Education by E-mail
While I hear and even sympathize with my Republican friends’ complaints that Barack Obama is being given a nearly free ride in the press, I also have to question the impact of the media (and the quarter million Obama has spent introducing himself to the world) as well as the intellectual permeability of the average American when I keep running into people who don’t seem to have turned on a radio or TV, or picked up a newspaper or magazine in the last year.
If the media attention surrounding Barack Obama is so gushingly over-the-top, why does a recent Newsweek poll still find that 25 percent of people in this country mistakenly believe Obama was raised a Muslim? Why do 40 percent think he attended a Muslim school while growing up? And why, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll, do 12 percent think he is still a Muslim today?
Do these people eschew all legitimate media sources and get all their news from forwards found in their e-mail inboxes? Because that is where you can find the erroneous and completely distortive e-mail claiming Obama is a radical, subversive Muslim who took his oath of office on a copy of the Koran. (As if there is something inherently wrong with being a Muslim or taking the oath of office on the Koran.) For those who continue to forward such e-mails, the definition of erroneous is “containing or characterized by error.” That a fancy word for a lie. Surely you know that one.
These e-mails are where you can find openly racist buttons sold during a Republican convention in Texas reading, “If Obama were to win, could we still call it the White House?” or repugnant t-shirts emblazoned with the phrase “Obama / Osama – Only a One Letter Difference.” Really!? So that means that Bonnie Hiller and Melissa Starin, residents of Washington D.C. whom I randomly chose from my phone book, both want to butcher millions of helpless Jews and Russians like Hitler and Stalin, right? Yet, despite the overt ridiculousness of statements like these, we accept the “I’m not going to vote for Obama because he has a name which sounds like a terrorist so he must be a terrorist himself” defense as if it is a legitimate reason rather than the uninformed, ignorant, backward comment that it is.
These e-mails are where you can find stories insisting Obama hates America, declines to say the pledge of allegiance, refuses to wear a lapel flag pin (in this scenario, Donald Rumsfeld is an uber-patriot for wearing his flag pin while personally directing thousands of American soldiers to their deaths), and is not really a Christian. (Just for the record, there was a bit of a scandal with Obama’s pastor of 20 years a few months back. You may have heard something about it. It was sorta kinda a big deal with a lot of people who, admittedly, wouldn’t know a big deal if it fell in their laps.)
John McCain isn’t officially floating these ideas. After all, he can’t possibly get his information from e-mail forwards, because he doesn’t even have an e-mail account. Inspiring a globalized planet fundamentally transformed and flattened by the information revolution, the nearly 72-year-old McCain recently admitted that he had not mastered the Internet, relies on his wife and aides to surf the net for him and has “never felt the particular need to e-mail.”
But McCain is doing the next best thing to firing off scurrilous, inflammatory e-mails by impinging Obama’s American-ness instead. Unable to dent Obama on the issues, McCain has recently turned to blasting Obama’s character, patriotism and basic humanity.
Over the weekend, the McCain camp released a television advertisement in which the announcer says that, while on his overseas trip, Obama “made time to go to the gym, but canceled a visit with wounded troops” even though they know full well the Pentagon cancelled the visit (a trip which, by the way, the media was not invited to attend). Then again, it’s not all that surprising when you consider that McCain attacked and goaded Obama to visit the war zone in the first place and when Obama did, assailed him for leaving the United States in a time of such economic peril.
Hey McCain camp, Obama’s overseas visit was pretty successful, don’t you think!? Since returning, Obama is now beating your candidate by nearly 10 points in almost all nation-wide polls. Do you really want to goad him into hanging out with more soldiers? Cause last I checked your new ad bashes Obama for not visiting the troops by showing footage of Obama visiting the troops. That’s him, by the way, in the gym in question, playing basketball with the soldiers. Any more bright ideas!?
Worse still, McCain recently suggested that Obama cares more about winning an election than winning the war, saying regularly that, “It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.” In the aforementioned commercial, the announcer says that “John McCain is always there for our troops,” concluding with the campaign’s new slogan: “McCain, country first.”
The implication is clear: Obama cares more about his own political ambitions than the national interest. While Rule One of the Republican Bible is paint your Democratic opponent as a liberal weenie who has no concept of the military or national security, McCain’s latest hit is unforgivable. To insinuate that a presidential contender would rather American soldiers die, would rather his own family be imperiled, and, if you believe the conservative machine, would rather invite further attacks on U.S. soil just so he can get a cushy job, is shameful, disgraceful, ignominious, despicable and unworthy of anyone seeking high office.
Not only that, they are the desperate actions of a man watching his dreams collide with the cataclysmic failure of his own ideals and the dawning of a leader for a new era.