Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Limbaugh Way: 4

To bloggers on the left (at least myself), Rush Limbaugh is, as the cliche has it, the gift that keeps on giving.

In his remarks on Wednesday to Justice Department employees in honor of African American History Month, Attorney General Eric Holder famously, or infamously, contended

Although this nation has proudly thought of itself as a ethic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.

Oh, it's not that Limbaugh was completely wrong in his diatribe today. He is not the first person, only the most influential (as head of the Republican Party) to note "people are scared to death to talk about race in this country, Mr. Attorney General, for fear of what's going to be said about them." And his allegation "in some cases, people were afraid to vote the way they really wanted to vote, because they were afraid if people found out what would be said about them" is intriguing, though (characteristically) completely unsubstantiated.

Yet Holder reminded us also:

As a nation we have done a pretty good job in melding the races in the workplace. We work with one another, lunch together and, when the event is at the workplace during work hours or shortly thereafter, we socialize with one another fairly well, irrespective of race. And yet even this interaction operates within certain limitations. We know, by "American instinct" and by learned behavior, that certain subjects are off limits and that to explore them risks, at best embarrassment, and, at worst, the questioning of one’s character. And outside the workplace the situation is even more bleak in that there is almost no significant interaction between us. On Saturdays and Sundays America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some fifty years ago. This is truly sad. Given all that we as a nation went through during the civil rights struggle it is hard for me to accept that the result of those efforts was to create an America that is more prosperous, more positively race conscious and yet is voluntarily socially segregated.

The integration in the workplace, as the nation's top law enforcement officer therein explained, has not nearly been matched outside the workplace. Over forty years ago, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observed

we must face the fact that in America, the church is still the most segregated major institution in America. At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation.

And it is still, as in most social situations, true. Not, as Limbaugh claimed today, because of "civil rights leaders," who "want segregated everything these days." Nor did Rush serve accuracy with his standard shotgun style, somehow wrapping Holder's remarks into a package with Mark Rich, Michelle Obama, Barack Obama's "clinging" remarks in Pennsylvania during the primary campaign, "you people on the left," and "the Obamas(?) destroying the foreclosure market."

If Rush had chosen, he might instead have admitted that the A.G. argued that exploring the issue of race "risks at best embarrasment and at worse the questioning of one's character." But if he had, the icon of the right would either have had a)to forego noting "people are scared to death to talk about race" or b)to acknowledge that he agreed with Holder. Rather, Limbaugh was able both to complain about Holder and to make his point about (white) people being intimidated into silence. A classic Limbaugh twofer.

In his fairly lengthy, if rambling, remarks, Limbaugh stated also "there is no difference in '09 from 1959? Maybe you need to get out of Washington and start hanging out with the rest of us, Mr. Attorney General. Maybe you need to try actually living where Americans live and where Americans work..." Unfortunately, Rush neglected to quote Attorney General Holder noting

To attend her state’s taxpayer supported college in 1963 my late sister in law had to be escorted to class by United States Marshals and past the state’s governor, George Wallace. That frightening reality seems almost unthinkable to us now. The civil rights movement made America, if not perfect, better.

His conservative rap undermined, it would have been uncomfortable for Rush to admit that the civil rights movement was responsible for much of the improvement we have seen in American society. Meanwhile, the failure of Limbaugh to examine Holder's remarks in full, or at least in substantial part, points to yet another characteristic of his breezy, commercially successful style. Chalk this one up to: superficiality.

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