Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fears from the past

"And you, of tender years,
Can't know the fears that your elders grew by..."
You may recognize the verse above from CSN&Y's song "Teach Your Children." It came to mind tonight, as I watch the coverage of the Democratic primary in West Virginia. As a political junkie, I have watched hours and hours of election coverage in the last four months, and I have become increasingly disturbed by a certain aspect of the commentary which has been repeated on an almost daily basis since Obama took the lead.
One after another, the commentators posit that the only way Hillary can win the nomination is if some catastrophe befalls Obama, some intervention, some unforeseen tragic event, some disaster. Now perhaps these folks mean nothing more by these references than some as yet undiscovered skeleton in Obama's closet or the possibility that he's arrested for DUI some night. But for those of us who lived through the tumult and tragedy of the 1968 election, these words have a sinister ring.
I think there is a certain irresponsibility in these words being repeated so often, given the charged nature of the campaign. Just today, the Washington Post reported that Obama's campaign workers have faced racist remarks, threats, and acts of vandalism. And then you have Rush Limbaugh urging his listeners to create chaos at the Democratic convention in Denver, saying "the dream end of this is that this keeps up to the convention and that we have a replay of Chicago 1968, with burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots, and all of that. "
When I went to an Obama rally in Dallas back in February, I was appalled that, by the time I got to the entrance of the arena, the security people had stopped doing security checks! Yep, we walked in an open door...no metal detectors, no security officers, nothing. I mean, we're talking DALLAS, folks! And this was right after the Kennedys had endorsed Obama and there had been so many comparisons to JFK. I was a nervous wreck during the rally...all I could think of was that some nut could have just walked in with a gun, with the idea in his head that if Obama wanted to be like Kennedy, he'd make it happen.
And I admit that I even have a fear of talking about this. The night Bobby Kennedy won the California primary in 1968, I watched the returns and watched him speak to the crowd. I remember thinking how easy it would be for someone to shoot him at that moment. I woke up the next day to learn that he had been assassinated.
So I wish all the political commentators would end the litany of "unforeseen events, disaster, catastrophe, intervention." I would suggest that they state things in a more specific way, such as "scandal" or "political gaffe" or whatever. I fear that constant talk of "disaster" will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Thom said...

I remember 1968 very well - April 4 and June 5. I have heard these statements made about Obama, but I never thought about it from this perspective. However, I have thought for some time now, that he runs a great risk of falling victim to radical bigotry. I hope we are both wrong.