“Running Godfather’s Pizza was never this hard!”
Ever since Herman Cain announced his candidacy for the President of the United States, he has proudly claimed to be uninterested in political correctness. His comments concerning the Muslim religion may have proven that he has an aversion to it. At the Conservative Principles Conference in Des Moines, Iowa, a blogger asked Cain: “Would you be comfortable appointing a Muslim either in your cabinet or as a federal judge?” Cain responded, “No, I will not.” He went on to say: “And here’s why. There is this creeping attempt, there’s this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government.” Welcome to the race, Herman Cain. Please take your seat and we hope you enjoy being the media’s punching bag for the rest of the election season.
Herman Cain has been clarifying his statements at seemingly every public event since then. During the Republican presidential debate, Cain explained his rationale. “You have peaceful Muslims and you have militant Muslims – those that are trying to kill us. And so when I said I wouldn’t be comfortable I was thinking about the ones that are trying to kill us.” Yikes Cain, I thought we were trying to win an election. But I like your thinking. And while we’re at it, let’s double check to make sure our Christians in government aren’t secretly Ku Klux Klan supporters by night. And you can’t forget about the atheists. We are a Christian country right? Or did I accidentally attend a history seminar by Sarah Palin?
Look, it’s easy to bash Herman Cain’s comments, and rightfully so. As if the American Muslim community wasn’t already uneasy with the decade long war on terror, now we have a presidential hopeful openly “uncomfortable” with them. But is Herman Cain a bad guy? Can we vilify him for his remarks? Cain has stated that he would in fact hire a Muslim if he or she possessed the skills necessary and was committed to the United States and its constitution. Unfortunately, for many, the damage is already done.
There are qualities in Herman Cain that are worth commending. In an age of “career politicians”, Herman Cain is running on a platform that stresses problem solving, solutions, and no bullshit (don’t worry, he hasn’t been quoted as saying that too). And no matter what side of the aisle you’re on, there seems to be a lot of that stinky stuff being thrown around. His track record is impressive, with successful stints as the vice president of Pillsbury and later as the president of Godfather’s Pizza, where he turned around a nearly bankrupt company. He is a self-made man who values hard work, family, and faith. Sounds like a great role model. Wait, you forgot to say he was a bigot. Well, maybe he is, but does that then make all of us bigots on some level?
Herman Cain made the mistake that career politicians generally don’t do: he was honest, to a fault. Bill Clinton would never have openly admitted that he was secretly competing with Wilt Chamberlain for World’s Greatest Philanderer. And remember that Nixon fiasco, when secret conversations were released that displayed his unabashed anti-semitism. Oh yeah, that and Watergate. Breaking, entering, and stealing aren’t qualities a president would wish to display either. Politicians are engineered to lie. They have to; it’s necessary to capture all those constituents. Right or wrong, it’s the name of the game.
But this is more about us than it is Herman Cain. We wouldn’t disown our uncle if he had doubts about voting for a female president, sexist as it is. Nor would we break up with a loved one if she locked her car door when a homeless man walked across the street. Yes, believe it or not, not every unemployed person is a maniacal, cracked-out rapist. The “un-athletic, and more than likely racist, white guy.” The “money thieving Jew.” The “crooked black guy.” These are stereotypes that float around throughout our society, occasionally creeping up in the minds of people, regardless of whether those people are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. We are Americans living in the 21st century, slightly ashamed of our ‘un-American’ past, and trying to combat the human instinct to fear everyone besides our own kin. But the majority of Americans understand the irrationality of our stereotypes, and the extreme pain they can inflict on those targeted. So at our best we constantly remind ourselves of our foolishness, or at least keep our misguided thoughts behind closed doors.
But then there’s Cain, whose lack of political savvy has pissed off a large segment of the American population. Whose ignorance has added another blow to a Muslim community by and large fully devoted to American values, as muddled as those values are. But aren’t we ignorant to pretend that there isn’t something about us others would find disagreeable? Would it be ignorant to assume no other politician currently in the White House or otherwise doesn’t agree with Cain on some level? On the world stage, Herman Cain’s comments could be depicted as “America’s take on the Muslims”. Not good for foreign relations. And not good for winning an election. Is Herman Cain a bad guy? No. Is your antiquated and prejudiced grandma a bad woman? I don’t know, but I’m sure you’d vouch for her.
When it comes to public figures, we as spectators and the media aren’t so easy to forgive. It doesn’t take much to shatter a positive perception. After all, they are representing us. And we citizens want the best, even if unreasonable, human representation. So politicians and public figures alike lie, because the stakes are so much higher than an anonymous Internet rant or a dinner table discussion. And yet Herman Cain was honest. And if we were to ask him now what he truly thought of all this negative attention, he’d probably tell us. Except this time it would be off the record.