Email #288: “condemn such detestable views”?

Earlier this month a close friend of mine was driving in Lexington when a woman in the next lane yelled at him from her car:

“Move back! Go home!”

My friend (he asked me not to use his name) was born in India, but he is a U.S. citizen and has lived here for twenty-five years. Home for him is Rockbridge county. Both of his daughters were born in the U.S., and his oldest is attending an Ivy League college. Politically, he’s a Libertarian-leaning Democrat. When he lived in India, he was arrested and beaten while in police custody, so he understands a hell of a lot more about government corruption than anyone else I know. You met him yourself during a twelve-person constituent meeting in Staunton about three months ago. I believe he was the only dark-skinned person in the room.

I mention this because after the stranger yelled at him, he drove to our local Republican headquarters and told them that the incident was their responsibility. Xenophobic racism is now a defining trait of the GOP brand.  You know full well that racist driver voted for you last November.

I had assumed the incident was isolated, but then I learned that Republican audience members at the Labor Day parade in Buena Vista yelled “Move back! Go home!” at Delegate Sam Rasoul too. Rasoul is the only Muslim member of the Virginia House of Delegates. His parents are Palestinian immigrants, but he was born in the U.S., the only home he has ever known. I was told that none of the GOP candidates present—Ben Cline, Ed Gillespie, Jill Holtzman Vogel, and John Adams—said anything to their supporters who booed and jeered Rasoul with their racist taunts.

You said after Charlottesville: “The racist and anti-Semitic views embraced by white supremacists have no place in our nation and do not reflect core American values of equality and religious freedom. We are all created in the image of God, and I strongly condemn such detestable views against fellow human beings.”

But what about the racist views embraced by members of your Republican base here in the 6th district? While I hope very few of your supporters would label themselves white supremacists and even fewer would commit violence in support of white supremacy, many of those at the Buena Vista parade openly and proudly violated your stated values of equality and religious freedom.

When my friend spoke to you in person, he said you explained that you have to sometimes support extreme rightwing positions in order to ensure your reelection and so be able to accomplish what you called “the good I want to do.” But what about that bad you do in that process? What about the harm of allowing your voters’ extreme prejudices to go unchallenged? Worse, you and the President fuel those prejudices through your always one-sided rhetoric that paints immigrants as inhuman threats. You are politically profiting from the detestable views you claim to condemn.

 

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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