Sticks and stones...(remember Pontiac?????)

Dateline: Thu 10 Jul 2008

may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Really? Is this why the Barack Obama people have so graciously forgiven the Rev. Jesse Jackson for his crass remarks in advance of a Fox interview Sunday -- in which Jackson said, speaking to a another guest, that Obama was "talking down to black people" and that, as a result, Jackson wanted to "cut his nuts off"?

Taking the high road and not engaging in gutter politics is an Obama trademark that serves him well. But others have come out swinging, or at least, commenting.

I defer to Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, who has addressed the timely controversy -- timely in that Jackson is in Indy today for Black Expo -- over at Abdul's blog, Indiana Barrister.

Says Abdul:

"Jackson apologized for his remarks, but there is a bigger picture here.

"First, he will be here in Indianapolis today. He may stop and speak at a youth non-violence rally at noon at City Market and later this evening at Light of the World Church. It's a little ironic that you will be preaching non-violence shortly after saying you want to cut off someones manhood.

"Secondly, and more importantly, Jackson is typical of a civil rights leadership that has outlived its usefulness. Jackson, (Rev. Al) Sharpton and the rest of their lot need to go retire to the old activists' home. 2008 is not 1968."

Well said, but some of us (white people) have wondered: what if a white minister with similar name recognition as Jackson had dared utter what Jackson said? (Jackson criticized Obama for Obama's criticism of black fathers who abandon their families). Would a white minister's spouting off have put this story into bolder print, with louder headlines and more vocal indignation?

Or is it "OK" on some levels for blacks -- and whites for that matter -- to dismiss Jackson, because he is, as Abdul suggests, a has-been, over-the-hill hack? Just another version of that cranky uncle in the family, to borrow another Obama thought, re: another pastor?

Also: least we forget, it was Jackson who once referred to New York City as "Hymietown," so we know he has a track record for loose lips and slurs. Again, he and Obama are apparently in two very different classes when it comes to language, or at least, venting when the hot mike on.

But then, (playing the devil's advocate here, so to speak) it was also Jackson, who, when he was running for president in 1984 and 1988, was allegedly referred to by the Secret Service sworn to protect his life as "Pontiac" -- the acronym, in some circles, means "Poor Old Nigger Thinks It's A Cadillac."

I don't believe that story is urban legend; it's made the rounds too many times, I can't find a denial, and I've read that when a Jackson spokesman complained, Jackson's code name was changed to "Thunder." (Ronald Reagan was "Rawhide", Bush the Elder went by "Timberwolf" and Bob Dole was known as "Patriot".

(Also, to continue this theme: Barack Obama is "Renegade," Hillary Clinton "Evergeen" and Bill Clinton "The Eagle." John McCain is "Phoenix."

(Jimmy Carter was "Deacon," John Kerrey was "Minuteman" and Al Gore, originally, was "Sawhorse," then "Sundance." George Bush the Lesser is "Tumbler" but that may have changed. For the record, most of these, but not all, were reported in The Washington Post).

But back to Jesse. Maybe it is, as Abdul says, a generational thing. He got called Pontiac by those Secret Service guys 16 years ago, and he's still mad. So he wants to cut off the nuts of the heir apparent.

He's crude; Obama's cool. And words do matter. That's why you're reading this.

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