Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Senator Allen: A Disgracefull Question and a Disgracefull Response

The reporter's question in tone hinges on the downright anti-Semitic demanding to know which of his ancestors was Jewish and where that ancestry ended. Allen responds with a rambling diatribe about freedom of religion and refuses to answer the question dodging the issue by talking about religion, avoiding the issue of ethnicity. That response alone screams to most people that she was indeed Jewish and that Allen is playing dodgeball.

The reporter's question was offensive but Allen's response is downright pathetic. If there was no basis to it he could have directly answered, "No that's not the case and the question is inappropriate because etc... etc..." or he could have answered in the affirmative and still delivered his 'freedom of religion' speech. Instead he chose to wrap himself in the constitution and give a rambling incoherent response to the specific question.

In the past a number of politicians from John Kerry to Madeline Albright and Wesley Clark 'rediscovered' their Jewish roots when they were on the national stage. Whether or not Allen has any, he's clearly deeply uncomfortable with the issue alone which is sad. If anything that exchange should show that Jewish roots remain a matter of tension for many people who may have had Jewish ancestors.

Postscript: Allen released an even more jumbled statement on his website saying;

"Yesterday, I found it especially reprehensible that a reporter would impugn the attitudes of my mother, as Ms. Peggy Fox did in her first question...My mother and father both taught me to abhor bigotry, and Ms. Fox’s suggestion to the contrary was deeply offensive."

This is a rather strange opening since Fox's question is certainly offensive but it's confusing to see how it suggests his mother was a bigot. Yet Allen seems to keep associating the whole subject with bigotry, even when it's not Fox doing the asking but just the subject itself.

"I was raised as a Christian and my mother was raised as a Christian. And I embrace and take great pride in every aspect of my diverse heritage, including my Lumbroso family line’s Jewish heritage, which I learned about from a recent magazine article and my mother confirmed..."

Again his constant repetition that he and his mother were raised Christians really moves into the pathetic range. No one is questioning he's a Christian and goes to Church. The question was about his family background. The constant need to clarify that he's a Christian is downright strange.

"Some may find it odd that I have not probed deeply into the details of my family history, but it’s a fact. We in the Allen household were simply taught that what matters is a person’s character, integrity, effort, and performance – not race, gender, ethnicity or religion."

When the issue is raised Allen seems to repeatedly descend into this kind of ridiculous 'liberalspeak.' There's a difference between judging someone by their race and knowing their race.

He seems to be clear on what his mother's religion is, so much so he keeps telling us over and over again she was raised Christian, so 'religion' was important. Presumabely he knew what his mother's gender was. At least I have to hope he did. So really it's only her 'race or ethnicity' that's utterly unimportant. Is who your grandfather was really 'unimportant'?

"And so whenever we would ask my mother through the years about our family background on her side, the answer always was, ‘Who cares about that?’"

In a word. Sad.

"My mother has lived a long and full life, and I hope and pray she will enjoy many more years. She deserves respect and she also deserves privacy, especially where painful memories are concerned. I sincerely hope that simple decency will be respected.”

And now stranger than ever. This time Allen conflates any question about his mother's roots with a 'painfull background.' For goodness sake it's possible to discuss her roots without bringing up the Holocaust, unless it's the Jewish origins themselves that are a painfull memory, an impression Allen is distinctly leaving us with.

Meanwhile the Democrats are playing a hypocritical game, making Allen's ethnicity a campaign issue and then damning him for being 'ashamed' of it. This is a game Democrats often play with minority conservative politicians. In this case they're trying to 'out' him the way they would a gay politician and hoping that the more conservative state population will have a bigoted reaction, even as they taunt him over it. In other words the so-called liberals are exploiting and banking on racism.

The real question that should be asked is would this question have been raised if it was a matter of Italian roots or Irish roots and would Allen have reacted in such a convulted defensive way if he'd been asked about Irish or Italian roots.


Keliata said...

I tried viewing the video but got a message that it was no longer available. Wish I could hear exactly what was said.

Discovering Jewish ancestors is indeed wonderful for many people :) :) However, the reaction of others can be downright hostile and hateful--and frightening--and result in a subdued reaction to what is otherwise wonderful news. Something discussed only with people you trust.

For those who have spent most of their lives as gentiles with no knowledge or experience of anti-semitism this new discrimination, baiting, and probing questions can be extremely tense.

Allen's response though is disturbing for the reasons you cited. He could have simply told the reporter, "Yes, I have Jewish ancestry" and moved on to another topic or answered any follow-up questions the reporter had. End of story.

But my sense of the situation is that Allen simply did not want to label himself (or have others label him) a Jew or even aknowledge that part of his family history. It makes you wonder why, if the information is true, he could not simply confirm it as a fact. Why is the idea of having Jewish ancestors so uncomfortable to him that he wanted to distance himself from it, at least publicly? Does he fear other politicians and friends will think less of him?

Call it a gut instinct but I think that is the case.

And why did the reporter pose these questions in the first place? Was it so him hypocritical in light of the Macca statement he made about an election worker's Indian heritage?

Just my two cents and insight into the situation...

Yobeeone said...

It's interesting people's responses when they find out they're Jewish. I had a boss call me into his office once and tried to rip me apart verbally because I'm a Jew. For some reason he thought that would make him feel better. He had just learned he was Jewish.

The secretary of another guy at the same place found a picture of her boss wearing a yarmie. She asked him if he was Jewish. He slammed the door on her and refused to acknowledge her existence the rest of the day.

She, on the other hand, was researching her family history hoping she was Jewish because it would explain her desire to move to Israel and her fondness for Hebrew. LOL She was always talking about how exciting it would be to find out she was.

So! Everyone has their own unique response. Allen, though, is an idiot. :]

Keliata said...

This is a wonderful post!!! Thank you!!!

There's no mistaking it--he's trying to cover up the fact that his mother was Jewish. Why does he consider a reporter calling his attention to this as somehow maligning her? It's not as if a reporter discovered some deep, dark secret--that she owned slaves, or was a Nazi, or gay or anything truly stagmatizing and awful.

You're right. Nobody, certainly not the media, would bat an eye about a politician discovering Polish, Irish, Italian or Greek ancestors. Not in the least. And people who have ancestors of all ethnicities have no problem saying "I'm part Irish, Polish....etc."

And I'm not letting the reporter off the hook either. She behaved as if someone having Jewish ancestry was some sort of skeleton she was letting out of Allen's closet. Again, why does she view this as sooo stigmatizing?

If Allen wants to embrace his Jewish ancestry fine, if not, that's fine too. But all of this distancing and defensiveness is troubling.

It really makes you wonder what he thinks of Jews despite all his ramblings about free speech and bigotry.

Further, Allen is coming across as one of those white racists of the old South who suddenly discover they might have an ounce of "black blood."

Given the information about Allen that surfaced during the Macca affair I honestly believe that he's afraid his bigoted friends will consider him Jewish, and perhaps that fact will will cost him the support of his racist backers.

Sultan Knish said...

Allen definetly seemed to spend time flirting with the ole confederacy stuff which makes this revelation embarassing for a guy who was running as a good ole southern boy and the son of a famous football coach

and he handles it very poorly, hiding behind the bill of rights, now he's hiding behind his mother and her supposed memories of the holocaust which she never experienced in the first place all to address the unpleasant facts that he's embarassed by the revelations which my guess is, were never revelations to him in the first place but a skeleton in the family closet you weren't supposed to discuss

ironically his very insecurity is what makes him a target for this kind of attack, if he had just said, "yes I have irish, scottish, jewish heritage...etc..." it would have been over long ago, instead he reacted as if he was under siege and the message is that this is embarassing and that will damage him with the voters more than any such revelation because in the end it's how you deal with something that counts

Anonymous said...

It's interesting how context is everything though. When you listen to the question that preceeded this question re Jewish identity, it could very well be argued that this is not meant to impugn Allen's Jewish heritage. In fact one could draw the conclusion that not only his credibility was being called into question, but also his discomfort with religious and ethnic minorities in this country.

See link below

The Town Crier said...

Allen is a pathetic racist who needs to pander to his redneck base and is embarassed to learn that he he is actually jewish a son of survivor

Sultan Knish said...

Allen and Webb are both racists or at least pretend to be but it's Webb now that's running an anti-semitic campaign

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