This will seem out of a clear blue sky for most of you. Sorry. Feel free to ignore this if you don’t know what it’s about.
Racism is something I take pretty seriously. I also take accusations of racism fairly seriously. When someone accuses Gov. Palin of making a racist comment, I want to see a solid fact pattern to back that claim up. When that fact pattern doesn’t exist, the accusation is a problem, and I’m not going to play patty-cake about that. Racism is a serious thing to accuse someone of, something which shouldn’t be done lightly. Not just because you disagree with them, or can make up some long chain of reasoning to make it a racist statement because of code-words or assertions about the stupidity of the average voter. No, if you have to make that kind of gymnastic reasoning, you’d better put a bit of qualification into that accusation.
So to have that dismissed as “Ugly, abusive and using words to bully or shame the other person” bothers me. It’s neither ugly nor abusive to ask someone to substantiate their claims with evidence, nor is it ugly or abusive to analyze that evidence to see if it is relevant or sufficient to substantiate that claim. When you throw around big and powerful claims, you don’t get to hide behind a desire to keep the conversation peaceful. You either back up your claim or you withdraw it if you want to be honest. A little qualification is all it takes — “This sounds like it could be racist to me” or “This could be an appeal to racism.”
I’m not interested in bullying or shaming anybody. I’m interested in seeing people stop making baseless accusations against those they disagree with, be those accusations that Sen. Obama is an America-hating Muslim, or that Gov. Palin is racist.
One of the reasons I so strongly and consistently advocate party-based voting is that you don’t have to come up with cock-and-bull nonsense to demonize the other candidate to justify voting for the one you prefer. I’m not voting for Sen. McCain because I think he walks on water, and I’m not voting against Sen. Obama because I think he’s terrible, evil, or immoral. There are things I agree with each of them about, and things I disagree with them about, and I respect them both for being willing to face the scrutiny that comes with being high profile. I’m not happy with Gov. Palin’s comment because it stretches the facts of Sen. Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers and makes it sound like he had some connection with Ayers when he was active with the Weathermen, and because it just escalates the rhetoric of campaigns, not because of any twisted reasoning to make it into racism. It’s as wrong as the drum-beat claim that John McCain is going to be a clone of George Bush as President.
Now, I don’t address every outrageous comment I see on my friend’s page, but, when I do, it’s for a pretty good reason. I tend to think that taking the time to listen to what I’ve got to say would be a reasonable response, but I would. I may be a jerk from time to time (when I’m breathing, usually), but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong. And I don’t accept that my blunt and direct approach is necessarily jerkier than accusing people of terrible things that go beyond what can be justified by the available facts. I’m not always right, but neither am I always wrong, and, if you can’t present a case that shows I’m wrong based on the evidence, perhaps that’s a time when I’m not wrong. It’s something to consider.