Thursday, May 5, 2011
The Invisible President
Well...it’s been a while since the last time I posted. Everyone is talking about Osama Ben Laden’s death and as usual the Republicans are trying to discredit the President. Nothing new there, that is a habitual obsession with them. I named this post the “Invisible President” for a reason. Years ago, Ralph Ellison wrote a book called “Invisible Man” and the narrator in the story expressed with symbols a problem that Republicans seem to have with President Obama.
In the story, the “Invisible Man” the narrator telling the story is invisible. His name is never mentioned throughout the book, nor is the town he lives in, or the college he attends, which symbolizes his invisibility to other characters in the book. It is similar to how some folks on the right and in the media refer to President Obama as “Mr. Obama” instead of President Obama or “the subtle claim of the Birther’s conspiracy that somehow implies that he is “alien” because he is invisible to them as the President of the United States of America.
All throughout the book, Invisible Man, the narrator is defined by people who do not see him—that is his real identity because they cannot. Blind people cannot see! The Republicans are blinded by an ideology and racism. Instead, they see him through negative values, racist connotations, and expectations that they are trying to imposed on him. Yet, none of those values, racist connotations, and expectations they are trying to impose on him or the identity they are trying to ascribe to him fit because it is not who he is as a person. The identity they are trying to assign to him is a projection of them.
In the story of the Invisible Man, the narrator finds that, in each case, the prescribed role limits his complexity as an individual and forces him to play an inauthentic part as he passes through different communities in search of his identity. Racism is an obstruction to a person’s identity. The racial prejudice of others causes them to see the President only as they want to see him because theirs is a limitation of vision. However, he is forcing others to acknowledge him, to acknowledge the existence of beliefs and behaviors outside of their prejudiced expectations. The President has forced those folks on the right to show their true beliefs and colors, but they are too blind to see that.
Finally, in the story, Invisible Man, the narrator realizes that the complexity of his inner self is limited not only by people’s racism but also by their more general ideologies. He finds that the ideologies advanced by institutions prove too simplistic and one-dimensional to serve something as complex and multidimensional as human identity. Racism blinds people and obstructs people from seeing a person’s real identity, but in the same sense it shines the light on those with racist views own insecurities and fears. However, those with racist views cannot see that because of their blindness they are projecting self.