Understanding the Enemy

More people have discovered our president’s rank incompetence as a result of this Syria debacle, but what shocks me is that some of them never seem to have noticed it before. That this president is not only a failure, but a colossal failure, has been beyond dispute for quite some time.

Yet the fact that the country signed up for another four-year hitch for the guy that botched the job so profoundly in his first term made me realize that I just don’t understand the mindset of the nation at large. Who could stare in the face of record unemployment, anemic growth, metastasizing government, exploding debt, and the imminent/inevitable collapse of Medicare and Social Security and say, “More, please?”

Turns out that the other side doesn’t understand me, either.

I stumbled on this little “Funny or Die” sketch that truly made me despair for the possibility of mutual understanding across the ideological divide. You can watch it if you want, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

I watched this and kept wondering what the joke was.

If you haven’t watched it, and, again, I don’t recommend that you do, the premise is that the NRA should start advocating gun ownership for young black men. That’s it. That’s the joke that’s supposed to have you rolling in the aisles, or, even more importantly, “make you think.”

What it makes me think is that these guys do not understand those with whom they disagree. At all.

In order to find this funny, witty, or even coherent, you have to begin with the premise that the NRA exists solely to allow the George Zimmermans of the world to hunt down and kill unarmed black teenagers. You then have to believe that they only want to preserve the Second Amendment for non-people of color, and that the idea of a law-abiding black citizen wielding a weapon keeps these racist riflers awake at night.

Except there isn’t an ounce of that that meshes with reality.

There is precisely zero evidence of the NRA using racial rhetoric in any of their recruitment efforts, nor is there any evidence that they would exclude or discourage black membership in any way. If anything, they would welcome a young black person signing up because it would demonstrate that race has absolutely nothing to do with their mission. But this video thinks it’s being bold and shocking for proposing the idea that blacks ought to sign up for the NRA, too, because, well, you know, wink wink, nudge nudge.

This video reinforces the prejudices of viewers who agree with the people who made it, but it’s more confusing than offensive to those of us on the other side.

However, I do find the overall preoccupation with race in this country, a preoccupation that has grown, not diminished, since the election of our first black president, to be entirely confusing and more than a little offensive. When a Facebook friend of mine noted, in passing, that only “deep-seated racism” would explain opposition to anything Obama has done, I decided to hide him from my newsfeed lest I say something rude. And when prominent media types poo-poo outrage over the IRS targeting of the president’s enemies, or the disgrace of Benghazi, or the massive expansion of government spying, as a symptom of Republicans who “want to impeach Obama for the crime of being president while black,” it just makes me want to throw up.

If a white guy named Bush had done all or even one of these things, he’d be rhetorically eviscerated by the people now defending Obama. But I’m supposed to give Obama a pass for his terrible performance because of something as triflingly irrelevant as his skin color? Why on earth should I care what color anyone’s skin is?

I don’t think race should be an impediment to gun ownership and/or NRA membership, to holding elected office, or to any lawful activity under the sun. And, by the same token, I don’t think anyone’s race ought to provide an excuse for shoddy performance in any endeavor.

So, that said: Obama is a lousy president, and those who refuse to acknowledge that for fear, as Hollywood paleoliberal Ed Asner has put it, of “being anti-black,” the problem with race is theirs, not mine. Although, given the fact that people who think that way control the levers of power , they’ve made it all of our problem now.

Heaven better help us, because nothing else can.