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"Obama Waffles" and Invincible Ignorance...

News out this ayem about political correctness run amok at this weekend's Values Voters Summit...er, well, maybe there's something else at work? A vendor at the annual summit, a creation of James Dobson's Family Research Council, was selling "Obama Waffles," with a just oh-so-funny Aunt Jemima riff, as you can see.(Oh, and Obama is also depicted on a top flap in Arab-Muslim dress next to a placard saying, "Point box toward Mecca for tastier waffles.")Hilarious! And yes, low-hanging (strange?) fruit that will be fodderfor both sides. Naturally, being an East Coast elitist (well, I wannabe), I was taken aback by the product when I saw it. But what really got me was that no one at the Values Voters Summit seemed to blink until it was pointed out to them. Indeed, the products were "selling like hotcakes," as one put it. According to the AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) Activists at a conservative political forum snapped up boxes of waffle mix depicting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as a racial stereotype on its front and wearing Arab-like headdress on its top flap.Values Voter Summit organizers cut off sales of Obama Waffles boxes on Saturday, saying they had not realized the boxes displayed "offensive material." The summit and the exhibit hall where the boxes were sold had been open since Thursday afternoon.The box was meant as political satire, said Mark Whitlock and Bob DeMoss, two writers from Franklin, Tenn., who created the mix. They sold it for $10 a box from a rented booth at the summit sponsored by the lobbying arm of the Family Research Council.David Nammo, executive director of the lobbying group FRC Action, said summit organizers were told the boxes were a parody of Obama's policy positions but had not examined them closely.

The Dems are trying to reach out to religious voters. The GOP is supposedly trying to make its confines friendly for minority voters (perhaps thinking of a few decades hence, when they become majority voters). So how does this stuff happen? Just part of the Republican frathouse sensibility of the campaign? Make fun of your opponents. It works.Or something more problematic? Sarah Pulliam over at the Christianity Today pol-blog has a good roundup, though she begins by saying that the two vendors "were trying to lighten the mood." Hmmm, bad verb choice.Butlook at the roster of speakers and maybe you begin to understand...Is it invincible ignorance by white Christian conservatives? Or simply a lack of broader experiences? Does this argue for fostering diversity? Or should simply following the Golden Rule of the Judeo-Christian tradition be enough?Politically, will this hurt McCain? Help Obama? No, I suspect it will reinforce views among McCain backers (the values crowd) that liberals need to get a life. Which is of course another pro-life message. See, it all works together...

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Yikes!

This is one of the beautiful things about being an American. We are only responsible for what we claim were our intentions. Let other people be judged by their actions.

"Values Voter Summit organizers cut off sales of Obama Waffles boxes on Saturday, saying they had not realized the boxes displayed offensive material."Given the number of Southerners over the age of 60 which I have to believe are at the top of the Family Research Council, my reaction to this is: that's a barefaced lie. Any Southerner over the age of 60 has got to know that such trash is terribly offensive. Too bad the national reporters are usually so young -- they might not know about Aunt Jemima. Right, Nancy, yikes!

Wow - this is pretty ugly.As a general rule, I don't hold candidates responsible for their fruit-loopy supporters (cf Rev. Jeremiah Wright).FWIW - I don't buy any Aunt Jemimah products because of the stereotype.

"As a general rule, I don't hold candidates responsible for their fruit-loopy supporters."On the other hand, consider the old maxim, "Tell me who your friends are, and I'll tell you what you are."Palin scares the hell out of me, and I find myself growing increasingly disappointed with McCain (not that I was ever prepared to vote for his platform).

Some of the frat boys I've known extol this kind of humor, not because it's funny, but because they see it as a strike against the Establishment that has "forced" them to be hyper-sensitive and politically correct about everybody's feelings, an Establishment they claim is "taking" jobs away from them and "giving" them to women and minorities.Which is why I find it highly ironic to hear white men from upper middle-class backgrounds accuse Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama of a sense of "entitlement."On the other hand, I don't think these kinds of racist allusions play well with most sincere white male funda-gelicals, whose churches are often racially diverse and welcoming of that diversity. As Jim noted, you can't hold the candidates responsible for the nut jobs, though the candidates ought to put their partisans on notice that they can do without that kind of "support."

Ugh.

This kind of stuff reinforces a nagging belief that "values voters" are animated as much by racial as they are by religious resentment. Their regionalism doesn't help matters. Of course, most people realized it was offensive, and many were very probably astonished that it was there at all. But one picture is worth countless words.

Is it invincible ignorance by white Christian conservatives? Or simply a lack of broader experiences? Well, unless it would be fair to blame you personally for every stupid thing that some diarist on Daily Kos says, maybe you should just say that this is ignorance and stupidity on the part of two men, rather than making such wild generalizations.

According to Amir Taheri in todays New York Post, Obama is now waffling on withdrawing troops from Iraq:While campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.Maple syrup anyone?

Ah, yes: Values Voters, indeed. But what values? White sheets, anyone?

Equal Time for HopeandChange:http://www.fivefeetoffury.com/:entry:fivefeet-2008-09-15-0014/Honestly, folks. It's on both sides.

Couple of thoughts that may expand the thread, if it merits that:One regards Palin's Pentecostal roots (she has since migrated to more mainstream evangelicialism), which some are trying to mine for what they'll say about her policies, to see how theocratic she'll be. I don't think her possible Third Wave-ism or anything of that theology will have any impact, and in any case, end times beliefs are very mainstream (along with creationism). She's not weird that way--she's the heartland, theologically speaking. (And that theology is one reason I myself decided to swim the Tiber.Yet Pentecostals are also one of the few truly racially mixed denominations, esp in the South, and unfortunately not in Alaska, for demographic reasons. (See one of my cinematic faves, "The Apostle.") Perhaps the Values Voters, and Palin herslef, ould use a bit more Assemblies on Sunday. Also, Mark's comment is not uncommon, an effort at a kind of equivalency--I have heard it from family and some friends and students today. Both sides do it (though Mark, how does a snarky t-shirt company compare to a mainstream GOP event?), so, the thinking goes, grow a pair...There is to me the obvious problem in comparing taunts of African-Americans (and Muslims and Latinos, as apparently the rest of the packaging did) with similar barbs at white folks or conservatives or whatever. But in thinking about trying to convey to white folks why this sort of thing would be so offensive, one realizes (or I do) that it is so difficult to find an analogy, because of the disparate histories, and that I keep trying to find it in nasty critiques of religion or the cross that crazy guy in Minnesota desecrating the eucharist. And it strikes me that many Christians, esp conservatives, do naturally try to play that up into an equivalency, to show themselves as a persecuted minority as much--or more so, since we have no affirmative action and govt hadnouts, ya know--as minorities. The Rev. Wright outrage was so fierce, because of what he was saying about "us"...That equivalency doesn't work for so many reasons, but I think it may get at why there such boneheaded vendors (and their fans) like these can get by for so long among folks who ought to know better. But blaspheming God or country (if such charges can be sustained) is different from wielding a boot at real people. The Values Voter organizers have distanced themselves from the vendors, according to RNS: "We strongly condemn the tone and content of materials that were exhibited by one of the vendors at this weekend's Values Voter Summit," Family Research Council Action executive director David Nammo said in a statement issued Saturday (Sept. 13). "The materials represent an attempt to parody that cross(es) the line into coarseness and bias." Nammo said the product was thought to deal with "political flip-flops" but was removed when the specific content was brought to the attention of senior officials. "...(W)e are deeply dismayed that this vendor violated the spirit, message and tone of our event in such an offensive manner," he said.But one of the vendors was still pretty clueless: "We had some people mention that to us (that it could be offesnive), "but you think of Newman's Own or Emeril's -- there are tons and tons of personality-branded food products on the market. So we've taken that model and, using political satire, have highlighted his policies, his position changes."

PS: This all coming out on the 45th anniversary of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham that killed four black girls shows we are sorely lacking in historical awareness as well.

And the pig with lipstick was offensive?Now we understand that value voters don't consider hypocrisy a problem, as if we didn't know that.Obviously, Value Voters are dividers, not uniters, but what do they care?????

To state the obvious, it is always whose ox is being gored. The sweetness of enemies is bitter and the bitterness of friends is sweet. Politics makes strange bedfellows and liars always. But when some people end up in jail, (or only act when threatened by jail) we should pay attention.

Not obvious to me at all, Bill. I think racism and sexism can be terrible things even short of jail. I daresay you and I aren't as exposed and vulnerable to such wounds in our society.

"The Values Voter organizers have distanced themselves from the vendors, according to RNS: We strongly condemn the tone and content of materials that were exhibited by one of the vendors at this weekends Values Voter Summit, Family Research Council Action executive director David Nammo said in a statement issued Saturday (Sept. 13). The materials represent an attempt to parody that cross(es) the line into coarseness and bias. "Bravo.

Just a thought: ignorance, insularity and lack of historical awareness are much more of a blight in our culture today than out-and-out malicious, white-sheet-wearing racism. I don't know anything about these knuckleheads are who thought Obama Waffles were a nifty idea, but it seems possible that they were just clueless about the hurtful Aunt Jemimah stereotype. I don't want to let them off the hook; just commenting about where I see our culture today.

I agree, Jim, and yours is a good point. As a onetime frat boy, or wannabe, at a Southern college, I am well aware of closed-minded attitudes and cluelessness--and how they can be as prevalent here in NYC as Greenville, SC. Every time someone tries to point the finger solely at Southerners, I can easily point to true "white-sheet wearing racism," like the cops on parade floats dressed like the KKK, or hate speech, or any number of violent crimes. I think diversity does help stave off ignorance of the experience of others, or at least force a correction perhaps more quickly than in a homogeneous area. But I do, I suppose, hold "values" folks (that is, religious believers, namely Christians) to a higher standard. Not fair, I suppose. But...

"But I do, I suppose, hold values folks (that is, religious believers, namely Christians) to a higher standard. Not fair, I suppose. "No; eminently fair, I believe.

Not sure about "fair" but experience tells me that when someone screws up this badly and the news hits the press, sanctomonios denial and probnouncements will surely follow.

"Also, Marks comment is not uncommon, an effort at a kind of equivalencyI have heard it from family and some friends and students today. Both sides do it (though Mark, how does a snarky t-shirt company compare to a mainstream GOP event?), so, the thinking goes, grow a pair And it strikes me that many Christians, esp conservatives, do naturally try to play that up into an equivalency, to show themselves as a persecuted minority as muchor more so, since we have no affirmative action and govt hadnouts, ya knowas minorities."I agree with that Christian conservatives often try to cast themselves as persecuted minorities. I agree that there's a difference between flogging this junk online and at a voter's summit.. I agree that race-based "satire" has an especially hateful tang in this country, with its history of institutionalized slavery and oppression.But.I was equally horrified by the "retarded baby" shirt. It is personally directed at Palin, and suggests scorn for her decision to have the child, suggests that she is exploiting the child for political purposes, and denigrates the dignity of people with Down Syndrome in general, and Palin's little boy in particular.Mark's motives may not be pure in bringing this travesty to our attention, but tactics like these always need to be outed whatever the intention, and they should be roundly condemned.

You are absolutely right, Jean. The t-shirt is a moment of eye-popping shlock to the senses. But.I could troll the internet (actually, it doesn't take much) and could find all manner of equally horrifying stuff about the Holocaust, e.g., or blacks or Christians or what have you.I think the test is this, however: What would the reaction have been had a vendor been selling the retarded baby t-shirt at the Values Voters Summit? Would they have gone like hotcakes? What about if they'd been sold at the Democratic Convention?

What would the reaction have been had a vendor been selling the retarded baby t-shirt at the Values Voters Summit? Would they have gone like hotcakes?And your evidence that these "waffles" sold "like hotcakes" is . . . what, exactly? That is, besides an obvious joke from the guy selling the waffles. I don't think you'd take that guy's word for anything else, so it might be useful to be skeptical here too.

"Wearing white chef's aprons, Whitlock and DeMoss were doing a brisk business at noon Saturday selling the waffle mix to people crowded around their booth. Two pyramids of waffle mix boxes stood several feet high on the booth's table."Why do you think they caricatured Obama in the manner that they did (darker skin, bigger lips, etc.)? After all, they didn't need to caricature him at all to make the point they wanted to make -- all they had to do was put his likeness on a box of waffle mix. How many people posting here have ever lived in a southern state?

Fair enough. Are you asking me why they caricatured Obama? To ridicule him in a racist fashion. I don't think anyone is disputing that. I grew up in Arkansas and attended college in Georgia. Maybe it's because I was born in the 1970s (rather than earlier), or maybe I'm just oblivious, or maybe I have tended to hang out with nice people, but I can't remember ever seeing anyone say or do anything racist in my entire life, except for once when I was a young teenager and an elderly Democrat was explaining to me why he supported abortion (because of the risk that black men would rape white women).

"Maybe its because I was born in the 1970s (rather than earlier), or maybe Im just oblivious, or maybe I have tended to hang out with nice people, but I cant remember ever seeing anyone say or do anything racist in my entire life"That's pretty amazing, Stuart ... I've lived in the upper Midwest my entire life, and until about 10-15 years ago, I used to hear casually racist remarks all the time. Nowadays, it's rare enough to be startling, but still do hear people say mind-blowingly ignorant things from time to time.

To be sure, if I had gone to public high school, I would probably have heard racist remarks at some point. Then in college, I ended up hanging out with a bunch of really nice evangelical friends . . . if I had hung out with some Georgia frat boys, again, I might have heard racist remarks. (In other words, I'm not denying that racism exists; I'm just saying that I have almost never seen it in my personal experience.)

BTW, over at GetReligion (http://www.getreligion.org/?p=3924) they raised the issue of the recent New Yorker cover of the Obamas.http://www.newyorker.com/online/covers/slideshow_blittcoversFree speech defense is just about iron-clad--just as these guys selling Obama Waffles wouldn't be jailed or barred from selling these things elsewher. But the New Yorker cover raises some interesting parallels, or not?

I'm as amazed as Jim. I was born in Chicago in the '70s--still hear casually racist comments there from time to time.

You guys are hanging out with the wrong crowds. :)

So Stuart, I think we can safely say you are not a man of the people?I am not going to make the effor to document all the racist comments I have heard in my lifetime, but let me say, categorically, that at least some of them have been made by people who attended private schools.

To be clear, I was homeschooled in high school. Thus, I spent my time with 1) my sisters; 2) people from church; and 3) other homeschooled kids, all of whom had evidently been taught not to make racist comments, because I never, not once, heard any of them do such a thing.This makes for an interesting study in perceptions. For someone like me who has always hung around with people who don't make racist comments, it seems implausible as an intuitive matter that anybody would patronize the "Obama Waffle" jackasses. But for some of the rest of you -- who apparently have seen lots of racism from family, friends, acquaintances, and/or stranger interactions -- it seems very plausible indeed.

I think the Lord would want us to behave in a must higher way. I am disappointed in Focus on the Family.

Also, I come from a small town of mostly white Americans. When anyone was different in color racist remarks would fly. It's out there and it happens. However, as Christian's we should love everyone as the Lord has loved them, refraining from these type of remarks and praying for forgiveness if we are the ones making the remarks.

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About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.