Eastwood may have been ignorant of the fact he was joining those who delegitimize Obama's very presence, but he's in that league now. As Jamelle Bouie said last night, an old white man arguing with an imaginary Barack Obama was an apt metaphor for how the Romney campaign runs against a Democratic record they've made up out of whole cloth.If Melissa and I had been schoolmates, I would have been one of those people she describes as making her invisible. I know it because I did it all the time. I say that in shame. But also to say that she is right on in describing how it all goes down.
Watching Eastwood reduce the President to an invented entity in a chair, I couldn't help but wonder what Ralph Ellison would say about all this. The author of the literary classic Invisible Man articulated the metaphor of black invisibility better than anyone ever did previously or since. My best attempt at describing it came in a collegiate column I wrote over 15 years ago:
Invisibility is hard to battle because it's not a construction of your mind, but of those who look upon you. As Ellison's title character states in the Prologue, it lies in a person's inner eyes, which they use to look upon and evaluate their physical reality. Invisibility is something a person can be the victim of and not even realize it.That biweekly column was titled "Invisible Man" because of the experiences I'd had growing up, experiencing a social -- and at times, physical -- invisibility amongst my white peers. I say physical not because I possessed Harry Potter's cloak, but because I'd have people literally looking me dead in the face and walking into me as if they considered me an apparition and planned to pass through me. (Ellison's title character describes a similar incident on the novel's first page.) I've had the "n-word" sent in my direction a number of times, but at least that hatred necessitates a minimum level of recognition. Invisibility can be an even greater insult, unless the invisible use that to their advantage.
I have no doubt we'll see the President and his party attempt to do exactly that, at their convention next week and throughout the rest of the campaign. I say through the rest of the campaign because while Romney wasn't so clownish as to address an empty chair, but he has been running against an imaginary Barack Obama who doesn't exist, a neo-Jimmy Carter one who went on an "apology tour" in foreign countries, exploded the deficit all on his own, and more specifically, closed GM plants before he was even President and changed the welfare-to-work laws to give those lazy "welfare queens" a break. All that stuff is lies, invented to give Republicans the latest version of the Obama Bogeyman. That guy Romney and running mate Paul Ryan are running against sounds fairly awful in some respects -- but as Ellison might say, that Obama is like a ghost that haunted Edgar Allan Poe, or a Hollywood-movie ectoplasm, sharing more in common with fantasy than reality.
If this economy is so bad, and the absence of presidential leadership so stark, why is there a need to invent someone worse to run against?
And so my question to the Romney/Ryan campaign is: "Do you make up your fantasy Obama out of desperation? Or because you literally don't see the reality that's right in front of you?"
I suspect its the former. But they're attempting to play on voters immersed in the latter.