Not So Secret Code

By: pbcmedia

Aug 30 2008

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: 1, News, PHOTO BLOGGING, Politics


Focal Length:100mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:Canon EOS 5D

I saw it. But, didn’t.

As one sees a red light and another car through a 100mm lens.

But, in this instance, I heard his explanation but I didn’t understand it.

“I just don’t like Joe Biden. I’m not voting for him.”

When I asked what was the issue with Joe Biden, he said:

“I just don’t like him. Something about his mouth.”

I asked, “Do you mean because he sometimes talks too much?”

“No,” he said. “Just something about his mouth itself. I can’t explain it.”


I explored further.

“I can’t tell you–It’s just something about him.”

He hadn’t watched the convention.

He must have something more than “his mouth” as an explanation –I questioned further. I had simply never heard someone say so definitively that they disliked Joe Biden. But, no, nothing except whatever “it” is, it is causing him to consider that he might not vote this year.

I asked if he had friends in Delaware who told him stories about Biden or his son, Beau, the Attorney General.

No, he said.

This man is a good man. A funny man. A gay man. He said he’d just heard the Republican VP choice and read that she was anti gay and pro guns. A bad combination. “Voting for McCain and his new running mate is not an option,” he said.

Again, “I might not vote at all.”

He’s voted democratic in all previous elections. He is 65.

I didn’t realize until several hours later why he might not like Joe Biden’s mouth and my best guess now, after reflection, is that it has nothing to do with Joe Biden’s mouth. (Which actually does have a slight oddity due to years of stuttering in his early youth)

Is it code for something else? Secret code in politically correct and “liberal” Massachusetts?

Is it one of those code phrases like, “Isn’t he a Muslim?”

The code is translated only one way whatever state you are in: I am afraid to vote for the black guy but I’m not going to come right out and say that.

It’s Labor Day weekend and another hurricane is headed toward New Orleans.

Most people I know have gone away. In fact, I’m hoping all my readers are away.

Because I’m away, too.


“Isn’t he a Muslim?” has been countered by reams of copy about how “No, he’s not a Muslim! He’s a Christian!” As if it is a totally acceptable for him to be a Christian candidate for the President of the United States but not a Muslim candidate. No code language needed here. It is acceptable to generalize about Muslims: they are all Bin Laden and Mohammed Atta. We make no distinctions as to extremist groups and factions within the Muslim religion as we do with other religions.

But, let’s just say, ol’ aging Irish liberal girl on this weekend of summer’s end—what if Barack Obama was indeed a Muslim?

Would you vote for him with pride as you are going to do in November?

Is that something that would force you to say, when someone asks you who you like in the upcoming election, “Ya, know, I don’t like Joe Biden’s mouth. I don’t know what it is. But, I’m not voting for him. I think I’ll sit out this election”?

I am embarrassed to admit: I think the answer is yes. I am ready and proud to vote for this candidate for President of the United States, this Democrat, this black man. But, I don’t think I’m ready to vote for him if he was this same man, this same Democrat, this Muslim candidate for President of the United States.

This makes me no better than those who are not going to vote for Barack Obama simply because he’s a black man. Nor any different than those who didn’t vote for John Kennedy because he was a Catholic or didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton because she was a woman.

The not so secret code embeds fear and ignorance. Some of it we accept publicly as correct and give it a stamp of approval, just as surely years ago the legislative language of this country denied women the right to vote and blacks their freedom.

This election has forced this girl to look at my country and myself in a new way, equal parts pride and shame. But, no longer can I point a self satisfied finger at all those “others” who are ignorant and fearful. I am one of them. I hate to admit it.

To somersault off a line from Barack Obama’s speech on Thursday night directed at the Bush Administration and John McCain: If I own the pride then I own the shame as well.

We are about to find out in the next few days whether those reinforced and rebuilt US Corps of Engineer levees are going to hold in New Orleans as the Republican convention starts in Minnesota. The irony here is simply made for Hollywood.

And, just as ominously, in the next two months, we are going to confront in this country what language we really speak as a nation.

Voice mail options may have to expand to include, “Press “one” for English, press “two” for Spanish, press three for “Not So Secret Code”.

No irony with this third option, just historical fact.

©Pat Coakley 2008


8 comments on “Not So Secret Code”

  1. Fascinating post, Pat. And worth considering. One of the things that seems to be in the back of everyone’s mind, but no one is saying too loudly, is “When is someone going to assassinate Obama?” As if he’s automatically a target because of his race. I’ve heard the sentiment voiced on several occasions in private conversations, and it makes me wonder. There will be many who won’t vote for Obama simply because they can’t bring themselves to do so . . .

  2. There’s much to think about here, Pat.
    See, I looked at Biden and thought- there’s a man who’s smile on the outside is a Saran Wrapped cover of the genuine heart that seems so ready to take on this position.

    I’m really having a hard time understanding the fears that abound.
    From the slanted questions of the journalists who seem smugly baiting their interviewees with loaded questions meant to put doubt in the minds of those listening, and hearing only contextual excerpts of the speeches of the last 4 days.
    To the pundittos ( my made up word for political parrots who can only repeat what they’re being paid to say) who poke and niggle at anyone having a moment in the sun.

    It struck me as I watched all 4 nights, that there were so many people crying and wiping their eyes.
    I was one of them.

    I’m more afraid of the same than I am of different.

    Thanks for bringing this topic out because I really can’t think of anything more worthy of consideration and examination than this.

  3. Well, what a coincidence: I have just returned from seeing a movie, “Traitor” with Don Cheadle. Didn’t know a thing about it except it was supposed to be good. It’s about Muslim extremists operating in the US and Cheadle is a devout Muslim who is trying to stop the fanatic but also devout Muslims. This is my problem with all religions, really. That feeling that one can interpret God. Anyway, Between my blog today and this movie, I am going to remember this Labor Day weekend for something other than barbecues, I can tell you that.

    Anyway, Tysdaddy and BL: Am glad you and Bonnie were my two first readers as I was very ambivalent about posting this. Your seriousness and reflectiveness are so appreciated.

    I don’t like what this post says about me and, yet, by posting it perhaps conversations are generated that are thoughtful. This is why I think blogging (some of it) is so important actually. Amidst the creativity and what may be fun, there is also the “other”, and somehow the combination is the truth, unvarnished and not prettied up. If I wrote worked for the Boston Globe or any other newspaper, it would not have been published.

    By the way, I know an elderly black man who lives in Florida who loves Obama, but is not going to vote for him because he (my friend) says, “I’m not going to play a part in killing him.” He feels sure that is what is going to happen. He remembers lynchings.

    I literally cannot listen to the cable or network TV people any longer. The only show I listened to was “The Charlie Rose” show after each night of the speeches and got some pundits, some historians, and some individuals I’ve never seen before.

    “I’m more afraid of the same than I am of the different.” Now, THAT is a fear that I think is healthy and not shame-filled. Bless you who can’t understand why these other fears are all about.

  4. I am not a politically interested person, but I wantesd to say “What an intriguing photograph” Your pics are always 1st class

  5. Thanks, Tony. I rarely blog about politics directly. The planet is already hot enough! Appreciate your comment about the photographs, though!

  6. I’m late to the party, Pat, but wanted to chime in. Lately, there has been less and less code. The whole bruhaha during the primaries about Obama being ‘elitist’ was clearly code for saying he was ‘uppity’ … well, now a congressman from Georgia has come right out and said the Obamas are uppity. No code. He was even given a chance to parse his own statement and simply repeated the word. Really no code. To say nothing of the guy here in my city hawking t-shirts that say, “Obama is my slave” and “Who shot Obama.” Obviously the man has gotten too close for comfort, so the code is being replaced by the real stuff.

    This whole thing has me holding my breath. Like Tysdaddy commented, there is definitely the sense that people are waiting for an assassination attempt. And yes, TD, I think his color does make him a target. That’s sad and painful and ugly to write, but I think it’s true. He wouldn’t have been a target if he hadn’t made it this far — Chisholm, Jackson, Sharpton and Mosley-Braun would never have been targets. But here is this black man in a serious bid for the presidency … and that makes him dangerous.

  7. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as being “late” to this party, girlgriot, as this issue is not going away. But, I am interested to hear your thoughts. I watched a program on Charlie Rose today with two Muslim scholars talking about why the world have such a limited understanding of Islam, in their words, they either feel all Muslims hate the West or that all Muslims feel they are hated by the West. The attribute it to more moderate voices, actually the majority of voices, never breaking through the media amidst the fiery rhetoric of another Bid Laden tape that is more suited to “Breaking News”. I think that is the root of my problems with this issue. I know very little about Islam, no one who practices, so am totally dependent on media . And, right now, I cannot stand to listen to much of the media at all. So, am stuck in limited knowledge. This show today was terrific and I think I’ll try and find their book.

    So, long and short of this, I think you are right. The closer Obama gets, the less code will be used. And, frankly, I worry less about an assassin than I do those who shall simply vote for the other guy for one reason, and one reason only, having nothing to do with the merits or demerits of the other guy. Thanks for commenting. I’ll be over to visit your blog soon!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: