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Robert J. Elisberg

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Saying You Don't Remember Doesn't Mean It Didn't Happen

Posted: 04/18/2012 10:35 am

Last Tuesday, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke to an audience at Duke University about "that immigrant culture that has renewed us ... has been at the core of our strength," And then she plaintively wondered to the crowd, "I don't know when immigrants became the enemy."

Oooh! Oooh! I think I've got this one! I know the answer! Call on me!! Please. Oooh!!

Immigrants became the enemy under your boss, George W. Bush.

How'd I do?

Ding, ding, ding.

Yes! Nailed it! Okay, give me another one. That was too easy.

To be clear, I think it's admirable that Ms. Rice spoke about divisiveness towards immigrants. Sometimes, it's the side causing the problem that has to break the logjam. That's largely why it took a lifelong Red Baiter like Richard Nixon to reach out to China without having his patriotism challenged.

Same with Ms. Rice. Coming from an administration that... no, sorry, I mean, coming from THE administration that made dividing the nation against immigrants its political core, that's what might be required to mend the rip in the American Melting Pot.

It was Ms. Rice's boss, President George W. Bush, who infamously said, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." No gray area. No bridging cultures. Us vs. them. You're us -- or you're an outsider. You're U.S. or you're evil.

There was the wedge, right there. And he used a bullhorn for the rest of his time in office to widen that division as much as inhumanly possible, purely for political gain. It's what brought us Swiftboating, the painting of an American medal-winner for heroic military bravery into a perceived betrayer of national values. It gave a freshman Republican Congresswoman cover to call another American military hero a coward on the House floor. It reached its most-disgraceful nadir when a Republican Senate candidate, Saxby Chambliss, won election by smearing Senator Max Cleland (D-GA) -- still another American hero, who had lost three of his limbs serving the nation in Vietnam! -- by pathetically trying to associate him with Osama bin Laden.

It was during the reign of Ms. Rice's boss that a reporter on Fox News felt emboldened enough to shamelessly wonder without reprimand if a happy Barack Obama and his wife had given each other a "terrorist fist bump."

So, for Condoleezza Rice to get all a-flutter and wonder, oh, my, "I don't know when immigrants became the enemy," it's disingenuous at best, and reprehensible at worst. No matter how admirable it is to try to heal the wound created by the administration she was central to -- the problem is that, rather than acknowledge her administration's actions, it was an attempt to whitewash history, to clean up her reputation, to avoid responsibility for the ills of the past. A past that she and her cohort thugs are smack at the heart of. Ultimately, it was an attempt to deflect attention and irresponsibly blame unnamed others.

The problem with trying to whitewash the past is that, as historian George Santayana wrote in his The Life of Reason: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

And so it is that only last week, in shades of the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), yet another Republican in Congress is trying to split apart America, as the intentionally-divisive, ill-spirited Allen West (R-FL) cravenly spewed -- "I believe there's about 78-81 members of the Democratic Party who are members of the Communist Party." Or so he "heard."

Even the censured-Joseph McCarthy didn't claim that many. And McCarthy had the sense to at least wave a fake piece of paper with his fake list. Not just fake-claim he'd "heard" it.

That's the problem with trying to get people to forget the past, as Ms. Rice did. Because when you do, it keeps coming back to kick you on the head.

Just like when she also tried to whitewash history back in 2009, telling a Stanford symposium, "One of my biggest regrets is that we were not able to get comprehensive immigration reform."

If that was one of her "biggest" regrets, then clearly her regrets don't go very deep. Noble as the thought is on the surface, the problem during the Bush Administration wasn't "not getting" immigration reform -- the problem was that the Bush Administration is when Republicans started pushing to deport all illegal immigrants; far right, armed vigilantes began patrolling the borders... and conservatives proposed building an actual, freaking wall around America to keep foreigner out!!!

And Condoleezza Rice wonders when immigrants became the enemy!

The answer is so easy that it just takes a famous cartoon character to tell her. As Pogo the Possum said:

"We have met the enemy, and he is us."

 
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