THE BLOG
08/15/2013 01:17 pm ET Updated Oct 19, 2013

Hope and Chains

The election of this country's first black commander-in-chief has leeched out the systemic poison that is America's deeply rooted racism. If only newspapers weren't being displaced by digital media, we could have spread some on the linoleum to catch the runoff.

My late friend Andrew Breitbart said there was nothing worse than being accused of racism (of course at the time he was defending Rush Limbaugh, so, you know, whatever). Had I the balls to stand up to this cuddly but imposing Kodiak of a man I would have amended his sentiment to "The worst thing a racist can be called is a racist, especially in a society where racism is reviled---notably in the marketplace." Not as succinct as Andrew's but reasonably accurate, don't you think? Hello? Mother?

Our democratic republic protects the right of an individual to hate, fear, loathe, tease, caricature, razz and despise whomever they want in the privacy of their own home. When it comes to the marketplace, such constitutionally protected rights seem less desirable to extol.

Maybe it says more about a corporate controlled media which has always preferred a sensational narrative to an edifying one. Armed with kerosene and motivated by pure greed, it is only too willing to provide air-time to ranting racists, a more plentiful resource than coal to keep the hate fires burning. It's like culture-fracking. Hello...? Mother...?

Either way, the presence of a black man sitting at the head of the table has instilled those with a predilection for comfortably sub-rosa segregationist sentiments with permission to fly their stars-and-bars while denying that "The Southern Cross" is a-fluttering overhead. It's practically therapeutic, a relief to not have to shoulder the lie of behaving tolerantly toward the thing they detest, the thing that's been at the core of their xenophobic belief system for generations.

And the daily spectacle of wink-and-nod complicity from political and media apologists who demonstrate fealty to their racist raison d'être is as subtle as a silent film villain's mustache-twirling. They insist that nothing could be farther from the truth as they foment fear among their trembling demographic: describing the creeping scourge of Sharia Law into the American body politic; the repeated presentation of The New Black Panthers (all seven of them) as a major threat to civility; the denial that voting rights for minorities are being actively repressed while the voting rights of minorities are being actively repressed; the silence among high-ranking Republicans when members of their own party, as well as too many of their constituents, regularly belch xenophobic platitudes in the form of persistent "birther" inanity. Need I go on? Okay: the jaw-dropping admission on the part of Mitch McConnell et. al. that their number one priority is to thwart Obama at any and every turn, period. Has there ever been a more flagrantly hostile gesture toward a sitting president? Remember "You lie!"? Can I get an "ecccchhhh"?

And don't let me, a mere light entertainer and imbiber of lefty Kool-Aid (and quite a bit of Whispering Angel) tell it. Here's this lightweight.

What's more, the insularity guaranteed by modern social-network technology has made the flouting of such high minded concepts as racial equality almost compulsory: without having to physically inhabit the same space as those with whom we secretly despise, free range is given to the virulence and there results in a kind of joy at being able to -- finally! -- express something that modern civilization defines as abhorrent. Devoid of identity in an otherwise less judgmental society, the haters hate with proud abandon, though mostly behind snazzy pseudonyms describing the bald patriotism of their beliefs, usually scrawled at the end of typically toxic comment rolls. The Internet has allowed access to all avenues of research and entertainment, but in doing so it has also busted the borders of tolerance and taste. The power of technological and social advancement to forcibly polarize and define our national and individual values is epitomized by the injection of the Obama presidency directly into America's dark heart. And depending on your point of view, it is either a step forward or a step backward.

The fact that Obama has been able to govern despite his overtly racist opposition and achieve a major amount of his stated policies, and the fact that the achievement of those policies has positively effected the vast majority of Americans -- whether they in their ideological stupors accept it or not -- can only prove his value not only as a leader but as an example of the pure anachronistic folly that has defined his disloyal and destructive opposition. It is racism which motivates the majority of his opposition. To deny this would be, well, racist? Hello?

And on an unrelated note (except that it contains the same degree of slightly tipsy crankiness) I was saddened to hear of the passing of Eydie Gormé several days ago. As a kid growing up in the 60's and 70's my exposure to her consisted of appearances at the side of her husband Steve Lawrence and usually in the service of a variety show which starred Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin, all very pop and very corny.

And then I heard her early recordings and realized that in many ways great talent is marginalized by an industry's desire to only appeal to "the masses" and that in doing it makes the tragic mistake of instead trying appeal to "the lowest common denominator" (whatever the hell that is). That alone presumes a wide audience as having little or no ability to appreciate sophistication or creative artistry, as well as revealing a not-so-subtle contempt for the nation's citizens/consumers. I know the work was out there all along, but I was never exposed to Ms. Gormé's exceptional canon the way I should have been, a body of work which would have ranked her far above the smiling, sequin-bedecked sidekicking that she seemed to be known for.

The current media seems to have a distinct disinterest in history. The passing of influential artists is only briefly noted at best lately, their lives and influence relegated to mere pauses between the bleating and garish so-called reality programming. Ultimately, people are robbed of the time to process, a necessary step in the evolution of character. We have become an almost wholly result-oriented culture, unable to ponder a three second delay in receiving a text let alone the life and impact of an artist and their work. I suppose I see the relationship between my Eydie Gormé lament and the heavy-handed sermon preceding it in that both decry the lack of a tactile participation in our culture, and that both dehumanizing scourges -- racism and commercialism -- rely on a kind of passivity that is the real issue in this country, a passivity which permits a kind of social laziness. It allows a great nation and a great people to hate and to forget.