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Posted by on Oct 24, 2008 in At TMV, Politics, Society | 15 comments

Strange Fruit

It had to come to this.

Yesterday Drudge and Fox News blared a headline that would tear at the conscience of America. A white, female McCain staffer was robbed at an ATM machine in Pittsburgh. And then when the “large, dark-skinned, black” assailant noticed her McCain bumper sticker he became “enraged” and proceeded to fondle her and then carve a letter “B” in her face. It was the perfect racially incendiary crime at the heart of an election with racial tension bubbling just below the surface. And it occurred in western Pennsylvania where Congressman Jack Murtha had already accused his own constituents of racism.

The Executive Director of Fox News declared,

Part of the appeal of, and the unspoken tension behind, Senator Obama’s campaign is his transformational status as the first African-American to win a major party’s presidential nomination.

That does not mean that he has erased the mutual distrust between black and white Americans, and this incident could become a watershed event in the 11 days before the election.

If Ms. Todd’s allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee.

If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.

For Pittsburgh, a city that has done so much to shape American history over the centuries, another moment of truth is at hand.

And so it was. A hoax.

An absurd and awful hoax that even Michelle Malkin fingered just after the story hit the right-wing blogosphere. The “B” was written backwards, as if she wrote it herself looking at a mirror.

And then the police noticed her changing stories and inconsistencies.

Today, she admitted that she made the story up.

Why?

She’s mentally ill. But she’s also a PAID staffer for McCain – not just some off-the-street volunteer.

And then there’s the question of who fanned the flames of this story. The state campaign communications director told the media about this story before the facts could be confirmed. They saw this as a propaganda victory that could turn Pennsylvania and its “racist” voters toward McCain.

Instead, if John Moody of Fox News is to believed, John McCain’s campaign is over, forever tainted with the record of race-baiting.

But I think there is something much worse here. What Ashley Todd did was to accuse a black man of what through much of American history was a lynching offense. Throughout the 19th and early 20th century, white women publicly falsified charges of sexual assault against black men, knowing that white men would come to the defense of their “honor” and hang the supposed offender by a tree. The strange fruit would be a signal to the black population that white women were off limits, and that white men would control the world. Some of these lynchings invited thousands of participants and witnesses.

It had become so epidemic in the 1890s that even many well-to-do African Americans conceded that the victims somehow deserved their fate. That is, until the brave Memphis activist Ida B. Wells discovered that many of the victims had not committed crimes at all, but had simply had the temerity to succeed. Acting “uppity” was itself a capital offense, a direct challenge to the racial order. But if the mob could attach a charge of rape then the deed could be done.

In this case, there was no assailant of Ashley Todd. But there was most certainly an “uppity” black man that threatened the essence of white supremacy as Ashley Todd and her like-minded thugs imagined. That “uppity negro” might not get the strange fruit treatment on an elm tree but he could certainly be hanged in effigy on Election Day.

We’ve seen enough disgusting racism in this campaign to make this one of the ugliest in a long time. Most of the time the charge comes out that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim. But make no mistake. Calling Obama a Muslim is a politically convenient (if not correct) way to disparage Barack Obama because he’s black.

What Ashley Todd did, however, was to break through that “Muslim” code and reveal the raw racism underneath.

As Obama’s election becomes more and more likely with each passing day as Obama continues to dominate the national and state polls, these acts of utter desperation and rage will only continue. Just watch some of the unhinged reaction today from McCain and Palin crowds in Nevada and Colorado. Not all of the charges here are racial, but they are all paranoid, delusional and unhinged. Calling Obama a “Communist” is every bit as deranged as calling McCain a “Nazi.”

What’s even sadder is that these rallies have come to define the McCain-Palin campaign in the absence of any positive message from them. Their campaign has become pure negativity at this point. I suppose that’s what happens when you’re at the end of a losing campaign and you’ve thrown all dignity out the window. But the damage will be long-lasting for the Republican Party.

The American people have struggled for centuries to be better than those goons in the two videos, or Ashley Todd and her antecedents in the last century. The Republican Party had better figure out how to speak to America’s hopes and aspirations, and not just its darkest fears, or else it will find itself in a permanent minority.

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