Archive for the ‘I wish I’d said that!’ Category

Some of the most intelligent group of words I’ve ever read

~ Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

From Ezra Klein on January 10, 2016…

On Monday, Donald Trump held a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he merrily repeated a woman in the crowd who called Ted Cruz a pussy. Twenty-four hours later Donald Trump won the New Hampshire primary in a landslide.

I’m not here to clutch my pearls over Trump’s vulgarity; what was telling, rather, was the immaturity of the moment, the glee Trump took in his “she-said-it-I-didn’t” game. The media, which has grown used to covering Trump as a sideshow, delighted in the moment along with him — it was funny, and it meant clicks, takes, traffic. But it was more than that. It was the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president showing off the demagogue’s instinct for amplifying the angriest voice in the mob.

It is undeniably enjoyable watching Trump. He’s red-faced, discursive, funny, angry, strange, unpredictable, and real. He speaks without filter and tweets with reckless abandon. The Donald Trump phenomenon is a riotous union of candidate ego and voter id. America’s most skilled political entertainer is putting on the greatest show we’ve ever seen.

It’s so fun to watch that it’s easy to lose sight of how terrifying it really is.
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Trump is the most dangerous major candidate for president in memory. He pairs terrible ideas with an alarming temperament; he’s a racist, a sexist, and a demagogue, but he’s also a narcissist, a bully, and a dilettante. He lies so constantly and so fluently that it’s hard to know if he even realizes he’s lying. He delights in schoolyard taunts and luxuriates in backlash.

Trump is in serious contention to win the Republican presidential nomination. His triumph in a general election is unlikely but it is far from impossible. He’s not a joke and he’s not a clown. He’s a man who could soon be making decisions of war and peace, who would decide which regulations are enforced and which are lifted, who would be responsible for nominating Supreme Court Justices and representing America in the community of nations. This is not political entertainment. This is politics.

Trump’s path to power has been unnerving. His business is licensing out his own name as a symbol of opulence. He has endured bankruptcies and scandal by bragging his way out of them. He rose to prominence in the Republican Party as a leader of the birther movement. He climbed to the top of the polls in this election by calling Mexicans rapists and killers. He defended a poor debate performance by accusing Megyn Kelly of being on her period. He responded to rival Ted Cruz’s surge by calling for a travel ban on Muslims. When two of his supporters attacked a homeless man and said they did it because “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported,” he brushed off complaints that he’s inspiring violence by saying his supporters are “very passionate.”

Behind Trump’s success is an unerring instinct for harnessing anger, resentment, and fear. His view of the economy is entirely zero-sum — for Americans to win, others must lose. “We’re going to make America great again,” he said in his New Hampshire victory speech, “but we’re going to do it the old fashioned way. We’re going to beat China, Japan, beat Mexico at trade. We’re going to beat all of these countries that are taking so much of our money away from us on a daily basis. It’s not going to happen anymore.”

Trump answers America’s rage with more rage. As the journalist Molly Ball observed, “All the other candidates say ‘Americans are angry, and I understand.’ Trump says, ‘I’M angry.'” Trump doesn’t offer solutions so much as he offers villains. His message isn’t so much that he’ll help you as he’ll hurt them.

Donald Trump Holds New Hampshire Primary Night Gathering In Manchester
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Trump’s other gift — the one that gets less attention, but is perhaps more important — is his complete lack of shame. It’s easy to underestimate how important shame is in American politics. But shame is our most powerful restraint on politicians who would find success through demagoguery. Most people feel shame when they’re exposed as liars, when they’re seen as uninformed, when their behavior is thought cruel, when respected figures in their party condemn their actions, when experts dismiss their proposals, when they are mocked and booed and protested.

Trump doesn’t. He has the reality television star’s ability to operate entirely without shame, and that permits him to operate entirely without restraint. It is the single scariest facet of his personality. It is the one that allows him to go where others won’t, to say what others can’t, to do what others wouldn’t.

Trump lives by the reality-television trope that he’s not here to make friends. But the reason reality-television villains always say they’re not there to make friends is because it sets them apart, makes them unpredictable and fun to watch. “I’m not here to make friends” is another way of saying “I’m not bound by the social conventions of normal people.” The rest of us are here to make friends, and it makes us boring, gentle, kind.

This, more than his ideology, is why Trump genuinely scares me. There are places where I think Trump’s instincts are an improvement on the Republican field. He seems more dovish than neoconservatives like Marco Rubio, and less dismissive of the social safety net than libertarians like Rand Paul. But those candidates are checked by institutions and incentives that hold no sway over Trump; his temperament is so immature, his narcissism so clear, his political base so unique, his reactions so strange, that I honestly have no idea what he would do — or what he wouldn’t do.

When MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough asked Trump about his affection for Vladimir Putin, who “kills journalists, political opponents and invades countries,” Trump replied, “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.” Later, he clarified that he doesn’t actually condone killing journalists, but, he warned the crowd, “I do hate them.”

It’s a lie that if you put a frog into a pot of water and slowly turn up the heat the frog will simply boil, but it’s a fact that if you put the American political system in a room with Trump for long enough we slowly lose track of how noxious he is, or we at least run out of ways to keep repeating it.

But tonight is a night to repeat it. There is something scary in Donald Trump. We should fear his rise.

When everyone makes media, everything is a news peg.

~ Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

From the Atlantic, comes this:

What happens when you make humans into vessels for ideas.

Forgive me for being late to Jonah Lehrer’s transgressions and resignation. It’s a sad story. I did not know quite what to say.

I don’t want to delve too deeply into the media scrum, but I do want to note how neatly this kind of narrative conforms to the arc Bill Wasik laid out in And Then There’s This, his book on viral culture from 2009.

Wasik tells the story of Blair Hornstine, a kid who sued her high school when she found out it was going to allow a boy with a slightly lower GPA to be co-valedictorian. The media got hold of the story and things got ugly: Hornstine was found to have plagiarized several papers and Harvard rescinded her acceptance.

I would like to propose a new term to encompass all these miniature spikes, these vertiginous rises and falls: the nanostory. We allow ourselves to believe that a narrative is larger than itself, that it holds some portent for the long-term future; but soon enough we come to our senses, and the story, which cannot bear the weight of what we have heaped on it, dies almost as suddenly as it was born. The gift we so graciously gave Blair Horstine in 2003 was her fifteen minutes not of fame but of meaning.

Unfortunately for Lehrer, he has to keep making meaning every day out of what he’s done. We’ll all get to use him in our long-running rhetorical battles and move on. Until the day, of course, when something we do — good or bad — pushes us into the meaningsphere and we’re judged by the crowd.

Sandra Fluke. Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman. Chen Guangcheng. Octomom. Gore Vidal. Olympian 1. Olympian 2. Olympian 3. Malcolm Gladwell. Malcolm Gladwell. Malcolm Gladwell. Chick-Fil-A.

When everyone makes media, everything is a news peg. (Didn’t see that one coming, somehow.)

There’s no way to escape that I, too, am fitting Lehrer into a pattern that I recognized long ago. Lehrer is a vessel for my idea, for your idea, for our ideas. And we can’t help but excise, erase, or ignore the inconvenient human parts of that container: Cut down the mess, sand the rough edges, spackle the holes we don’t understand or know. Which is, sadly and dumbly, what did Lehrer in.

This isn’t a call to stop writing stories about what the Jonah Lehrer thing means. But I have a vision for what happens to us when we carve out the hard human parts of our stories’ subjects. Attached to our scalpel is a bar that connects to a smaller scalpel poised against our own flesh. Like one of Kafka’s machines, every time we slice someone, it slices us in the same place but not quite as deep and so quickly you hardly feel it. This may just be the nature of the journalism mechanism, but I worry most of us don’t even know when we’re bleeding.

Nostalgia as a Species of Laziness

~ Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

From Ta-Nehisi Coates comes this:

This is what I meant by nostalgia as a species of laziness:

At a New York political event last week, Republican and Democratic office-holders were all bemoaning President Obama’s handling of the debt-ceiling crisis when someone said, “Hillary would have been a better president.”

“Every single person nodded, including the Republicans,” reported one observer.

At a luncheon in the members’ dining room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Saturday, a 64-year-old African-American from the Bronx was complaining about Obama’s ineffectiveness in dealing with the implacable hostility of congressional Republicans when an 80-year-old lawyer chimed in about the president’s unwillingness to stand up to his opponents.

“I want to see blood on the floor,” she said grimly. A 61-year-old white woman at the table nodded. “He never understood about the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy,'” she said.

Looking as if she were about to cry, an 83-year-old Obama supporter shook her head. “I’m so disappointed in him,” she said. “It’s true: Hillary is tougher.”

She is “tougher.” A nebulous existence in the fever dreams of frustrated liberals tends to do that to you. Everybody’s “tougher” before they’re in the actual knife fight. I could just as easily see an alternative fever dream–one launched by President Hillary Clinton political failings, which she surely would have had, in which another camp of liberals look fondly back on how the Obama of hope and change would have altered the political calculus via magic.

The handsome gentleman at the office with whom you share no bathrooms is also “sexier” than your husband. We’re all sexy to someone until the years find us explaining how, precisely, we allowed Junior to have Oreos and potato chips for dinner.

I want America to be as good as she imagined it.

~ Thursday, January 13th, 2011


Obama’s Triumph in Tucson -The President’s Speech by Joe Klein

Barack Obama spoke to the city of Tucson, and to the United States of America, not so much as our President tonight, but as a member of our family. He spoke as a son–I couldn’t help but think of his personal regret over not being by his mother’s side when she passed as he said, “Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder.” You could see the devastation insinuate itself onto, and then be quietly willed away from, his face. He spoke as a brother to his fellow public servants, killed and wounded in the events–an eager brother bringing the glad tidings the Gabrielle Giffords had opened her eyes. He repeated it, joyously, three times. But most of all, he spoke as a father–rising to a glorious peak describing the departed 9-year-old, Christine Taylor Green, a girl near the age of his daughters, whose own deaths, perhaps in the line of fire, he had so clearly been thinking about. And he spoke, more broadly, as the head of our national family, comforting, uplifting, scolding a little, nudging us toward our better angels.

It was a remarkably personal speech, effortlessly sweeping away any notion of pomposity, over-intellectuality or distance. It was written and delivered in plain English. It summoned images, and emotions, that every American–even those who cannot countenance his legitimacy–could relate to and be moved by. His description of the victims was at the heart of it: Judge Roll went to mass every day. George and Dot Morris had a 50-year honeymoon. Dorwan and Mavy Stoddard lost their teenaged love and then regained it many years later. Phyllis Schneck sat quilting under her favorite tree. We all know them–and we know people like Daniel Hernandez, big and loyal and kindly, who would have stopped a bullet to save his boss, but saved her instead by tending to her wounds and begging her to hold on. Their ordinary decency, simply evoked, made the tragedy our own. Their simple nobility beggared the absurd screech of the debate surrounding this terrible event. His appreciation of their humanity was an appeciation of our own.

And in summoning the community and the nation and the Congresswoman that Christine Taylor Green imagined we are, he summoned for us the country that we should be. On this night. certainly, he was the President she–and we–imagined he might be. On this night, finally, he became President of all the people. It was a privilege to behold.

Important announcement

~ Wednesday, August 11th, 2010


From Chris Mohney comes this…

Continuing the chain of imaginary offensiveness to stereotypes, I plan to open a Babies R Us next to the gay bar next to the mosque next to Ground Zero. Next to the Babies R Us I will open a pornographic bookstore, and next to that I will open a police station. Next to the police station I will open a hip-hop recording studio, and next to that I will open an Applebees. Next to the Applebees I will open a TGI Fridays (those guys HATE each other) and next to the TGI Fridays I will open a methodone clinic. Next to the methodone clinic I will open a crack house, and finally, next to that, I will open a Catholic church adjoining a daycare center for attractive boys, adjacent to which i will just blow up whatever’s there so I can erect a memorial, and next to that memorial I will open a community center dedicated to a locally inconvenient ethnicity that I hired to blow up the original structure on the memorial site. Next to that I’m just going to put some condos.

More little girls can look forward to that special day — even two at a time!

~ Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

From the Washington Post comes this…

The biggest day of her life: Elena Kagan, Chelsea, and Prop 8
By Alexandra Petri

It’s that day every little girl dreams of. It will mark the beginning of a new life as part of something bigger than herself. Centuries of tradition have determined what she’ll wear, what she’ll say. Some have objected, but they’ll hold their peace on the big day.

Forget Chelsea’s wedding! I’m talking about Elena Kagan’s confirmation as a Supreme Court justice.

Weddings, confirmation hearings — potato, potahto! They’re practically the same. Both are the focus of years of longing and preparation. People wear funny outfits and family members cry. If you’re lucky, Antonin Scalia is there! (Okay, maybe that’s just my dream wedding.)

Still, there was something in the above paragraph that probably made us think “wedding.” Why do people still see “little girl’s long-awaited big day” and think white gowns rather than black robes?

When Chelsea Clinton wed Marc Mezvinsky (I bet they were attracted to each other by their mutual alliteration), I was struck by many things: the dress, the fuss, the security officer who kept insisting that I leave. But what stuck with me most was the comment, from Bill Clinton to Ryan Seacrest, that “it’s the biggest day of her life, probably.”

This remark struck me as a straggler from another era, the way it would have if he’d said, “I’m giving them a Model T!” or “She’s spent the last decade furnishing her hope chest!” For me, the idea that a wedding is the biggest day of a little girl’s life falls somewhere between “I’m going clubbing-and-dragging-back-to-my-cave” and “I’m going clubbing!” I always thought that for my generation of women, sure, weddings were important, if only because they allowed you to put tiny scale models of yourself on cakes without people thinking you were some sort of weirdo, but they weren’t that important. If you didn’t marry and wound up becoming a Supreme Court justice instead — who cared! As long as you threw a nice reception with those toast things, wore something blue and invoked the Fifth a lot, or whatever it is you’re supposed to do.

But I think I was wrong. There’s still something about marriage.

The news of Kagan’s confirmation followed on the heels of something else — the judge’s ruling that overturned Proposition 8. Somehow, the only objection to that I haven’t heard is “Not more weddings! Weddings aren’t important! No one cares about them!” Everyone, it seems, still puts a value on these things.

Perhaps that’s because, while only three in every 100 million of us will turn out to be Supreme Court justices (better than the odds of being killed by a shark, a fact I will attempt to use with the next shark that bothers me), the odds are pretty excellent we’ll get married, sometimes six or eight times. It’s one of those rituals we all go through at some point, like learning to drive or accidentally killing a hamster. Everyone cared about Chelsea’s big day because a wedding is something everyone can experience — from your neighbor who wants you to fly to a beach in Ontario to Bristol Palin (oh, wait).

It wasn’t just Chelsea. This day is big not because Bill doesn’t expect his daughter to lead a fulfilling and exciting life — but because it marks a special occasion that is qualitatively different from a professional milestone like being elected president, the kind that stands out even in a rich life. It is a celebration of finding the proverbial needle of love and commitment in the haystack of the singles scene. Johnson called second marriages “the triumph of hope over experience.” Given the divorce rate, so are first marriages. Yet we have them anyway. And with the Prop 8 ruling, more little girls can look forward to that special day — even two at a time!

Now we just have to see what happens when it gets to the Supreme Court. Talk about big days, probably.

NO H8

~ Thursday, August 5th, 2010

From Andrew Sullivan comes this:
The Aisle of Andrew's wedding

Walker’s critical point (and beautifully put):

The right to marry has been historically and remains the right to choose a spouse and, with mutual consent, join together and form a household. Race and gender restrictions shaped marriage during eras of race and gender inequality, but such restrictions were never part of the historical core of the institution of marriage. Today, gender is not relevant to the state in determining spouses’ obligations to each other and to their dependents. Relative gender composition aside, same-sex couples are situated identically to opposite-sex couples in terms of their ability to perform the rights and obligations of marriage under California law. Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals.

Plaintiffs seek to have the state recognize their committed relationships, and plaintiffs’ relationships are consistent with the core of the history, tradition and practice of marriage in the United States. Perry and Stier seek to be spouses;they seek the mutual obligation and honor that attend marriage, Zarrillo and Katami seek recognition from the state that their union is “a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred.” Griswold, 381 US at 486. Plaintiffs’ unions encompass the historical purpose and form of marriage. Only the plaintiffs’ genders relative to one another prevent California from giving their relationships due recognition.

Plaintiffs do not seek recognition of a new right. To characterize plaintiffs’ objective as “the right to same-sex marriage” would suggest that plaintiffs seek something different from what opposite-sex couples across the state enjoy —— namely, marriage. Rather, plaintiffs ask California to recognize their relationships for what they are: marriages.

We need more Walt Whitman’s

~ Sunday, March 14th, 2010

This makes so much sense!

From Andrew Sullivan comes this

From his article on the subject:

It’s difficult to take oneself with sufficient seriousness to begin any sentence with the words “Thou shalt not.” But who cannot summon the confidence to say: Do not condemn people on the basis of their ethnicity or color. Do not ever use people as private property. Despise those who use violence or the threat of it in sexual relations. Hide your face and weep if you dare to harm a child. Do not condemn people for their inborn nature—why would God create so many homosexuals only in order to torture and destroy them?

Be aware that you too are an animal and dependent on the web of nature, and think and act accordingly. Do not imagine that you can escape judgment if you rob people with a false prospectus rather than with a knife. Turn off that fucking cell phone—you have no idea how unimportant your call is to us. Denounce all jihadists and crusaders for what they are: psychopathic criminals with ugly delusions. Be willing to renounce any god or any religion if any holy commandments should contradict any of the above. In short: Do not swallow your moral code in tablet form.

Words to [Live] by

~ Friday, February 12th, 2010

Words to Live By
Before I Die . . . ‘As in the case of love, no man has lived until he has felt sorrow.’ by Edmund N. Carpenter, II

The following essay was written by Edmund N. Carpenter, age 17, in June 1938 while he was a student in Lawrenceville, N.J. Carpenter would go on to win the Bronze Star for his service in World War II and to a civilian career as an attorney. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he became president of Richards, Layton & Finger, a law firm. He died on Dec. 19, 2008 at age 87 and is survived by six children and 15 grandchildren:

It may seem very strange to the reader that one of my tender age should already be thinking about that inevitable end to which even the paths of glory lead. However, this essay is not really concerned with death, but rather with life, my future life. I have set down here the things which I, at this age, believe essential to happiness and complete enjoyment of life. Some of them will doubtless seem very odd to the reader; others will perhaps be completely in accord with his own wishes. At any rate, they compose a synopsis of the things which I sincerely desire to have done before I leave this world and pass on to the life hereafter or to oblivion.

Before I die I want to know that I have done something truly great, that I have accomplished some glorious achievement the credit for which belongs solely to me. I do not aspire to become as famous as a Napoleon and conquer many nations; but I do want, almost above all else, to feel that I have been an addition to this world of ours. I should like the world, or at least my native land, to be proud of me and to sit up and take notice when my name is pronounced and say, “There is a man who has done a great thing.” I do not want to have passed through life as just another speck of humanity, just another cog in a tremendous machine. I want to be something greater, far greater than that. My desire is not so much for immortality as for distinction while I am alive. When I leave this world, I want to know that my life has not been in vain, but that I have, in the course of my existence, done something of which I am rightfully very proud.

Before I die I want to know that during my life I have brought great happiness to others. Friendship, we all agree, is one of the best things in the world, and I want to have many friends. But I could never die fully contented unless I knew that those with whom I had been intimate had gained real happiness from their friendship with me. Moreover, I feel there is a really sincere pleasure to be found in pleasing others, a kind of pleasure that can not be gained from anything else. We all want much happiness in our lives, and giving it to others is one of the surest ways to achieve it for ourselves.

Before I die I want to have visited a large portion of the globe and to have actually lived with several foreign races in their own environment. By traveling in countries other than my own I hope to broaden and improve my outlook on life so that I can get a deeper, and more complete satisfaction from living. By mixing the weighty philosophy of China with the hard practicalism of America, I hope to make my life fuller. By blending the rigid discipline of Germany with the great liberty in our own nation I hope to more completely enjoy my years on this earth. These are but two examples of the many things which I expect to achieve by traveling and thus have a greater appreciation of life.

Before I die there is another great desire I must fulfill, and that is to have felt a truly great love. At my young age I know that love, other than some filial affection, is probably far beyond my ken. Yet, young as I may be, I believe I have had enough inkling of the subject to know that he who has not loved has not really lived. Nor will I feel my life is complete until I have actually experienced that burning flame and know that I am at last in love, truly in love. I want to feel that my whole heart and soul are set on one girl whom I wish to be a perfect angel in my eyes. I want to feel a love that will far surpass any other emotion that I have ever felt. I know that when I am at last really in love then I will start living a different, better life, filled with new pleasures that I never knew existed.

Before I die I want to feel a great sorrow. This, perhaps, of all my wishes will seem the strangest to the reader. Yet, is it unusual that I should wish to have had a complete life? I want to have lived fully, and certainly sorrow is a part of life. It is my belief that, as in the case of love, no man has lived until he has felt sorrow. It molds us and teaches us that there is a far deeper significance to life than might be supposed if one passed through this world forever happy and carefree. Moreover, once the pangs of sorrow have slackened, for I do not believe it to be a permanent emotion, its dregs often leave us a better knowledge of this world of ours and a better understanding of humanity. Yes, strange as it may seem, I really want to feel a great sorrow.

With this last wish I complete the synopsis of the things I want to do before I die. Irrational as they may seem to the reader, nevertheless they comprise a sincere summary of what I truthfully now believe to be the things most essential to a fully satisfactory and happy life. As I stand here on the threshold of my future, these are the things which to me seem the most valuable. Perhaps in fifty years I will think that they are extremely silly. Perhaps I will wonder, for instance, why I did not include a wish for continued happiness. Yet, right now, I do not desire my life to be a bed of roses. I want it to be something much more than that. I want it to be a truly great adventure, never dull, always exciting and engrossing; not sickly sweet, yet not unhappy. And I believe it will be all I wish if I do these things before I die.

As for death itself, I do not believe that it will be such a disagreeable thing providing my life has been successful. I have always considered life and death as two cups of wine. Of the first cup, containing the wine of life, we can learn a little from literature and from those who have drunk it, but only a little. In order to get the full flavor we must drink deeply of it for ourselves. I believe that after I have quaffed the cup containing the wine of life, emptied it to its last dregs, then I will not fear to turn to that other cup, the one whose contents can be designated only by X, an unknown, and a thing about which we can gain no knowledge at all until we drink for ourselves. Will it be sweet, or sour, or tasteless? Who can tell? Surely none of us like to think of death as the end of everything. Yet is it? That is a question that for all of us will one day be answered when we, having witnessed the drama of life, come to the final curtain. Probably we will all regret to leave this world, yet I believe that after I have drained the first cup, and have possibly grown a bit weary of its flavor, I will then turn not unwillingly to the second cup and to the new and thrilling experience of exploring the unknown.

Ebony and Ivory

~ Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Ebony & Ivory
From Ta-nehisi Coates comes this:

I Just Remembered Chris Matthews Was White, posted 28 Jan 2010 10:30 am

Here’s Matthews on Obama:

I was trying to think about who he was tonight. It’s interesting; he is post-racial, by all appearances. I forgot he was black tonight for an hour. He’s gone a long way to become a leader of this country and past so much history in just a year or two. I mean it’s something we don’t even think about. I was watching and I said, wait a minute, he’s an African-American guy in front of a bunch of other white people and there he is, president of the United States, and we’ve completely forgotten that tonight — completely forgotten it. I think it was in the scope of the discussion, it was so broad ranging, so in tune with so many problems and aspects and aspects of American life. That you don’t think in terms of the old tribalism and the old ethnicity. It was astounding in that regard, a very subtle fact. It’s so hard to even talk about it. Maybe I shouldn’t talk about it, but I am.

I think it’s worth noting that Chris Matthews wasn’t trying to take a shot at anybody. I also think it’s worth noting that he was attempting to compliment Obama and say something positive about what he’s done for race relations. (See Matthews’ clarification here.) But I think it’s most worth noting that “I forgot Obama was black”–in all its iterations–is something that white people should stop saying, if only because it’s really dishonest.

One way to think about this is to flip the frame. Around these parts, we’ve been known, from time to time, to chat about the NFL. We’ve also been known to chat about the intricacies of beer. If you hang around you’ll notice that there are no shortage of women in these discussions. Having read a particularly smart take on Brett Favre, or having received a good recommendations on a particular IPA, it would not be a compliment for me to say, “Wow, I forgot you were a woman.” Indeed, it would be pretty offensive.

The problems is three-fold. First, it takes my necessarily limited, and necessarily blinkered, experience with the fairer sex and builds it into a shibboleth of invented truth. Then it takes that invented truth as a fair standard by which I can measure one’s “woman-ness.” So if football and beer don’t fit into my standard, I stop seeing the person as a woman. Finally instead of admitting that my invented truth is the problem, I put the onus on the woman. Hence the claim “I forgot you were a woman,” as opposed to “I just realized my invented truth was wrong.”

Ditto for Chris Matthews. The “I forgot Obama was black” sentiment allows the speaker the comfort of accepting, even lauding, a black person without interrogating their invented truth. It allows the speaker a luxurious ignorance–you get to name people (this is what black is) even when you don’t know people. In fact, Chris Matthews didn’t forget Barack Obama was black. Chris Matthews forgot that Chris Matthews was white.

I’m put back in the mind of the The Wire, when Slim Charles tells Avon that it really doesn’t matter that our wars are based on a lie. Once we’re fighting, we fight on that lie until the end. I would submit that a significant number of white people in this country, can not stop fighting on the lie. They can’t cop to the fact that they really have no standing to speak on Obama’s relationship to blackness, because they know so little about black people. It’s always hard to say, “I don’t know.” But no one else can say it for you.

This is why Obama will never be postracial–he can’t make white people face the lie of their ignorance, anymore than Jimmy Baldwin could make black people face the lie of our homophobia. It’s white people’s responsibility to make themselves postracial, not the president’s. Whatever my disagreements with him, the fact is that he is brilliant. That he is black and brilliant is pleasant but unsurprising to me. I’ve known very brilliant, very black people all my life. At some point that number of white people who still can’t their head around our humanity will have to accept the truth: the president is black, and even if you don’t quite know what that means.