>> Tuesday, November 10, 2009
From a thread about Michael Steele's "white Republicans are afraid of me" remarks on Sunday:
I’m terrified of Michael Steele the same way Mary Jo Kopechne was terrified of Teddy Kennedy.In less than 30 words, this commenter compresses the conservative response to white liberals and all blacks into the singular image of a threatened white woman. I would stop and note that the white female martyr in question worked with the man who supposedly terrified her and willingly entered a vehicle with him on that unfortunate evening, but that would be beside the point. It is not the woman herself to whom conservatives appeal when they utter her name, but what happened to her as imagined through their eyes.
This ride is flat scary, and I want off.
Their horror at Kopechne's death (and their subsequent insistence that in it can be found the root of all ideological evil) reminds me of nothing so much as the origin story of Rorschach in Alan Moore's Watchmen. (Such obsessions happens when writing a book.) His moment of decision—the moment he became, a la Bérubé, outraged by Chappaquiddick—was when he discovered some fabric that had been purchased by Kitty Genovese shortly before her murder:
What turns Rorschach into the misogynistic psychopath deplored by a witless Anthony Lane but beloved by many a conservative? The seventh and eighth panels tell you all you need to know. They are not presented from Genovese's perspective: the scene-to-scene transition from panel six to panel seven clearly indicates that they're Rorschach's reconstruction of the indifference she witnessed as she bled out before the eyes of friends and neighbors. She is no more a person to him that Kopechne is to those who claim to speak for her and yet, like conservatives, Rorschach claims her death for his own purposes.
I would continue, but I don't feel comfortable speaking for the dead. Would that others shared my discomfort ...