For many of my readers, the most salient trait I have is one I had nothing to do with: the color of my skin. Whether I mention race in a post is unimportant. Many of my commenters will mention it for me.
Given that, I call attention to the fact that the words I recommend to your attention in this post were written by a white man, Christopher Hitchens, who is moderately conservative. He has some interesting things to say about the weekend’s Beck rally, which he calls the “Waterworld of white self-pity”:
One crucial element of the American subconscious is about to become salient and explicit and highly volatile. It is the realization that white America is within thinkable distance of a moment when it will no longer be the majority. . .
Until recently, the tendency has been to think of this rather than to speak of it—or to speak of it very delicately, lest the hard-won ideal of diversity be imperiled. But nobody with any feeling for the zeitgeist can avoid noticing the symptoms of white unease and the additionally uneasy forms that its expression is beginning to take.
For example, so strong is the moral stature of the Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement that even the white right prefers to pretend to emulate it. . . Thus, it is really quite rare to hear slurs against President Barack Obama that are based purely on the color of his skin. Even Beck himself has tried to back away from the smears of that kind that he has spread in the past. But it is increasingly common to hear allegations that Obama is either foreign-born or a Muslim. And these insinuations are perfectly emblematic of the two main fears of the old majority: that it will be submerged by an influx from beyond the borders and that it will be challenged in its traditional ways and faiths by an alien and largely Third World religion.
This summer, then, has been the perfect register of the new anxiety, beginning with the fracas over Arizona’s immigration law, gaining in intensity with the proposal by some Republicans to amend the 14th Amendment so as to de-naturalize “anchor babies,” cresting with the continuing row over the so-called “Ground Zero” mosque, and culminating, at least symbolically, with a quasi-educated Mormon broadcaster calling for a Christian religious revival from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
I think that Hitchens is on to something, and that that’s why tea-partiers often talking about “taking the country back.” Back from whom?