Let me first say that I understand the gut reaction of those who thought this was a hateful and horrible cover.
I don’t. It really doesn’t bother me.
It is absolutely ridiculous. It is beyond even the racist emails I have gotten from my co-workers. Even they usually just focus on the Black, or Muslim, or no flag pin or , or , or, or. We’ve all gotten them; we all know what they say. There’s the white woman who says that she won’t vote for Barack because he’d put black people first. There’s the idiot with the "Black House" jokes and the people who would not believe he is a Christian if they baptized him themselves.
The idea that with this cover the New Yorker is joining them and not mocking them seems to me to be a little too much. When I first saw it I was looking for the darkened skin and larger lips, I was looking for features to be distorted (beyond the cartoonish to the lawn jockey a la Time Magazine and OJ Simpson). The first thing I saw though was the image of Michelle with the gun over her shoulder and I laughed and I thought, “Shit, That’s exactly what they’re afraid of!” People see a strong Black woman and automatically she’s some sort of Blaxpoitation Film heroine. Idiots.
As my eyes took in the rest of the details I got it. I wasn’t offended. I actually know someone who thinks that Barack's candidacy is a 'secret Muslim plot to give Osama Bin Laden control of the White House'. That's offensive. There isn't a damn thing that I can do to change his mind. Did he get that idea from the New Yorker? Nope. I really want to see his face when he sees the cover though. His deepest fears - in color.
The fact that the cartoon is chock full of ridiculousness lets me not take it to heart. Then there’s the title, The Politics of Fear.
Is this what we should be boycotting? Is this what everyone is so upset about? Really? I have been going crazy nutso insane for the past months because there is so much blatant racism in this campaign that no one is calling anyone on. Every time some idiot quotes the 'terrorist fist jab' remark without calling it racist I have to remind myself that BP meds are expensive. There is a dent in my TV where I threw a coffee mug at Geroge Stephanopolous one Sunday when he was talking about people who were 'more racially sensitive’ and 'less racially sensitive'. C'mon George! Let's be honest: Racist vs Merely Prejudiced. Some honesty, please. What no one seems willing to say out loud is that there are people in this country (and not a small amount of them) who are racist. AND there is a machine in this country that has been running for years and is kept well oiled that keeps letting tiny pieces of the New Yorker cover slip into the American subconscious and trying to tell you that each one is true. They have to do it little piece by little piece because if they every put it all together, if they ever showed you the entire cover, people would see how ludicrous it is.
There are plenty of people out there who would like to stitch that cover together in the back of your mind while you sleep. They would weave it into your hopes and dreams and fear about yourself, your friends and your family. They would like to make you believe it. Someone needs to shine a super powered, glaring spotlight on them and watch them scatter like the vermin they are (Yes, Karl Rove, I am talking about you). This is more like a penlight, but still.
Instead we get pissed at the people making fun of them? We get pissed at the people who are calling them out and showing them for what they are? Fearmongers. Haters in the truest sense of the word.
I don’t think that offensive is always bad; I think there are a hell of a lot of people out there who need to be offended.
I don’t think that controversy is always bad; I have more fully defined my beliefs by defending them.
I don’t think that gut reactions are always bad; I trust them even while I question where they come from.
This time I'm not offended**, I like the fact that there is a national discussion about the internet rumours that inspired the cover because I think those things, like mold, flourish in the dark. My gut reaction was laughter because those are SO COMPLETELY NOT the Barack and Michelle Obama I have been working my ass off for for the last six months or so.
We don’t generally, as a nation or as people, really want to know what others think of us. Well, this cover represents what a lot of people think of the Obamas, and what a lot of people are spending a lot of time and money to make sure that they KEEP thinking about the Obamas. Yes, it is stupid and completely illogical, but it’s also true. That’s why it both is and isn’t funny. Ignoring it or tiptoeing around it, calling it 'racially insensitive', I don't think any of that helps.
Do we want to have it shoved into our faces? Nope.
I’m not pissed at the New Yorker.