By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
Outside of Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery on Monday evening, a man who said he was a former history teacher and coach, shouted.
His shouts were directed at another man who had come to the school to protest a statue of Lee, which stands out front.
“That statue ain’t hurting nobody!” the man said.
And in the most literal sense that’s true. The statue’s mere presence isn’t harming a soul.
But the same could be said of a Hitler statue. Or a monument to the 9-11 hijackers. Their presence wouldn’t hurt anyone either, yet we wouldn’t dare.
Because we shouldn’t be honoring those things. To do so would emotionally harm victims and those close to them and it would make a profound statement about the values and ideals that the surrounding community holds.
After all, if a community supports the statue of a man who fought for the right to enslave blacks – and who, no matter what some Internet historian tells you, owned and mistreated slaves – doesn’t that say something about the community? Doesn’t it tell the blacks in that community something about their white neighbors?
Deep down, I think everyone knows the answer to that, and that’s why this column isn’t another about Confederate statues.
It’s about people.
It’s about deciding what sort of people we want to be, as Americans and as Alabamians.
Honestly, I have a hard time believing that we desire to be as proudly ignorant, as gleefully uninformed and as purposefully hateful as we have been lately.
I think that because I know who we elected as president in 2008.
No matter what you think of President Obama’s politics, Barack Obama the man, was a daily lesson in class, decency and aspiration. He went eight years under the brightest of spotlights without a hint of personal scandal and without ever once failing to present himself as a doting father and loving husband.
Even if you disagreed with his policies, there is no arguing that those policies were borne out of a desire to help the less fortunate and give a hand up to the poor. From his signature health care law to any number of initiatives, executive orders and task forces, his goal was to give a voice in the White House to people of color and people who have historically been voiceless.
It is certainly reasonable to disagree with any and all of those policies, to think that Obama went too far, or even that he didn’t go far enough. It is reasonable to think that he was too kind-hearted from a policy standpoint, maybe too trusting, not bold enough militarily.
I don’t agree, but I can’t call it unreasonable to think any of those things.
However, that is not how many conservatives think of Obama.
They hate him.
It’s very odd – this man who so rarely spoke harshly of anyone, even his political opponents, being talked about in terms usually reserved for thieves and wife-beaters.
Especially when you consider that Obama’s presidency, in every statistical measure that has ever been used to determine a president’s success, was a raving success that lifted the entire country.
But to hear the hardline conservatives talk about Obama, you’d think the guy had come by their homes and kicked their dogs.
Let’s be real, a lot of that Obama hate is anchored in racism. And please, spare me the indignation.
Look around. White supremacy is on the rise like pre-1965. There are people, including the anti-Obama president of this country, making excuses for Nazis. Suddenly half of the country is too damn stupid to differentiate between symbols of love and inclusion and symbols and hate and discrimination.
A good portion of these dumb people were led to believe that Obama wasn’t simply leveling the playing field, he was taking from them and giving to minorities. Mexicans were taking jobs. Blacks were taking their taxes. Women were taking too much control. Jews were taking everything.
The conservative media and conservative politicians – for no reason other than it was easy – fed that fire of ignorance for eight full years, painting every move Obama made as a racial attack and raising questions about the man’s love of country, his religion and his heritage.
That foreign-born Muslim hated white America so much that he was trying to destroy it from within, was the message.
And so now, we have well-dressed white men marching in the streets complaining of their oppression and unfair treatment. We have American’s walking around wearing Hitler t-shirts. And we have a president who won’t disavow it all.
The Confederate monuments have become their rallying point, and that’s just perfect. Because those things best represent the sort of hate, indifference to suffering and greed, that can rip a country apart.
And it’s time again for America to pick a side.