A few years ago, a gambling website offered odds on whether a particular Middle Eastern leader would be assassinated. The leader in question protested vigorously–with good reason–and the game was withdrawn.
Now a similar game is being played with one of the leading presidential candidates: Senator Obama. And the game is being played among his strongest voting block–the African-American community.The first time I heard it must have been two years ago. I got off a train on the South Side and headed for the McDonalds on 69th street. I was the only white person there of course, but I was cold and my feet were wet and I had another hour and a half bus ride ahead of me. Time for coffee. The conversation came from a well-dressed man and woman at a neighboring table, apparently acquaintances who had gone to the same university. The basic information was that an unexplained “they” were going to assassinate Obama. Because.
The meme doesn’t seem to be changing, just traveling around Chicago in that same basic form. Has it traveled elsewhere? The recent Onion video has some assassination hints in it, so it probably has. Is it an artifact from being compared with JFK? I certainly hope so. Obama certainly has some of the excitement surrounding his campaign that JFK and RFK had. It’s impossible to think of them without also remembering the tragic ending, so maybe comparing Obama with those historical figures brings to mind the rest of their stories. But why insist that their stories are the same as his story? And why the conspiracy theory?
Remember the self-fulfilling prophecy? It says the power of belief can be very strong. If people believe something will happen, they start to act in ways that make it possible or even likely for that thing to happen. Sort of like a placebo. Why does the African-American community want to bring down one of their own members? They may not be conscious of doing it, but bringing him down they are, by their unthinking speech. The Obama campaign is fond of pointing out that yes, words matter. It’s time to take this irresponsible piece of idle gossip and replace it with something else.