I got an e mail last week that really pissed me off. Allow me to vent.
I’m on the mailing list of this peace-love-and-Buddha place, and normally their e mails are about things like yoga classes and reiki sessions. But this one had an atypical subject line. It read “Muslims in England!” and there was only a sentence or so of actual text.
“Remember – Mr. Barack Obama was born and is a practicing Muslim when you view these pictures,” it read. And the photos were of Muslim protesters in London immediately following the offensive cartoon debacle, holding frightening signs that threatened to bring jihad, a new holocaust, and horrific terrorist acts to European soil.
So this hippie love-thy-neighbor business is sending out e mails comparing one of the Democratic front runners to incensed fundamentalist terrorists, and using all of the arguments that have been roundly debunked by Snopes and About.com’s urban Legends page. Sending these e mails out to hundreds of people on their mass media list. I couldn’t frickin’ believe what I was seeing.
I was so annoyed, I went against my better judgment. See, when I get intentionally irritating e mails or messages, my friend Melissa appears on my shoulder like a little angel, and repeats her mantra, “take the high road.” I swear, she got me through a masters degree just with that phrase. But I saw red. And decided to reply. Mind you, this happened before the debate where Obama addressed this exact matter — click here for video of that.
I sent the e mail’s originator a CNN link that addresses the madrassa rumors that Obama’s detractors have been spreading, and I said simply, as a member of your listserv and a member of the media, I don’t think these are the kinds of messages I want to receive from you. I got a reply that I will quote from, so excuse the misspelling.
“Unfortunately he will be looked as a muslim, simplye becuase of his earlier schooling, radical or not, it is what it is.”
I sent back a longer response.
See, growing up in the multicultural place where I did, we had plenty of Muslim friends. Some of the sweetest, nicest, most considerate, and generous people I’ve known in my life give praises to Allah. In fact, I remember in 1990 after the attempted coup in Trinidad, our neighbor and close family friend, a staunch Muslim, was shattered by the incident. He feared that people would begin to hate and judge his whole family, and assume they were like the radicals in the Jamaat al Muslimeen. I was eleven when this happened, and the experience taught me at an early age that there are fundamentalists and extremists in any religion (even my own), and people of all creeds and cultures will perform horrific acts “in the name of God.” So that ignorant statement, “radical or not, it is what it is,” REALLY pissed me off. Especially considering the source.
I replied to this person and tried to keep my cool. I told them that there ARE peaceful Muslim people who are horrified by the terror that extremists have created in the name of their religion. Just like there are Christian people who completely disagree with their fundamentalist peers. And it really makes me depressed that the people who are spreading these kinds of messages aren’t actually looking at what Barack Obama is trying to say or represent — they are desperately trying to paint this portrait of him as some kind of possible terrorist, and drum up negativity by any means necessary. And that’s wrong.
Well allow me to quote from the response I got, that ignited the flame in my belly to write this post to begin with.
“Ok – I know what your saying. Don’t get me wrong – I like the guy, but somehow, I feel like he has a hidden agenda… When I see his body language, I feel his cockiness and his arrogance. Furthermore, I think the hungry one is his wife. She came across to me as being arrogant but more importantly vicious. I wouldn’t be surprised if she put him up to become a candidate…well her and Oprah. LOL.”
OK, deep breath.
Y’all already know how I feel about Michelle Obama. So that description of her as “vicious” seemed to come from nowhere. This e mail started out as a chain letter, similar to the ones being forwarded all over the country. Getting that explanation from the forwarder (who identifies as a Democrat, by the way), really struck me. I could have continued the e mail exchange to ask what in the world did Michelle Obama ever say or do to come across as hungry or vicious, or what exactly did “hidden agenda” mean, but I didn’t want my blood pressure to spike any further and I didn’t have any more time to waste on a pointless argument with an almost-stranger. There’s nothing I can do to change a point of view stained with prejudice. It’d be like trying to reason with Rosanne. SMH.
I wanted to write about this e mail exchange because I think it falls in line with a lot of what I’ve been reading and seeing in the media these days. Politics is an ugly game, but of late this campaign has been downright hideous — in terms of the kind of political propaganda that’s being produced, in terms of how the candidates have been bitterly sparring with each other, and in terms of how the media’s been covering it.
Instead of examining the key political issues at hand, everything is being reduced to race and gender, and disturbing stereotypes are coming into play. To wit — CNN became the topic of their own story after writing a god-awful article that neatly compartmentalized the choices facing black female voters in this problematic sentence — “For these women, a unique, and most unexpected dilemma, presents itself: Should they vote their race, or should they vote their gender?” As though political issues don’t have a factor in making a decision. GTFOH with that, CNN.
It’s worth noting that Obama isn’t the only victim of negative smear campaigns — Chris Matthews had to apologize to Hillary Clinton, after saying that “the reason she’s a U.S. senator, the reason she’s a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around.” That kind of nasty, sexist attack shouldn’t be in this campaign.
It was really pissing me off to watch the media fan the flames of created controversy, but I gotta be honest, at the Democratic debate in South Carolina, both Obama and Clinton made me cringe with their sparring (NPR does a great job of factchecking their various allegations). I felt relief when Edwards jumped in as the voice of reason, saying, “We have got to understand, this is not about us personally. It is about what we are trying to do for this country.” Somewhere in the swirling mist of fact-twisting, mud-slinging, manufactured drama, and baldfaced viral lies, key issues have gotten lost in the shuffle.
I know I’ve made my political affiliations more than apparent, I’m backing Barack. I’ve chosen Barack Obama because I don’t approve of political dynasties, and I honestly believe in him as a candidate of change. In that regard, I agree with the opinions expressed in South Carolina’s newspaper, The State. But my decision came after a period of reflection and research, it was much more than a mere gut reaction based on gender or race.
In addition to following the news closely and watching the candidates’ television appearances and interviews, I also spent some time on Glassbooth.org, a website I highly recommend if you’re undecided. The site’s list of issues is kind of limited and it doesn’t delve into the candidates’ exact stance on the issues until you’ve been matched, but if you’re not sure where to begin with this political merry-go-round, it’s a great place to start. But hey, what do I know. According to Glassbooth, I should be keeping my fingers crossed for a Kuchinich/Gravel ticket. For the record, I’m only 76% matched with Obama and Edwards, Clinton comes a close third to those two in terms of lining up with my particular political concerns.
I don’t mean to alienate any of you with my views here. The point of this post was to speak out against the poison being poured into our collective ears. If you like one candidate, let it be because of more than the color of their skin or their gender. The next president should be chosen on their capabilities, their convictions, and their character. If the democrats want to win this upcoming presidential election, they need to cut back on the public infighting, and prove to America why they deserve the ultimate seat of power.
Have you noticed political propaganda rearing its ugly head in this campaign? What are your views on this, bellas and fellas?