What to do about ugliness? Or, John McCain, what the hell happened to you?

I saw this video of people outside a Palin rally on YouTube.  What’s worse is there’s many like it. Years ago I thought John McCain was okay.  I didn’t agree with him about most things, but I disagree with lots of people, it doesn’t make them bad.  Recent revelations have indicated that it’s not such a surprise how the campaign has evolved and maybe he had a lot more character flaws than was realized.  And of course the choice of Sarah Palin. But this recent effort of trying to portray Barack Obama as associating with terrorists, and repeatedly saying “he’s different than us,” the wording of which is not so subtly racist, has brought us to this.  More below.

[The video I linked to has since been removed.]

I watched that and I thought and thought and thought and couldn’t come up with a way to approach anyone like this to defuse the hate and hostility.  I couldn’t think of a thing to say to them.  My first thought was to try explaining the facts, but I thought that might only make them angrier.  

Then last night I went to the theatre piece put on by the September 11th Families Association and the Tribute WTC Visitor Center. These people told the stories of what happened to them on 9/11 and after. Not surprisingly, it was very moving. Chances are if I went up to those people on that line above they would not have given me a chance to tell my story. But the performance underlined how arguing with them or listing facts would probably not work, and perhaps giving them some glimpse of our common humanity might? I don’t know. It’s pretty depressing. How do people get so twisted with hate? What happened to them?? I haven’t had an easy life, but man. The message I took away from this piece was community and love love love. That was what I took away from my own 9/11 experience. Community and love.

I wish the media would report on this more. I’m talking about the McCain campaign rallies and phone calls that are repeating these stories about Obama associating with terrorists and whipping people up into this frenzy of hate. The media has touched on it, but I’m talking that 24/7 thing they do when they get a hold of a story they love. This is just as wrong as it gets. It’s not good for these people, it’s not good for our country.

It’s just another reason why I love Obama. I’m no saint, but Obama wants to bring out people’s best, not their worst. His message is, “We can do better.” That reminds me! That’s another thing the McCain campaign keeps doing. They twist that message into Obama criticizes America and thinks America is imperfect. Give me a break. If your friends or family make a mistake, you don’t point it out? If your kids start heading down a bad path you don’t try to steer them in a better direction? That’s a good thing. One can always do better, aim higher, and we should always be striving to be better, until the day we die.

And I would argue that someone who doesn’t encourage us to do so, to always be greater and to shoot for the stars, doesn’t really love us.

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

3 thoughts on “What to do about ugliness? Or, John McCain, what the hell happened to you?

  1. AMEN!

    I’ve always respected John McCain. I think he has done an awesome service and paid the penultimate price for our country, giving up years of his life, and very nearly his life itself. I always kind of liked him and thought of him as an OK guy who didn’t have issues going to head to head with anyone, including some of the idiots in his own party.

    But that was then. This is now. I still respect his war service, but my praises stop there. The John McCain of now pays lip service at best to the John McCain of old. This is not the man who ran in 2000. In fact, I think this is the antithesis of the man who George Bush vilified.

    So what did McCain learn from all that sleaze that was slung at him? How to sling more of it, harder and faster apparently.

    I must stop now before I hijack your blog with my rant!

  2. It does seem unlikely there would be anything rational to say that would turn a crowd once it’s been unleashed like this, but I hit on a response that feels good to me while responding to crazy e-mails I’ve gotten from relatives. I reframed the issues to be about qualities of a good president and about American freedoms.

    One e-mail was about Obama reading “The Post-American World” — offered as proof that he was going to turn American into a Muslim country. I wrote back that I wanted a president who read, and especially one who kept up with the place of the U.S. in the globalized world because I’d seen the havoc wrought by a leader who was not grounded in that reality…. and one of the great things about America is that it offers us the freedom to write and read what we want: it’s one of those freedoms that soldiers fight and die for.

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