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Monday, April 14, 2008

Not quite on the mark.

Many folks who pay attention to election news probably know that Barack Obama made something of a gaffe* over the weekend. Specifically he more or less suggested that depressed economic conditions can lead people to become more religious, more fond of firearms, and more prejudiced. Or, to quote the candidate:

Obama was caught in an uncharacteristic moment of loose language. Referring to working-class voters in old industrial towns decimated by job losses, the presidential hopeful said: "They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Everyone is, of course, going apeshit over the notion that a political candidate should be so demeaning about religion.** It is important to recall that, in this country, our separation of church and state is so very strong that if you don't kiss a lot of clerical ass during a campaign you're pretty much DOA.

I don't personally have a lot of trouble with what he said but I don't think that he's really put his finger on the main problem. I don't think it's a big issue if people get bitter and turn to guns or religion. I thing it's a big issue when they turn to guns and religion. Our experiences with that have, thus far, been uniformly bad.

Close, candidate Obama, but not quite on the mark.

* Defined in this case as, "Saying something publicly that is unpleasant but, in the eyes of many, probably true."

** Actually, I don't think he's being all that demeaning about religion. If he had said, "People turn to religion in difficult times for comfort and support," nobody would have a problem. That said, I could certainly see how his remarks could be viewed as insulting to folks from small towns. Then again, given that I'm from a small town in the South... yeah. Dude's totally got a point, okay?

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Blogger kristina b said...

This is interesting, isn't it? I'm not from a small town, but I am from PA where I'm quite sure that his remark offended most people (in my town, anyway). While I agree with what he said pretty much whole-heartedly, it was a bad move to say it when he did.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 8:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm finding it very curious that much of the media coverage is focused on the "bitter" part of the statement.

It's curious for two reasons. The first is that it is the less offensive part of the comment. While it may be true that economic downturns increase religiosity and gun tote’n-ness along with bigotry, it is fairly offensive to those in that situation. Most folks don't like sociological explanations for their decisions. Which is a complex problem, sociologists need to work on solving.

The second reason I find it curious is that because most folks I know from PA, my fiancée and I included, describe ourselves, almost proudly, as bitter. It even fits into her and my narrative for getting together. No one really understands us like another bitter person from PA. Maybe it's OK for a Pennsylvanians to call ourselves bitter but not an outsider.

But, as a sociologist and Pennsylvanian, I think he has us pegged pretty well. Even if we resent the fact that he said it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 2:17:00 PM  

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