Opinion » Bill Cope

Twist and Shout

It's their fault for being them


"I actually believe that things were better before this president was elected. And I think things have gotten worse because of his unusual emphasis on race."

--Dr. Ben Carson


One of the greatest accomplishments of the conservative fog has been to turn logic inside out, backwards, upside-down, all at once—to twist into grotesque mutations what would be simple truths to anyone with eyes and a functioning cerebral cortex.

Then, to put the froth in this mental mush, they anoint those who are best at it to be their intellectual giants.

One of these intellectual giants—at least, in the estimation of many right-wing emphatically-less-than intellectual giants—is this Ben Carson fellow, a retired neurosurgeon who's found that there is better money to be had by convincing racist audiences they aren't racist, because if they were, why would they be so pleased that an African-American (like Carson) was saying exactly what they want to hear?

And of course, one of the things this crowd likes to hear most often is that it's that damn guy who never should have been elected president in the first place who is the real racist. Not them.

I wouldn't presume to enter the reasoning chamber of Dr. Carson. I doubt even he could explain how any black American, let alone an educated one, could ignore the ongoing history of scorn, injustice, violence, unequal punishment, unequal opportunity, economic deprivation, police harassment and second-class citizenship, and blame the scourge of racism burning away the heart of this nation on the person who addresses it. My suspicion is that Carson does what he does for the money alone—that he is nothing more than a con man, a flim-flam sideshow hawker in a respectable suit, who's hit upon an easily bamboozled audience.

However, I will presume to enter the minds of the people Carson's argument would appeal to. I have been around conservative people and racist people all my life. I have heard it all before. I will undoubtedly hear it all again. And even though I often don't understand why such people do some of the things they do, I believe I can find my way around the reasoning of conservatives, guided by the all-too familiar landmarks—stunted and malformed as they may be.

How dare he, this so-called "president," continually remind us he is a black man!? This is unforgivable!... for black men—those who aren't stand-up comedians, at least—to even mention being black. All the good ones—Clarence Thomas, Michael Steele, Alan West—are they always going around making an issue of race issues? Certainly not! That's why we like them. That's why we let them hang out with us... because they would insist, as we have since the first stirrings of a civil rights movement in America, that the real issue with race isn't that this country has an issue with race, but that there are people who would make race an issue. And those people... those agitators and activists... those disgruntled and dissatisfied with their station in life... those are the ones we don't like. The ones we won't let hang out with us. The ones we don't care, and never have cared, what happens to them, because they have the audacity, the nerve, the bad taste, to point out that we truly don't care what happens to them.

If that seems impossible to follow, that's only because it is impossible to follow. That is the nature of a grotesque mutation of logic. If it made any sense, then maybe we could do something about it. But doing something about the racial divide in America is far from a conservative goal.

To actually do something constructive and enduring to resolve racial conflict would be to call for a heavy investment of compassion, of understanding, of tolerance, of humility, of community, of admitting that for the most part the grievances are real, of admitting that much of modern America was built on a foundation of crime and injustice—all in all, a cost the right wing refuses to pay.

This is intentional. In most ways, the right wing is a product of, and could not exist without, racial conflict. And to find the will and the heart to resolve it would be the end to the cruelty that binds it together.

Instead, the right keeps the fires fed with hysteria and disguises its basic immorality behind a convoluted rationale as represented in Carson's absurd statement. Extend it out and you get:

The slurs, the insults, the obscene imagery and astounding nonsense that have been used to attack the president and his family since his first day in office?... he brought it all on himself. They wouldn't have happened if he weren't there. Obama being black doesn't give him any special authority to acknowledge the reality that exists between white America and black America—a reality that wouldn't exist if we simply ignored it.

The epidemic of unarmed black teenagers being cut down, along with everything else these malcontents complain about, is only troubling because so many of the wrong people are troubled by it.