As a writer of non-fiction books, I suppose I should be happy when people like Joe Wilson scream at the President of the United States during a speech. It’s nasty little footnotes like that that make writing books about great people in history all the more interesting. Any good plotter knows that the worse the obstacles, the more of them, the more insidious, the better the hero looks in the end. Wilson will soon find himself on the wrong side of history, like the South during the Civil War, Hazel Bryan Massery during segregation, or those who tried to quote bible passages to oppose Copernicus and Galileo’s theories of heliocentrism.
But the North won, Segregation was the wrong thing, and the earth isn’t the center of the universe. And while the people on the wrong side of those stories are remembered, they are recalled with sneers in every book, every telecast, every 5th grade book report. As I researched Overcoming Prejudice, I saw how Massery’s moment in history wore her down. And I wonder how the people who were on the opposing side of segregation feel today. Differently? Ashamed? Still angry? And I wonder how those who hate Obama will feel when they too find themselves on the wrong side of history. Because make no mistake, for many, this isn’t just about policy opposition. This is about racism. Simple disagreement couldn’t evoke this level of ire. No one would have dreamed of screaming at W. or at Clinton during their time in office. And the fact that people wanted to pull their kids out of school because Obama was addressing students? Take it from a soldier: Paul Rieckhoff, veteran, and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said, “People who took their kids out of school to avoid the President, they need to go back to school. … [Obama] is arguably one of the most inspirational people of our time, regardless of how you feel about his politics. If he wants to talk to your kid it’s probably a good thing.”
And finally, why is it that the people who have healthcare are the ones who are arguing and holding up the process while those who don’t have healthcare have to suffer through this?
I suppose I should be happy their stupidity helps me make more interesting books. But what I feel instead is a nasty queasiness in my stomach to realize that in 2009, the closed-minded and backward are still ruling the debate.
UPDATE: Jimmy Carter also thinks Obama is facing a lot of racism.
FURTHER UPDATE: The White House disagrees with Jimmy Carter and me. Well played, Obama. Well played.