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Clarence Thomas' Clarion Call Should Fall on Deaf Ears

In the interest of full disclosure I must acknowledge that from day one, I've been one of Clarence Thomas' harshest critics. To try to put it in today's perspective, sometimes, when I see Alberto Gonzales, I get sort of a Clarence Thomas flashback.

It's unnervingly funny. Both Commander in Chief, George H.W. Bush, and Commander in Chief, Jr. establishing a chimerical tradition of nominating questionably qualified, but unquestionably reliable minority adulators to positions of consummate responsibility, with the added plus of using the appointments to pander to each appointee's respective ethnic group.

Remember, the word was "unnervingly" funny. In other words; it doesn't necessarily educe laughter. After all, it seems that if a politician must pander, appointing obsequious charlatans like Thomas and Gonzales to such important positions would seem an affront to the groups to whom the solicitation is directed. Thomas' intemperate behavior during his 1991 confirmation hearings left me with the odd feeling that he thinks so too. It seemed to reveal a bit of uncertainty on his part about whether he was truly qualified for the job. That, in the questioning to which he was justifiably subjected during the Anita Hill point of the hearings, Thomas may have felt as if finally, the jig was up.

There was nothing convincing about Thomas' bellicose denials of the sexual harassment charges made against him by Hill and a cadre of Thomas' confirmation opponents both inside and out of Congress. It's incomprehensible, to me at least, that someone accused of such sordid behavior would not so much as even listen to the charges made by his accuser, as Thomas strenuously claimed when it was his turn to answer them.

Nowhere in evidence was the countenance of assurance one would anticipate in the demeanor of the falsely accused against whom such charges -- were they indeed baseless, -- would quickly whither in the igneous glare of the light of truth. Instead, what many witnessed was a display of exalted indignation at a level often associated with pathological liars.

My recollection of the exaggeratedly indignant behavior Thomas displayed during the hearings -- reconvened to address the matter after his confirmation had previously been all but assured -- was of an individual behaving like an adolescent caught in a lie. Sometimes, perhaps due to embarrassment, rather than fess up, an inability to accept an ugly truth triggers theatrical, angry denials.

So it comes as no surprise that, in his perhaps auspicious autobiography, My Grandfather's Son, Thomas continues along this vein. What I read is a paradoxical rant that squanders an opportunity for a Thomas mea culpa. Instead, it subjects readers to a relentlessly bitter barrage of obfuscatory finger-pointing, presumably designed to exculpate him not just from the taint of Hill's charges, but also from the idea that his conservative views qualify him as an Uncle Tom.

Again, in the interest of full disclosure, let me be up front. This is not a book review. I did not read Thomas' bitter-fruit tome from cover-to-cover. I did, however, read a significant portion of its excerpts. What I read, emerging from the esteemed Thurgood Marshall's "replacement" on the Supreme Court, was quite startling.

Thomas' bitterness is almost surreal in its unbridled nakedness. It also has no bounds. He unleashes a blistering condemnation of nearly anything and everything he has encountered during his life's journey to the nation's high court. All while tactlessly utilizing the "race card" much in the manner with which he did during his confirmation hearings nearly a decade ago.

Seemingly no one is spared Thomas' ongoing strident admonishment – liberals, whites, blacks, his parents and siblings, even conservatives, and of course, Hill. Certainly, Thomas continues to demand we view his having been hauled before the Congress to answer to Hill's charges as a "high-tech lynching." Indeed a case could be made that the success Thomas achieved through his deft use of the "race card" during that stage of the hearings, may have inspired its use later by no less a pariah as O.J. Simpson.

Nevertheless, Thomas remains adamant that it was all a set up, in spite of Blinded by the Right, author and former conservative David Brock's 2002 mea culpa in which Brock acknowledged participating in a vast and concerted effort with other conservatives -- bankrolled by arch-conservative Richard Mellon Scaife -- to "swiftboat" Thomas' accuser. Many may recall Brock's infamous characterization of Hill: "A little bit slutty and a little bit nutty."

Over the years, many of Thomas' conservative benefactors have held him as an example of the type of black willing to "stop complaining about prejudice," roll up his sleeves and work for the American dream. Though the memoir has been out for several weeks now, it still remains to be seen how these conservatives will react to their poster boy's persistent bewailing about the levels of discrimination he has endured, including from among conservative ranks. A persistence which far exceeds that recognized as the standard template for the angry black man with the chip on his shoulder. Indeed, Thomas' non-stop complaints indicate an individual prodigiously burdened by chips on not one, but both shoulders.

His gripes are such, that Thomas, who finished second in his class at Holy Cross, seems to fail to comprehend the importance of his own hard work in attaining the law degree he earned at Yale. For Thomas, it's value is diminished by the fact that he earned it as an affirmative action beneficiary. The result? According to Thomas, his prestigious degree sits somewhere in his basement collecting dust along with other items for which he apparently has little use.

Overall, Thomas comes off as one might expect of a person trapped in the shadows of two diametrically opposed cultures, struggling to make sense of it, but not quite sure he likes the picture emerging from the mist.

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Anthony Barnes, of Boston, Massachusetts, is a free-lance writer who leans toward the progressive end of the political spectrum. "When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to (more...)
 
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Thank for your take on the Thomas book. Anita Hil... by Dale Hill on Wednesday, Oct 10, 2007 at 11:58:24 AM
First of all, I found Anita Hill's testimony t... by Scott on Wednesday, Oct 10, 2007 at 11:27:44 PM