America’s newest national resource — protect him.
Anything is possible, Barack Obama said in his awe-inspiring victory speech.
The obverse is that nothing is impossible.
The perverse is that humanity is schizophrenic. Just a few days ago, financial panic was sweeping across the globe. Now it’s optimism. Give it a few days, and pessimism will return (although the election-spurred market did stage a historic rally).
Our country was born in a bloody revolution, and the history of the rise of U.S. territory, wealth, and power is written with the blood of black slaves and other people of color.
At various times since then, “uppity” black people have been assassinated. A few of the slaves who weren’t uppity were allowed into “the big house” — by the back door.
When I was a kid in Oklahoma, black people still weren’t allowed in my town’s movie theaters and were consigned to separate but unequal drinking fountains and train station waiting rooms. In my neighborhood, black people still weren’t welcomed into white houses except by the back door and then only as menial laborers.
How much of that has really changed? New York is the most segregated place I’ve lived in. The U.S. is not only still heavily segregated but also beset by rising inequality of wealth and health (see my December 28, 2004 article “The Numbers Beyond the Bling”).
With plenty of work still to do in fighting the chronic infection of racism, a black person has nevertheless won title to the big house. No black person is by definition more uppity than Barack Obama.
George W. Bush was merely the target of well-deserved sneers. But you know that there are nut cases in this gun-crazy country who see Obama as a different sort of target.
Amid the euphoria today, one of the few mentions of the fear of Obama’s being assassinated comes from Jeremy Vernon, a web developer in Toronto. On AgoraVox, the French journalistic weblog that bills itself as “citizen media,” Vernon — an ordinary person, not a self-described pundit — writes:
Barack Obama gives hope not merely to the United States — he brings hope to the globe, every Bush-forsaken square inch of it. Obama reminds us of the promise the United States made to the world when it assumed, largely uncontested, the position of unique superpower at the fall of the USSR.
Obama gives me great hope that the inflamed anti-Americanism that is a wound amongst Canadians can heal. That Canada can embrace our wayward ally once more and work hard to fix the problems that have been festering for eight unbearably long years — ignored entirely or deliberately aggravated by Bush and his cronies.
But Vernon adds this proviso:
I hope that the Secret Service is prepared for the most endangered President since Abraham Lincoln. Obama’s mix of policy, ethnicity, and political pedigree is the cocktail for assassination.
The United States cannot afford to lose this President, especially at the hands of one of their own.
On the eve of this election, Barry Saunders of the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer warned, in “Threats to Obama Deserve Serious Attention”:
Daniel Cowart, 20, of Bells, Tenn., and Paul Schlesselman, 18, of West Helena, Ark., are in custody, charged with possession of a sawed-off shotgun, conspiracy to rob a federal firearms licensee and making threats against a major candidate for president. Both admitted to Haywood County, Tenn., deputies that they had indeed made the nefarious plans that were foiled when Cowart’s girlfriend ratted them out.
According to Sheriff Melvin Bond, when told that they wouldn’t have been able to get close enough to Obama to kill him, the men said knew that but were willing to die trying.
Yet federal law enforcement officials, quoted on NPR, said the men were not a “credible threat” to Obama.
Are people like Saunders and Vernon paranoid? No. The Civil War was fought over civil rights; blacks were commonly lynched until well into the 1940s. Racism drove such talents as native son Richard Wright into European exile.
While thousands of everyday insults persisted, the N-word finally became impolite — Mississippi senator Theodore “The Man” Bilbo was barred from his U.S. Senate seat in 1947 for continuing to spew vitriol in public about the mongrelization of his cracker race.
But the sentiment behind the N-word is more dangerous than the word, and it still bubbles just below the surface. Politicians and others still feed off the ingrained racism of the American culture.
A hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation, blacks hadn’t even gained the right to vote in many parts of the country.
In the ’60s, GOP operative Bill Rehnquist did something worse than spout the N-word; he personally obstructed black people from voting in Phoenix. And he wound up as Chief Justice of the United States.
That wouldn’t be — and won’t be — the last disenfranchisement of black voters.
Late into the last century, blacks continued to be knocked down for standing up. Martin Luther King Jr., the most uppity black of his generation, was murdered for not only standing up but daring to march.
If reports of the recent assassination plot against Obama are true, then believe that there are other Cowarts out there who are gunning for our president.
So if the Pope has to ride around in a special “popemobile,” then so be it for Obama. Build the guy a new and more secure bulletproof vehicle.
The new president, who oozes with charisma (especially now in the first blush of victory, before the reality of a nationwide recession sets in), will want to keep working the crowds.
Memo to Obama: Resist that impulse. Stand behind bulletproof glass. And make sure you assign the most paranoid Secret Service agents to your detail.
In other news, people are still being killed in the Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere . . .
NO PARTICULAR ORDER:
Der Spiegel (Germany): ‘GOOD MORNING, MR. PRESIDENT: What Europe Wants from Obama’
“It is the latest incident involving civilian casualties and underlines the challenge ahead for US President-elect and commander-in-chief Barack Obama.”
Wall Street Journal: ‘Racial Significance of Vote Looms Large for Many at Polls’
N.Y. Times: ‘Russia Warns of New Missile Deployment’
Washington Post: ‘Extended Therapy Helps Drug-Addicted Teens’
Guardian (U.K.): ‘Rainbow coalition of voters sweeps Obama into office’
“There was plenty of evidence to support the view that Obama’s candidacy was racially and nationally unifying.”
Economist (U.K.): ‘There can be only one’ [live-blog one-liners on election night]
Der Spiegel (Germany): ‘The Serenity of Barack Obama’
N.Y. Times: ‘Strongest Election Day Stock Rally in 24 Years’
Wall Street Journal: ‘How the Election Could Affect Iraq-U.S. Negotiations’
L.A. Times: ‘High court conservatives favor indecency rule’
Guardian (U.K.): ‘In Pictures: Presidential Pets’
Economist (U.K.): ‘Online activism in China: Murder and theft’
“Less heinous when the victims are the police, and Microsoft?”
“La Fresh Travel Towelettes and other products no reporter wants to hear about today.”
N.Y. Daily News: ‘Two busted in drive-by shoot of judge home’
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 5, 2008