New Orleans The rush to judgment, public lynching of Shirley Sherrod speaks less to me about the stark avoidance of race, though absolutely that retreat is correctly the headline, than what it further exposes about the cowardice of conviction in the mindless process of media call-and-response where seeking face time and sound bites seems to be the pursuit rather than stranding for anything whatsoever. This sidebar is becoming the overarching theme.
I take no comfort in commentators mentioning that this is similar to the public implosion of ACORN in the video gotcha, look-at-me tactics of Andrew Breitbart and his camera thugs. Maureen Dowd is right in wondering if the White House is the “new” China where they don’t have Google access there to be able to first do the simplest form of new diligence and even check on who Shirley Sherrod might be before pushing her in front of the bus. Van Jones is right in trying to get some space and understanding for the way he was hounded out of the White House as well.
Our “mouths” have become the new bloody shirt of politics in the cultural and ideological wars replacing whether or not we served in Vietnam or ever inhaled, but for some reason there is no support for connecting our minds to our mouths and being able to be heard.
A tweet passed by quickly noting that Newt Gingrich and Howard Dean on a panel in Vegas agreed that “the White House is afraid of Fox News.” I think it’s worse than that. I think the White House is afraid to stand for its convictions. And, even worse than that, I think there is a full scale retreat from principled positions with even a slightly progressive slant.
An HBO documentary film maker approached me for help recently about what I refer to as his “ACORN Google Search” film. In the ACORN death watch his notion was “what was ACORN?” when a Google search revealed very little but what one of our ACORN Canada leaders called the “wall of hate” on one side and the liberals and left deserted the organization on the other side in the neo-McCarthy moment that had them running with their tails between their legs pretending they had never known, funded, or depended on the organization. He may not have a film there, but he certainly had a point.
I thought in the Age of Obama we might have gotten past that. Here was a guy who was simply too young for Vietnam and who didn’t pretend to have never inhaled. He wrote books that pretty much put a lot of it out there including his half-hug as a community organizer, yet he transcended all of what many might call “baggage” and became President. Oh, and he was black for godsakes! Yet, rather than encouraging or at least tolerating diversity, they have become fearful that any dissonance is off-message, disloyal, and helping the Republicans in this politically charged and polarized moment.
The right is speaking their mind, and frankly it’s scary. The left needs to at least saddle up with some courage to go with their convictions rather than cowering in fear that people will really hear their message clearly. With a little conviction they might be surprised at how much support they have in America, but until then we seem destined to even see great organizations like the NAACP join the lemmings in their rush to the sea.