(Article changed on November 24, 2012 at 16:42)
It still remains to be seen how long the nation dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal will endure. (Following the conventional usage of his time,
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is a famous statement made by a President of the
But the white American novelist William Faulkner perceptively titled one of his novels about the American Civil War THE UNVANQUISHED. As a white commentator who grew up in Kansas City, Kansas and who then lived in St. Louis, Missouri for more than a decade, I would like to take a hint from that novel's title and suggest that many white Southerners who had supported the Confederacy remained unvanquished in their hearts and minds long after General Lee surrendered and that many Americans today still resist in their hearts and minds the radical experiment of a nation conceived and dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal.
Moreover, in his novel ABSALOM, ABSALOM! Faulkner brilliantly uses his creative imagination to construct the character Thomas Sutpen, the strong and talented and enterprising self-made man who is a white supremacist slave-holder and manipulative sexist. Faulkner was prescient in connecting white supremacy and manipulative male patriarchy in his portrayal of Thomas Sutpen.
For the sake of discussion, I am going to say that Faulkner is basically right in connecting white supremacy and manipulative male patriarchy, just as he is basically right in suggesting that many people who supported the Confederacy remained unvanquished in their hearts and minds after the end of the American Civil War.
So in response to Charles M. Blow's column about two Americas today, I say, "Yes, the elections of 2012 show that there are indeed two Americas today: one is composed of Americans who in their hearts and minds would like to embrace the radical experiment of a nation conceived and dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal, whereas the other is composed of Americans who in their hearts and minds want to resist the radical experiment of equality before the law and cling instead to white supremacy and to manipulative male patriarchy.
In his book THE OBAMA HATE MACHINE: THE LIES, DISTORTIONS, AND PERSONAL ATTACKS ON THE PRESIDENT -- AND WHO IS BEHIND THEM (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2012), Bill Press devotes an entire chapter (titled "The I Hate Obama Book Club," pages 137-175) to surveying 61 books critical of President Barack Obama. After some introductory discussion, Bill Press proceeds to list the 61 books alphabetically by each author's surname with complete bibliographic information about each book followed then by Bill Press's discussion of each book.
Now, if we were to buy into the attacks on Obama advanced in those 61 books, we might imagine that he is some kind of radical liberal. But for the most part, Obama has governed as a centrist, not as a radical liberal.
Indeed, after President Obama won re-election, William Saletan at SLATE MAGAZINE online published an article telling the GOP to cheer up because we had just elected a moderate Republican. I understand his point. However, he does not comment explicitly on the trend of radical Republicans attempting to purge moderate Republicans from the party by referring to them pejoratively as Republicans in name only (RINOS, for short).
Certain Republicans like to console themselves by repeating the mantra that we are a center-right nation. It makes me sad to say, but, yes, today we probably are a center-right nation. However, for the most part President Obama has governed as a center-right president. But the very same Republicans who repeat the mantra about our being a center-right nation do not seem to take any comfort from having a center-right President. On the contrary, they assail him for an endless array of thought crimes, some of which are real but many of which are imaginary. Indeed, he seems to be a lightning rod for conservative attacks, as First Lady Hilary Clinton was for years a lightning rod for a vast right-wing conspiracy.
To be sure, Obama often pays lip-service to certain liberal ideas. Occasionally, he even shows some backbone and stands up for women's rights. As I say, I think that William Faulkner was prescient in connecting white supremacy and manipulative male patriarchy in his portrayal of Thomas Sutpen. Because of the color of President Obama's skin, it is not hard to understand why people whose attitude of white supremacy remains unvanquished in their hearts and minds would see him as a symbolic target to their reservations about the proposition that all men and women are created equal. Because he occasionally shows some backbone in supporting women's rights, it is not hard to understand why he has drawn the fire of rear-guard defenders of manipulative male patriarchy.
But if all men and women are by nature equal because all of us share the same human nature, then our nation is dedicated to a radical proposition, and a government dedicated to such a radical proposition is a radical experiment in human history.
So I agree with Charles M. Blow that today there are two
Another civil war will not resolve this divide in the hearts and minds of the American people, just as the American Civil War did not once and for all resolve this divide in the hearts and minds of 19th-century Americans.