A new example of Right Wing pundits playing the Liberal exaggeration game
The latest Rick Perry controversy came out some days ago when it was revealed that a hunting camp his family had leased for some years has a place name that by today's standards is universally deemed derogatory toward African Americans. Worse, a stone near the camp's entrance at one time had the old place name: N-----Head painted on it. The word, by most accounts, had been painted over on the rock in 1983, though a few people contend that if the sun hits it just right the old word can be seen through the paint.
Now my personal feelings for Governor Perry are, very frankly, strongly negative and for several reasons. Despite my dislike for the man's policies and the general mien of wariness I have for him, I do believe him when he says that his family attempted to do the right thing when someone finally pointed the word out on the rock. Sure, it may have been better to have just turned the rock over than paint over it, or just haul it down to the nearest river and throw it in. But this aside, the family did paint over it once it was brought to their attention. And the truth is, the place name the rock was indicative of was an old place name. The Perry's didn't invent it; it came, as most areas of by-gone days, from colloquial words and phrases that residents were accustomed to using and conceived for reasons that usually had some special meaning surrounding the place. And even though we don't like it today, the fact is the N word was part of everyday language back then. That the rock was there for a long time before it was pointed out is most likely indicative that modern residents just hadn't thought to remove it or at least cover it up. It was part of the landscape, like a civil war marker that locals take for granted and only the tourists take snapshots of. Again, not something to be proud of -if we are to assume whoever gave the locale its name did so solely for mean and racist purposes.
Of course, when you think about it, if the people who named the place were white racists why not name it something like Honky Head or Cracker Corners? Maybe even Lily White Acres? We'll never know the answer, of course, because the folks who named the place aren't here to speak. And so, to assume the place name developed out of some racist agenda is myopic on our part.
On the other hand - Herman Cain recently appeared on ABC news and was asked by a reporter his opinion on the "N" rock controversy. Mr. Cain told the reporter he thought it was insensitive, and that he also thought it was insensitive of Perry (or at least the Perry family) for not removing the word sooner. Considering the historical use of the word evolved into the twentieth century as one really nasty, hateful slur against African Americans, his view is certainly not overboard. I can understand his feelings. Even as I said before the Perry's painted over it as soon as it was brought to their attention, you'd think if they could read -and I'm sure most of them could- that someone in the family would still have at least occasionally glanced at the darned rock, and taken measures decades before 1983 to do something to remedy the eyesore. And although I know colloquial expressions from long-ago should be remembered in their historical relevance, this isn't a story by Mark Twain; a literary work written by someone who lived in the era and was using the word as realistic (for the time) dialog for the hometown, everyday type characters of a fictional story or book. This was an old place name designation left out in the open for the entire world to see. The Perrys may have taken it for granted, but that its existence offended people is completely and rationally understandable.
The point I want to stress here is this: the rock with the slur on it was just left there -for whatever reason- and this was insensitive. Yet, Herman Cain did not once say Rick Perry was a racist, nor any of his family. He said it was insensitive. To say someone's actions or non-actions are insensitive is a totally different thing than calling someone a racist. Herman Cain recognizes this and most thinking people do, too.
But not certain Right Wing pundits.
Rush Limbaugh pounced on the moment to criticize Cain, accusing him of trying to piggyback and capitalize on the N rock story. The next high-profile pundit to level criticism was Bill O'Reilly; who, pulling Brit Hume into the act, tried to make Cain out as a race card player. Very soon some Right Wing forum squawkers had jumped onto the bandstand, echoing the sentiments of their beloved pundits with the charge that Cain had sold out the GOP for some Maxine Waters-type emotional grandstanding game.
Sorry, but the only grandstanding I see going on in this situation comes from these pundits who are all too eager to throw ammunition at Herman Cain.
In this day and age it seems most ultra liberals will throw out the "racist" charge at any and all real or just perceived criticism of President Obama, his administration and his policies. They've already tried this on Herman Cain with comments about Sharia Law and his requisite of proven American loyalty for any future presidential cabinet he may decide upon. It isn't just Cain or the GOP in general or even just the Tea Party; it has become the modus operandi among Ultra Liberals to stamp the patented label of "racist" on whoever expresses an opposing view. It is emotionalism at its most noxious extreme. It is ugly. It is deceitful. It is childish.
Right Wing pundits aren't afraid to call them on it, either. But when Right Wing pundits turn around and use the same brand of emotionalism to cast doubt on a candidate that rivals their chosen favorites, it is just as wrong. O'Reilly has done this by trying to saddle Cain with the mantle of hypocrisy. But he and Hume miscalculated for the very reason Cain wasn't the one who brought up the word racism. As I contend, and as both these educated men know, there is a big difference between racism and insensitivity. In his comments about the Perry family and the matter of the rock, Cain said it was a case of "insensitivity". That was it. But to hear O'Reilly and Hume tell Cain had a Janeane Garafalo moment.
So, just like I don't think Rick Perry's family deliberately acted with malice by overlooking the rock, I don't think Herman Cain deliberately acted with malice in his response. I believe Hume and O'Reilly know this, too. But what they also know is that O'Reilly has tried again and again to make Mr. Cain out to be inept as a real contender. He wants a standard politician to run against Obama in 2012 - a lifelong public servant as opposed to a business man who has worked in the public sector all his life. From the spectator's box it feels that O'Reilly and Hume, while famously opposed to the "race card" game, aren't above using it as a cudgel against their least favorite GOP contender.
As for Mr. Limbaugh..any one with as much ego as this blowhard possesses is the LAST person to accuse anyone of piggybacking on anything. Sure, he's right on some political issues, I can't deny that. But dear goddess..he piggybacked on the Eagles' song, "Get Over It" and he piggybacked on that horrible cult tune, "Barack the Magic Negro". If he wants to talk about grandstanding, he ought to start with that lavish fourth wedding when he plopped down a $1million fee for a performance by Elton John or when he mocked Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's disease. Right in political views or not, the man has the social maturity of an eight year old and his civility toward anyone who disagrees with him is every bit as exaggerated and rabid as as any of the Liberal pundits on the other side of the political forum. His hypocritical slamming of Cain comes as no surprise, but it is detestable nonetheless.
I will say, however, that I was genuinely surprised by Sean Hannity's response to Cain's words. Just when I thought Hannity had sunk into the Far Right tank and was never coming up for air he gave Herman Cain his moral support and apparent understanding. I don't know who Hannity's going to vote for, and I really don't want to know. But I admire him for being the man that some of his pundit colleagues have not been.
And to his credit, I even applaud Rick Perry for not reacting like a douche on this issue. Considering his churlish behavior during the last debate, I have to say he seems to be getting a little more mature.
"Politics, it seems to me, for years or all too long, has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong." ~ Richard Armour
More by this Author
Eggs on holiday: why I support the Liberal Ladies Who Lunch and their planned Access Denied strike
A commentary and look at the growing misuse of pepper spray.
A migraine sufferer's recommended list of over-the-counter migraine relief medications