I spent much of my early radio air time trying to “wake up” the citizenry of Anchorage. I was impatient, frustrated, chiding at times. On June 5th, the show topic was the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. On April 4, 1968, Kennedy was campaigning for the Democratic Nomination for President. He had just landed in Indianapolis, Indiana to speak to a large gathering of African Americans. Kennedy was advised by police not to speak. His security could not be guaranteed, and there was no way to know how the crowd, in an area considered ghetto, would react. When he walked out onto the platform, he realized the upbeat audience didn’t know of Martin Luther King’s death. The moment he took the crowd around a corner with knowledge of a changed American Landscape, he stopped campaigning. He became a leader. Two months later Kennedy was shot and killed.
Listening to his speech, during an on air discussion, I realized Americans had good reason to be “unplugged.” In a five year span, President John F. Kennedy, Malcom X, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy were all publicly executed. Their voices encouraged power of the people, demanded the best of Americans, and acknowledged years of racial injustice. A collective post traumatic stress disorder seized the political consciousness of Americans, the Vietnam War raged on, and a catatonic cloud descended.
Four years ago, I watched the Democratic National Convention, and for the first time saw Barack Obama. I called my mother and eight year old daughter in to watch him. My daughter said, “He sounds like a president” and walked back out to play. My mother said, “I hope no one shoots him.” I know exactly where she was when JFK was killed. Anyone alive then can tell you how they found out. The political passion so many young people now feel, they remember. The anxiety they feel in this election is quietly talked about, but not very loudly.
The McCain camp have made a pivotal decision to attack on a personal level. Most of the pundits are talking about how xenophobic and racially charged statements affect votes. Sarah Palin continues to infer Democrat Barack Obama is “palling around with terrorists” and doesn’t see the U.S. like other Americans. She emphasizes, “He’s pallin’ around with terrorists who would target their own country!” Barack Hussein Obama is repeated over and over at McCain rallies and even on local Anchorage right wing talk shows. They are trying to invoke a terrorist fear in voters. It is a dangerous and unfounded connection. Supporters in the crowd have responded with “Kill him” and “Terrorist.” Those charges have been tacitly endorsed by both John McCain and Sarah Palin. During the debate last night, McCain was too much of a coward to repeat Palin’s racially tinged attacks while on the same stage as Obama.
This is not only damaging the McCain-Palin campaign, it is eroding hard fought ground America has already covered. We have come a long way in terms of race, and yet we have only begun to move forward. We all lose when the Republican ticket sacrifices racial gains in an attempt to win the White House. This is not the change voters seek. This is fearful fodder for dangerous radicals.