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Lost in the Woods

by Dear Jon
August 18, 2009

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It has been no secret from the first sort that Dear Jon is a white guy. In fact, for awhile I was referring to The Partial Observer as an outlet for angry white males. But if by "angry white male" we are understood to refer to Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly of Fox Television fame, along with Rush Limbaugh and Pat Buchanan, I just want to say "no, thanks, I'm not with them." I may be angry and I may be a white male, but mostly I'm angry AT Beck, O'Reilly, Limbaugh and Buchanan.

My heritage is Yankee, agricultural, populist, progressive and proletariat. This is NOT the same as Yankee, pampered and liberal. I do not yet own a fire-arm of any kind, but I am much more inclined to purchase an arsenal than I am to vote for candidates that want to trust the government with all the guns.

I consider myself still to be a 19th Century progressive, since too many issues touted by progressives in the 19th Century are still not resolved in our world: slave trafficking, women's suffrage and the rights of workers to bargain collectively. Like the rest of the country I was holding my breath on how Ohio would turn in the last election. As much as I resent that the current President's rhetoric matches too closely with those of pampered Yankee liberals, I'm gratified that the drift of the nation's blue-collar votes went "post-racial."

I do not agree with Anne Coulter who insists, in an article from several months ago that I don't have time to look up, that she is "post-racial." I agree with Spike Lee, as reported in a recent TIME magazine which I read this morning in a doctor's office, that none of us in America can be considered post-racial. However, we Gen-Xers who boast President Obama in our numbers and grew up watching Sesame Street are getting closer.

Even so I have to confess to a particular weakness, which is that I tend to conflate memories of events. Events that inspire a similar visceral response, tend to blend together so that I combine them. I have to wonder how I will look back on the summer of 2009 in, say, 40 years, when a combination of conflated memory and blind spots in my own subconscious Yankee whiteness might lead to some embarrassing revisions of history. We know how that can happen: George Bush the elder spoke of Pearl Harbor being bombed on September 7th, and in 1996 Bob Dole located the Dodgers in Brooklyn. So I know how these things can happen, and frankly I'm nervous.

Consider that my Yankee progressive proletariat make-up has me celebrating the super stardom of professional golfer Tiger Woods, a bi-racial black man whose opportunity to rise to the top of a traditionally exclusive and elitist sport speaks to the advances of our society and of the world. This summer marks the season that Tiger Woods has not won a major tournament. I watched him, all last Sunday afternoon, as he missed seven putts from within 10 feet. The tournament was won by a South Korean golfer named Y.E. Yang.

Now then, this summer has also been the big push for health-care reform by our President, a bi-racial black man whose opportunity to rise to the most powerful office on earth in a free and fair popular election, speaks to the advances of our society and of the world. But the more town-hall meetings President Obama has held, the more ground he has lost with his nation and with his base. By Monday all reports were that he was removing the "public option" from his plan for health-care reform. In a way we can say that the President is missing his putts and losing a "major" piece to his platform.

The problem is that beyond the analogy to golf, which is a pretty good one, is the visceral impact on my memory, that both men are bi-racial blacks whose very profile in society was impossible for each in their respective professions a mere generation ago. What is that going to do me, a white guy, as I try to describe life back in the old days to my grandchildren?

"The greatest golfer of the day was Tiger Woods, you know. I watched him on television in major after major. Did I tell you that his father was a Kenyan? There was some question about Tiger's citizenship, something about him being born in Hawaii and no one quite sure whether Hawaii had become a state by then, or something like that, and they weren't sure if he was really qualified to represent America in the Ryder Cup.

"But our President in those days was Saddam Trotsky Obama...What? Barak who? No, Ehud Barak was the Chancellor of Israel! Shut up and let me talk already! Anyway, President Osama got into it with North Korean dictator Y.E. Yang over the kidnapping of two American Blue Cross nurses, Michelle Kwan and Michelle Wie. We nearly went to war over that, but what amazed the world was how cool Yang was against all that pressure.  The President went all over the country asking people in town halls if it was the government's responsibility to save lives, and the people all told him "Heck no, not if it's going to cost us money."  But luckily our ex-rated President Jefferson Davis Clinton got them set free or who knows what would have happened.

"What? Ex, ex-rated, what's the difference? Look, you think you know everything YOU tell the story!"

So I'm nervous. Maybe the way I can keep it all sorted out is to remind myself that some issues facing our generation really are of much greater importance than one man's dominance in golf, entertaining as that may be. If I do that, then Obama's performance in the health care debate won't feel the same at all, viscerally, as the missed birdies that denied Tiger another major trophy. A post-racial society is one that recognizes that whatever similarities might work for the purpose of analogy alone, the two men and the issues they are facing are no more alike than Arnold Palmer and Jimmy Carter. Maybe I'm there, I'm nervous I'm not, I'm hopeful for my daughter.

Still, I wonder how Tiger is at bowling.

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