September 15, 2011
If I hear Ron Paul referred to as the GOP’s “crazy uncle” one more time, I may go a little wackadoo myself. Ron’s about 80% good sense and no more than 20% crazy. I’m OK with that. I like Ron, and 80/20 is not bad for a politician.
The 20% of craziness is all of a harmless kind, anyway. It’s not crazy as in: “Let’s spend tens of millions of dollars changing the sex practices of Africans!” It’s more like crazy as when, asked about a border fence at the September 7th candidate debate, Ron extruded the following, inter alia: “I think this fence business is designed and may well be used against us and keep us in.”
Ron’s response actually encodes two crazy notions. Crazy Notion 1: We should allow foreigners to wander into our country across an undefended border. Crazy Notion 2: Given a fence, the federal government would use it to prevent “us”—citizens, Republicans, libertarians, old straight white guys, cut it any way you like—from making unauthorized exits.
Crazy Notion 1 is crazy sure enough. It is, however, the actual policy of all significant American politicians, of every single Democrat and all but a tiny splinter group of Republicans. Craziness-wise, Ron versus the rest, it is therefore a wash.
Crazy Notion 2 by contrast stands out as a little nugget of Ron-craziness. The general direction of US domestic policy is to marginalize “us” as defined. Old straight white guys? Federal employment is already heavily loaded against white males, and you may be sure against old straight ones more than others. The Obama administration seeks to make it more so. Private businesses, weighed down with diversity mandates, are very little better.
Keep us in? They’d be lining the roads to make sure we left.
But let’s get back to the uncle business. I’m not sure why craziness and uncle-hood are yoked together like this in the common imagination. I had twelve uncles. They had their little foibles, to be sure. Uncle Bill had a way of sitting a three-year-old nephew on his knee, fixing the lad with a glare, then suddenly dropping his top front dentures to make it look like he had vampire fangs. It was terrifying.
None of my uncles was certifiably crazy, though. The laws of statistics decree that there must be crazy uncles, and history supplies some suggestive instances, but I think literature is mostly to blame for the Crazy Uncle idea. When an author needs a crazy family member, filial piety restrains him from using a parent, so it comes out as an uncle. I offer P. G. Wodehouse’s stories as evidence.
Obama Onyango doesn’t strike me as crazy. He’s an uncle, though: Barack Obama’s uncle—or to be punctilious about it, half-uncle (same grandfather, different grandmother). He also belongs to the category of persons the US government wishes to keep in, though I’m not sure they would go to the lengths of building a 2,000-mile fence for the purpose.