In the political blogosphere, the moderate has been eradicated and party lines marked in indelible ink are expected to be towed without objection or annotation. If you’re on the left, you can’t criticize the president for anything, and if you’re on the right, you have to turn every incident into an impeachable offense.
Now, as a shitty blogger, I couldn’t be happier. This system of rabid accusation and frothy proselytizing works extremely well, and I have to say, for the most part I am very pleased that our dialog has evolved from polite but ineffective discourse into childish name-calling and blind obedience devoid of critical thought. We’re finally seeing the change we want in the world. Content is shared, feelings are hurt, and people feel more important.
Treating politics like professional wrestling rivalries comes with its fair share of downfalls though, and this Bergdahl case is a perfect example of such shortcomings. As a leftist myself, I was quick to dismiss any notion of Bergdahl’s traitorous behavior, nor did I take exception to Obama’s decision to circumvent congressional approval when he released five terrorists from Gitmo. I simply read that a trade occurred, googled to find out how the right felt about it, and then blindly argued against every single point that they made. Is Bergdahl a deserter? Of course not, he’s a hero. What evidence do I have of that? None. Who cares? I’m right and you’re wrong.
But, this is where the breakdown occurs, because there’s something my fellow liberals are missing in all of this, and only part of it is to blame on fervent, unquestioning support of the president. It’s odd to me that in a whole industry of race obsessed blowhards collecting freelancing checks, I’m the only one who noticed how racist the Bergdahl trade was.
I want to make it clear that I’m not criticizing the president for his decision to rescue Bergdahl, but there’s something that the white left is afraid to talk about here. When Obama traded five men of color for one white man – he made a very clear statement about race. He let the entire world know that one white life is worth at least five brown ones, and that is incredibly fucked up and gross and problematic.
Think for a second – if Bush had made that trade, is there any doubt that we would be calling him out for how outrageously racist it was? If a white man had traded five brown men for one white man, we would be quick to see it for what it was – an affirmation of white privilege and power. But, because Obama is a man of color himself, it seems as if no one noticed.
I can only imagine the struggle Obama, a man of people of color, must have felt as he authorized that trade. He was betraying himself – the black part of himself – while simultaneously affirming the privilege and power structures inherent in the white part of himself. The courage it took to make that decision is remarkable, and again, I feel like he made the right choice, but we should really look at this situation and use it as a way to reflect on our cultural attitudes to the devaluation and reductive characterization of colorful men that we objectify through cisrace projections of cultural self-worth.
The right is quick to point out that five “terrorists” aren’t worth the life of one traitor, and the left argues that no soldier should be left behind, so long as that soldier angers the right. But, when white leftists argue in favor of the Bergdahl trade, they don’t realize that they are signal-boosting the conceit that a white life is valuable enough to rescue, whereas the other five brown lives in the trade are simply property and bargaining chips.
When oppressed people of color process the Bergdahl trade, I imagine they initially feel the same as most white liberals – they’re glad that Obama made a decision that infuriates the right. But when they _ethnically_ process the trade with their minds of color, they can’t help but feel shame. They can’t help but feel betrayed and victimized by a president that is supposed to smash the white supremacist patriarchy that would make this kind of trade in the first place.
It’s important for white liberals like myself to check our privilege in this situation. We have to understand that while Obama made the right decision to rescue Bergdahl, the only reason he did so was because Bergdahl was white, and Obama had no choice. We should feel ashamed. We should feel guilt that we forced the president to betray his own race, and we should feel guilt that the white supremacy that we benefit from is so far reaching that even the president is subject to its will.
It’s important to remember that if Bergdahl was not white, he would still be in Taliban hands, and if those “terrorists” at Gitmo had not been men of color, there would not have been any deal. And before you even begin to think about criticizing this standpoint, remember that anything you say in opposition to this just shows your support of both racism and the GOP.