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A Child Questions A Nation's Hate


By Suzi LeVeaux - Posted on 19 October 2009

When President Obama was in NOLA, a nine year old boy asked why so many people hated him.  This insightful op-ed piece from the LSU Daily Reveille discusses the question and answer.  When I read things like this from the younger generation, I know that we will be leaving the future of our nation in capable hands.  Kudos to Matthew Albright, the young author.

Kids say the darnedest things.

President Obama found himself facing the raised hand of 9-year-old Terrence Scott, of Pauline, La., in a town-hall style meeting Thursday during his highly publicized visit to New Orleans.

Answering questions from a kid is risky: Though a picture of the president talking one-on-one with a child is always a good photo-op, you can never control what they’re going to say.

Children don’t know the rules. They don’t know what will look good on cameras, they don’t know about the after-speech breakdown in a flurry of punditry and they don’t know what carefully constructed phrasing will earn their political allies the most points.

They don’t have political allies. They don’t see things in terms of red or blue, Democrat or Republican. And they certainly don’t know how their words will affect the balance of power.

But Terrence’s question is far more than cute, humorous irony — it cuts to the blackened, poisoned heart of our political culture.

As we go forward, I would like to do a series of blogs about the dark undercurrents that I see growing in our nation.  Not only racism, but many other things that are, to me, very frightening.  They are there, and they are insidious.  They take many different forms.  I personally think that racism, even latent racism, it the thing that gives permission to the others, but I could be wrong. 

Let's discuss it and see if we can connect the dots before it is too late to fight back.

Children don’t know the rules. They don’t know what will look good on cameras, they don’t know about the after-speech breakdown in a flurry of punditry and they don’t know what carefully constructed phrasing will earn their political allies the most points.

They don’t have political allies. They don’t see things in terms of red or blue, Democrat or Republican. And they certainly don’t know how their words will affect the balance of power.

But Terrence’s question is far more than cute, humorous irony — it cuts to the blackened, poisoned heart of our political culture.

Suzi-excellent topic! I was very moved by this child's question because it showed us the impact of the hate being exposed on the news (people with guns outside Obama rallies, hate-filled signs, parents wanting to keep children home from school to protect them from an Obama speech on studying and not making excuses??) and that children do take notice. It reminds me of a divorce situtation when children overhear nasty things being said between parents or fighting. Parents think they are ignorant to it but in their innocence, they pay attention and just wonder why.

I learned a huge lesson about how much children absorb from TV shortly after 9-11.  As we watched in horror at the never ending clips a couple of days later, Lane (#3 grandson) who was two at the time, buried his head and cried out "No more fire!".   He was far too little to know what was happening, but was afraid.

As parents and other adults spew their hate, they not only infect other adults, but the children internalize it, and feel their worlds are threatened, simply because they don't understand what is or isn't outside of their safety zones.

Suzi,

I'm glad you brought this up. I am not sure how to proceed though. without the matter turning into another slugfest like the atheist thread.

Ive gotta get back to work, but I was thinking about the following the other day and I think this is a good thread to put it up on.

One thing I noticed after watching the clip with Terrence was that most of the audience was black.  Which in and of itself would be expected, NOLA has a large black population.  But then I realized that unless the film is recording a political summit or some such most of the film clips etc of late that I have seen have shown Obama amid a sea of black faces, and I found myself thinking well come on press, he is president ot all of us not just black america.

First of all am I totally off base in this perception that the media is gradually showing Obama surrounded by blacks?  I don't recall having the same perception for several months after he was elected.  Has any one one else had the same feeling?

My concern is that, because racism is so invidious and I suspect lying latent in the hearts of most americans, especially those past a certain age, that by a persistant portrayal of the president as "only" a black president will doom his run for a second term.

 Am I being too paranoid?

 

 

I don't think you're bein paranoid at all.  This is the kind of thing we must notice, think about and discuss.  I'm becoming so paranoid (translation:aware) that I halfway expect tea-baggers to come out from under my bed at night and torture me. ;-)

I didn't note the color of the faces one way or another, so as I was reading your post, my first thought was to wonder if this is how some in the press were deliberately showing the president, in order to capitalize on racial strife.  So I found a quick MSNBC clip on hulu of the crowd in NOLA, and it was a sea of faces of many hues.  Which brings me right back to questioning the perception that some in the media may be trying to put out there.  This is the type of thing that I meant when I said it is insidious.   Can we be manipulated without our even realizing it?  If you, who is in no way racist, notices this, can you imagine what those who harbor even latent racism will think when they surely notice the same thing?  I can guarantee that their concerns will not be the same as yours!!

When I think back to the scandal from the Pentagon, which used to press to manipulate the Iraq war, and how complict the press was in it, I think you may be on to something 16. 

Approach this any way you wish, 16.  If it turns into a slugfest, so be it, I'll manage it.  We need to have an open and honest, even heated if need be, discussion about what is happening in our country.

.. which used to press to manipulate the Iraq war, and how complict the press was in it, I think you may be on to something 16.

I don't think the press is necessarily trying to limit the appeal of the president. The press may even be thinking that they are doing a good thing by  showing black americans involved in the political process without thinking of how white america might respond. In a truely color blind society it wouldn't make a difference, but we are no where near such a society.  

by the by thank you for saying that it is obvious that I am not a racist, but as a daughter of mildly racist parents I tend to think of myself as a latent racist.  Sort of like if your parents are alcoholic, you are likely to be so too..

16, living with my parents is showing me how much I'm turning into my father, and also how much I'm different from him. I don't think it's ever easy to break new ground, so to speak, but I'm sure in many ways you're moving in a good direction.
----

It's sad that we've reached a point where 'government service' is a dirty word... If we're the greatest country on earth, maybe we can have the greatest government.

Lewis Black

As we go forward, I would like to do a series of blogs about the dark undercurrents that I see growing in our nation.

I'd been thinking of this myself (especially after Roger Ebert's Socratic take on this), but I think a blog series would be fantastic.

----

It's sad that we've reached a point where 'government service' is a dirty word... If we're the greatest country on earth, maybe we can have the greatest government.

Lewis Black

Thanks, magus.  It seems that a lot of us have been thinking about it, but it is very unpleasant, even scary, to discuss. 

I read Ebert's article a couple of weeks ago, and plan to take this even further.  What I would like to do, with everyone's permission, is write a new blog every few days, giving us time to hash out each one.  I will write them in what I see as ascending order, leading to the real wackos that frighten me.  This will also help us sort out who is or isn't complicit in it, and complicit in what could be a very scary scenario.

Who knows?  Maybe I am a nutty conspiracy theorist too.  If so, y'all can talk me down.  But what I would like to know is if everyone thinks this is a good idea.  I would hate to put a lot of time and effort into it if others think it is a bad idea.  Be honest with me, RFOers.

I think there are a number of factors contributing to how fractured we've become.  Unfortunately, I think the internet has been a large one.  It's so much easier for anyone and everyone to publish whatever they want-- including those who are predisposed to pushing conspiracy theories. 

It's also a heck of a lot easier to ignore what everyone else is saying and to find your own niche ideology.  Very few people actively seek out views they disagree with.  To the extent people do this, it's usually only done for research-- to see what their enemies are up to in order to more effectively attack them. 

Under the old regime, you were forced to accept what the three TV networks, and perhaps the one or two newspapers in your town had to say.  Typically, the news that was presented wasn't of the fire-and-brimstone variety we're now inundated with.

Don't get me wrong-- there are huge positives to how things are now, but the rise of our current fractured media has its consequences.

I think you're absolutely right, John.  The internet, along with 24 hour news that plays to people's emotions,  have given the like minded places to gather.  The bad thing is, they feed off of each other's paranoia and misinformation, and it grows exponentially. 

I am one of those few who does read and watch news I disagree with, not as much for attack purposes, but to be informed as to what is really going on in the world I live in.  It can be a scary thing to do that, especially when you start digging deep.

I recall hearing on NPR (I think) of a study that showed that people who listened only to the side that they agreed with became more and more polorized.

The study was set up with three groups. Two of the groups were designated to speak only with those that were of their end of the political spectrum, but not necessarily on the far end of the spectrum.  The last group was able to speak to people on both ends of the political spectrum.  In none of these groups were people placed because of how far right or left they were, in other words all three groups had equel number of moderates and extremists.  The end results were that the opinions of the groups that were restricted to speaking only to those of a like persuasion ended up being pulled to the far left or right where the group that had to speak with others of dissimular viewpoints became more centrist.

The great thing about the internet is that you can actively go out and read  and discuss both sides, which prevents the "media" from being too powerful. Unfortunately, the bad part is that people tend to congregate where they agree with the majority, and thereby tend to become more polorized. 

The media is a business.  It is in their interests to keep you watching.  If the only way they can get people to turn on their station is by being polorizing at the expense of actually providing real information that is exactly what they will do.  

Unfortunately, because there are so many venues of information now, television and radio news have become more strident and instead of moderate americans calling them to task for the way things are presented, we can get information from the internet, pushing the media to even more bizarre excuses for news.

Yes, the 24/7 media and easy access internet have been negatives in terms of all this hatred. On the flip side, I think the internet and easy fact checking are the main reason health care reform is surviving this time, as opposed to being crushed with misinformation and lies during Clinton's attempt. It's so easy to check this time.
Good point Kelly.  The majority of Americans want the truth. Sadly, the radical fringe chooses to avoid being influenced by the facts.

When a young child is aware of the hate that swirls around the President, you know that he is hearing too many things.  He is hearing kids at school repeat what they hear their parents say.  I wonder what this child thinks is at the root of so much hate?  In his innocence, he cannot understand,  because he sees it in terms of "God is love", so why do people hate you? 

At some point, will someone have to sit this sweet child down, and talk to him about the realities of racism?

Kind of off topic:

Yahoo article

The GOP alienates another group again? You decide. I'm on the fence. This time it's Jewish people and guess what, it's in South Carolina.

What is with South Carolina? Not only were the statements dumb, they were in a newspaper which means an editor never questioned them, did not even anticipate the backlash. I realize these were not big names in the GOP but they were referencing Jim DiMint, so now he is automatically associated with the comments. Looks like the GOP efforts at diversity are  limited to white, southern guys. Well, at least they apologized.
LOL, at least these didn't seem like the usual "We're sorry if anyone took offense (or took it the wrong way)" apologies. Way too many of those from the GOP representitives national and local.
South Carolina, is South Carolina! Thats what my Dad says! They are made up of white men who despairs blacks, latinos an most religeons! Gun totten Racist, so he says! So, this kind of fits in with Suzi's talking lines, even if ya thought you had strayed off topic  SG8970. This time it seems they simply were ignorant of what they were talking about. If they did know, an it wasn't ignorance------Guess you'll have to decide that one on your own. I simply can't go there on a opinion on that.

  The only thing that really upsets me about this entire thing is the word "hate". Many of us conservatives disagree with many things the Obama Admin is doing, and not doing. But we do not hate him. I know my personal feelings toward Obama have absolutely nothing to do with his politics and policies. Just because I disagree with him, does not mean I hate him.

 Example; Suzi and I very seldom agree on anything. But I love Suzi as a person and pray for her constantly. As with many people here, just because we do not agree does not mean I hate, or even dislike any of you. All we know of each other, and our president, is our politics and policies regarding certain issues. We know very little about the person behind the post. Most people peg others based on what their own views are of "people like that".

 It is sad that we, as people, cannot disagree with our President without being pegged as racists, bible thumpers, tree huggers, sexists, etc.... I am sad that most people consider disagreement as "hate" or "racism". I cannot tell you how many times I have been told online the only reason I disagree with Obama is because he is black. I always take great joy in revealing to people that I, myself, am Bi-Racial just like Obama! Is it really so hard to believe that people may not agree with someone based solely on the topic at hand? Why must hate be involved?

"Government doesn't solve problems, it subsidizes them" ~ Ronald Reagan

There is a huge difference RF, the rational people don't peg those who disagree with Obama as hateful or racist. We're saving that for the ones who actually show hate, spite, and racism or those that don't do enough to stand up to those people. And there are way too many for our comfort. This isn't about everyone who disagrees with Obama being hateful and racist. Far from it.

SG phrased it very well.  For those who have ideological differences with the President, and disagree with him on policy, etc, the word "hate" doesn't apply.   Most of those who disagree are like you, and that's the American way, and it is part of what makes us strong. 

But what you need to realize is that there IS a lot of hate out there, part of which is rooted in racism, part of which is rooted in a very hard right agenda.  The sensible people on the right need to call them out and take a stand against it, instead of denying that it exists.

Quite a bit of it is probably rooted in fear too. Fear of what some don't know or understand. Fear of what's been fed to them by Beck or Rush. Hard to seperate those people who aren't as easy to blame. Much easier to blame the ones feeding on what the fearful don't know.

Then there is just the fear from pure ignorance and ideology. It's a rough situation.

This op-ed in my newspaper certainly makes me wonder about "hate" and the racism that many here from the South see far more often than do those of us living in more "enlightened" areas.

Some interesting quotes:

   "Overall, the numbers from Research 2000, a group that polls for the liberal blog Daily Kos as well as various newspapers, are similar to everyone else’s. Research 2000 has Obama’s favorable/unfavorable percentages at 55-37, while ABC News/Washington Post has them at 57-40, Fox at 55-41, Gallup at 56-40. 

    All close enough to fit around one table in the Margin of Error Saloon. 
 
   But Research 2000 then breaks its telephone polling down by region and finds Obama wildly unpopular in the South — 27 percent approval, 68 percent disapproval — but up by 67-24 in the rest of the country."
    
   "Outside the South, 90 percent of Americans think Obama was born in the United States. In the 12 states of the South — the Confederacy plus Kentucky — only 47 percent said they were certain of it. "
 

 

"If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."  ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

Tin,

 Thank you so much for posting this poll.

It really puts things into perspective for me.

In one way it makes me feel much better about his chances for a successful Presidency as well as a reelection.  In another way it continues to concern me about the division in our country.

It certainly gives one pause.

But Research 2000 then breaks its telephone polling down by region and finds Obama wildly unpopular in the South — 27 percent approval, 68 percent disapproval — but up by 67-24 in the rest of the country."

This makes me, and most of my family, part of an unpopular minority down here.

Suzi,

 I really feel for you guys living down there, it's not just something you read, watch or hear in media.  It's something you guys frequently personally experience.

As Leslie oftens expresses of not only co-workers but church members.

I have one family member who is a BIG glen beck listener and I have made a NO politics rule with her.  Mostly because, I can't engage in converstion with someone whom has a distorted perception of the facts.    However, I don't experience it much outside of my own family. 

Hang tough Sister!!

 

I think the fact that it is a child who posed the question with the word "hate" (which led to this blog post) reflects what is seen through the eyes of a child. Maybe he overhears segments from TV or other adults in his community, maybe even a "spiritual" leader. Chldren pick up on hatred pretty easily and seem to be able to distinguish between disagreement and flat out hateful references or opinions. The innocence of this child is why his point is driven home so easily. I know plenty of people who disagree with Pres. Obama on policy, but for many the talk seeps into something hateful or racist in their tone.

The other day a guy I work with (who gets his news from FOX and Rush) started to tell a story to another FOX addict and said I should stay for it since I "drank the Obama koo-aid." He started to talk about something that had nothing to do with Obama, really. He told us about a mostly black college that voted for homecoming queen and it ended up being a white woman. They were all in a tizzy and protesting that the winner "didn't look like them" and the college leaders apparently wanted Obama to inject himself into it but he wouldn't so they were upset. What would be the point of that story other than to use race in a divisive way? I told them if they read Obama's books they would realize that, while Obama might understand some of that frustration from the black students, he would not approve of any tactics that cause greater "wedges." He then, with a smile I found inappropriate, went on to tell us about an airport security guard who was arrested for threatening comments against the president. Do I think these guys have hatred for Obama? Are they racist? If so, they try to make it subtle or mask it as something else. But the hate and misinformation (like linking Obama to ACORN when he had nothing to do with their mismangement or mistakes) they hear on FOX sure makes an impact on how they think about issues, doesn't it?

Update: OK, here's the actual story from BET. I guess it was Glen Beck who made an issue of it. I can only imagine his angle. Simple race-baiting.

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