Archive: August, 2010
I didn't plan to re-visit the subject of last night's post on America and "the Other" so quickly, but as soon as I hit the button last night there was powerful new evidence of growing numbers of citizens looking to tie together the disparate threads of Obama and Islam and immigration -- check this out:
The rise in Americans who say they believe Barack Obama's a Muslim say more about many Americans' hostility toward Islam than it does about the rising hostility to Obama on the right, which is hardly news.
A few months ago, I spent a Sunday morning in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart on Thomas Road in East Phoenix, just on the cusp of the immigration flare-up over racial profiling and Arizona's repressive law called SB 1070. It was quieter then -- a weathered 39-year-old Mexican in a wool cap with a New York Mets logo named Roberto Valdez who told me of his trek across the desert to seek work in Phoenix as a day laborer. Weeks earlier, Mexican day laborers like Valdez had been harassed on the weekends by angry white nativists, but in March of 2010 the nativists had moved on. Many had joined the Tea Party, and some were campaigning for GOP anti-immigration zealot J.D. Hayworth for U.S. Senate. Why waste time on "the Other" Roberto Valdez, when America now had "the Other" daring to occupy the Oval Office in the person of Barack Obama.
Five months later, the American political debate -- in a time of crushing 9.5-percent unemployment, record foreclosures and bankruptcies, and climate change linked to catastrophes from Moscow to Pakistan to Iowa -- has been hijacked over the arcane question of whether to allow an Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan. The controversy is stunning -- but it should not be. The national brouhaha over the $100 million Muslim Park51/Cordoba House proposal is not an anomaly but rather the culmimation of an alarming downturn in America's mood, its discourse, and even our former ambitions as a beacon of religious and political tolerance. In 2010, a large swath of the American public -- led by ratings-mad media mavens and immoral politicians like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin -- had declared out all-out war on "the Other" in America in all its alleged forms, from immigrants to Muslims to non-white aides working in the West Wing of the White House and of course the president himself.
Some day we're going to talk about this -- and not lower Manhattan zoning issues.
Kathleen Parker is a conservative columnist -- a conservative columnist who just won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary, which I'm sure knocked her down a few pegs in the eyes of conservatives. But I digress. Today she tackled the mosque controversy and knocked it right out of the park.
You didn't need a weatherman, a rocket scientist or a hairdresser to see that disgraced ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was a small-time dirty-dealing pol -- someone who was eager to sell a United States Senate seat to the highest bidder as soon as he could figue out the best way to do that.
At the same time, it was clear that when it came to the actual federal corruption case against Blago, something just didn't add up. The actual charges never lived up to the hype -- most famously, he never did end up selling that Senate seat, did he? It sure looked like the infamously zealous federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald -- his wiretaps exposed too early -- raced in with a kitchen sink indictment:
This story from the Financial Times about the strangulation of the American Dream for the middle class was published last month, but it won a journalism award today and ought to be checked out. It's a grim reminder that our problems didn't start with Bush or Obama:
The slow economic strangulation of the Freemans and millions of other middle-class Americans started long before the Great Recession, which merely exacerbated the “personal recession” that ordinary Americans had been suffering for years. Dubbed “median wage stagnation” by economists, the annual incomes of the bottom 90 per cent of US families have been essentially flat since 1973 – having risen by only 10 per cent in real terms over the past 37 years. That means most Americans have been treading water for more than a generation. Over the same period the incomes of the top 1 per cent have tripled. In 1973, chief executives were on average paid 26 times the median income. Now the multiple is above 300.
Bobby Thomson's "shot heard 'round the world" -- the 9th-inning, come-from-behind three-run blast that gave the 1951 New York Giants an improbable National League pennant against their hated crosstown rival Brooklyn Dodgers -- happened eight years before I was born. But I've watched the iconic Russ Hodges play-by-play call so many times, and seen so many interviews with Thomson and ill-fated hurler Ralph Branca, that I feel as if I were there in person. Even though it's hardly a surprise, the news that Thompson died today at age 86 is a palpable loss, a severed link to baseball's glorious past. May Thomson rest in peace, and may "The Giants win the pennant!" of the NL West in his honor, as long as it doesn't mess with the Phillies 2010 chances.