Sunday, April 11, 2010

Let's All Be Thankful for Bob McDonnell

In the wake of the governor of my home state literally making Virginia the whipping boy for the nation’s collective guilt still felt about racism, I’d like to say a few words regarding this.
First of all, I did not vote for Bob McDonnell. Bob McDonnell does not speak for me. I did not authorise him to have my mandate. Neither did 44% of the people in Virginia who voted last November. That said, I did vote. In fact, I got my ass on a transatlantic flight and timed a holiday so that I would have a chance to pop by the polling booth that Tuesday morning and cast my Democratic vote; but a lot of people who lived in the state, simply couldn’t be assed to do so.
The day before the election, a politically astute friend of mine called it correctly. Deed would lose, he said, because the two demographics who ensured that the state went blue in 2008, simply didn’t intend to turn up at the polls – and those were the first-time voters (aged 18-24, specifically) and the African-Americans, many of whom – including Sheila Johnson of BET – were supporting McDonnell. The indendent tranche went red as well.
This entire election was a prelude of the Massachusetts senatorial election two months later; and as much as the media and the usual suspects whose agenda it is to ensure this Presidency fails (the Hamshers in bed with Grover Norquist and Whoreanna Fuckington), would like us to believe that both elections were an indictment of the President and his policies, more than anything the results were down to the Democrats having fielded weak candidates and low voter turnout.
That Virginia got duped is in no doubt. I’m someone who’s long judged books by covers, and I’ve been right on that accord more than I’ve been wrong. I had George Bush pegged as the failed, obnoxious frat boy he turned out to be, and I saw McDonnell quickly for the plastecene poor man’s Ted Haggard with the Stepford wife and requisite number of kids. He had a ready smile and the eyes of a fundamentalist. The minute the Washington Post published a picture of him campaigning under the Confederate flag, alarm bells should have gone off in the minds of every registered Democrat and Independent in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Two months after that, in August 2009, WaPo again scored by publishing extracts from McDonnell’s doctoral thesis, obtained at Pat Robertson’s Regent University – which is a euphemism for advanced Bible school. This was the infamous thesis consigning women to a future of being barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen and deploring the existence of homosexuals in society.
If alarm bells didn’t ring with the Confederate flag, they should have been blaring at that moment, and they should have turned into a cacophany when McDonnell told a bare-faced lie and attributed such writings to the folly of youth. That, upon investigation, it turned out that such ideas had been committed to print when McDonnell was a man of 35, married and with children, begs the question: When exactly does youth end and emotional maturity begin?
When McDonnell signed the nefarious document, proclaiming April “Confederate History Month” without as much as referring to the question of slavery being the ultimate driving force behind the Civil War, he not only made Virginia, the first English colony, the Mother of Presidents, and the home of the writers of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, the laughing stock of the entire nation, he also condemned all her citizens to be judged by his standards.
Reading comments on various threads in Facebook and Huffington Post, I now realise that, as a Virginian, I’m supposed to be ignorant, dumb, illiterate, gun-loving, retrospective, fundamentalist Christian, a rube, a hillbilly, a ‘goober’, a dolt, a member of the great unwashed. Also, as a Virginian, according to some, I am a racist. My state, along with the entire South, should secede. In fact, the Union should have allowed us to secede in 1861. Indeed, the United States would have been much, much better and the Confederacy would have been (in one commentator’s words), “the stinking shitheap that it is today.”
Gee, thanks.
It’s nice to be loved.
So love, in fact, that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, both, came in for some pretty strong invective, as did former governors Tim Kaine and Douglass Wilder. Kaine’s condemnation of McDonnell, according to the erstwhile sitting atop the hill of moral superiority, didn’t go far enough. Well, how “far enough” is far enough? Kaine’s tenure as Governor ended three months ago. He condemned the action. He deplored it.
Wilder, on the other hand, fared worse.
It’s entirely mete to know that Douglass Wilder, in 1989, a Democrat, became the first African American elected to a gubernatorial post in the United States. That’s right, peeps. Virginia, that bastion of bigotry and racial prejudice, that ignorant heap of shitkickers, elected the first African American governor in 1989 – almost two decades before David Paterson was appointed and at a time Derval Patrick was just getting into young fatherhood. But when Governor Wilder – today, the Mayor of Richmond – condemned McDonnell’s actions, in the words of a Buffalo woman, transplanted to Virginia and unhappy there, Wilder was a “Republican tool.”
Am I angry about McDonnell? In the words of a well-known sage, you betcha. I’m chewing nails and spitting rust. I was even angrier when I read the account of his actions in The Richmond Times Despatch, a paper long known for its conservative stance, who roundly condemned this governor’s actions; but I was angrier at the degree of support he seemed to receive from the commentators participating in the online version of the paper.
There was a veritable Civil War going on there, and it was getting pretty ugly. Then I read some of the comments again. Many of them began with “My great-grandfather fought in the War of Southern Aggression …”
That’s when I realised something.
These people are old. When you’re great-granddaddy fought for the South, you are old. Maybe some of these men even remembered Great-grandpappy. And there’s no reason why they wouldn’t be computer-literate, themselves. There is such a demographic as silver surfers. Of course, they were arguing the moot point about the War not being about slavery, but about states’ rights etc; but the ultimate truth was that the War was fought because the Southern states demanded their right to extend slavery into the new Western territories, by manifest destiny, whilst the Federal government’s attitude of the day was to contain slavery, as abhorrent as it was, in the agrarian South, and allow all new territories to be slave-free zones.
If you scratch the surface of the United States of the ante-bellum era, you’ll find a lot of unrest amongst certain tranches of Northerners regarding freeing slaves as well. This was a time of western expansion in the United States. It was also the time of unfettered immigration from Europe, chiefly from Germany, Austria and Ireland, to the United States. There was a great anti-immigration feeling amongst people who considered themselves “natural-born” United States citizens, especially in that immigrants provided cheaper labour, and freed slaves would provide even cheaper labour.
I recognise, as well, that simmering beneath the surface of these elderly gentlemen’s righteous indignation, was consternation at the fact that a black man was sitting in the Oval Office.
Well, that’s also the modus operandi of the Tea Party movement, something which is now spreading its tentacles nationwide, North and South, East and West. It’s subtly hidden, of course, but we saw it in the Northern crowds who turned up to cheer Sarah Palin during the Presidential campaign, carrying stuffed Curious George toys, re-named “Hussein” for the occasion. Their poster boys and chief cheerleaders are the likes of Palin, herself, Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh … and none of the above is remotely Southern.
It’s an ageing demographic who can’t get to grips with the changing overall racial portrait of the United States. It’s nice to think that this generation is dying off, but experience has proven that attitudes and mores can be passed from one generation to another. In Britain, people whose parents weren’t even alive during the Second World War are raised to detest the Germans. The English cordially hate the French and vice versa based on a war that ended in the Fifteenth Century, and don’t even start on Catholics and Protestants. So, regrettably, there will always be people who think that the Caucasian race is superior to any other. Some of those people, invariably, will be from the South. And some will be from the North, too, which has seen its share of race riots, conveniently forgotten in this diatribe against a state.
For the record, here are a few things people in the North and the South should know:-
First of all, for all you Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy, this one’s for you. They guys’ hero is John S Mosby, the Gray Ghost, himself. Quite a few SCV chapters are named after him. The gals all love Belle Boyd, the famous Southern spy. Literally all the UDC chapters bear Belle’s name. Well, I’m well familiar with Mosby and Belle, having grown up amongst their old stomping ground. I wonder how many people know that Mosby, after the war, became a staunch Republican (bad word in the South in those days) and ended up serving the Grant Administration. That’s Grant as in Ulysses S Grant, who took Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.
And Belle escaped to England during the war and married a Yankee en route – not just any Yankee, but a serving Yankee officer. And when he died, she married another; and years later, a third. She made her living post-war, much the same way Sarah Palin’s making hers today – giving public talks, for which she was paid, mostly to veterans of the GAR – that’s the Grand Army of the Republic, to novices, a euphemism for the Yankee army. So Belle was the Sarah Palin of her day, a fully paid-up media whore, who had a heart attack and died in Wisconsin before a scheduled address to another group of Yankee veterans.
In other words, for them the Civil War ended in 1865. They accepted the fact that they were on the losing side and went on to make capital from it.
Secondly, as there seems to be a plethora of people from the North intent on heaping hate on the South, and on Virginia, in particular for this incident, I’d say this: that these people are the selfsame ones who, previously, had been found heaping the hate on the President and all who surround him, calling for a primary challenger in 2012, threatening not to vote, calling him a Republican and all sorts. These people seriously need to deal with their cognitive dissonance, and not substitute it for irrational hate for a specific demographic. These people seriously need to remember that three of the last four Democratic Presidents were from the Deep South, and one was responsible for two of the most Progressive pieces of legislation in the 20th Century. In fact, of the 8 Democratic Presidents to serve in the 20th and 21st Centuries, four were Southerners and one was from a border state. Think about that.
Also, cogitate upon this: Bob McDonnell was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. True, he moved to Virginia when he was one year old, but he was an army brat. He spent the early part of his childhood on army bases in Germany, before returning with his parents to settle in Fairfax County in Northern Virginia, or NoVa. Like another Philadelphian, Chris Matthews, he’s a practicing Roman Catholic.
Virginians are born not made. We tolerate people who live and work in our state as “Virginians” inasmuch as they contribute to the economy, but a real Virginian is one who is born there, or – at the very least – one whose mother was a Virginian. Sorry, if that sounds snooty, snobby or exclusive, but in the words of a fellow real Virginina, Bruce Hornsby, “That’s just the way it is.” We just about extended the status of “real Virginian” to Tim Kaine, because he married a woman, from Virginia, whose parents are not only real Virginians, but whose father was actually a real Republican governor of the state (as opposed to Dixiecrat-turned-Republican), who became a Democrat.
And settling in NoVa gives McDonnell the added epithet of being a “phoney Virginian,” which is what residents of that area are considered by people born in the State. So, lil’Bob, like his crony Ken Cuccinelli, bona fide scion of the Jersey shore, are what the Sons of Confederate Veterans and their ilk would have deemed, in other times, to be Carpetbaggers. In fact, as political pundit (and Virginian) Larry Sabato pointed out, McDonnells ancestors were still in Ireland when the Civil War occurred. If they were in the United States, chances were that they were conscripted to serve the Union.
Is Bob McDonnell racist? I don’t know. Probably so, I would say; but I would venture to say that that perceived racism came as much from his own background – remember Jack Murtha’s remark about racism in Pennsylvania? – as from any time spent in Virginia or any association with Virginians.
So, all you people up there on the moral high ground want to shut up and think about what you’re saying when you’re labelling Southerners – and Virginians, in particular in this instance – mindless morons, bigots, hillbillies, whatever – that you’re sounding just as intolerant, narrow-minded and exclusive as those people you seek to criticize on the Right. A friend of mine, an ardent liberal and real Virginian, whom I’ve known through high school and university, recently that the one group of people whom liberals/Progressives could criticize, taunt and condemn with impugnity were Southerners, and in doing so, they totally negated the fact that there were, indeed, liberal Southerners, from Huey Long to Ann Richards, from Lyndon Johnson to Jimmy Carter, from Bill Clinton to Robert Gibbs, the Alabamian Press Secretary who works for the nation’s first African American President.
So, maybe we should all be thankful for Bob McDonnell, because he’s opened up the can of worms labelled “racism,” and – as someone said in the early days of the Obama Presidency – maybe it’s time that this nation sat down and actually addressed racism in an open and honest debate. Maybe Virginia needed McDonnell, because his retrograde opinions on race, women’s issues and sexuality will force those people who couldn’t move their asses to the polling booth in 2009 to mosey on down there and pull the lever for progress in 2010 and thus move the state forwards into the 21st Century in spite of Bob McDonnell. And maybe the whole country needs him too, if only to show those recalcitrants what the people are left with, when others decide to sulk out the vote.
I am a born Virginina Progressive, and I approve this message.

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