Posted by: MC | July 20, 2010

Go Ahead, Refudiate … Overly Olbermanize – But Watch Out for Momma

The 19th voice in the EX:Change was Lena Baucum.  I’ve found myself quoting her often in these entries.  Maybe it’s by chance, but more likely for reasons of her attentiveness.  Many of the themes of the 100 voices were given first mention in Lena’s words that early February day in 2009.

Just now I ran across commentary entitled The Willie Hortonization of Barack Obama. Ari Rabin-Havt’s blog responds to the effect of repeated pairings of images and words that lead to reinforcing stereotypes, particularly when the associations are designed to inspire fear.  In George H.W. Bush’s campaign for re-election that kind of redundant association was made using the face of released prisoner, Willie Horton.  Rabin-Havt describes the ad this way.

“A long line of inmates solemnly enters and exits a prison yard through a revolving door. As the lone black inmate reenters society, he peers into the camera with a menacing glance. He is the only inmate to do so.  The ad described above was created … as part of a broad strategy to terrify America by, as psychologist and political consultant Drew Westen explains, playing on ‘fears of the dangerous, lawless, violent, dark black male.’”

Rabin-Havt goes on to make the point that opportunistic engineering of racial tension is once again underway.  He predicts continued misinformation and simplistic associations between the Obama Administration and the New Black Panthers, a group listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) alongside the many militant white supremacy factions as a “hate group.”  The SPLC exists to give every effort to addressing and preventing this extreme hate, no matter its source.  That is good and vital work in support of our country’s well being.

It’s the opportunistic, hateful and, frankly spoiled behaviors of public leaders in government and the media that get my mother anger up.  Mother anger spiced with the southern sensibilities of my upbringing.  It is time for us to have some manners with one another.  Not glossy look-good manners of the Eddie Haskel variety (relying on the retro popularity of  Leave it to Beaver on this reference), but manners that contain, by virtue of their practice, decorum and impulse control.

Here’s the quote from Lena that came to mind as I read Rabin-Havt’s piece.  “The fact that a black mom will walk up to black child, it doesn’t matter if it’s their child.  If they’re misbehaving it’s like, ‘What are you doing? You sit back down in that seat right now.’  It’s loving.  It’s taking care and taking responsibility for giving children good skills for being in the world.  I’m sad that I don’t see that on television because it’s really beautiful.”

Yes, this is beautiful.  And, it may be just the thing we need to get this train back on the rails again.  We could all benefit profoundly from the national presence of a community of mothers and grandmothers and aunties who refuse to allow what amounts to verbal immaturity ranging from threats to bullying to preening to misguided cleverness/aka showing off.  Perhaps it’s overstatement, but there’s something sobering about considering all this foolishness in the face of the urgency of issues confronting humankind.  In urgent times like ours, such selfish and irresponsible practice is essentially equivalent to … well … our collective suicide.

We’re all in it.  All of us have the capacity to draw on our mother anger to demand the foolishness stop.  We really don’t have time to mess around.

The New Black Panthers and the myriad white supremacy groups might or might not respond with reason and respect to the mothers, grandmothers and aunties who call them out on their impudence.  However, I’m still holding out for the capacity of less extreme public figures in government and the media to get a grip on some level of maturity.  Whether respectful pause and reflection in the wake of maternal comeuppance is motivated by saving face or an actual awakening to the enormous impact of their words and actions, the mother anger is most certainly in order.

Across the 100 voices of EX:Change, women and men – and yes, even girls and boys – expressed frustration with public pettiness.  They expressed longing and even demands for mature and thoughtful leadership.  Taking a gentler, but no less matter-of-fact approach, Tommy Carpenter, a Republican and church leader in Kerrville, TX said, “We don’t get along very well in America right now.  You’re a Democrat, I’m a Republican.  Either of us can get into this whole, ‘You’re an idiot’ philosophy instead of, ‘We’re humans.  We live in the same place.  We should get along.’   We do all come from the same place. (laughs)  The source of life is one in the same.  We can’t lose that perspective.”

With the exact same thing in mind, Lena Baucum’s quintessential mom might use a slightly more direct approach.  “You straighten up right now!”

It’s time.  It’s way past time.

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