Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Respected (if unfathomable in some terms) blogger Ortho bounces his ideals off some sad commentary on behalf of McCain supporters and posits:

I see the vocalization of white racism and disgust of a perceived "other" at McCain/Palin rallies as refreshingly honest. The American citizens who use racist, intolerant language to voice their frustrations help demolish the dominant narrative, perpetuated by both the "Left" and the "Right," which portrays the United States as a tolerant, multicultural society. Neo-liberal War Criminals use the same narrative to justify a perpetual, planetary "War on Terror" against "intolerant," "misogynist," "homophobic," "third-world" countries (i.e., Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran).

The rabid racism at McCain/Palin rallies contributes to the destruction of a narrative that portrays the U.S. as a superior land of tolerance, freedom, and opportunity. We should applaud the racist McCain/Palin supporters for yet again, exposing the pathological hypocrisy that lies at the center of the United States' self-image.
In the commentary I counter:
"...Do you have a comparative society against which you measure and deduce this rampant racism and intolerance? Or is it purely metaphysical or philosophical?"
In other words what concrete, real world example is Ortho bouncing his own indictment of American society against to realize his rather negative conclusion?

The term "ideology" entered the American lexicon in the early 19th century via Antoine Louis Claude Destutt and was alluded to in some of the infamous post retirement correspondence from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams. Adams' reaction to the term was comical in a scoffing manner and included a tongue in cheek demand that Jefferson's usage of this term should be subjected to an import tariff against France.
Adams then followed up with this paraphrased conclusion*
Jefferson's style of political thinking was "much indebted to the invention of the word IDEOLOGY" because Jefferson harbored a set of attractive ideals, like the belief in human perfection or social equality, that he insisted could be implemented in this world merely because they existed in his head.
Those that would, in such an offhanded manner and without regard to any evidence in regard to global societal comparison, profess the intolerance and racism of American culture do so within the concept of ideology that President Adams referred to. Without a real world comparison (an actual utopian society where their version of "equality" is realized) they rely entirely on their own imagination for comparing and denigrating American society as intolerant and racist. In this respect they can argue infinitely within their own ideology and not posit a single element of a comparative alternative to this "intolerant and racist" nation that might well soon have the very first African-American leader in western history.

*As adapted from American Sphinx:The Character of Thomas Jefferson.

Addendum: The nature of this post is not aimed solely at Ortho. Quite the contrary.


Anonymous said...

I suppose he may be measuring it against utopia?

Jay@Soob said...

Which exists entirely in his imagination. Not a sound basis for rhetorical defense of ones assertions. Or maybe a perfect basis given the elasticity one can employ in such a debate when one posits from imaginative and not realistic circumstances, eh?

Anonymous said...

I don't like the concept of utopia for a variety of reasons, but that is the main one.

James said...

You make the most important practical point. We have a non-white lead candidate on a major party ticket who might well be elected president. The success of his candidacy speaks to the broadly based acceptance of diversity in American society.

Anonymous said...

I think that we all can agree that explicit racial prejudice has been taken out of the public sphere. That being said, structural racism still remains and heavily weighs down minorities. Racism itself has changed from openly being used in public discourse (e.g. George Wallace proclaiming "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever) to being expressed through a series of code words.

Ironically, the PC usage of speech codes has set up racism as being an insurgent ideology in opposition to "political correctness," a development that is very disturbing to say the least. Racism is once again merging with the populist loathing of elites, as it has in every populist movement in American peolitics.

Adrian said...

I think the problem comes from talking about a single American society. Inner city Rochester is very different from suburban Massachusetts, which is very different from rural Maine. People in Virginia talk openly about not wanting a biracial president. So clearly part of American society is still openly racist and doesn't feel any need to use code words at all. The fact that a big chunk of Americans are not openly racist and plan on voting for Obama does not mean that a big piece of America isn't still racist, just like the fact that a minority of Americans are still openly racist doesn't mean that the entire country is still openly racist.

ortho said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ortho said...

Interesting post, Jay@Soob. However, the post, as the last two commentators (Adam Elkus & Adrian) gently suggest, is not arguing from an objective position that transcends ideology. In fact, at the risk of stating the obvious, no one can argue from a position that is not deeply rooted in an ideological context. The only people who can say, with a straight face, that their argument is not based in an ideological context, are those who argue from within the ruling/predominant ideology. Of course, the only people they're fooling are themselves.

Jay@Soob said...

Ortho, there's a difference between an argument based in an ideology and an argument wholly reliant on ideology. This is the point that Adams was making and the reality that Jefferson continually learned and reluctantly conceded to throughout his political career. What's ideal isn't necessarily realistic.
You condemn the whole of American society to that of racism and intolerance. Ideally, you may be correct. But in terms of comparative reality (i.e by comparing American society to other real world societies) your assertion wanes. What ethnically heterogeneous society to the extent of America is more tolerant and less racist?

The problem is, your assertion is reliant on an imagined comparative (utopia) and so cannot entail a real world solution.