Jolene briefly touches on the stupidest story from last week, the successful attempt by the right-wing fringe to save America by making Rachel Ray change her clothing accessories. For those that missed it, Dunkin Donuts (the clear favorite to win the 2008 Award for Corporate Cowardice) had a promotional photo with Rachel Ray wearing what some claimed was a keffiyeh (the traditional scarf worn in Middle-Eastern cultures). This was interpreted to be a shot across the bow of patriotic Amurricins everywhere, one of our biggest corporate shills wearing the Mooslim scarf of terror. Nevermind that it contained floral patterns and colors seldom found in true keffiyehs; nevermind you can see Lower Upper Class women wearing them almost anywhere you go in this country. It was a horrible thing for her to do at a time when we are at war with all of the Middle East, including those Israelis who don't agree with us, and the bold members of the lunatic fringe, led by wild-eyed howler monkey Michelle Malkin, stood up, screamed, and got Dunkin Donuts to pull the ad.
(Jolene links to this story in the Boston Glode. A funnier version of the issue can be found, as per usual, at Sadly, No!, where you can find an even funnier post about the right-wing furry who commissions comic art of himself as a skunk fucking underage skunks who was among those leading the charge that Obama lied about his great-uncle's military service during WWII. No, really. I'm not making that up.)
Last week also saw a very interesting article from Rick Perlstein, author of the new book Nixonland, a history of the conservative movement in the 70s. Perlstein talks about how many conservative commentators have asked him why he's the only liberal to treat the conservative movement seriously:
First question: "It's my general sense that liberal or popular historians don't seem to be very interested in conservative history and ideology. Why are you?" In other words: why is the left--except for Perlstein!--so condescending that they refuse to take the right seriously.
Perlstein then details how not only are many on the left taking the conservative movement seriously, but have actually used that movement as a model for today's liberal movement. He offers plenty of examples of liberals taking conservatives seriously. Others in the left blogosphere chime in, providing further examples.
Why do I mention these two things together? Because, while it is important to respect elements of the conservative movement, it is hard, if not impossible, to take seriously people worried about Rachel Ray starting a jihad. That is, certain opinions not only call up condescension, they demand it.
Here's an example closer to home. If you spend any time at all reading the Press-Citizen's online comment pages, you'll find a lot of barely disguised racism. Sure, it's covered in code words applicable only to Iowa City, words like "Broadway Apartments" and "Chicago transplants". Now, I've been in the area for over 30 years now, and while Iowa City isn't the "whiteville" it once was, it's a long, long way from being overrun by minorities like some at the Press-Citizen message boards claim. But when you see someone posting about how they feel unsafe going to K-Mart at any time of day because of the number of "those people" you see there, you don't know how to react. On the one hand, you want to take the concerns seriously, because this is obviously someone expressing fears they truly feel. On the other hand, it's such an idiotic fear that it's hard to take someone who would express it seriously. I go in that K-Mart every now and then on one of my area toy quests, and I've never felt the least bit threatened.
There are no easy answers, at least none I see. It almost seems that making fun of a person who has that fear, or who fears a keffiyeh, might have a better chance of reaching them, or at least reaching someone who could possibly be swayed by them, then trying a reasoned argument. The reasoned argument is sure to fall on deaf ears. Maybe mockery won't.