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The concept of a presidential library, a shrine to a former president, is a relatively new idea. For the first 150 years of this country’s existence, presidents didn’t have lavish monuments built to commemorate their rule. The whole notion would have repulsed the men who waged a war with a monarchy to build this country, but starting with FDR, of course, presidential libraries became customary and they’ve gradually transformed from that — from libraries — into multimillion dollar temples to hubris.
The most recent ex-president to get his very own temple and the biggest of all, of course, is Barack Obama. The total cost of his library clocks in at about half a billion dollars. Construction began last year when Obama demanded that his donors pay for it, but today, construction of the temple was halted because of an emergency. No, not a fire, not a lightning strike.
According to the construction company working on the library: “This morning, we were informed that an act of hate was discovered at the project site,” and you knew the act of hate was serious because the media went all in. They devoted a lot of time to talking about this — on the brink of nuclear war and recession, but the act of hate on the Obama construction site led the news.
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DON LEMON: Construction at the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago is suspended after a noose was discovered at the site on Thursday.
CBS ANCHOR: An act of hate. A noose is found at the site of the Obama presidential center.
CNN REPORTER: A noose was found at the site. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker condemning the hateful act.
NORAH O’DONNELL, CBS: An ugly, racist symbol was found at the future site of the Obama presidential center. A noose was discovered at the construction site this morning. Operations were halted and the police were called. A $100,000 reward has been offered for information leading to those responsible for what officials described as this shameless act of cowardice and hate.
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A lot of huffing and puffing. Have you heard a story like this before? Well, it wasn’t that long ago in the middle of a national crime wave, which it has done very little to solve, the FBI rushed a team of agents to a NASCAR garage after a character called Bubba Wallace suggested that a noose had been left in that garage. Turns out the noose was a garage door pole. Here’s the interesting thing: Everyone makes mistakes, but mistakes like this never get corrected. Nobody ever apologized for that — not the media, not the FBI, and certainly not Bubba Wallace. In fact, Bubba Wallace said that only stupid people would doubt his story even after it was proven to be false.
QUESTION: What would you say to those people who are doubting that this even happened or that it’s true?
BUBBA WALLACE: Yeah, just like Steve Phelps said, it offends me that people would go to those measures, but again, I’m not shocked. Simple-minded people like that, the ones that are afraid of change, they use everything in their power to defend what they stand up for and instead of trying to listen and understand.
What? You alleged a crime. Hard to say that’s a crime, but whatever, worthy of the attention of the FBI, this is all insane, but you were wrong. Instead of apologizing, you’re lecturing people like they’re your moral inferiors for asking questions and it was obvious from the beginning that Bubba Wallace’s story made no sense. We’re not saying he was making it up, but he was wrong, and there is a high likelihood that this noose at Barack Obama’s temple might be a hoax, too.
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A lot of these stories are. Why do they keep appearing? We’ll tell you why — because accusations of hate crimes and bias more generally, are tools that the people in power use, not the powerless, the powerful, to ward themselves greater and totally unearned moral authority over everybody else.
Barack Obama is the perfect example. Oppressed, really? Obama is a half-White guy with an Ivy League degree and served as president of the United States for two terms and lives in two oceanfront compounds in the richest zip codes in the world. Does that sound like oppression? No, it sounds like privilege. That’s fine, but no, they tell you he’s Emmett Till. He’s a powerless victim of your racism. So, when you make allegations like that, nobody gets to ask the obvious questions like, where did you get all this money? Like, how are you making a living? How did you get so rich? What have you been selling in exchange for that money and by the way, why are you spending a half a billion dollars on a presidential library?
You don’t get to ask those questions because all you know is that somebody left a noose at a construction site because this is an immoral, racist country. All the people below me are bad people. People at the top are good people. The bad people in the bottom are creating a country full of racism that’s so pervasive and scary that we have to pause construction on the temple just to catch our breath. Obama’s told us many times before this is a bad country. He told us for eight years.
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OBAMA: He knew from his own life that progress is fragile, that we have to be vigilant against the darker currents of this country’s history, of our own history, but there are whirlpools of violence and hatred and despair that can always rise again. Bull Connor may be gone, but today we witness with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of Black Americans.
“Bull Connor might be gone, but you still exist and you’re oppressing everybody else, so we’re going to have to oppress you.” This latest offense against one of the world’s most powerful men is so appalling that the authorities have offered a $100,000 reward to anyone who can find the person who left a noose at Obama’s presidential library. $100,000 because we victimized Barack Obama yet again and his wife. What’s interesting is, for perspective, is that there’s no $100,000 reward outstanding for the, say, thousands of unsolved murders in this country and that’s a lot of murders.
In fact, roughly half the murders that occur in the United States are now never solved because they’re not becoming third worlds or anything. Thomas Hargrove, who runs the Murder Accountability Project, put it this way very crisply: “It’s a 50/50 coin-flip. It’s never been this bad. During the last seven months of 2020, most murders went unsolved. That’s never happened before in America.” Now, why is that happening? Because nobody cares. That’s why and where are these murders happening? Oh, in Obama’s fake hometown of Chicago. A lot of them.
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MIKE TOBIN: That mass shooting that we were just talking about is in Chicago, was in the troubled west side of town where the bloodshed is frequent. It happened about 9:30 p.m. local time. People had gathered for a vigil. Police say it was an SUV that pulled up. Two gunmen opened fire and sprayed bullets into the crowd. The whole thing was over in about three seconds. Fourteen people were injured. Witnesses say one man was shot in the head and one person was hit by a car in the chaos, but among the victims are a 3-year-old, an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old boy. The rest of the victims are said to be adults.
OK. Does anyone care? No. Nobody in power cares, not at all about any of these crimes, actual crimes. In Nevada, an illegal alien called Carlos Nava, who has been deported seven times, but is still here because the Democratic Party wants his vote, is now facing charges that he raped five people in this country over nearly 20 years. Five people were raped. Did anyone ever offer $100,000 for his arrest or to give to his victims? But we’ve got $100,000 to spare for whoever tied that piece of string in a forbidden shape of Barack Obama’s construction site. Really?
Again, if all the moral outrage were directed on behalf of people with no power who are actually suffering (and there are millions of them in America), you could kind of put up with it, but all this huffing and puffing over Barack and Michelle Obama? Most people don’t see them as a color. They see them for what they are, which is the most privileged people in the world and yet Michelle Obama just wrote a whole book about her struggle to “stay visible in a world that doesn’t necessarily see a tall, Black woman.” What? You don’t see Michelle Obama? She was the president’s wife for eight years. How much money has Michelle Obama made in the last six years? Oh, you’d love to know, but you’re supposed to just accept it uncritically, just like you’re supposed to believe the Jussie Smollett hoax.
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ALI VELSHI: We’ve got some breaking news. Actor and musician Jussie Smollett from the hit show “Empire” was attacked and beaten early this morning in Chicago and police say it could be a hate crime.
MIGUEL ALMAGUER: There are many indications of a hate crime here. They are looking for two suspects who were apparently wearing “Make America Great Again” hats.
ELLIOT PAGE: We have a media that’s saying it’s a debate whether or not what just happened to Jussie Smollett is a hate crime. It’s absurd.
MICHAELA ANGELA DAVIS, WRITER: You know, Jussie Smollett had a noose on his neck just this week.
SARAH GILBERT: And the media has really cast so much doubt on his story, which I find so personally offensive that a gay Black man is targeted and then suddenly he becomes the victim of people’s disbelief.
BROOKE BALDWIN: He said his attackers hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him and this is America in 2019.
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This is America in 2019, where the most powerful people are the most frequently victimized and that really is the message is the people in charge, people with power over your life, the people who make the laws, the people who shape your culture, in some cases, people who can put you in jail, certainly, people are paid a lot more than you are. They’re the real victims. They’re the real victims. So, what are we watching? We’re watching a power play, of course.
We’re watching a transfer of moral authority from the population, a nation of citizens, to the top 1% and as the recession deepens and people get poorer, you’re going to see a lot more of this. “Don’t notice my looting. I’m the victim.” That’s why Hillary Clinton plays the sexism card. “Don’t ask questions. I’m a woman.”
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CLINTON: So, any of you who’ve read my book about what happened know that I think that misogyny and sexism was part of that campaign. It was one of the contributing factors and some of it was old-fashioned sexism and a refusal to accept the equality of women and certainly the equality of women’s leadership.
Yeah, they all do it. Chelsea Clinton does it. Nancy Pelosi does it, Ocasio-Cortez does it. Kamala Harris does it. The most powerful people in the world are always telling you they’re victims. Joe Biden can’t do it, of course, because he’s a White man so instead, he accuses you of transphobia, thereby keeping the balance of moral authority on his side of the scale. “Shut up, transphobic.”