I was probably an annoying person to have around if you were watching the Sotomayor confirmation hearings. I was so frustrated listening to them that I couldn't help ... um ... talking back to the television. There is, after all, only so much the mind can take before it explodes.
At least, that's true of my mind. As for the minds of some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, last week was like a crash course of what I've often referred to as "self-evasion of the mind."
It was some time before I recognized "self evasion of the mind" as the act of contorting the mind so as not to have to see or acknowledge what is obvious to anyone who simply looks.
It's a phrase I learned from an admired college professor, and I've since expanded my understand of it to include contorting the mind in order that one may continue to hold conflicting views or beliefs, or engage in behavior that is diametrically opposed to your stated beliefs.
Basically, it's amounts to working very hard at not having a clue. Or, in the case of Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, working overtime at not having a clue.
To say they have not clothed themselves in glory is an understatement. Exhibit A is their utter obliviousness to the reality that they were -- every single one of them, but some more egregiously than others -- engaging in the very same thing they were attempting to (a) accuse her of doing and (b) trying to establish as something forbidden to justices.
Vulcan Standard," so named because of the characteristics of the alien species of the "Star Trek" series.
Vulcans, as a matter of custom and policy, suppress or think past all emotional influence by living lives of rigid emotional self-control through meditative techniques and training of mental discipline. Vulcans are not depicted as having no emotions; although they themselves make this claim, Vulcans are a very emotional people. They developed techniques to suppress their emotions precisely because of the damage they can cause if unchecked.
Of course, there are no Vulcans on the court and none in the Senate, either. But you wouldn't know it to hear the Republican Senators.
To hear them tell it, white males are supremely (pun intended) skilled at objectivity because they do not have to divorce themselves from their ethnic identity or cultural background, because one doesn't need to divorce oneself from or divest oneself of what one doesn't have (or have to have). Men like Jeff Sessions, Lindsey Graham, and Tom Coburn aren't "ethnic" in the sense that they have an ethnic identity other than American, whereas someone like Sonia Sotomayor is ethnic. They don't have a separate and distinct culture because theirs is the dominant culture. They are the baseline that she must not stray too far beyond, if she wants to join them at the center of power. It is the admission
price she and others like her must pay in order to join their club.
This means several things. It means they are qualified to determine whether Sotomayor is ethnically biased against people like them --: who don't actually have an identity distinct from the dominant culture, ironically enough. It means that they are qualified to lecture Judge Sotomayor one not letting her background and experience as a Latina "distort" her judgement or decisions in the cases she would review, even as they are guilty of the same thing -- or would be if only they had an ethnic identity or background distinct from the dominant culture. (But more on that later.)
Exhibit B would have to be their apparent-though-unarticulated assertion of this authority, in the face of quite contrary evidence that in their own party -- in particular among the base for whom they continually played to the camera, repeating the same allegations and going over the same ground again and again -- "race problem" runs deep, that their own party is no more "colorblind" than they like to pretend they are or justice is, and it goes back far beyond Obama's election
victory, farther back than Reagan, and even Nixon.
Thus, Exhibit B is so large that it would take an eternity to present to the court. So it must be limited in scope, but even with that limitation it makes a pretty strong impression. I know I've dragged this collection of videos out before, given out subject, it bears repeating, if only to get a long look at the base that the McCain/Palin campaign courted the most, and that still holds a strong influence over the party.
The sentiments expressed by the GOP supporters in those videos aren't still simmering below the surface. They're bubbling right on top of surface. Occasionally the boil over, most recently on the conservative online community Free Republic, where -- in an incident that suggests why the Obamas take care to shelter their daughters from politics and the media -- pictures of Malia Obama wearing a peace symbol t-shirt received comments laden with racial slurs from the site's users.
"A typical street whore." "A bunch of ghetto thugs." "Ghetto street trash." "Wonder when she will get her first abortion."
These are a small selection of some of the racially-charged comments posted to the conservative 'Free Republic' blog Thursday, aimed at U.S. President Barack Obama's 11-year-old daughter Malia after she was photographed wearing a t-shirt with a peace sign on the front.
The thread was accompanied by a photo of Michelle Obama speaking to Malia that featured the caption, "To entertain her daughter, Michelle Obama loves to make monkey sounds."
Though this may sound like the sort of thing one might read on an Aryan Nation or white power website, they actually appeared on what is commonly considered one of the prime online locations for U.S. Conservative grassroots political discussion and organizing - and for a
short time, the comments seemed to have the okay of site administrators.
One shudders to think what the Freepers' reaction might have been if young Miss Obama had been photographed in any of the unfortunate circumstances that the Bush twins found themselves in -- or, at least one of them -- when the camera happened to turn on them. If she'd been falling down drunk, or caught trying to buy a drink while underage, conservatives would almost certainly have howled for DCS to raid the White House, for the Obama's to be investigated for child neglect, and even for Obama to follow Sarah Palin's selfless example and resign for the sake of his family.
And they would have howled as nearly as loudly that the children of politicians ought to be "off limits" as they did went the Bush twins were charged with underage drinking (Jenna's second charge), and when Bristol Palin became the newest face of unwed teenage motherhood. But at least they didn't do it while wearing t-shirts with peace symbols on them. Unfortunately, it's too early for Miss Obama to be rehabbed by writing a children's book and getting married, since she's, like, eleven.
The thread was left up by site administrators until a writer doing research on the conservative movement lodged a complaint, removed, then re-posted, placed under review following criticism from other blogs, reposted with the original complaint included and the writer's email address revealed, and finally removed again.
However, it is not lost. It can be seen via this screen capture.
But it's not just the base. As the timeline below suggests, it's also the leadership, both in the party and in the conservative movement itself.
(Note: I know this timeline is by no means comprehensive. Incidents were left out in the interest of publishing this post sooner. But I will continue to update it, and re-post it one of the other posts in this series.)
The most recent example took place just as Judge Sotomayor's confirmation hearings began, when Audra Shay handily won the election to chair the Young Republicans, after a Facebook flap involving "Mad Coons."
Note to Republicans: Racist "humor," the Internet, and political ambitions don't mix. Audra Shay, vice chairman of the Young Republicans and the leading candidate to be elected its chairman on Saturday, is now the latest in a growing list of GOP officials learning this lesson
the hard way, based on pictures of a now-deleted Facebook page obtained by The Daily Beast.
On Wednesday, Shay--a 38-year-old Army veteran, mother, and event planner from Louisiana who has been endorsed by her governor, Bobby Jindal--was holding court on her Facebook page, initiating a political conversation by posting that "WalMart just signed a death warrant" by "endorsing Obama's healthcare plan." At 1:52, a friend named listed as Eric S. Piker, but whose personal page says his actual name is Eric Pike, wrote "It's the government making us commies... can't even smoke in my damn car... whats next they going to issue toilet paper once a month... tell us how to wipe our asses..."
Two minutes later, Piker posted again saying "Obama Bin Lauden [sic] is the new terrorist... Muslim is on there side [sic]... need to take this country back from all of these mad coons... and illegals."
Eight minutes after that, at 2:02, Shay weighed in on Piker's comments: "You tell em Eric! lol."