"The Misguided Privilege of Feeling Insulted"

“And that’s their right. Americans have had the presidency they deserved these past four years; the war they voted to continue; the debt they voted to increase; the incompetence they decided to reward. They also get to pick who comes next. If they want more of the same, they know who to vote for.”

Andrew Sullivan, 4/12/08 


You’ve probably heard by now that Barack Obama, speaking in San Francisco at a fundraiser, supposedly insulted millions of humble, salt-of-the-earth Americans by pointing out that because politicians have promised them the sun, moon and stars, and failed to deliver — over and over again — these voters have become disillusioned, indeed, bitter, and have taken refuge in their faith and social traditions. 

I can’t believe we’re discussing this! Really? Really? We’re half a decade into a war that has killed off many of my friends and wounded my family in ways covert and overt and we’re spending time on this

You…have…to…be…kidding me. Seriously.

The thing is, I don’t fault those folks who might get their dander up because of something Obama might have said off-the-cuff. I know what that’s like, having done it myself on more than one occasion.

Thing is, they’re only really going to feel insulted if you tell them they should be.

You see, unlike Andrew Sullivan (with whom I rarely agree) and unlike some others, I tend to think highly of the people I share this country with, as does Barack Obama.

See, here’s the thing. I may have been born in Puerto Rico, but I grew up in Ohio.

I spent my childhood with the people he’s supposedly insulting and calling bitter. I went to school with them. I married into a family of people like that — fine, upstanding people. I served with people like that in the Army, bled and toiled and, yes, mourned and celebrated alongside them; and I work with people like that now. 

They’re not going to be insulted by what Obama said unless you tell them they were insulted. And it’s an insult to anyone’s intelligence — most of all, their intelligence — to say that what Obama said in a private fundraiser is an insult to them

You know what’s an even greater insult to them — hell, to me, because I am those folks? 

Putting our lives on the line to fight a war that we never should have fought.

Keeping our lives on that line for no greater reason than…well, there’s no reason, really, just some sad and twisted contrivance that passes for a policy.

Choosing to adopt a law that makes it harder for folks to get financial relief when placed in hardship by factors beyond their control. My parents went bankrupt when my stepfather lost his job during the first Bush recession — did this make them less upstanding citizens? 

Waiting not once, not twice, but three times to notice that American homeowners were in trouble and spell out a plan to help them out — and still failing to do so.

I could go on — flag amendment? torture? — but my point is clear. To pretend to be some sort of champion, some sort of tribune for me, my friends and our interests when time and again these folks have acted against those interests is, in itself, an insult to our intelligence and our integrity.

Whom do these folks take us for? Seriously? Really? 

Unlike Andrew, four years ago, I don’t think the choice was this clear.  I don’t think folks got the President and government they deserved; I think they got bamboozled, even then. 

This time, though…this time, the choice is clear. Crystal clear.

We can choose to dine and pretend to fill our hunger for leadership on the mythical bird of our misbegotten haughtiness — or we can recognize that no real leader worthy of the name defines themselves by keeping us apart; the only real leaders are those that bring us together as one, and only one person seeks to do that. 


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