Thoughts on “Hard to Handle”

I think TPM Reader RC is imputing naiveté where what I was expressing was more a matter cognitive dissonance on latter-day Ron Paul and his role as – no other way to say it – prominent figure in far-right white nationalist politics. But powerful personal account from RC

I must take issue with you on this comment, although I certainly understand it:

“Personally, I have to say that it’s always been difficult for me to square this history with the kindly old guy many of us got to know in recent years.”

This is in fact a summation of the entire conservative view that “nice” people can’t be racists, or that only outwardly vicious people can be called such. It’s problematic and it’s more than a little naïve.

Let me tell you about my grandfather. He was a burly hard-working man with a close black friend that his children considered an uncle. His favorite musician was Louis Armstrong. He cried whenever we left his house to drive home, because he would miss us so. He cooked for three generations almost every Sunday. At least six of the nurses from his the hospital where he died attended his funeral after becoming so attached to him. He was one of the sweetest and toughest men you can imagine.

But he was a racist. He subscribed to white power newsletters that terrified me when I found several as a child. The hatred in them was shocking and horrible. He would always resist saying an unkind word toward anyone, black or white, but he had strong opinions about how society was supposed to be ordered.

He was a “kindly old guy,” and most of my Republican family would be furious with me for calling him a racist, because he gave food to poor black families, he worked with and hired black men and women. He didn’t attack anyone, he wasn’t vicious, and I loved him. But just because he didn’t firebomb houses doesn’t mean he wasn’t a racist.

But my grandfather also never published “endless articles taking about mooching black ‘animals’, impending race wars and embattled whites and not dissimilar stuff about Jews,” as you note that Ron Paul did.

Ron Paul may come across as a “kindly older man.” But his newsletter gave comfort to and encouraged violent racists all over the country, and he and his supporters should be extremely concerned (I’d say “horrified”) that he bears some responsibility for this tragedy and others like it. Based on the “ferocious” defensive response, it seems that his supporters are.