Thursday, October 25, 2007

Naomi Wolf and the defeat of the Dream Act

Last night Amanda Baggs posted a 45-minute video of Naomi Wolf giving a talk about her book, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. I watched a bit of it and continued reading while the audio continued to run, expecting to catch the gist of the thing and file it away for future reference. But the more she spoke, the more curious I became. A search tossed up Sunday night's Book-TV interview which I had watched for a few minutes. Watching that video, I recalled my initial reaction, basically the same as I was having to the other video: Here is a smart, passionate young woman peddling a powerful and timely idea that is sure to sell books and articles. She's from way out in left field, feels the market potential, and is selling cotton candy at the fair. I was in general agreement but since she speaks in generalities it is hard for me to send "non-believers" in her direction. Besides, she has a sharp edge ...not as odious as a Coulter or Malkin, but something like that... which can turn people off when they hear it. Pushy. That's what she is. Pushy with a smile.

This morning I am changing my mind about Naomi Wolf. After the last hour of reading I have come to the conclusion that her thesis is solid as a rock and if something is not done to curb a dangerous social and political drift our children and grandchildren will pay a penalty that none of us, conservatives as well as those of us left of center, really wants.

Amanda Baggs link. (video, 45 minutes)

Book TV link. (program takes an hour or more)

Ten points listed from The Independent. (Long reading. Save for later.)

Yesterday's post from David Neiwert does not make any connection with Naomi Wolf. Once again he talks about "sundown towns" and how the phenomenon is spreading . For those who don't know what is meant by the term, sundown town refers to a community that makes it clear, one way or another, that the good people of that place do not want anyone there who is not like them in every fundamental way. (Gives meaning to the word fundamental, by the way.)

I am familiar with the term from childhood. I never saw an actual sign, but my dad said there were places in Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee where signs were posted at the city limits that said "Nigger, don't let the sun go down on you in [town or county name]." The meaning was clear. If you were black you are not only unwelcome but likely to be at risk for injury or death if you were still there at sundown. It's one thing to visit, spend your money or work in a place. It's very different if you expect to live and be accepted there socially.

I was spoon-fed racial prejudice from an early age. I know what it feels like, tastes like and how it penetrates to the core of your very being. Thanks to an epiphany sometime in my youth, I left that part of my heritage behind. Unfortunately, like a reformed alcoholic or abuser, I was left with a higher awareness of the problem than normal, and so the rest of my adult life it has been my portion to point and inform every chance I get. This is the purpose of my post this morning.

(Flashback: as I wrote that last paragraph, I remember a story about my maternal grandmother. About 1959 I was listening to a record of someone reading short-stories by Somerset Maugham. There was a passing reference to "Blind Tom, a Negro half-wit who played the piano." We were living in Columbus, GA at the time which is where Blind Tom, a slave, also had lived. I noticed a historic marker about that which piqued my curiosity.

(My grandmother, who was in failing health, was living with us at the time, and I mentioned Blind Tom to her in conversation. She said that her father got a chance to see Blind Tom once while traveling on a train. He didn't hear him play the piano, but he met Blind Tom's master, or as she said, "the man who owned him." He asked permission to feel the man's head, which he did, because it was thought at the time that the shape and growth patterns of the skull had something to do with mental development. It was nothing more than a layman's interest in phrenology, but this great-grandfather of mine didn't want to miss the chance to feel for himself this remarkable man's head to see if he noticed it to be any different from anyone else's head.

(My grandmother told the story as dispassionately as if she were remembering a dress her mother had made. There was no hint that there was anything out of the ordinary, other than what we now call a savant's gifted ability to play the piano. No hint of racism, note. It was not necessary to mention that. The Brown decision was not yet five years past and a national movement was not to reach where we lived for a couple more years.)

Getting back to Naomi Wolf and Dave Neiwert...

At the end of Neiwert's post he referred to yesterday's defeat of the DREAM Act, a test vote in the Senate that once again reveals that the country is not yet ready to come to terms with what to do with illegal immigrants. That piece of legislation would have opened the doors of opportunity to the children of undocumented immigrants to start the slow, tedious process of becoming Americans the old-fashioned way: facing an uphill struggle like that which faced the progenitors of nearly everyone who lives here now. I remembered a great story from two years ago of some kids in Arizona who make the realization of the "dream" a possibility.

A blog search for DREAM Act is my wake-up call.
Scanning down the list of hits, I realize that the opposition to that piece of legislation is widespread and tight-knit. The angry rhetoric of shock-jocks, Fox News and journalists who claim to speak for the "conservative" side of American society is gripping the body politic in a way that makes Naomi Wolf's arguments sound a lot less shrill. Her credibility shoots way up when I come across one blog's commentary. Documenting statistics from Investor's Business Daily about widespread opposition to the DREAM Act, the blogmaster feels the need to add:

Please consider this: no matter how large or small the turd is and, no matter what color one paints said turd, the fact remains as follows; a turd is still a turd and no, you cannot pick up a turd by the clean end.

That language is not remarkable. It is an idiom not only understood but appreciated by a growing number of otherwise decent Americans. Lots of folks will think it's cute.

Nor is the Congress to blame. They know, both in the Senate and the House, that their jobs depend on not pissing off their constituencies too much. They can lean this way or that and call it leadership... but in the end, if they don't do pretty much what they were sent there to do, they will not be re-elected. Simple as that. Why else do earmarks outweigh common sense? The old-fashioned dilemma was "guns or butter" We now face "guns or bacon." Why else would a multi-billion-dollar war keep sucking up money when the price of S-CHIP is trivial by comparison? And yet, the bacon (earmarks) keeps coming home.

Link to Dave Neiwert's post.

End of rant. The day ahead beckons and I have other things to do. When I was young, I got radicalized by events around me. Now that I'm older, the same disease is returning. I don't know which is easier to take, a young person who doesn't know his head from a hole in the ground, or an old person getting ready to go into one.

Time permitting, here's another first-person contemporary account relative to this subject.

If anyone is still with me here, I urge you to give an ear to Naomi Wolf. She's on to something and I wish her Godspeed.

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