"The Soft Bigotry of Loose Adulation&quo

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Posted by Sadie from ? ( on Sunday, April 13, 2003 at 3:50PM :

He's right on this issue... though I don't always agree with Saletan.
The Soft Bigotry of Loose Adulation
By William Saletan
Updated Thursday, April 10, 2003, at 3:57 PM PT

3:55 p.m.: Thursday morning, President Bush greeted the people of Iraq on their TV screens. "You are a good and gifted people," he told them as Arabic script appeared below his face. I don't know Arabic, but I'm sure the translation didn't convey what Bush means by "gifted." He doesn't mean exceptional. He means ethnic.

If you're black, Hispanic, or a member of some other group often stereotyped as incompetent, you may be familiar with this kind of condescension. It's the way polite white people express their surprise that you aren't stupid. They marvel at how "bright" and "articulate" you are. Instead of treating you the way they'd treat an equally competent white person—say, by ignoring you—they fuss over your every accomplishment. When James Baker and Brent Scowcroft do their jobs, it's a non-story. When Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice do the same jobs, it's a newsmagazine cover.

This is the seventh time Bush has used the word "gifted" during his presidency. Once he was reading from a script at an arts award ceremony. Two other times, he was referring to black people: Bill Cosby and Martin Luther King Sr. On the other four occasions, he was talking about Iraqis or Palestinians. All Iraqis and Palestinians. What, in Bush's eyes, makes Iraqis and Palestinians so gifted? The fact that they can run functioning societies.

Of course, if you're gifted, you're probably talented as well. In Bush's view, Iraqis are talented. So are Hispanics. Chinese are "talented, brilliant, and energetic." Russians have "entrepreneurial talent." Irish-Americans have "industry and talent." Cubans have "determination and talent." According to Vice President Dick Cheney, South Koreans are "a peaceful and talented people." Bush thinks there's "plenty of talent amongst the Palestinians"—so much, in fact, that "if we develop the institutions necessary for the development of a state, that talent will emerge." Maybe then they'll be able to read Bush's road map.

No wonder Bush gave the Iraqis a pep talk. They're underprivileged, at-risk, and challenged. They lack self-esteem. They need to be told that they're capable, despite what others may say. Even Tony Blair is patting them on the back. "You are an inventive, creative people," he told them in a televised message accompanying Bush's remarks. I wonder what the Arabic phrase is for "hand me the remote."

-- Sadie
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