Friday, September 7, 2012

Obama: The Sad Relevance of Race

The president as a young man, about 1980.

Though he's repeatedly been called a "radical" or "Marxist" by Tea Partiers, anyone who studies Barack Obama's policy initiatives these past years would have to conclude that our president is actually a centrist. The fact is that Obama has done nothing out of the ordinary for a mainstream leader of a modern Western nation. In Europe, he would even be considered well right of center. American conservatives who now bitterly attack Obama for his "leftist agenda" would, I believe, have to start scratching their heads in confusion if they were forced to read actual leftist writers on Obama. Take political thinker Thomas Frank for instance. Interviewed last month in Salon, Frank communicated clearly the befuddled sense of despair progressives now feel when they survey Obama's repeated failure to push leftward. In particular, they say, the president has had many opportunities to hold Wall Street accountable for our economic woes, could have garnered enormous public support for a stricter regime of regulation on the financiers, but never did so. He never even clearly told the American public the true story of what happened--how their whole way of life had been nearly shattered by the deregulatory idiocy of the American right. In 2009 and '10 our president could have pointed fingers, named names, called for prosecutions, laid out a new and saner financial order. Most Americans would have been behind him. But he did none of these things, instead choosing to waste his substantial political capital trying to reach across the aisle to a party dedicated--as was obvious from the start--to nothing but his destruction. As the disgruntled Frank puts it: "What Barack Obama has saved is a bankrupt elite that by all means should have met its end back in 2009. He came to the White House amid circumstances similar to 1933, but proceeded to rule like Herbert Hoover." Frank further points out that many of Obama's policies have in large measure been continuations of Bush policies. "Marxist radical" indeed.

If Frank is right, and I believe there's much truth behind his despair, we now need to ask: Why indeed did Barack Obama choose the route he did--to bring Wall Street insiders into his administration and let them call the shots, to push for the bailouts without doing the necessary house-cleaning, to let the bankers continue on largely as before?

One of the most depressing facts of being an American during these years has been watching the degree to which race has been used to fire up the Republican agenda. It started early on with birtherism, which many of us assumed would go away after a few months. We were disappointed. Now, years later, the birther nonsense seems strong as ever: even the GOP candidate apparently felt it was acceptable to say that "nobody ever asked me to show my birth certificate." I find this situation not merely disappointing. No, the bland lack of respect these people show for evidence is enough to provoke rage. I still wouldn't say, however, that this is so much a matter of the majority of white Republicans being overtly racist. This crowd was comfortable enough with Herman Cain, weren't they? Rather, what we see in the birther strain is a subtler kind of racism, one harder to call out as such and harder to ascribe to purely racist motives. For many of the wingnuts, I think it is not so much that they can't imagine a black man being president per se. Rather, it is that if an actual black man becomes president and if they disagree with that man's policies, then the racism might come into play in various forms--in this case, in the form of a bizarre willingness to believe (or to pretend to believe) almost any slander told against him. In fact the slanders being spread are beyond ridiculous: the birther slander in itself, for starters; the slander that he is hiding his true religion (Islam); the implication that his education was paid for by an enemy of America and that he is really a kind of sleeper agent now performing a mission to bring the country down. Certainly these slanders can take hold in the paranoid mind because the president is of mixed race and spent part of his youth in a Southeast Asian country. That the slanders flourish, however, should be attributed to the fact that the purveyors can use them as a weapon against the president's (supposedly leftist) policies.

But once racism is kindled, it risks becoming ever more poisonous. And this is obviously what has happened thanks to the willingness of the right to raise these birther-related issues. We can imagine Hillary in the White House pushing the exact same policy initiatives our president has pushed, but we can't imagine the same level of distrust or anger directed against her. Yes, the GOP faithful would have criticized her initiatives, they would have evoked the specter of Bloated Government, but this wouldn't have led to a discourse which painted Hillary as somehow evil, untrustworthy, alien or un-American in essence--a kind of foreign body made to appear ever more foreign and sinister with each passing month. A second Clinton administration wouldn't have led to the crazed fear I see in the right-wingers around me at present--a fear that America is somehow being permanently undone. But since our current president is of mixed race, since he has a partly foreign background, his policies aren't seen as merely the old "tax and spend liberalism"--no, instead they constitute a sneaking crypto-Islamic Marxist plot. Never mind that there is nothing in what he has done to indicate either Marxism or Islam. And never mind, again, that much of what he has done is simply a continuation of policies begun under that noted Islamist communist George W. Bush.

That the GOP's leaders have allowed this to develop as it has is despicable. They should be tarred and feathered for it in our press, but instead it is only noted: "Romney Campaign Goes Birther". That large swaths of the populace fall into such racist hysteria is regrettable, but then it has always been regrettable to me that such large swaths of the populace are uneducated. We have enormous resources of knowledge at our fingertips, we have some of the best universities in the world, but somehow millions still get through our education system while remaining unable to find England, much less Iran, on a map. And being uneducated, they are more likely to feel the world as such, especially non-whites, are somehow essentially other than Americans.

But enough of the sad spectacle of my compatriots drinking the right's racist Koolaid. What concerns me here is rather the question I raised above: namely, why has our president, a man who developed in the progressive crucible of community organizing, a brilliant man besides--why has he not employed more of his progressive fire during his first term?

On the left many people believe it's because he simply sold out. That once he got in his current high office, he found it more appealing to hobnob with Wall Street criminals than to subpoena them. These criminals, so the argument goes, have an insider professionalism that something in Obama appreciates. Now at the top himself, it is expedient simply to become one of them. I don't espouse this theory of the sell-out.

Still, Obama in some measure remains a mystery--not to the Tea Partiers who think they know him after watching Obama 2016--but rather to us on the left who wonder why he isn't more of the radical he is accused of being. In The Audacity of Hope Obama expressed his strong belief in working together and in compromise, and this no doubt explains much of his non-confrontational manner of governing. But many feel this isn't the only reason, that in itself it can't justify what they see as the president's overly conciliatory cool.

I believe the most compelling explanation for Obama's painstaking centrism may also, sadly, be related to race. Our president knows himself to be in an unprecedented American position: he recognizes he is playing a historical role that has never been played before. He is, after all, the first non-white president; he is the first black president. Thus Barack Obama steps back from the more aggressive reforms he'd otherwise push because he fears that if these reforms fail, the failure will not simply be chalked up to mistaken policy--no, it will be seen as vindication of the racist argument that a black man cannot be trusted in the highest office. His burden is thus unique. If a George W. Bush or a Jimmy Carter makes a mess of his years in office, that is a matter of poor policy or personal failure. If, however, Barack Obama makes a mess of his years in office, it is something else entirely: it has a different historical weight altogether; it will have repercussions for his race, his people.

What's more, Obama's wisdom tells him that given the vicissitudes of the world economy, it wouldn't be necessary for his policies to be wrong to still be judged to have failed. No, under such circumstances as we're now in, circumstances we might call nearly impossible, even the best policies could conceivably "fail"--which is to say, they might not lead to the wealth and success hoped for. Our president knows he is living in a time where the world capitalist system may itself be coming to crisis, and that any year now might see a downturn no one will really "recover" from in the old 20th-century sense of that word. If there is such a meltdown or partial meltdown on his watch, at least an Obama administration that had followed roughly the same policies as other recent US administrations could not be blamed for "doing something radical" and so being "instrumental in the end of the American way of life". This, I think, gives Obama further reason not to push truly leftward.

And so, as we listen to Thomas Frank complain that Obama walks a walk far too similar to that of his right-wing predecessor, we might ask ourselves if he isn't maybe doing this precisely because, as a black man in a unique historical role, he has too heavy a burden on his shoulders to walk in a more forthright way. Because to trip up would only confirm the suspicions of those millions of bigots and half-bigots who, no matter what happens, must never be given any such comfort. Would Hillary have had such a burden as the first woman president? I believe there would have been some of this. But given that the West has already had successful woman heads of state, the pressure not to fail would not have been nearly as great. Is Obama's burden, the sadly persistent burden of race, perhaps the real explanation for our "radical" president's surprising lack of radical initiatives? This to me seems likelier than that the former community organizer has sold out.

I don't want to be misunderstood with these remarks. Though I think Hillary would make a fine president, I am certainly not saying that I wish she'd been nominated instead of Obama. There may be some truth to my suspicion that Obama's unique historical position has hobbled his leftism, causing him to miss striking hard enough when the iron was hot, as it surely was in 2009. But even so, I can see he has accomplished much, and I am giving him my wholehearted support for the coming years. If he wins his second term, as I believe he will, there will be new opportunities to reform our oligarchical tax code and new chances to impose regulatory oversight on Wall Street. I can only hope that he will not waste his energies trying to reach across the aisle to that gaggle of Ayn Randian morons that still dares call itself the "Grand Old Party".

In conclusion, I should point out that I'm somewhat uncomfortable speculating on the sad relevance of race and how it might relate to Obama's centrism. There are others who make academic careers studying race relations in America, and compared to them I'm hardly qualified to write on these things. What's more, I'm a white man from rural Wisconsin, so my life experience can give me little cred on the issue of how a black man might deal with holding the most powerful office in a society long dominated by whites. My words here should be taken with a grain of salt, and I welcome any help in identifying my blind spots.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Political Conventions and my Prostate Exam

The mind works in strange ways. I don't know why, but something about watching these two recent political conventions got to me thinking about my first prostrate exam last year. Maybe it was all the talk about medical policy and seniors (which I'll be soon enough). But maybe it was something else too: some more subtle link between the memory of getting my prostrate roughly fondled in that fluorescently lit room and the experience of listening to politicians talk about what they were planning to do if elected. Anyhow, last year I wrote up that unpleasant medical experience in my journal, but never thought to post it on my blog. Now that we're in full campaign swing, however, and what with me thinking about that day again, now might be just the time. My prostate seems somehow mysteriously linked to these national questions, or at least linked to the convention speeches I've heard. I noticed the feeling especially while listening to Paul Ryan. So here it is, my brief study in mid-life male vulnerability, with still unexplained political overtones. --E.M.


July 26, 2011

So you're a man in your forties and you notice that recently you have to urinate more often than before. You're getting up four or five times a night to empty your bladder, and the problem seems to be getting worse.

This was happening to me. Of course I knew what needed to be done. I needed a prostate exam.

But did I really? The morning of the exam I saw that I was by far the youngest of the six men who sat in the urologist's waiting room. I read my Hemingway novel, THE GARDEN OF EDEN, as the girl called in senior after senior. Did Hemingway have prostate problems along with all his others?

The six men waiting with me were so decrepit that only one of them looked up when, soon after my arrival, a gorgeous brunette, about 6'2" and wearing a teensy black dress, entered the clinic and strode straight across the room on her long, ivory legs. She headed directly back to the doctor's office.

What the hell? Did she work in the clinic? Not likely. Probably she was the doctor's wife or girlfriend.

When she left a few minutes later, telling one of the office staff she was going out to get donuts and swinging her car keys in the same hand as held her little red Chanel purse, my suspicion was confirmed. She was not clinic staff.

I went back to my novel and got a handful more pages read before they called me in.

At a small motel on the Côte d'Azur, the impossible Catherine, who really deserved to be strangled, had just told David she'd burned his stories, including the story about Africa that was possibly the most important thing he'd ever written.

I had to give them a urine sample, then was led into a private room. I expected the doctor, but it was a nurse who came in--tall, but with a slight mustache. Very professionally, she began explaining to me why men in their late thirties start to get problems with the prostate. She showed me a little diagram of the whole works, indicating where the prostate was, where the bladder, how it swelled with age, etc. Then she said: "Today I'm going to insert my finger in your anus and feel around the surface of your prostate."

Huh? Wasn't the doctor supposed to do that?

She explained some more about the prostate, and about medicines that could be used, and then said: "As for the exam, I can do it myself, as I said, or you may want the doctor to do it."

This was a question of scruples. Did I want a man to put his fingers up my ass or this slightly mustached woman?

"It's fine if you do it," I said.

Then she instructed me to stand and drop my pants. That was fine with me. I didn't need any of the silliness of having to undress completely and put on a hospital gown.

"First I'm going to check you out in front," she said.

She knelt down and checked me out in front, holding her fingers firmly under my scrotum and making me cough. I thought of Dustin Powers and the fur-coated dice hanging from his rear-view mirror.

"You're fine there," she said. "Now you need to turn around."

Alright, I thought, the moment of truth.

"You need to bend your knees," she said.

I did.

"Not like that, but like you're skiing."

No problem. I'm a good skier.

Then she quickly inserted her lubed finger up my anus, pressing in directly up to the prostate. Whoah! I felt her fingers roughly probing left and right, up and down. As I stood there, half bent over, I realized I hadn't had anything that far up my ass since I was in Young Republicans in high school.

It wasn't really painful, in fact she was decisive and quick, but I could feel the pressure on my bladder and came near to urinating on the floor in spite of myself.

But before I did, she stood up, pulled the latex glove off her hand, tossed it in the trash, and announced: "Your prostate is smooth."

"Like you, babe," I almost said.

With the exam over, I felt oddly closer to this mustached woman, like we'd known each other for years. I wanted to ask her about the plaque on the wall with her name on it, some kind of award or other, but before I had the chance she said the doctor would be with me shortly and stepped out of the room.

What was there left for the doctor to do? I'd already been examined.

I waited about a minute when she came back in with a worried look I didn't like one bit.

"I just got the readout on your urine sample," she said, biting her lower lip. "And, uh. . . . It appears you have some blood in your urine."

I felt my chest begin to tighten. "What does that mean?"

"Well, we can't be certain," she said, "but blood in the urine can indicate cancer of the bladder. And since you ARE a smoker . . . . Well, we may need to have you get some X-rays."

"Alright," I said, the tightness moving up to my throat. "I'll have to get some X-rays then."

"We'll wait until the doctor talks with you."

Then she left again.

I sat there under the fluorescent light of the examination room and felt a faint nausea take hold of me as I took it in. I began to perspire and wondered if I was going to be sick--sick as in nauseous. Bach's Fugue #3, pumped through ceiling speakers, started to annoy me. Was that a volume button on the wall? I tried it, but the music stayed the same. I will quit smoking cigars today, I told myself. I hope I can beat the cancer. I Will beat it, I told myself.

I waited another three minutes, but no doctor. Then another five minutes.

Finally the doctor entered. Around fifty, only slightly overweight, quite handsome. So the beauty in the black dress--now there was no doubt about it, she was his.

The doctor began to explain to me all over again how the prostate normally starts to swell in men in their late thirties, how it constricts the urine passage, and how it can be treated with medication, etc., etc. I didn't give half a damn about that. Why didn't he get to the blood in the urine part?

"As for the slight trace of blood in your urine," he said, "it could be caused by various things, even by the fact that your bladder is being stressed by the swollen prostate."

Then: "I'm going to have them take another urine sample, and if it comes back with blood in it again, I'd recommend you have further testing, just to be sure."

I appreciated that "just to be sure." It meant: "just to be sure it's not cancer," which of course implied it was unlikely it was cancer.

So I went back to do another urine sample, which wasn't difficult in the least, since the nurse had prodded me so thoroughly down there and the mention of cancer had nearly scared the piss out of me besides.

I gave them the little plastic cup with my urine in it and chatted with the office staff while I waited for the results. The woman in the black dress still wasn't back with the donuts. But I shouldn't be thinking about that, I told myself, this was serious.

I watched the nurse with the mustache across the room as she waited eagerly for the computer to print out the stats on my second cup of urine. It was almost like she really cared about the results. I appreciated this. Then I saw a little tape slowly printing out, feeding into her hand. She looked over at me and gave a delighted thumbs up sign.

"Alright," I said aloud. "Good news."

"Yes," she said, coming over. "There's no blood this time. You can go right home and we'll see you in a year."

I left the clinic, my Hemingway novel clutched in my sweaty right hand. In fact the donuts had never shown up. No matter. I walked a bit down the sidewalk to a bench and sat down. I put on my sunglasses and took a little cardboard box from my bag--the box that still held three cigars. I took out one of the cigars and lighted it as I watched the traffic go by.

Stupid, I know, but nothing takes the edge off like a good smoke.

My Wingnut Family

Debating politics with Republicans is like debating marine biology with someone who gets all their information from the movie Finding Nemo. Or rather: That's what it used to be like. Now it's worse. Under the blinding glare of anti-Obama rage, facts have become dangerously irrelevant. Many Republicans' bone-deep discomfort that this man is president has pushed them into a near psychosis. This is no longer just a matter of party affiliation or "conservative thinking". There's no thinking involved here, and certainly no conservative thinking. Their discourse is driven by one thing only: a frantic urge to purge from our body politic something that can no longer be tolerated: that perceived foreigner and Marxist Muslim socialist in the White House.

Too bad for them that he's very likely to remain in the White House. At least I hope. We need Obama's policies to help our country's middle class out of the deep pit the GOP has shoved them into.

For years I've been corresponding with my now 71-year-old mother regarding these issues--me a 46-year-old Democrat living overseas, her a retired Republican living in Florida. Well, I've finally vowed to call it quits on such correspondence. At least it's quits as regards debating her. Why? Consider our recent correspondence, typical in most respects except for its markedly higher temperature. 

My mother started it by forwarding me this instructive link on 8/5/12: 

Subject: Fwd: Pulled Fox News Sunday-Obama Muslim 

Subject: Pulled Fox News Sunday 

Remember all the notices we kept getting to watch Fox News on Sunday at 9PM?  What Happened? 

This is the clip that got pulled due to pressure from the Administration. 

Obama Puts Heat on Fox News to Prevent Sean Hannity airing this piece. 

This is a video that Sean Hannity of FOX News has been trying to show that we are told has consistently been blocked by the Obama Administration for several weeks. 

Watch it now before it gets pulled from the internet! 

Note how the clip is hyped, as if the Obama administration can dictate to Fox News or delete things from youtube. Apparently Sean Hannity has been personally censored by the executive branch. Do the people composing these emails forget First Amendment rights? 

I replied to this "breaking news" video simply by sending my mother a snopes link that lays out the misrepresentations: 

Mom replied to my snopes link like this: 

Forget the Snopes thing on Obama and his Muslim faith. It is so obvious that he is a Muslim. It's even on the film with his big mouth forming the words, bowing to the King of Saudi Arabia, and placating and fawning over the Muslim world. He has made a sham of our country. Most of his voting base are those wanting handouts. He canceled the national prayer breakfast: the first president in history to do so, but he allowed a huge Muslim demonstration with speeches to go on just blocks from the White House. Come on, you have to be aware of this obvious stuff. I can't even type about him anymore. I so detest him and his crooked values. His campaign promised, "Change you can count on!" Who said that Americans wanted our country turned into Socialism? Who said we wanted to have our Christian faith wiped from public places? Who said we wanted gay marriage shoved down our throats? Who said we would be willing to approve of 60 million abortions? Who said, in this day and age, that we should severely cut our military budget while he pours our tax money on all of his supporters? Who said we wanted to be taxed for other people's health care? Who said we wanted illegal aliens flooding into our country just so he could get votes? He ought to be forced to live in the midst of all the people he has illegally welcomed here. He is a pompous self serving arrogant ass! And on and on and on! It is all absolutely nauseating!!!!! Nough said! 

I am now too riled up to type more now. I'm going to try to cool off in the pool. 


I didn't bother to reply to this letter, which repeated the same handful of charges I'd read in at least two dozen letters from her since Obama was elected. Then on 8/12 I got forwarded the following photo: 

Subj: In Savannah

Click on photo.

I'd seen this guy's sign before. Under "Gaster Lumber and Hardware," in case you can't read it, the owner added the words: "I built this business without gov't help. Obama can kiss my ass." In the version of the photo I saw, someone had captioned it to stress just how Ray Gaster's business owed part of its success to a base of infrastructure and services provided by, yes, our government. In reply to mother I sent the captioned version of the photo, along with an explanation why I felt the right's hardline anti-government mantra was bad for America.

Dear Mom:

Thanks for forwarding me the photo of Ray Gaster's sign. He proudly declares he "built his business without gov't help." Alright, but I think since the 1980s and especially since 2000 too many people are forgetting how important public services are to make our economy work. This can become a dangerous trend. Our American public services have been run quite well since the 1950s, to the point that people have begun taking them for granted and imagine we can do without them.

In fact I've seen the Ray Gaster photo before. Someone captioned it to show what aspects of building a business, any business, depends on a public ground: i.e., government help. Check it out.

Gov't provides our police, our justice system, our military, our road network, and myriad other things. Where would our economy or country be without this infrastructure basis? Think about it.

Click on photo.

Note that I make pretty modest claims here. I can't find any place in my brief letter where I advocate a revolution in which the proletariat seizes the means of production. I don't even address the question of our social safety or how fine its mesh should be. Still, Mom replied as follows:

Dear Eric:

You sound just like Mr Ovomit. Give me a break. We do not need big government to run every faction of our lives. This country was built on the dreams and determination of energetic American pioneers who, with their spirit forged new frontiers. I could literally scream when I hear you and other Ovomit supporters blubber in this way.

Oh yes! Let's just let all the lazy ones pay nothing and sit on their asses with their hands out while they take more and more away from hard working successful people. Let's just drive the spirit of the hard workers into the ground until they finally decide that they are no longer going to strain themselves only to provide for lazy moochers. It's the spirit of the hard workers that then strain further to foster that spirit in their offspring. This then creates further success. Big government is a tyrant with tentacles that cancerously reach into our private lives. Come on, Eric! I don't envision you as the type who wants to be told what you must give from what you've earned. Do you really love the hand of rules hanging over your head? It's this kind of thinking that is going to give our country and our freedoms away. The phrase, "Necessity is the mother of invention" says it all. When people have to count on themselves to succeed they damn well better get off their asses. Name one country that has remained soundly based and successful under Socialism? The entire premise of this system creates laziness and loss of energy in those required to pay for the porch sitters.

I'm so enraged and sick of this jerk who is our president. I find him to be a conniving crooked bastard who has infected the seat of our government with a bunch of weird thinking idiots. He's opened our borders and ignored our immigration laws just to glean votes. In his high flying ways he would not spend one day in the midst of the people he has allowed in here. He is a brainless idiot who is a wolf in sheeps clothing. Best I don't go on anymore. My day is already spoiled after just reading your response and support of this character. You people think you have it all figured out but you don't realize the virus you are promoting.

Do not further rile me. With all this political crap going on I can only pray that our country will survive. We can't begin to afford four more Ovomit years.

I am so furious now. I feel like getting a bottle and drinking all day.


My reply:

If you read my remarks in the letter I sent you, you will see I don't mention anything about socialism or even about Obama. I do not argue for socialism in my remarks, I simply argue that government services are part of the normal running of capitalist America. I simply make the point that our gov't provides a basis of necessary infrastructure, like police and roads and trade agreements and a justice system, and that to keep repeating "Government is bad" or "Government is the problem" is not realistic. Of course corrupt or bloated government is a problem. The question is what to cut and where.

My remarks were about a specific question, but your remarks don't address it at all. Your remarks are so furious, and you just repeat again the same things you always repeat in your letters. It's almost as if writing anything to you about any issue related to politics is to set off a kind of bomb in you that is always the same exact bomb. What's more, I am only RESPONDING to things YOU forwarded me in the first place.

I read both liberal and conservative writers and read a lot. I don't watch TV news for more than 15 minutes a week because I don't find it worthwhile. How do you formulate your ideas of what is happening in America? Where do you get your information? My guess is you get it all from Fox and the grapevine of right wing Fwds that supplies your email inbox.

I am right now going to make a vow, which I will strictly stick to. I WILL NEVER AGAIN WRITE ABOUT OR DISCUSS ANY POLITICALLY RELATED ISSUE WITH YOU or respond to any of your political emails in any way. It is impossible for you to engage in discussion, much less debate. Every single time, you simply re-enact the same exact explosion, regardless of what the specific issue is.

It's as if a man wanted to talk about spinach, and you scream "Ham!" Then he tries to discuss the strawberry crop, and you scream "Ham!" When the issue is cheese, you just scream "Ham!"  It must be comforting to have the one-word answer to all issues.

So congratulations, you have your wish. I won't write back to you in any way or speak in any way when you address political issues.


I got one more letter from my mother to which I didn't bother to reply:

Dear Eric:

You responded to the emailing of the banner created by the man who was angry after Obama's discrediting of workers who have made their own success through hard work. I listened to Obama's insane remark that riled millions of Americans. His remark was clearly aimed for a reason and his reason is so obvious to those of us who see him for what he is.

In all the time of my weighing this man's actions and beliefs there is one thing that has become very clear. He is a very angry racist. He dislikes this country, as does his wife. He views his presidency as pay back time. It's time to stick it to whites, Christians and those who have been very successful after years of working very hard. He has done more to decrease the beauty of our Christianity. His comment, "This is no longer a Christian nation," I believe is mostly a wish on his part. His actions regarding national prayer day and on and on show this desire of his to diminish Christianity. He is absolutely a Muslim who does not like Jews. He is not governing our nation for the good of our nation, but is governing based on his racist positions. His affiliations in Wright's church, and all the other people of that nature, further indicate his internal beliefs. He is constantly poisoning and dividing this country with his war on the well to do. His positions have done more to bring racism to the foreground when it was just becoming a matter of Americans accepting the differences in people. In all these ways he is a man shooting his poison in too many directions. Before Chuck Colson died I went out with the Colsons and Chuck said some extremely wise things all based on my above writing. The sad part is that the leadership we've experienced the past four years is coming from a sick individual who, due to his racism, is unable to successfully lead this country. Hitler was just that kind of person. He gradually poisoned Germans just like Obama is gradually poisoning Americans.

There is a book at Barnes & Noble based on the writings of Saul Alinsky, Obama's mentor. I think I will buy it and read it, although I do not believe it will be a pleasant read.

You, in what you've written in this email, seem to view me as a rather deranged person. I am not. I just feel my country slipping away and, like many, it is sad when a treasure is lost. This is unfortunately a very dangerous time for us to become a nation so divided by a very racist tyrannical type ruler.


So, given this recent back and forth with my dear wingnut mother, I've decided to call it quits. I could cite the rule that the first person to mention Hitler in a debate automatically loses, but what's the point? My political exchanges with her hardly even count as debates. A debate depends on a bare minimum of mutual respect and at least a basic recognition of what the subject is being discussed.

I know this kind of squabbling is being repeated in families across America, and I know as well that it's more comical than sad. It is, in a way, democracy in action. More farcical than pertinent to the actual state of things. A son trying to make points to a politically contrary mother who, after all, raised him since he was pissing his pants. Why does any parent have to listen to their children on politics? After all, she was voting in elections before I was born.

Have I maybe really fallen under the spell of a racist tyrant? I'm actually somewhat afraid to imagine just what book "based on the writings of Saul Alinsky" Mom is referring to. Probably the kind that cites Ann Coulter as a political scholar. Knowing a little bit about Alinsky, I myself could write this book for them in about a half hour. One of their typical shoddy hit jobs.

Why do I post this exchange here? Partly for amusement, partly as a tiny record of the sort of concerns driving the anti-Obama crowd in 2012. I'm saddened to acknowledge that I don't think this movement so much stands for anything as it stands against the very idea that a man with a name like Barack Obama can be our president.


It's now a couple weeks later and I'm visiting Mom here in Naples, Florida. I've pretty much kept to my vow not to discuss politics, but it's an unfortunate fact that the Democratic National Convention was scheduled to occur right in the middle of my visit. And my mother wants to watch it with me. I really should have checked the Convention schedule before I bought those tickets, but here I am now, stuck on the sofa between Michelle Obama praising her husband in her passionate speech last night and my mother, on the other side of the room, providing verbal footnotes to Michelle's every third sentence.

When Mom again raised the issue of how Obama was the first president in American history to "cancel National Prayer Day" I finally broke down and said, "Alright, you've repeated that so many times in email and in conversation that I'm going online right now to check if it's true."

And I did. I found the following page at

Mom read a bit of the page and said, "This isn't true. What is this page?"

" It's probably the most respected political fact-checking site in the country. It's non-partisan; they don't care who's doing the lying: Democrat or Republican, they will call them on it."

"I don't believe that," she said. "I've heard of this page. It's funded by George Soros. This isn't a neutral page."

I said I would go check the Soros connection, but that I'd never heard of it before.

"This is totally slanted information," she said.

"Well, if you think this is incorrect, then you should find a fact checking organization that you trust. One has to verify facts to support one's position. That's just the way it is. Is there a Republican fact checking site you trust?"

"I don't need to check facts," she said. "I know what I think, and Obama is a lying crook."

And that was that: the factuality of the Prayer Day cancellation still stood in her mind. Which to me is almost amazing.

Of course facts are facts--they are not liberal or conservative. So to a certain degree I had already given up epistemological ground by accepting her assertion that facts could be Democratic or Republican. But what to do? What's the use of even verifying facts in a cultural climate where people "know what they think"?

But actually this has only been part of the fun of my time here. Because suddenly this week my uncle, a retired oral surgeon and disturbed wingnut in his own right, has begun battering my email Inbox with forward after forward about what a disaster the Obama presidency has been and how I had better change my mind quick and vote Romney. I get about five of these Fwds a day from him, and they are all of similar caliber--which is to say, somewhere between BB and pellet size. Besides which I get exactly the same Fwds from him as I do from Mom, which means I have to delete everything in duplicate. Yes, I was going to follow a similar principal of non-engagement with the uncle, but finally last night I succumbed to replying after receiving this Fwd (which, in fact, my mother had previously forwarded me sometime last year!):

Fwd: Beware of Obama working for the downfall of America‏  

I hope those who supported Obama in 2008 will read this. He is dangerous to this country and I don't believe there is anything he won't do to get elected again and I mean ANYTHING! I am very concerned.

This is the second well known scholar that I have read who has had, basicially, the same opinion!   

Israeli Psychologist On Obama

Be sure to read all the way to the end. I googled this man and did some reading about him. He is for real. Dr. Sam Vaknin is an Israeli psychologist. Interesting view on our  president. Dr Vaknin has written extensively about narcissism.

Obama's language, posture and demeanor are clear indicators, says Vaknin

Dr. Vaknin States "I must confess I was impressed by Sen. Barack Obama from the first time I saw him. At first I was excited to see a black candidate. He looked youthful, spoke well, appeared to be confident - a wholesome presidential package. I was put off soon, not just because of his shallowness but also because there was an air of haughtiness in his demeanor that was unsettling. His posture and his body language were louder than his empty words.

Obama's speeches are unlike any political speech we have heard in American history. Never a politician in this land had such quasi "religious" impact on so many people.. The fact that Obama is a total incognito with zero accomplishment, makes this inexplicable infatuation alarming. Obama is not an ordinary man. He is not a genius. In fact he is quite ignorant on most important subjects." Barack Obama is a narcissist.

Dr. Sam Vaknin, the author of the Malignant Self Love believes "Barack Obama appears to be a narcissist." Vaknin is a world authority on narcissism. He understands narcissism and describes the inner mind of a narcissist like no other person. When he talks about narcissism everyone listens. Vaknin says that Obama's language, posture and demeanor, and the testimonies of his closest, dearest and nearest suggest that the Senator is either a narcissist or he may have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

Narcissists project a grandiose but false image of themselves. Jim Jones, the charismatic leader of People's Temple , the man who led over 900 of his followers to cheerfully commit mass suicide and even murder their own children was also a narcissist. David Koresh, Charles Manson, Joseph Koni, Shoko Asahara, Stalin, Saddam, Mao, Kim Jong Ill and Adolph Hitler are a few examples of narcissists of our time. All these men had a tremendous influence over their fanciers. They created a personality cult around themselves and with their blazing speeches elevated their admirers, filled their hearts with enthusiasm and instilled in their minds a new zest for life. They gave them hope! They promised them the moon, but alas, invariably they brought them to their doom.

When you are a victim of a cult of personality, you don't know it until it is too late. One determining factor in the development of NPD is childhood abuse. "Obama's early life was decidedly chaotic and replete with traumatic and mentally bruising dislocations," says Vaknin. "Mixed-race marriages were even less common then. His parents went through a divorce when he was an infant (two years old). Obama saw his father only once again, before he died in a car accident. Then his mother re-married and Obama had to relocate to Indonesia , a foreign land with a radically foreign culture, to be raised by a step-father. At the age of ten, he was whisked off to live with his maternal (white)grandparents. He saw his mother only intermittently in the following few years and then she vanished from his life in 1979. She died of cancer in 1995".

One must never underestimate the manipulative genius of pathological narcissists. They project such an imposing personality that it overwhelms those around them. Charmed by the charisma of the narcissist, people become like clay in his hands. They cheerfully do his bidding and delight to be at his service. The narcissist shapes the world around himself and reduces others in his own inverted image. He creates a cult of personality. His admirers become his co-dependents Narcissists have no interest in things that do not help them to reach their personal objective. They are focused on one thing alone and that is power. All other issues are meaningless to them and they do not want to waste their precious time on trivialities.

Anything that does not help them is beneath them and do not deserve their attention. If an issue raised in the Senate does not help Obama in one way or another, he has no interest in it. The "present" vote is a safe vote. No one can criticize him if things go wrong. Those issues are unworthy by their very nature because they are not about him.

Obama's election as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review led to a contract and advance to write a book about race relations. The University of Chicago Law School provided him a lot longer than expected and at the end it evolved into, guess what? His own autobiography! Instead of writing a scholarly paper focusing on race relations, for which he had been paid, Obama could not resist writing about his most sublime self. He entitled the book Dreams from My Father. Not surprisingly, Adolph Hitler also wrote his own autobiography when he was still nobody. So did Stalin.

For a narcissist no subject is as important as his own self. Why would he waste his precious time and genius writing about insignificant things when he can write about such an august being as himself? Narcissists are often callous and even ruthless As the norm, they lack conscience. This is evident from Obama's lack of interest in his own brother who lives on only one dollar per month. A man who lives in luxury, who takes a private jet to vacation in Hawaii, and who has raised nearly half a billion dollars for his campaign (something unprecedented in history) has no interest in the plight of his own brother. Why? Because, his brother cannot be used for his ascent to power. A narcissist cares for no one but himself.

This election is like no other in the history of America . The issues are insignificant compared to what is at stake. What can be more dangerous than having a man bereft of conscience, a serial liar, and one who cannot distinguish his fantasies from reality as the leader of the free world? I hate to sound alarmist, but one is a fool if one is not alarmed. Many politicians are narcissists. They pose no threat to others...They are simply self serving and selfish. Obama evidences symptoms of pathological narcissism, which is different from the run-of-the-mill narcissism of a Richard Nixon or a Bill Clinton for example. To him reality and fantasy are intertwined.

This is a mental health issue, not just a character flaw. Pathological narcissists are dangerous because they look normal and even intelligent. It is this disguise that makes them treacherous. Today the Democrats have placed all their hopes in Obama. But this man could put an end to their party. The great majority of blacks have also decided to vote for Obama. Only a fool does not know that their support for him is racially driven. This is racism, pure and simple. The downside of this is that if Obama turns out to be the disaster I predict, he will cause widespread resentment among the whites. The blacks are unlikely to give up their support of their man. Cultic mentality is pernicious and unrelenting. They will dig their heads deeper in the sand and blame Obama's detractors of racism. This will cause a backlash among the whites. The white supremacists will take advantage of the discontent and they will receive widespread support.

I predict that in less than four years, racial tensions will increase to levels never seen since the turbulent 1960's. Obama will set the clock back decades... America is the bastion of freedom. The peace of the world depends on the strength of America , and its weakness translates into the triumph of terrorism and victory of rogue nations. It is no wonder that Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez, the Castroists, the Hezbollah, the Hamas, the lawyers of the Guantanamo terrorists and virtually all sworn enemies of America are so thrilled by the prospect of their man in the White House. America is on the verge of destruction. There is no insanity greater than electing a pathological narcissist as president.

My reply to this subtly argued article:

Thanks for sending this. Really an interesting article!!! I mean, it doesn't matter so much that Dr. Sam Vaknin is not actually an Israeli psychologist, as the article claims in its first paragraph. It doesn't matter because, well, in fact Sam Vaknin didn't write the article. So it's kind of a moot point whether or not he's qualified to write the article, since it was actually written by someone else. But that just makes it more INTERESTING!!!

Actually, as far as Republican email forwards go, this article is on the more factual side than most. Why? Because there really is an Israeli man named Sam Vaknin. I mean, unlike most of the forwards you send out, the article here cites an actual expert who exists.

(HELPFUL NOTE: It would be a further great advancement in reliability if beyond citing existing people, these Republican email forwards also (at least sometimes) cited things the people actually said or wrote, instead of just making things up. Maybe in 2016 some Republicans emailers will start to get the knack of this, I don't know.)

(But on second thought, since as of now more than 80% of these forwards are woven of completely fictional quotes and totally invented numbers and statistics, 2016 might be a bit early to expect that much. But it's always good to have goals!)

This article had a strong impact on me, really. And I'll tell you why. After clearly stating that Obama is a narcissist, the article went on to point out: "David Koresh, Charles Manson, Joseph Koni, Shoko Asahara, Stalin, Saddam, Mao, Kim Jong Ill and Adolph Hitler are a few examples of narcissists of our time. All these men had a tremendous influence over their fanciers."

Wow. That's really scary. I mean, I get the implication here. Namely: 1) if Obama is a narcissist, and 2) these other people are ALSO narcissists, then 3) Obama is maybe not a Harvard graduate and democratically elected leader but is actually a psychopathic killer or totalitarian dictator!!!!

Notice that 1 - 2 - 3 that I used there. How I figured it out by clear logic. You see, we Obama supporters aren't so dumb as you say. We can use logic and even follow the difficult logic in academic articles like this one you just sent me. (Well, not "academic" actually because, well, as I noted, Sam Vaknin isn't really a doctor. But the man EXISTS. And that's a plus when you're trying to cite people. If only Vaknin were the person who wrote the article, you'd be getting close to the very lowest basic journalistic standards. But don't worry! You're getting there! As I said, this article is closer than most of the stuff you forward me.)

So, to sum up-- I GET IT. The truth is I'm actually a "fancier" of a dangerous totalitarian narcissist. I'm under his SPELL, like a zombie following blindly to the site of my own dismemberment. It's a bloodbath coming, and I'm too dumb to see it. And these four years so far, these four years of slightly left-of-center politics, well, they are actually just a kind of SINISTER LURE leading us into the coming bloodbath at the hands of a Stalinist Muslim psychopathic narcissist who's out to make Jim Jones and Charles Manson look like Ernie and Burt.

I really want to thank you. I learned some valid and very interesting points from this article, as I also did from those excellent and sometimes grammatically correct articles you sent me from the page called AMERICAN THINKER that is so well written and edited. You've proven to me that American thinker's still exist out there!!!!! Yes, American thinker's.

I assure you, Uncle Web, these links you send me, every single one of them, only further convince me as to what I should do November 6. They are so UTTERLY RELIABLE and FACTUALLY GROUNDED that when I read them I find I have an ever more pressing urge to separate what is factual from what is utter ranting paranoid third-grade nonsense. Because not doing so would be to allow dangerous paranoid crazies further say in the running of our country. And none of us want that!!!

You know, at first I wasn't going to respond to your political forwards--kind of a recent policy of mine--but I finally decided to because, well, you send JUST SO MANY OF THEM!!! It just isn't right to get so many letters and not respond at all. So thanks again!!!! And thanks too for pointing out a few emails back that my support for Obama meant I probably need a brain transplant. I HAD NO IDEA. You even offered to set up an appointment for me.

Wishing I Were an "American Thinker" Too,


This letter is really the best I'm willing to do in terms of avuncular courtesy, given the circumstances of my needed brain transplant, etc., etc.

Tonight it's Clinton's speech, so I'll probably be hearing about Lewinsky a lot--that major late 20th century figure of Western political history.


Political art by my mother, who at 70 has developed impressive Photoshop skills. Most of her work is not political. You can see it at AgelessAndEvergreen.