Monday, November 10, 2008

Keyes on color/re Obama

A friend passed me the response of Alan Keyes, to whom he had made an inquiry about the response of black Americans to Barack Obama’s election. I supported Keyes twice as a Republican. I remember in Keyes’ campaign in 1996 a few reports had broken out about Keyes’ handling of campaign personnel. Now in terms of trustworthy testimony and documentation, such reports were no more reliable than the detestable smears seen recently about Sarah Palin, now identified as falsehoods. Those Palin reports were accounted to “anonymous” sources within the McCain campaign, though it has been speculated that another potential 2012 Republican candidate might have motivation to drop such slander in the Palin pool. I can tell you that Mike Huckabee would not stoop to such a thing.

Anyway, at the time I said that you can be perceived as inflexible when you almost always think you are the smartest person in the conversation. In Keyes’ case, people might respond negatively because he almost always actually is the smartest person in the conversation. I sorely regret that Keyes was repeatedly spurned by a feckless Republican Party even while he maintained his fidelity to the party (actually its founding ideals) after I had abandoned the party in exasperation, finally in his 2004 campaign for the US Senate from Illinois against Barak Obama, where the Illinois Republican Party establishment that had invited Keyes abandoned him for the tall grass after media labeled him extreme. This year, The Republican Party nominated a demonstrable Republican apostate in John McCain, who has opposed the majority of the party any number of times, often holding out his “independence” as a virtue. Ironically this year it was Keyes who finally resigned the party while I returned after an 8-year absence. I supported McCain not because of his consistency (I have often called him “philosophically incoherent”), but because he has been historically strong where government has been weak all of my lifetime, even in The Republican Party after it gained complete control 8 years ago: on outrageous spending and government expansion.

I foresaw this failure when Bush was first nominated. I live in Texas, where he was governor. When Bush was elected in 2000 I said “Leviathan gets a night manager.” It surely did. Bush and a Republican Congress grew government at the steepest rate since Lyndon Johnson and The Great Society in the 60’s. Did this make him liked better by Democrats? Of course not: to them he’s evil. Some even called him an ideological extremist; a laughable proposition. Notwithstanding McCain’s infidelities, I also saw him as a decent and noble man. He was also pro-life. I questioned the stoutness and clarity of Bush’s weakly confessed pro-life confession: “I prefer life.” That suspicion was affirmed when, with a Republican Congress, two judges were put on the court that defended a partial-birth abortion ban as not violating a legitimate Roe v. Wade.

After his long experience of Republican abuse, Keyes employed his rhetorical skill to become increasingly shrill, even losing the nomination of The Constitution Party to Chuck Baldwin who is no mental match for Keyes. That’s not a knock against Baldwin as much as an acknowledgment of Keyes’ unique facility. Keyes finally accepted the nomination of the newly organized America’s Independent Party. I haven’t looked, but he surely finished 6th or worse with a vote in the tens or low 1000 thousands. One of my favorite talk show hosts, Michael Medved throws Keyes in with the rest of the third-party clowns, mocking his fervent style of speech. It’s very sad. Keyes fervency is genuine. So is the perplexity with which the general public meets it. In retrospect, I think even his high-flying rhetoric shot over the heads of the great majority of the public. But if The Republican Party had seized on the opportunity of a brilliant and articulate black man, Keyes probably would have maintained his feet and the first black president might have been a Republican 8 or 12 years ago., in which case, this past week’s potential disaster for the unborn, the economy and defense of America and its values might have been averted. Keyes wouldn’t have needed 96% of the black vote. 15 or 200% would probably have been adequate and just as decisive. Would Jesse Jackson have cried, then?

Keyes’ response is below.


Barak Obama is black like me only in the sense that we both have dark skin- I.e., a purely physical characteristic. To expect me to identify with him on that basis would require that I validate the concept of race ( i.e., grouping people based on physical characteristics). I have written and said over the years that I reject this concept, and that the only way to overcome racism is to reject the concept of race.

Because human beings are not stones, but persons, our communities are not the result of merely physical characteristics. The very idea of race in this sense is a modern lie tied to the dogma of evolution. I believe that human communities reflect the moral nature of our humanity. They are formed therefore by adherence to common moral principles, as that adherence is developed and reflected in the course of shared historical experience. Understood in this proper sense, Obama and I are not part of the same ethnic group. My heritage includes the experience of slavery, the moral sensibility to injustice and to the importance of respecting the premises of human dignity and freedom. Obama looks back to a heritage that probably includes forbears who were part of the Afro-Islamic groups of Africans who were active in the slave trade. By itself that might be of only superficial importance, but his views on the fundamental moral issues of the day (like the taking of innocent human life) mean that he rejects the premise of God-given moral equality for all men that I hold to be the true soul of the black American identity. The notion that I should take special pride in the election of such a man simply because of his skin color implies that I put the false and humanly contrived category of race above the category of common moral principle that is the true basis for human community. I do not and never will.

The tragic irony is that people whose feelings and reactions are shaped by racial solidarity implicitly validate the concepts that were the basis for racist views and discrimination. They implicitly reject the hope that Martin Luther King expressed that someday people would be judged for the content of their character not the color of their skins. As they do so, they destroy the moral substance that is the true and righteous legacy of the black American heritage in order to revel in the triumph of the very racism that was used to justify the enslavement of my ancestors. This is a desperately sad self-contradiction. I will be no part of it.

This quiet validation of the premise of racism is far from being a good thing . It betrays the suffering and nobility of all those black Americans who fought for justice not only for themselves, but for all, by appealing to the truth of the ideals stated in the Declaration of Independence. This betrayal tips the scales of history back in the direction of regimes based on inequality, elitism and oppressive abuses of power.

I have by the way made these points many times, starting with the Senate race in Illinois.

Godspeed,
Alan

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