Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Card Games

People enjoy playing cards with me because I'm such a lousy player. I can't remember which cards have been played, I have a hard time remembering whether a flush beats a straight, or what a trump is other than a rich, obnoxious blowhard with bad hair. I had to learn to play pinochle to be accepted into my first wife's family, but was never any good at it, and Agnes's father enjoys skat, but it never made any sense to me.

Let's face it...I'm just not cut out to be a card player.

Neither, it seems, are Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama, because the news the last few days has been full of the long-expected, long-dreaded playing of the race card and the gender card in the presidential campaign.

Race, of course, is the 800-pound gorilla sitting in the corner of any issue which remotely involves individuals of differing racial backgrounds. Blacks never forget it, whites try to ignore it, and no one ever really wants to bring it up, because it immediately prevents rational discussion of whatever issue it touches: it leads to unfortunate assumptions like "he's just saying/doing/getting this because he's black/white," or "I didn't get that job because the guy doing the hiring hates blacks," or "He only got that job instead of me because he's black."

The ugly background of racial relations in the United States has made it all but impossible to rationally address many issues, and it colors every issue it touches, however remote the connection may be. Every problem is deemed to have, at the bottom, some racial cause or aspect.

But is the issue always race? Sometimes the black guy doesn't get the job because he isn't the best-qualified candidate. Sometimes the black guy goes to jail because he's actually guilty of a crime...but, of course, it's manifestly unjust if he gets a stiffer sentence than a white convicted of the same offense.

There are black people I don't like, just as there are white people and Asian people I don't like. If you're a horse's ass, you can be a horse's ass no matter what color you are. I've always maintained that one of the great advantages of a military career is that it is as close as we come in America to a true meritocracy: you are more likely to be promoted to your level of ability in the armed services than in almost any other part of American society. The military is probably the only place where blacks routinely supervise large numbers of whites, and nobody thinks anything of it. When your life may ultimately be on the line because of decisions made by your superiors, you tend to think more of their skill, character, and integrity than about their color, gender, or religion. It's a great place to learn what people are really like, apart from the spurious rhetoric of race and gender.

It will be a long time before race relations in this country improve to the point that the 800 pound gorilla finally leaves the room, and people stop playing the race card. As long as racism remains a convenient, all-purpose excuse for the things we don't long as we can't relate to each other as people rather than black/white/male/female/gay people, the gorilla will stick around. We've come a long way toward fixing race relations in America, much farther than we're usually given credit for. But there's still a long way to go, and the effort has to be made on both sides, black and white.

For now, as we work through the agony of selecting the next president, we need to ask the real questions: are Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton, regardless of race and gender, the best people the Democratic Party can put forward to lead America into the future?

My personal opinion is that neither of them is qualified to be president. Both Mr Obama and Ms Clinton lack executive experience and seasoning, and both take overly simplistic views of complex issues. Of course, I don't like any of the other Democratic (or any of the Republican) candidates, either. I'm really ready to vote for none of the above.

No matter what color or gender he or she is.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

I feel the same way, but I am heartily sick of them playing down the fact that Hillary could be the first "female" president.

Obama has no experience in gov't and that really scares me. I mean he's only been a senator for this one term and what has he really done during the time he wasn't campaigning?

Let's throw them all back in the pot and see if there's something better to grap. Probably not.

Amanda said...

I don't know about your candidates but I like what you've got to say on race/color. People should just see people for who they are. Also, nobody should walk around feeling victimized because of their color. I've met many Asians who have said that Australia is full of racists, but after nearly 20 years there (on and off) I have never once witnessed it. I have no doubt that there are some racists around but if we walk around looking for them, I think we will find it even when its not really there. I walk around assuming that everybody is equal.

Mike said...

Racism is really just a subset of the biggest 'ism'. "Your not like me and I can't stand it - ism."

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Those two look better card players than politicians.

John A Hill said...

Hey! I like playing cards!