MYERS: A profile in courage

Charles Myers

Note from the editor: Charles Myers is the president of Villanova College Democrats.

Over the past few weeks we have been treated to – as Joe Biden has termed it – John McCain’s attempt to “take the low road to the highest office in the land.”

Yet lost in this discussion of McCain’s deplorable campaign tactics, including his cowardly whisper campaign concerning the identity of “the real Barack Obama,” is another discussion that America needs to have: the discussion of race and ethnicity in political life.

Americans like to maintain the illusion that we have dealt with our tortured racial history. In our public and private schools, children are inculcated with a version of the dialogue on race that began in 1865 (people thought slavery was bad, and so they fought to end it) and ended in 1964 – the major Civil Rights Act had been passed. Yet even a cursory examination of today’s presidential race reveals that race remains an ever-present issue.

At every rally greeting McCain’s question of “Who is the real Barack Obama?” there is a vicious undertone of people yelling “terrorist” and “kill him.” The shouts are loud enough to be heard on stage in many cases. When the shouts are given, McCain says nothing. He is a profile of political courage.

One brave McCain follower brought a monkey with “Obama” written on it to a rally. When he noticed that he was being videotaped, he handed the monkey off to a child he did not know. Another McCain fan, this one in Ohio, hung Obama in effigy. He, being a brave man, refused to appear on camera when confronted by a local news station.

He did, however, provide an answer to McCain’s question: the real Obama is not a “full-blooded American” because “America is a white, Christian nation.”

It should be said, however, that this behavior is not localized to Ohio. Obama has been hung in effigy at George Fox University, and the head of Virginia’s Republican Party felt comfortable enough about his marching orders to tell volunteers, in front of a reporter, that when they were out persuading people, they should compare Obama to Osama bin Laden.

All this comes in tandem with a series of automated calls – produced by the same man who viciously slandered McCain and his adopted daughter in the 2000 primary in South Carolina – that accused Obama of associating with terrorists (an accusation that took McCain several weeks to gather the courage to make to Obama’s face).

Can it be said to be a wonder, then, that McCain was forced to correct a woman who falsely said that Obama was “an Arab.” McCain’s response that Obama was “not an Arab” but a “decent man” and a “family man” left almost as much to be desired as his dishonorable campaign has. What if Obama had been an “Arab” with a loving wife and a pair of precocious children? What if, instead of being a Christian, he was a Muslim. A Muslim like Kareem R. Khan, who loved – and who in Iraq gave his life for – his country: the United States of America. Would it make a difference?

McCain and the Republican Party are campaigning that way. History demands that men rise to the occasions it presents. Upon receiving the Republican Party’s nomination, McCain was presented with two choices: He could demonstrate the same courage he showed to his North Vietnamese captors and in doing so stand up against racism the way Sen. Underhill did in 1924, or he could attempt to take the “low road to the highest office in the land.”

A man worthy of the office would have chosen the former. McCain, blinded by ambition, chose the latter. America deserves better.

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Charles Myers is a junior political science, history and philosophy major from Elkins Park, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]