I am, by nature and vocation, ungracious. I need to get this out of the way .
If ever there was a nation that needed "It Is Not All About You" tattooed on the inside of their fucking eyelids, it is the citizenry of United States of America.
First off, it is worth noting that the Crazification Factor is relativistic. 27% of Obama supporters will be -- not seem, be, that's the tricky bit of relativity, you know -- crazy as seen by Cinton supporters. 27% of Clinton supporters will be -- not seem, be -- crazy as seen by Obama supporters. And, apparently, 150% of those people are the ones commenting on blogs.
I've been surveying the various blogs, particularly the comments, as the Democratic Nomination process wound down. I've avoided commentary here primarily because an awful lot of the conflict has occurred in the very urgent, relevant contexts of racism and feminism -- and as a winner in the lucky sperm lottery, I try not to engage in issues which I can address at best in a limited, empathy-at-a-distance manner. There was this moment over at MYDD when a younger female commenter suggested that Senator Clinton would be a great Senate Majority Leader and an older female commenter tore into her, accusing her of betraying decades of feminist achievement by urging Senator Clinton to "settle" ...
Senate Majority Leader is settling?
... and I realized that the tempest had gotten hyperweird.
As I've mentioned before, I'm voting for anyone who's Not-McCain in November. The Senator's foreign policies are abysmal, his domestic financial policies are muddled, and his social policies have tacked hard right in his pursuit of the Republican nomination. If a three-legged dog were to somehow be nominated for the Democratic candidacy and chose as his running mate a gopher with a penchant for monocles and Victoriana, I would wear my "Tripod/Lord Whiskerkins '08" button with pride and pull the lever with cheerful alacrity. Secure in such a position I happily tuned out the primaries, focusing on my work.
But as the race went on, I found myself disagreeing with Digby, of all people. And now tonight, one of the blogs I love dearest, one of the first to link to me and I them, Shakespeare's Sister, has a post up by Melissa that is masterfully constructed, heartfelt, and moving.
And has ... bugged me.
I would never disagree with Melissa's argument that misogyny against one woman hurts all women, just as racism against one person hurts us all, as a society and individuals. We are always poorer because of it. But there's something I do want to explore here.
I'm sad because there are women at this blog, in my personal life, across this nation, and—if my inbox is any indication—across the globe, women of all races and sexualities and socio-economic classes, many of whom weren't even Hillary Clinton supporters, many of whom voted for Obama in the primary, who have watched with horror the seething hatred directed at Hillary Clinton just because she is a woman.
And these women have witnessed this despicable but spectacular marriage of aggressive misogyny and their long-presumed allies' casual indifference to it, and wondered what fucking planet they were on that dehumanizing eliminationist rhetoric, to which lefty bloggers used to object once upon a time, was now considered a legitimate campaign strategy, as long as it was aimed at a candidate those lefty bloggers didn't like.
And these women felt, quite rightly, like feminist principles were being thrown to the wolves in a fit of political expedience.
And these women felt personally abandoned. By people they had considered allies.
And while they struggled to understand just what was happening, while they were losing their way along well-traveled paths that no longer felt familiar or welcoming, they were admonished like children to stop taking things personally. They were sneered at for playing identity politics. They were demeaned as ridiculous, overwrought, hysterics. They were called bitches and cunts. They were bullied off blogs they'd called home for years.
Let's set aside for a second the kind of generalization that the misogyny of the current culture, particularly that of the MSM, was mainstreamed as a "legitimate strategy" by the Obama campaign. Although some people may disagree, I think it's disengenuous to mix the misogyny of the mainstream news/political structure and the behavior one way or another of the Obama campaign. They're separate issues.
But back to the point. The link above leads to Father Michael Pfleger's guest sermon at Obama's church. And Senator Obama's disavowal of a sermon he never attended. That's a far cry from waves of liberal bloggers saying "ROCK ON FATHER PFLEGER" and cutting up YouTube videos which put these comments in a spiffy Obama '08 campaign video. Can you find some? Sure. 27%, as I mentioned. Just like this lady is one of Senator Clinton's 27%.
Melissa mentions farther on in that quote that she was dissatisfied that Obama simply disavowed the statements of the priest, but didn't explicitly address the misogyny of the comments. And you know, I absolutely agree there's a helluvan argument to be made here that Senatar Obama should address misogyny in the same way, to the same degree, with which he so magnificently addressed race.
Many people would argue that he should have already done that during the primaries.
My question is, exactly when should he have done that?
When Senator Clinton was claiming, in her official campaign, common cause with Senator McCain over the "Commander-in-Chief" threshold? When she was touting her support among "among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans" in her official campaign? When she played the elitism card, hammered him on "bitter-gate" and in her official campaign ran ads for Pennsylvania voters claiming the Senator looked down them? When her actual campaign supporters, humans who she sent out to talk for her, lectured us that "He's got to stop with all the arguments for the Volvo drivin', NPR totebag totin' liberals, he needs to talk to middle class working people," and "We can't win with eggheads and African-Americans." When Geraldine Ferraro -- who I'm pretty sure wasn't off the reservation in Senator Clinton's campaign -- spewed her particular brand of idiocy (and then wrote a seriously dumb op-ed to boot)? When Senator Clinton's proxies staked her campaign on continually trying to change the rules of the Democratic nomination process, accusing Senator Obama of trying to "disenfranchise" contests she herself said would never count. And then, in her official campaign, argued that her struggle to suddenly count these primaries was akin to the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe? When the Senator was busy as part of her campaign lying to people about having the popular vote count majority, which at the very LEAST undermines the legitimacy of the winning candidate?
At what point was Senator Obama supposed to take his eye off Senator Clinton and Senator McCain and attack the mainstream press and elements of the political culture all while Senator Clinton was attempting to kneecap him?
Was I one of those "indifferent" to the spectacular misogyny evinced by both the MSM and some political operatives (sadly, btw, I think this level of misogyny is so commonplace in America as to be pretty unspectacular) and "eliminationist rhetoric" that cropped up in this campaign, directed at Senator Clinton? Certainly not. But whatever outrage I had at such elements was completely, apocalyptically, fire-hosed out of my eyeline by the sight of Senator Clinton suddenly running like a Republican in the middle of our Democratic primary.
And let's make this clear -- I'm not trading "racist Clinton" for "misogynist Obama." This is about her tactics and her tone, separate from any racial aspects.
If I may quote both Digby:
... I think the thing that has most exacerbated the fervent Clinton supporters' frustration, and frankly astonished me a bit, has been this endless drumbeat since February for her to drop out even though she was still winning primaries ...
... I should point out that Obama hasn't quite clinched and nobody should expect Clinton to concede until he crosses the finish line. I could be wrong, and she'll decide to take it to the convention like Jackson did in 88, Kennedy did in 80 and Reagan did in 76. But I doubt it.
And now, at long last, even now, when Clinton cannot win, she is being pushed out, carelessly, rudely, with little regard for the implicit message in hustling a historic candidate off the stage and demanding her graciousness in defeat, despite offering her no graciousness in victory. Right to the end, there is a lack of respect that hurts to watch.
I am pretty sure that Jackson and Kennedy didn't come into the conventions attacking the presumptive nominee from the right and spewing Republican talking points. Not to mention, I should be so lucky as to be "hustled" off the national stage after 54 goddam primaries and caucuses. Many, many, many of us who wanted Senator Clinton "hustled" off the stage wanted her gone not because a hotly contested primary race was the issue, but because of the way she ran it.
I didn't want a female senator out of the race. I didn't want a universal health-care advocate out of the race. I wanted the weirdly Republican-lite, crazy rules-changing, stereotype-reinforcing panderer that had somehow burrowed into Hillary Clinton's skull out of the race. Hell, the Republicans are actually using her "Commander-in-Chief threshold" argument in one of their ads against Senator Obama.
In short, Senator Clinton had my respect, based on her accomplishments and independent of her gender -- then she spent it, tossed it away in fistfuls, in trade for dirty borrowed blades with which to cut her way to the nomination. She Liebermaned on us. And what is particularly galling to me, positively enraging, is that if she were not indeed a woman, with all that entails to feminist politics in America, Melissa and Digby would be the first in the trenches calling out those tactics for the bullshit they are. Although they, and many like-minded bloggers, did indeed call fouls on such behavior, Senator Clinton would be dead to them in any other context. If there is a "lack of respect" for Senator Clinton, I assure you that for many of us, she came by it honestly.
To the same degree Melissa and her fellow travellers are shocked and disappointed at our apparent indifference to Senator Clinton's treatment by a certain percentage of the population, people like me are shocked and disappointed at their apparent indifference to Senator Clinton's reprehensible campaign tactics and rhetoric.
But there's the goddam trap. All I see on every damn blog is "What can Obama do to win over Clinton supporters?" and "Why won't Clinton supporters snap out of it?" and we're both waiting for the other side to "validate" us. I swear, if I see the word "validation" in context to this race one more time, I will go on a neck-punching tour of America.
It is time to stop taking this stuff so personally -- and I'm not admonishing you (us) "like children" but exactly opposite. I'm saying it to adults. Adults who are able to separate their own personal pain, their own trials and tribulations, their own struggles, from those of the nice person who they will never meet, who have their own shit going on, and who occasionally convince you that their shit is really your shit, too, honest.
If we want our lives changed, if we want the world changed, we have to let go of that infantile need to assign such potent symbolic powers to our leaders. The bizarre hero-Daddy Bush worship that morphed into proxy-machismo for a lot of insecure Americans is what drove us down the off-ramp to a grand national K-hole in the first place. The struggle of Hillary Clinton is neither the struggle of feminism in America nor inextricably tied to your own personal journey -- it is her own, as an individual. In the same way, Senator Obama winning or losing the Presidency (independent of resultant policies, natch) will not in any significant material way change the lives of the majority of African-Americans, or those of his Millenial followers. We only derive from their struggles what value in our lives that we assign them. Senators Clinton and Obama are powerful symbols in addition to being generally admirable humans. But that can only go so far.
The saddest thing I read today was one of the comments on Melissa's blog:
I had hoped that women would be taken seriously in my lifetime. It doesn't appear that will happen. To the younger generation, I charge you with the duty to make sure it will happen.
The idea that just because one single individual woman got within inches of being elected to the Presidency of the United States but couldn't close the deal, that this somehow means women as a whole aren't taken seriously, that this casts entire generations of women's relentless work in doubt is ... tragic. It is a fucked up way to look at the world.
Melissa has every right to her pain, and her sadness, and it's patently unfair of me to single out this post. But every discussion concerning this election about validation, and about whether the bad people on my used-to-be-favorite-web-site hurt my feelings, is another nail in the coffin of our emotional maturity as a society. (This is also tied into some age-oriented issues, but that's another post. This election's a bloody Gordian knot of transference)
As the Boomer-fetish president John F. Kennedy once said: "... ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. " That call to sacrifice has led generations of Americans to fight and die for their country, to abandon comfortable lives and dedicate themselves to service or to the eternal struggle for justice and human rights. I would suggest that the least we can do, for our country, is to stop being so goddam precious. What we can sacrifice right now is our need for validation, our narcissm, our cultural addiction to weaving ourselves and our emotional journeys into some grand historical high-drama (and I mean that in the narrative sense, not in the perjorative sense) epic.
We are small, our time is limited, people are shitty, death claims us all. The only lasting marks we leave in this world are the results of our actions, not our internal monologues.