Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Condemning Senator Allen of Virginia

A few weeks ago, Republican Senator Allen, seeking re-election inVirginia, used the word 'macaca' when talking about an 'spy' from his opponent's camp attending his event. Some reported that this is a racial slur in some culture, and Allen might have had some familiarity with such a culture.

This caused me to wonder how many words are racial slurs in some culture or other - if a person would be able to talk at all if he had to be mindful of every racist slang term around.

One of the things that I noticed about myself is that I never learned many racial terms. I always thought that this was a good thing. I always felt that such terms were not worth knowing. I never realized, until recently, that I was supposed to dedicate myself to learning every racial slur of every culture so that I could make sure to avoid using them, and being branded a racist.

Today, I saw new charges against Senator Allen. Some people (whose story can never be checked and who can make up whatever they want) assert that he used the word 'nigger' several times when he was in college. Some people who claim to have known him back then say that this is true. Some people claim that it is false.

The whole atmosphere of this particular debate reminds me of the effort to Swift Boat Senator Kerry when he ran for President. In this case, the Republicans took an event in the long past, found people who were willing to make a set of claims that contradicted the official story, and used this tactic to smear Senator Kerry. Again, there was no way to check the official story - to determine who was right and who was wrong. There was simply one group's word against another.

First, I want condemn the hypocrisy of the leftist bloggers who condemned the Swiftboating of John Kerry, but who praise similar tactics when used against a Republican opponent. They show by their words and deeds that they were just feigning moral indignation when they condemned the Republican tactics. They did not actually believe the Republicans were doing anything wrong. They just played the morally offended victim on television, because it made a good show.

If they actually felt that people who use these tactics are contemptible, then they would not give legs to the stories about Senator Allen. Instead, they would work to keep the voters' attention on the real issues.

The issue is even more disconcerting since we are talking about activities that are 30 years old or more, among college athletes. Young people are experimenting with an identity. They make mistakes. They deserve condemnation at the time they make mistakes - this is how we help them to choose the better road (assuming we know what the better road is ourselves). They do not deserve condemnation 30 years later. This is like saying that, because Einstein missed a particular test question when he was studying physics in college, he still did not understand physics 30 years later.

Second, this story is a distraction from the real issues. Instead of focusing on current reasons why Senator Allen should be defeated, they are avoiding the real issues to focus on this diversion. As such, they are feeding the political, economic, and moral ignorance of the people.

It would be better, I would argue, for them to be spending the time educating the public about which set of options we should pursue regarding Iraq, global warming, immigration, torture, warrantless spying, and separation of powers.

Another issue that should be addressed asks why this type of report has legs, but reports about a person's stand on torture, rendition, separation of powers, and checks and balances, do not attract near as much attention. The mere rumor that a person used the word 'nigger' thirty years ago when he was young is enough to sink his political career. The fact that the same person favors making America a nation wedded to torture, injustice, warantless spying, and absolute power collected in the hands of a single leader, are not considered important enough issues to decide an election on..

It is yet another example of twisted priorities.

People tend to blame "the media" when things like this happen. It is "the media's faut" for choosing to follow one story rather than another.

In fact, "the media" is substantially interested in only one thing - eyeballs per minute. This gets converted into cash through advertising revenue. The reason the 'nigger' story gets played is because people are paying attention to the web sites and broadcasts that play this story, and ignoring those who do not find it relevant. We are the ones who choose the nature of the moral debate in this country. If the moral debate is not what we want, we are the ones who have the power to change 0t - or at least nudge it into the right direction.

"But if we nudge it in the right direction, we will lose the election."

I do not write political strategy; that is not the purpose of this blog. I cannot say whether this is true or false. If it is true, it reflects a widespread moral and intellectual failing on the part of the voting public - something that should be addressed and changed. We gain nothing by pandering to, praising, and promoting this type of intellectual lazyness. We gain only by demoting and inhibiting it through condemnation, in the hopes that something better will take its place. In this case, "something better" refers to an interest in real issues to replace this distorted fascination with side shows.

I do not care what Senator Allen was like 30 years ago. I only care about what he is like today.

Finally, there is the supplemental story that Allen killed a dear during hunting season, then asked for the closest mailbox of a black family that he could stuff the head into. The story describes this as a copy-cat of the "horse's head in a bed" scene from The Godfather.

If these are just stories, then they are not worth reporting. Anybody can tell a story.

Let's assume that we go further and discover that there is a police report of a dear head stuffed in a mailbox. Now, we have some supporting evidence. However, we still do not have proof. It is quite possible that the accuser heard the story and is attempting to blame Senator Allen for it. It may be that the accuser himself is the person who stuffed the head in the mailbox.

A person has a right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and nothing here yet proves guilt. This is all part of having a desire to make sure that the guilty are punished, but the innocent are free to live their life. People should not be made to suffer for crimes they have not committed.

It is still the case that without some type of proof linking Allen to the crime, a morally concerned individual will dismiss these charges and consider them an irrelevant distraction to the real issues of the day.

I am not defending Senator Allen. This post is not a post saying that “Senator Allen is good and his critics are evil.” In fact, I think that there is sufficient real evidence against Allen to condemn him of bigotry. The Wikipedia article referenced above contains some examples. He has a history of supporting a Confederate culture while giving no indication of wishing to denounce even the most bigoted and racist elements of that culture (though he does not explicitly endorse them either).

This article is mostly concerned with asking the question of why so many people – people are willing to base a judgment on unfounded and unproven allegations, who do not seem to be similarly concerned with hard evidence? Why is this heavily flawed and flimsy case given such weight, and solid arguments based on hard evidence ignored?

This is not a way that a morally and intellectually responsible person would look at evidence.

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