After fomenting fear and anger during the past week, it appears John McCain is taking some steps to defuse the tensions. Nicholas Gruen, among others, is thankful that McCain is showing some sense in attempting to move his campaign away from inciting hatred and violence. Provided it’s not simply a gesture to refute criticism of the smear campaign that is largely being carried out by Sarah Palin, I concur.
But there is another aspect of these expressions of suspicion by McCain supporters that is not addressed:
Look at the interaction between McCain and the lady near the end of that clip:
And then later, somebody’s mean old gramma called Obama an “Arab.” McCain stopped her short, “No, Ma’am. No, Ma’am,” he said. “He’s a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.”
So, the rebuttal to her distrust of Obama because he is an “Arab” is to point out that he is a decent family man and a citizen. Doesn’t that imply that Arabs cannot be decent family men or citizens?
I know that McCain probably had the general form of the statements he made prepared before this meeting began – obviously, his campaign has made a decision that he needs to speak out against at least a couple of the bigoted and hateful statements about Obama – but these implications are often left unanswered. In this case, the suggestion was that he is an “Arab” – this week, On the Media noted a similar pattern in the rumours that Obama is a Muslim.
John McCain might have done something (whether real or symbolic) to distance himself from the mistrust of Barack Obama as “foreign”. But he did nothing to respond to the underlying bigotry that drives those people’s attitudes and behaviour toward Obama.