On a regular basis, we are enjoined, usually by a leading Democrat, to overcome our reticence — or, in Attorney General Eric Holder's formulation, "cowardice" — and engage in a hearty national conversation about race.
No, thanks. As anyone with eyes can see, we are far from avoiding the subject — in fact, it often seems that we are unable to talk about anything else. With our national debt ascending like Jack's beanstalk, our economy coughing blood, a maniacal, extremist regime in Iran close to getting the bomb, a loose worldwide network of Islamic fanatics trying to blow us up, violence flaring along our southern border, the after-effects of a massive oil spill hobbling the Gulf region, and a government in Washington determined to implement a social Democratic agenda despite vigorous public opposition, we are talking, of course, about race.
Dr. Laura Schlessinger gave up her three-decade-old radio program after using the "n" word on the air. Not that she wielded it as an epithet. No, she was just insensitive (no irony intended here, she really was). And racial insensitivity, more than any other kind, is a ticket to American purgatory.
Though Dr. Laura could be flippant and even cruel at times, she was a one-woman corrective to the therapeutic culture that treated everyone as a victim and required responsibility from no one. Over the course of 30 years, she never gave any indication of racist tendencies (and she gave plenty of solid advice to boot). But she touched the third rail one time, and now she's silenced.
Dr. Laura made it easy for her critics by a lapse of taste and judgment. But even in the absence of such blunders, the left can make anything about race.
Two rallies were held in Washington over the weekend. One was hosted by TV and radio phenom Glenn Beck to "restore American honor" (whatever that means), and the other by the Rev. Al Sharpton, to whine about the Beck rally.
The Beck rally happened to fall on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "Dream" speech. OK. Does that make Beck a racist? So said any number of axe-grinders. National Urban League President Marc Morial said Beck's rally is "an effort to embarrass and poke a finger in the eye of the civil rights community."
Martin Luther King III, invoking his father, protested that "his dream rejected hateful rhetoric and all forms of bigotry or discrimination..."
A New York Times story about the coincidence of dates started this way: "It seems the ultimate thumb in the eye: that Glenn Beck would summon the Tea Party faithful to a rally on the anniversary of the March on Washington."
But consider this: The one piece of evidence cited by Beck's leftist critics to prove that he is a racist is that Beck once called Obama a racist! Oh, and then he apologized. Now we're really in the weeds of race talk as only 21st century Americans can do it.
In fact, Beck (who can never be accused of reserve) has become moist (his default mode) when discussing the great legacy of Martin Luther King. He has explained that the timing of the march was accidental but that he has come to think of it as "providential." His rally was rich with tributes to the civil rights icon, and included a speech by King's niece, Alveda King.
Nothing daunted, The New York Times insinuated away. "In the Tea Party's talk of states' rights," wrote reporter Kate Zernike, "critics say they hear an echo of slavery, Jim Crow and George Wallace." Yes, naturally. Just as New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd "heard" the word "boy" when Congressman Joe Wilson blurted "You lie" at President Obama. And just for the record, tea party groups don't tend to use the term "states' rights."
Times columnist Paul Krugman, too, is in a lather (his default mode). Denouncing the "ugliness" he sees coming down the pike (that would be a big Republican victory in November), Krugman fulminates that "a significant number of Americans just don't consider government by liberals . . . legitimate." Krugman is aghast that a Republican majority might initiate a "wave of investigations," which would be "dangerous." Well, let's see, these supposedly lawless Republicans will be exercising their right to vote and will elect representatives who may choose to discharge their congressional oversight responsibility zealously. How is that "dangerous" or "ugly"?
In fact, it is the left that regards all criticism as illegitimate. No matter what you say, if you hold a rally opposing the liberal agenda, or attend a town hall meeting critical of a Democrat, you will be tarred as a racist. As the radio host Chris Plante puts it: "The definition of a racist today is anyone who is winning an argument with a liberal."
To find out more about Mona Charen and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.