It's sad to watch how people get dumped on these days for telling the truth. It seems that we prefer to remain in our state of comfortable denial, rather to recognize the truth in sometimes harsh words about ourselves. Cases in point, clearly, are the absurd uproar around the words of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and, now, Barack Obama's use of the word "bitterness" in describing the attitude of certain middle and working class Americans about the state of the nation.
"Bitter" is right. I spoke to a bitter man only yesterday, right here in Southern California. He was bitter about "government"; about the intervention of local government in his affairs and those of his friends when it comes to decisions about their homes; about the federal government and those politicians who fail, in his particular view, to adequately step forward for the protection of the state of Israel; about his fellow Americans who fail to elect those people who would properly emasculate government and keep it out of his life.
And who could blame the recently dis-employed for being bitter about their loss of jobs? Who could blame the poor for being bitter about their neglect? The millions of Americans who can't afford the premiums demanded by insurance companies to protect their health, or who refuse them insurance on the basis of pre-existing conditions, or who simply refuse to pay up when the time comes?
Bitterness, it seems to me, is a not inappropriate response for institutional and systemic failures that have gone unaddressed for years. Bitterness may lack nobility, but it's very human when cries for help go unheard for so long. And to deny the bitterness rampant in this country is to close one's ears to much of what's being said on talk radio, for example, or on the streets. Indignant, outraged denial is no adequate answer to the simple truth. But, to quote myself, immodestly, from yesterday's entry, "denial is still rife here in these United States." As Frank Rich noted in his New York Sunday Times column with morning, with reference to the Iraq war, "It's not just torture we want to avoid"--that would be terrible enough, in itself. "Most Americans don't want to hear, see or feel anything about Iraq, whether they support the war or oppose it. They want to look away, period, and have been doing so for some time."
Unfortunately, however, denial may work to the advantage of unscrupulous politicians when it comes to getting votes--or slandering the opponent.