One part Macaca

Posted: Sep 26, 2006 10:01 PM
One part Macaca

Members of the voting public who have slogged their way through the difficulties of Virginia's Sen. George Allen in the past month have found it heavy going. What stopped this breathless spectator was the final exchange between Mr. Allen and his mother. But let's rehearse that relationship for just a minute ...

Only a few weeks ago, son George asked his mother about rumors that she had been born Jewish. She confirmed the truth of the rumors but bound him to silence in the matter. Legitimate question: Why?

Presumably she believed that if one had hidden such a datum throughout one's life, some sniffy -- and proud -- Jews would reasonably conclude that she was ashamed of her Jewish background. As to why she hid it in the first place, she told reporters that she and her husband (the famous football coach) hadn't wanted their children to grow up with the fear of persecution that she had lived with. Whether this was her actual motive, it was understandable that she swore George to secrecy when she first told him. To reveal her ethnicity in the last weeks of a political race might damage her son, who would be viewed as an accomplice in his mother's deception.

But as the whole world now knows, Mother Allen specifically released son George from his commitment to silence, and then enjoined him to make public the datum.

Here is where the story achieved sheer mawkishness. "On CNN," as The New York Times reports it, "Mr. Allen recounted his mother's saying: 'I didn't want to tell you. Do you love me? You won't love me as much.'

"Mr. Allen said he responded, 'I love you even more.'"

Well, this non-Virginian discloses that he loves the pair of them less.

Let us, if only for the practice, weigh the considerations of a popular senator running for re-election.

As a Republican, Senator Allen could reasonably assume that he would fare less well in the Jewish community than his Democratic opponent because of Jewish voters' traditional disposition in favor of the Democrat. In the last national election, Jewish voters went for Kerry 3-to-1 over Bush.

So? What might Allen do to appeal to reluctant Jews? Identify himself as a blood brother!

That thought may have figured in Mother's calculations when she confirmed what was otherwise merely a hypothetical claim.

Democratic contender James Webb hasn't challenged the freshly publicized bloodlines; he has said merely that the whole thing suggests racial bias on the part of Mr. Allen. By the whole thing, he has in mind what brought up the question of ethnic background in the first place. That was the use by Senator Allen of the word "macaca" in addressing a Webb campaign aide.

Most people don't know what that word means, but a blind test would almost certainly yield the guess that the word was an animadversion ("Don't you call me macaca, big boy, understand?"), though I suppose much hangs on the tone of voice in which the word is pronounced. Try using it as if to describe St. Francis of Assisi.

If anything is clear in Virginia now, it is that Mr. Allen wishes he had never heard the word "macaca." It is possibly in desperation at the reaction to her son's use of the word that Mrs. Allen thought of a possible means of augmenting ethnic attractiveness by recalling her Jewish roots. So, George ran with it, and at this point, gives the impression of running in every direction.