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As Long as We Remember...

July 30, 2010

Shirley Sherrod Triumphant

Roy Meachum

Over the past two weeks America was properly appalled by the public crucifixion and immediate restoration of Shirley Sherrod. I’ve read literally thousands of words related to the fired agriculture department Georgia director.


As I’ve written before, every old man dies believing the world left behind is headed for hell in a wheel barrow; usually for fewer reasons than on parade in our contemporary world. The United States today is hemmed in by so many opinions and “news” from too many media, mainly on cable and the Internet. People pick and choose the “facts” that conform to their biases and prejudices. My beloved country is in danger of surrendering democracy as happened in Rome when Julius Caesar arrived and in Germany that succumbed to Adolph Hitler.


In Ms. Sherrod’s example, a man already well known for duplicity and untrustworthiness managed to pluck from archives tape of a speech she made more than 20 years ago. So he was perfectly free to mold a lie that even high level administration could not quickly check: so the Secretary of Agriculture and the White House public relations office instantaneously each demanded her resignation – along with the National Association for The Advancement of Colored People.


The muckety-mucks reacted in fear that her alleged “racism” was strong enough for the anti-administration Fox News to pound to public death the nation’s first African American president. We witnessed again how public servants could move hastily to render an act their master neither ordered nor even considered.


The four knights who slaughtered Thomas à Beckett form history’s most famous tale; they stabbed the Archbishop of Canterbury in front of his altar, thinking they saved Henry II from his enemy. In truth, they were once the closest of friends but fell apart over Roman Catholic policy after the king appointed his bosom buddy to head the church in England.


Because Barack Obama chose to de-emphasize race from the outset of his White House term, his officials were scared beyond measure at the topic. They reacted out of fear, in order to cover their image of the presidential rear. It was the old CYA taken to extremes.


The chief culprits in the whole mess were the media; they didn’t really bother to put the tape through due diligence, in other words to check it out; they also failed to contact Ms. Sherrod before airing her apparent racist remarks. Commentators of the leaker’s persuasion fell on her gaffe with great enthusiasm. Days after the edited and censored sound bite was exposed as fundamentally a lie, radio talkers dragged the story along by raising suspicion that the leaker had been used by what they always call “liberals” – anyone who disagrees with their basic philosophy.


But closer to the center of the news industry, editors and reporters were guilty of running with the bogus story because they were afraid some other medium would beat them to the scoop. Over recent years we’ve seen a lot of those jitters resulting in similar but lesser no-news fabrications.


In the bottom line analysis, nothing is true because some famous face puts it out. We’ve seen a lot of that in the new millennium, and in lesser dangers to the republic. The totally outrageous in fashion is accepted as haute couture because entertainment stars wear it; of course, what we unwashed don’t see is how the faddiest beyond belief is worn only for the photographers. Once the shoot is over, the duds go straight to storage or, in many cases, the trash.


The great irony for Shirley Sherrod lies in the simple fact she possesses a fabulous record for achieving civil rights for both poor whites and blacks; furthermore, she’s married to the Rev. Charles Sherrod, who marched and worked beside Martin Luther King Jr.


Any fair human being might hope the incident provided example for extremists of all political hues that lying simply doesn’t work. Alas, we didn’t have to wait for proof the lesson was totally lost.


After all the evidence was in, the “bible” of the ultra conservative movement, Human Rights, called Shirley Sherrod’s husband a “racist,” too. In his life, Dr. King wore that label, too – and proudly.


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