Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Crazy in the Best Way Possible

Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) is genuinely crazy. I mean that in the best possible way.

For better or for worse, the Republican Party has a great many crazy people. They support ludicrous policies. They have an insane persecution complex about the "liberal media" which is always out to get them. They attack 12-year olds because they dare rely on the SCHIP program. This is nothing new.

What is distinctive about many of these crazy folk, though, is how hackish they are. It's not like they're just beholden to some extreme ideology which pushes them to weird and outlandish positions all the time. For if that were the case, everyone once in awhile you'd see them deviated from the electoral interests of the GOP. Yet, for many of the most passionate nut-cases in the Republican Party -- be they Christian Conservatives or supply-side voodooists, this never happens. Their craziness is not genuine. It is a mere facade for Republican Party politics.

Brownback, by contrast, is if nothing else genuine. This doesn't mean that he doesn't do crazy things. Holding up a judicial nomination because the candidate attended the commitment ceremony of a lesbian friend definitely qualifies. But at other times, he does surprisingly nice things, because he is truly committed to a belief structure beyond "Republicans winning." One example is his human rights advocacy in North Korea. Another is his recently announced resolution apologizing for slavery and segregation.

It is beyond obvious that such a statement is long overdue. An apology, which exacts no cost on any "innocent" party, is the least we could do to atone for our centuries long enactment of state-sponsored terror, discrimination, violence, and hate. Most scholars who examine the aftermath of mass atrocity (which is the best descriptor of America's racial caste system) agree that some level of reckoning by the majority culture for its deeds is crucial to reconstituting the victims. This is why truth commissions are so important -- even more so, often, than legally punishing perpetrators (this ties in nicely with my general belief that justice for the victims is more important than punishing wrongdoers). But America never went through this period of self-reflection. Indeed, as Kimberle Crenshaw noted, we shifted seamlessly into "post-racist", often without even changing the officials in charge (can you say Jessie Helms?). People victimized by mass atrocities are hurt all over again when they find that nobody cares, or that those who committed the violent acts don't even recognize their wrongdoing. The wounds of oppression live on in this situation -- a continued legacy fostered by silence.

The mass resistance too many White politicians have to simple official acknowledgment the grave moral wrongs our nation has inflicted upon people of color is untenable. I agree with Brownback, incidentally, that these aspects of racism are a national problem -- let's not let the north get off scot-free. Brownback concedes that this is an uphill fight. Indeed, in a political sense such a resolution is crazy -- it's not going to win him any votes, it's not going to restart his stalled presidential campaign, and it likely won't even succeed. But it is someone like him -- a Nixon-goes-to-China figure -- who can get the ball rolling. Has the time for this resolution passed? Not while those victimized by America's racist heritage still demand it. Even if his resolution doesn't pass, even the effort is worth something. And I applaud Brownback for his leadership in this regard.

So, while I still think Brownback is crazy, in the words of today's youth, I also want to say: "Brownback, you craaazy!" And I salute him for that.

No comments: