill Clinton’s views on Columbian trade deal?

    What are President Bush views on Columbian trade deal?

    Did President Bill Clinton take part in writing NAFT?

    DID HILLARY CLINTON SAY YES TO NAFTA ON DAY ONE?

    DID NAFTA CREATE THE JOBS HILLARY CLINTON PROMISED TO UPSTATE NEW YORK, OHIO, AND BLUE-COLLAR WORKERS?

    Did Hillary Clinton Flip flop on NAFTA?

    Did Clinton’s Chief Campaign Strategist PENN have a meeting with Colombian Officials on trade?

    Did Hillary Clinton have a working relationship and friendship with Chief Campaign Strategist PENN for about 16 years or less?

    Yes, many Americans have fallen through President Bush, and President Clinton Administration.

    1. Jobs in some small towns have been gone for 25 years and nothing to replace them.
    2. Jobs have not been regenerated.
    3. What do Wall-Mart, China, NAFTA, Colombia, President Bush and (Hillary & Bill) Clinton have to do with the lack of jobs in America?
    4. What Happen to, MADE IN AMERICA?
    5. What is life like for the blue-collar worker in all of America?
    6. What is a foreclosure CAMPGROUND? Spreading in California and throughout the United States?
    (All of America have problems)
    7. Ohio news reported:
    (WHAT ABOUT THE MIDDLE CLASS HANGING BY THREAD AS RICH GET RICHER AND POOR GET POORER)
    Are the rich get richer today?

    POVERTY HAS A WORLD CLASS MEMBERSHIP
    POVERTY HAS MANY COLORS
    POVERTY HAS MANY TITLES INCLUDING MALE AND FEMALE
    POVERTY CLAIM EVERY RELIGION
    POVERTY HAS SEVERAL LANGUAGES
    POVERTY IS EDUCATED ON SEVERAL LEVELS
    POVERTY LOVE REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRATS
    POVERTY IS WITH VOTERS AND NONE VOTERS
    POVERTY LOVE EVERYONE
    POVERTY WILL NOT DISCRIMINATE

    Poverty can make a person feel guilty, as if it’s their fault.
    Many people may go to pay their bills and the money isn’t their.
    (READ OHIO NEWS)

    WHAT ABOUT JOBS GONE OUT OF A CITY FOR 25 YEARS AND NOTHING’S TO REPLACE THEM?
    (YES, IN ALL 50 STATES , AMERICANS ARE BITTER)
    Americans are bitter about NAFTA . Was NAFTA designed to protect Americans.

    Obama’s mother had problems with the Health care system.
    It is sad Obama’s mother is not with his family today.
    (YES, IN ALL 50 STATES, AMERICANS ARE BITTER ABOUT HEALTH CARE)

    AMERICANS ARE BITTER ENOUGH TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT

    VOTE, VOTE, VOTE
    AMERICA WILL VOTE FOR A CHANGE IN WASHINGTON

    (WE MAY NOT AGREE ON RACE, RELIGION, AND POLITICS)

    AMERICA LET US MEET ON A COMMON GROUND IN AGREEMENT TO FIND AN END TO THIS WAR AND POVERTY

  12. from swimming freestyle:

    “This video is exactly how Obama should have raised the issue: In the environment these voters live and with an appropriate anger. Rural working class voters have gotten the shaft. They have every right to be frustrated and even bitter about what’s happened to them.

    Obama now finds himself having to address the issue defensively, Unfortunately, the issue will now likely be obscured by the hysterical anti-Obama rants by the Clintons and McCains. Obama gave them that gift when he spoke in San Francisco last weekend.”

    http://swimmingfreestyle.typepad.com

  13. BLAME

    Should Hillary Clinton blame the news media, blame President Bush, McCain, Obama, Democratic National Committee, Republicans, internet news, the new generation and, America?

    WHAT DO THE PINOCCHIO TEST HAVE TO DO WITH HILLARY CLINTON?

    AMERICA THE WAR HAS TO END!

    Troop fighting on the battle field for the United Stated of America.
    Troop protecting troops in this war.

    WE ARE A UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

  14. TRUTH OR LIE says:

    WHO’S OUT OF TOUCH WITH AMERICA?

    IS OBAMA OUT OF TOUCH WHEN HE USE THE WORD BITTER OR SELF PITTY?

    IS HILLARY CLINTON OUT OF TOUCH WITH INCONSISTENT STATEMENT ABOUT BEING UNDER SNIPER FIRE IN BOSINA, PEACE IN NORTHERN IRELAND, NAFTA, MARK PENN, BILL CLINTON AND HER YES VOTE TO THE WAR?
    IT THIS OUT OF TOUCH?

    IS JOHN McCAIN OUT OF TOUCH WANTING TO KEEP AMERICA IN THE WAR?
    IS THIS OUT OF TOUCH?

    THE TRUTH IS NEVER OUT OF TOUCH

    WHAT IS THE TRUTH?

    Can America trust Hillary Clinton to solve economic problem?

    NAFTA
    COLOMBIA
    N. IRELAND
    BOSNIA SNIPER FIRE

    AMERICANS ARE BITTER ABOUT THE TREATMENT OF BILL RICHARDSON BY HILLARY CLINTON SURROGATE

    AMERICANS PITTY SEVERAL THINGS, AMERICANS ARE BITTER AND YES WE MOVE ON

    SHOULD HILLARY SURROGATES ATTACK THE ISSUES

    JOBS IN AMERICA
    WAR
    GAS
    HOUSING

    WHO CAN AMERICA TRUST?

    WHO’S OUT OF TOUCH?

  15. The great backbone went to Bosnia.
    SNIPER FIRE
    SNIPER FIRE
    SNIPER FIRE

    UNDER FIRE INCONSISTENT STATEMENTS ABOUT BOSNIA?

    Is the left field for Hillary Clinton not the American people?

    Is the left field A troll for Hillary?

  16. Tina says:

    This controversy will soon pass. Obama remains the strongest opponent against McCain for the reasons summarized here:

    http://acropolisreview.com/2008/04/top-reasons-to-give-barack-obama-your.html

  17. Hank Roth says:

    There is a lot that could be said here, like why didn’t Obama leave his church during the 20 years he went there? Why did he subject his children to listen to that hate speech? But, we already know the answer.

    And he is condescending. Does he really think the only reason people “cling” to their guns is because of bitterness? I have my guns because the Constitution gives me the right to have them and protect my family in good times and in bad times. His remarks suggest he does not appreciate the extent to which Americans will go to keep their guns or why they believe they should have them. — It is not so they can knock over a gas station. The only reasonable conclusion anyone should take from this is Obama is reflecting a feeling that he has and some Blacks may have about “clinging” to guns and it has little to do with the Second Amendment. He never mentioned hunting because it isn’t about hunting, it is about hurting people. It is about taking what they want and think they deserve. And that is why some of the rest of us keep guns, not because we’re bitter, but because someone may try to harm our families and take what is ours.

    He also insults Americans in “small towns” and elsewhere, who may “cling to religion.” Does this tell us something about his own attitude toward religion? It raises and unmasks the question on a lot of people’s minds. Is he really a Christian or did some of the Islam taught to him as a child by his father (and stepfather), during his most formidable years influence his current religious views?

    And it raises another question. Does he really think people are anti-immigrant only because they are bitter about the economy or concerned more about undocumented immigrants having access to resources denied to “small town Americans,” as well as all naturalized and born Americans, unfairly?

    Obama has made misstatements which he is now defending. He says he knows why people are bitter. I’m annoyed at his elitism and his condescension and skewed dysfunctional understanding about Americans because the media has never adequately vetted him. Now the truth is being revealed quite by accident and it may be too late. If Obama becomes the nominee, we will all be in a lot of trouble. The real Obama has an anti-progressive-regressive-admiration for Republican governance and an elitist and privileged perspective which is not shared with most Americans. It is true Obama would be transformative – though the transformation would be in the wrong direction.

    Continued: http://pnews.org/ArT/ZuLu/TranS.shtml

  18. matttbastard says:

    Shorter Hank Roth:

    “GodDAMN, that uppity nigger done got me pegged!

    Or, alternatively, what dnA said:

    “Isn’t it funny how they talk about how sensitive black folks are?”

    *blink*

  19. Noble says:

    Good day! The babes are here! This is my sexiest site to visit. I make sure I am alone in case I get too hot. Post your favorite link here.

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