Repudiate this elevated ethical standard, and a deranged, fulminating Keith Olbermann will pelt you with a panegyric on the imagined martyrdom of one Shirley Sherrod, now the most celebrated public servant in the United States, and perhaps the world.
Ms. Sherrod’s road to sainthood is not that unusual. In this woman we have, indubitably, one among an army of fairly typical black state employees. In this case, working for the rural development division of the United States Department of Agriculture.
Sherrod got into trouble over an address delivered at the twentieth annual freedom banquet of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (whose raison d’être is racial), on March the 27th. (Standards of journalism are not as “big” as Andrew Breitbart’s “big this; big that” websites: the reports don’t say in what year the speech was given.)
Olbermann is a crude pamphleteer who imagines himself a modern-day Emile Zola. Most recently, the anchor has sunk to the level of fraud and falsehood in comparing Ms. Sherrod ─ a contemporary black woman, who has, hitherto, enjoyed safe and secure sinecure in liberal, post-Civil-Rights-Act America ─ to Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a 19th-Jew living in illiberal France, falsely accused of the worst military breach possible.
The similarities are as startling as Olbermann’s leveling logic. In 1894, this patriotic Frenchman was charged with spying for the Germans. Dreyfus was tried and convicted of treason with no due process of the law. He was sentenced to a lifetime on Devil’s Island, a penal colony in South America. There, Dreyfus languished until 1899. Outraged at the miscarriage of justice, French writer Emile Zola penned a stirring tract, “J’Accuse,” in defense of Dreyfus, who was eventually exonerated 12 years after his ordeal began.
Dreyfus’s fate clearly mirrors that of Sherrod. Especially glaring are the parallels between Sherrod’s 48-hour, celebratory ride on the cable news merry-go-round, and Dreyfus’s four-year romp around Treasure Island, in French Guiana.
We’ve “pulled a Dreyfus on Sherrod,” foamed old Olby. Sherrod “has been to her own Devil’s Island,” “thanks to the perpetual fraud machine that is Fox News, and the scum that is this assassin [Andrew] Breitbart,” and “the howling fools of the far right, the stand-aside pathetic bureaucrats of the Department of Agriculture, the whole of the cowering media, this network [his] included, the whole of the government,” and the president.
Look, Mr. Olbermann: You are no Emile Zola. You don’t even rise to the level of the kings and queen of Kvetch TV, John and Larry King and Anderson Cooper of CNN. And Sherrod is no Dreyfus. She was fired by an administration that mistook her for a worse racist than she actually was. The Obama posse overestimated the extent of Sherrod’s animus for whites. She turned out to be merely a mezzanine-level racist.
Neither is Sherrod’s story one of “redemption and cross-racial friendship,” as Newsweek put it slightly less hyperbolically than did MSNBC’s front man. Shirley Sherrod’s is a tale of the triumph of low expectations and black racial exculpation in contemporary America.
Here is a USDA worker, whose pay and perks are provided by wealthier Americans ─ given that this country has the steepest, most progressive tax system among all OECD countries.* Yet she disdains the very “haves” who’ve funded her existence and facilitated her “life’s work.” By her own admission, Sherrod arrived each day at work eager to toil for the betterment of nobody but blacks.
One day, as she told the NAACP gathering, God put things in her path that made her realize she was there for poor people. A white farmer appealed for her assistance. Had the white farmer been a brother forced to beg before a sister in a position of power, Sherrod might have characterized him as a proud man in humiliating circumstances. Given the desperate farmer’s hue, Sherrod alleged he had a superior attitude, before going on to describe her dilemma: having to help a white man save his property, when so many black people had lost theirs.”
So, I didn’t give him the full force of what I could do,” Sherrod smirked. “I did enough. I took him to a white lawyer; one of them; to his own kind.”Drum roll for Ms. Sherrod, who then followed up thus: “That’s when it was revealed to me that this was about poor vs. those who have. And not so much about white—it is about white and black—but it opened my eyes …”
Hallelujah, and what a pure heart!
A nice enough lady, Ms. Sherrod then divulged how she performed the tasks (the rich had paid her to do) even when it came to this dejected white farmer. The acme of ethics in American: a black woman who has graduated from hard-core to soft bigotry.
From the howling wilderness that is his moral universe, Brother Olbermann has demanded that we, first, flagellate and, next, accept Shirley Sherrod as the embodiment of “the kind of true greatness the rest of us can only hope we might express for one moment in the whole of our lives.”
I don’t think so.
* OECD: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
©2010 By ILANA MERCER