Transcend means "to move beyond, to surpass." At least that's what I always thought. But I'm beginning to wonder whether it means instead: "Much, much more of the same, only this time really stupid."
Exhibit A: the incessant, relentless, click-your-ruby-red-slippers-and-say-it-until-it-comes-true mantra that Barack Obama will magically cause America to "transcend race." One hears and reads this everywhere, but less as an argument than as a prayer, an expression of faith, a "from my lips to The One's ear" sort of thing.
It is, of course, total and complete nonsense. According to L.B.O. (Logic Before Obama), transcending race would involve making race less of an issue. Passengers on Spaceship Obama would see race shrink and then vanish in the rearview mirror.
Instead, Obama has set off a case of full-blown race dementia among precisely the crowd that swears Obama is leading us out of the racial wilderness. Rather than shrink, the tumor of racial paranoia is metastasizing, pressing down on the medulla oblongata or whatever part of the brain that, when poked, causes one to hallucinate, conjure false memories and write astoundingly insipid things. For instance, a writer for Slate sees racism when anyone notes that Barack Obama is -- wait for it -- skinny. What this portends for Fat Albert is above my pay grade.
We need to rewrite those old Schoolhouse Rock cartoons, because now virtually any adjective, noun, verb or adverb aimed at Barack Obama that is not obsequiously sycophantic or wantonly worshipful runs the risk of being decried as racist. Community organizer? Racist! Mentioning his middle name? Racist! Arrogant? Racist! Palling around with a (white) terrorist? Racist! Celebrity? Racist! Cosmopolitan? Racist! This? Racist! That? Racist! The other thing? Oh man, that's really racist.
The new Schoolhouse Rock cartoon: "Conjunction: a word that connects a racist attack and Barack Obama."
This week, an editorial writer for the Kansas City Star denounced John McCain and Sarah Palin for suggesting that Obama is a socialist because he wants to "spread the wealth around." Don't they understand that "socialist" has always been a racist codeword used by bigots like J. Edgar Hoover to demonize black activists like W.E.B. Du Bois?