Commentary: What truly divides us?

The Myrtle Beach SunMarch 3, 2012 

I've used this space and my blog to argue against the firing of Don Imus.

I've defended Rush Limbaugh against charges of racism.

I called out rapper Kanye West for his stupid comments accusing President George W. Bush of disliking black people.

When Republicans Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice were deemed puppets on a Republican plantation, I came to their defense.

I’ve defended and praised many of the positions taken by Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Gov. Mark Sanford.

I’ve scolded people who suggested President Bush was responsible for the 3,000 lives lost during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, or that he lied us into war with Iraq, took pains to explain his faith when it was under attack and supported the Iraq surge long before it became popular.

I’ve written that Michele Bachmann’s comments about being a Biblically submissive wife did not mean she was weak.

I’ve said that while I disagreed with this particular crop of Republican presidential candidates, I was going to take them at their word, that their critiques of social policy were about improving this country, not to tear it down.

People took Mitt Romney’s “I like being able to fire people” comment out of context, and I straightened them out.

I warned people against rushing to judgment about the alleged rape of a black woman by white lacrosse players at Duke University.

Criticism rained down on Fox News Channel star Bill O’Reilly when he visited a Harlem restaurant with the Rev. Al Sharpton and was surprised and praised the black people who were there for not acting like thugs. His critics said he should be ashamed for knowing so little about black people. I said he should be given the benefit of doubt, given that he was trying to say something positive.

And I spent a considerable amount of space during the 2008 and 2010 election cycle defending the Tea Party, white voters and critics of the current president against charges of race-based hatred.

All of that has been lauded by readers, some of whom took to calling me brave and saying they hoped that other black people listened to me.

Apparently the only person I’m not supposed to defend is President Obama.

To do so can only mean that I am blinded by racial loyalty or am carrying the water for the Obama administration.

I can’t defend him for the same reasons I defended Limbaugh … and Romney … and Imus … and Bachmann … and O’Reilly … and Bush, because I believe they were being unfairly tarred, the criticism was such that it distorted reality and it made sensible compromise and cooperation impossible.

It can’t be because I view him as what he is, another in a long line of smart, but imperfect men trying to lead the free world.

It can’t be because, though the Affordable Care Act might be flawed, it is the first serious attempt by this country to tackle a problem that should have been dealt with long ago.

It can’t be because he inherited an economy that was in free fall – an economy that had lost 82,000 jobs in January of 2009 alone and contracted by a depression-like 8.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 – but has done enough to bring us back from an economic abyss into a recovery, even though not all of his policy prescriptions worked as well as we’d have liked.

We seem unable to have an honest discussion about facts and points-of-view – even a heated, pointed discussion – without dismissing those with whom we disagree before considering their arguments, or taking the word of those with whom we agree without first challenging their rationale. That mind-set is disturbing and one of the reasons it is so difficult to handle large, pressing problems.

But I don’t plan to stop trying any time soon.

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