Monday, 20 October 2008

Looking beyond the finish line

I am mercifully spared much exposure to cable TV squawking, but when traveling for work I do get a dose and can confirm that it is, in fact, poison of a very vulgar grade. I am now recovering from the toxic blast emitted by the Grand Champions of the Commonplace on CNN headed by the Lord High Blatherer himself, Wolf Blitzer.

Wolfie’s hot-shot political team are going on at truly interminable length about the possible impact of this phrase or that gesture or McCain’s retooled message or some other perfect irrelevancy, all in that tone of aggressive breathlessness as if they had just rushed back from having sex with Brad Pitt.

I do not believe anything will change the outcome of the November 4 election, barring a real October surprise. But there is still some suspense in the magnitude of the relief we will experience and thus its long-term impact.

I saw a website with someone’s fantasy election-night map with a swath of blue cutting through the heartland from Montana to Missouri and, further east, down to North Carolina, even Georgia. I hang out in the South a lot, and while God isn’t likely to indulge us to that extent, it does seem that white southerners are kicking and screaming a lot like they did during the die-hard segregationist days displayed on the video loops in the civil rights museums from Birmingham to Memphis.

The 1964 election showed the racist South how isolated it was with the tiny enclave of a half-dozen former slave states joining Arizona in Goldwater’s column. It bounced back soon enough thanks to the Nixon-Reagan appeal to their wounded pride, but meanwhile the color bar and Jim Crow were history.

Forty-four years later it is all too obvious how thin that change was and how easy to replace with a more insidious version of social separation and discrimination. But despite my age and cynicism, it seems just possible we might soon be revisiting our racial divide in new and creative ways. No doubt Confederate flags will be waved in all directions in the process, but as we learned once already, furious minorities can’t always hold back the tide of history.

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