Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Vile hate below the surface


Monday didn't begin auspiciously. In the e-mails was an indescribably vile racist diatribe by a buddy from my Korean War unit. He'd never spoken or written so virulently and I was sickened by this new face.

His name isn't important. But his maliciousness is.

He detests Barack Obama. Not because of politics. It's Obama's black skin and his middle name Hussein.

One passage captures the flavor of his several-hundred-word harangue.

"It has to be 'politically correct' even if it means," he wrote, "surrendering the top office to some outsider, known Muslim Mau Mau, who most likely will convert our whole country to the Muslim so-called religion and do away with our military forces and surrender to the terrorists who wear table cloths and auto fan belts on their heads. Just the name Hussein Obama and his background should be enough to disqualify him for the U.S. president."

This hatefulness is befitting the Ku Klux Klan. I told my friend so in an e-mail.

He's not alone. Pollsters say some Americans judge Obama by race, despite uncommon academic and civic achievements requiring character and intellect.


I'm thankful my growing-up years in the south were free of racial hate because of my home environment. Maybe it helped, too, being born in the hard times of the Great Depression when everyone—regardless of color, religion or ethnic background—suffered equally.

Our neighbors the Simons, a Jewish widow and daughters, regularly shared their dinner table with my family in lean years. My father did odd household jobs for Mrs. Simons in return. At about 7, I fell out of a grapefruit tree in their yard and broke an arm, a reminder of my evenings with the Simons.

Because my folks worked when brother Jack and I were children, a black housekeeper was with us all day, every day, for years, an unavoidable learning experience about black culture. Late in their lives, my mother provided for Sarah and her husband, Moss. When she died, my family, including my wife, were the only whites at Sarah's funeral.

Nearly 30 years before 9/11, I befriended Muslims while traveling extensively in Saudi Arabia, sopping up encyclopedic information about Islamic culture. Most Muslims are as desperate as we are for a world of peace and amity.

Jews, blacks and Muslims can be disliked as individuals, as well as Anglo-Saxon Christian whites.

But because they were born into skin color, their religion or their ethnic heritage?

Obama has done nothing to ignite the racist rage of my onetime Army pal.

Except being himself.

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