Smile Politely

The Symbol of the McCain Candidacy: The Backward “B”

I marvel at how appropriate a metaphor Ashley Todd’s face is for the McCain candidacy.

Ashley Todd is the young white woman who claimed that a large black Obama supporter mugged her and carved a “B” in the side of her face. Then she admitted it was a hoax under cross-examination.

The story Todd told is essentially the story that McCain has been telling ever since he started trailing in the polls: There’s a scary black man who is going to mug you and take your money the first chance he gets. Also, he is a shady terrorist type and will cause you to be in physical danger.

And since this isn’t actually true, McCain has had to manufacture it and encourage his media friends to whip it up into a frenzy. Lots of people have become angry and afraid. Racial fears and animosity have been stoked.

But the story doesn’t quite add up to those who actually think about it. When people question it, and then actually check out the real facts, it turns out to be nothing but fantasy, and reveals more about the accuser than the intended target.

It’s a good object lesson for what happens when we demonize others. We scrape out our complaints while looking in a mirror, hoping our crude message will hurt someone else. But in the end, it always becomes a backward reflection of ourselves, rather than of those we are attempting to demonize. Our own fears and our own anger eventually diminish us.

In his attempts to smear Obama, McCain has carved a large, backward “B” on his own face. He has mutilated his integrity and reputation, all in the pursuit of power. Hawthorne had it right: Scarlet letters reflect more poorly on those doing the carving than on those for whom the letter was intended.

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