Someone asked me the other day why I admire Barack Obama. I started to think about how I would explain the reasons in the column I will write later this month. But not today. His presidency isn’t over yet. More to the point, this weekend there is, as Miami Channel 7 would scream, “there is sensational breaking news.”
Reflecting on the question of my judgment of Obama—and of his enemies—I realized that one of most visceral reasons involves what Martin Luther King called “the quality of [a person’s] character.” Over eight years Obama, has acquitted himself well as president, husband, father. There is an unfailing decency in his attitudes and actions, and I detect nobility and kindness as well.
His political adversaries have shown an abundance of all the opposite traits. There seems there is no place too low for some of them to refrain to from diving into. The most consistent and reprehensible have been racists and other haters. This weekend one of those (both racist and hateful) spoke up and set a new standard.
You have your racists. Then you have your RACISTS. You have your mean-spirited people. Then you have your real MEAN-SPIRITS. Then you have one Carl Paladino, who [last week] just put himself on a whole other plane when it comes to these qualities.
Who is Paladino, you say? Paladino himself is obviously a twisted, sick, cruel man whose personality may interest a psychiatrist and his character a moral philosopher. The main point here however is what social and political roles he plays. What matters is who his friends are. What matters is what his recent comments in the media reveal about the extent to which Donald Trump’s own example has opened a Pandora’s Box containing the ugliest side of the American national character.
Paladino is a New York tycoon, a Republican, a pal of Donald Trump who co-chaired his campaign, and a member of the school board of the city of Buffalo. Paladino’s wish list for 2017? He hopes for Obama “to catch mad cow’s disease after being caught having relations with a Herford.”
Let’s unpack for a second the elements of this fantasy before we get to what Paladino wishes for the First Lady. Mad cow’s disease is a horrible illness which over time destroys the brain and kills 100 percent of its victims. What Paladino wants for Obama in 2017 then is to suffer a lot, become a vegetable, and die. But that’s not enough. He wants Obama’s image and his memory to be forever besmirched by being caught committing bestiality, by the way conveniently making it clear that Obama deserves no sympathy because he brought his misery upon himself.
How much maleficence can be condensed into thirteen words? A death wish. A desire for intense suffering and decline into a mental black hole. Public disgrace. An indelible stigma for the history books and the obituary.
How much evil can a heart contain?
Paladino’s wishes for the First Lady are offensive in the extreme but stand out even more for being downright bizarre:
“I would like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”
Return to being a male. What in the world? Zimbabwe why? Oh, Michelle is black and Zimbabwe is in Africa. Makes perfect nonsense. The fact Paladino has his continents that begin with “A” scrambled—outback, that’s Australia dummy—reminds me of Albert Camus’s belief that “much of the evil which is in the world is borne of ignorance.”
The stuff about Michelle comfortably living in a cave with Maxie the gorilla repeats the oldest slur in the long history of Western racism against blacks. Equating humans to animals is not unique to the black-simian comparison. The Nazis depicted Jews as rats in their visual propaganda. Dehumanization is one of the main particles in the racist nucleus. Then there is Maxie the gorilla, and once again the suggestion of bestiality.
The only person in this story who can be compared with a beast is Paladino. He really needs to try to regain his humanity. Perhaps, as his name suggests, he’s a Catholic. In that case, a talk with the Pope might do him a world of good.
This is the kind of thinking that you hear from sociopaths, from serial killers and their ilk. We are talking sicko here. Serious nutcase. Extremely cruel fantasies. We also are talking about a personal friend and a former campaign co-chair of our president-elect. Member of the school board.
God save the children. God save the country. God save us all.
Meanwhile, Paladino has refused to take back anything he said and doesn’t see what’s wrong with any of it.
And Donald Trump? Unlike many other people, he didn’t immediately denounce Paladino’s rant. Instead, he insulated himself by using a mouthpiece who called Paladino’s tirade “reprehensible.” This way the haters can still believe Trump thinks the same thing as Paladino but just wants to limit the political damage and the media criticism. And these two birds of a feather can continue to flock together.
Photo at top of Paladino and Trump.