Thursday, October 16, 2014

American History Disappears

This week, it's South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. Next week, or next month, it could be a couple of other conservatives.
Haley is a Republican and O'Reilly a registered Independent, but is no more an independent than is the Independent Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders.  
Raw Story has the story that
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) on Tuesday said that there was no need to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds because it was not an issue for CEOs, and the state had “fixed” racist perceptions by electing an Indian-American governor.
During a South Carolina gubernatorial debate, Democratic candidate Sen. Vincent Sheheen called on the flag to be retired to a museum.
“I think the people of South Carolina are tired of having an image across America that’s not truly who we are,” Sheheen explained, adding that everyone should “rally together under a flag that unites us all, the American flag, that looks toward the future, and not the past.”
Haley responded that the Confederate flag was a “sensitive issue.”
“What I can tell you is over the last three and a half years, I spent a lot of my days on the phones with CEOs and recruiting jobs to this state,” the governor noted. “I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag.”
Haley said that she had tried to improve the perception of the state by ordering employees to answer the phone with the phrase “it’s a great day in South Carolina.”
“But we really kind of fixed all that when you elected the first Indian-American female governor,” she insisted. “When we appointed the first African-American U.S. senator, that sent a huge message.”
There are so many things wrong with a Governor supporting the Confederate flag being flown at the Statehouse because, she says, it doesn't offend chief economic officers and America proved it isn't racist because it has a black President and South Carolina a black Senator.  the statement does, however, encapsulate Repub philosophy brilliantly, suggesting
Screw what all you other people might think, the governor has talked with lots of CEO's—they are people too, you know, but better people, ones with nicer watches and private jets—and none of them think it's an issue. What the hell are the rest of you still going on about?
But let's be honest. The sheer elitism, as captured eloquently above by Hunter of Daily Kos, will be little noted in the corporate media.  Hopefully, at least, there will be an onslaught of criticism for the adoration of the Confederate flag, which is offensive to blacks and should be to all people who are pleased the USA came out on top against the the Confederate States of America.
There is a third disturbing aspect to Haley's remarks, one in common with a comment by O'Reilly when he faced off last night (video, below) with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.  The synopsis by Salon's Joanna Rothkopf of the event includes
On Wednesday evening’s edition of “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart invited Bill O’Reilly on the program with the sole intention of getting O’Reilly to admit that there was such a thing as white privilege, but under the pretense of discussing O’Reilly’s new book, “Killing Patton.”
Stewart begins by saying that there is a system of subjugation in the country when it comes to anyone who isn’t white.
“That was then. This now,” O’Reilly responds. “Maybe you haven’t figured out that there is no more slavery, no more Jim Crow…”
“Ooh. Alright,” Stewart says, casually sneaking O’Reilly’s book under the desk.
“And the most powerful man in the world is a black American, and the most powerful woman in the world, Oprah Winfrey, is black,” O’Reilly says.
“Being able to give people a free car does not make you the most powerful woman in the world,” Stewart retorts.
Rothkopf's post is very brief, leaving her insufficient space to note the most significant- yet bound to be overlooked- remark made by O'Reilly. While denying white privilege, he demeaned a wide swath of Americans when he lectured "Let me repeat this, and I'll do it slowly so even you can understand it: If you work hard, if you get educated, if you're an honest person, you can make it in America!"
We'd all like to believe that of course. However, there are Americans from the wrong side of the tracks- and increasingly from the right side of the tracks- who are stuck in dead-end jobs and have not made it in America. Usually, those individuals are ill-educated- but often not.  They are disproportionately minority, but far from exclusively.  And to Bill O'Reilly, they have not made it because they're lazy or dishonest. 
Yet what ties together the claims of O'Reilly and Haley is  the idea that, if there is a minority who has been given a position of authority, the USA has ridden itself of bigotry. He doesn't even have to be elected, for Tim Scott was appointed to the US Senate by Haley, who now appears to have made the choice so she can say racism has ended.   
It is even on its face ludicrous, though with power and lasting influence among Republicans. When O'Reilly exclaimed "the most powerful man in the world is a black American and the most powerful woman in the world, Oprah Winfrey, is black," Stewart's quick, witty response was decisive- in the moment, and as to Winfrey herself.
More, however, is needed.  If the likes of O'Reilly are to brag, on behalf of country, that the nation has elected a black man (Barack Obama) as President, he ought to be congratulated for having voted for Obama.  After (honestly) denying that he did so, he ought to be asked why he declined the opportunity to help demonstrate how great the country is.  That would make for interesting- even "exceptional"- conversation.

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