Sunday, June 6, 2010

Who is "Bo Snerdley"?

I just finished An Army of One, the new Zev Chafets' biography of Rush Limbaugh. It was a very welcome birthday present from a very good friend (Thanks again Blue State Patriot!) and while it's no Life of Marlborough, it's a good, and quick, read for any of you who want to get to know "America's Anchorman" a little more intimately. I recommend it. I do, however, worry a bit about Mr. Chafets. He couldn't help but paint what is, overall, a quite favorable picture of Rush Limbaugh and I suspect his card-carrying liberal bona fides are in some jeapardy as a result. Oh well, the money he stands to make from the considerable sales will no doubt help ease the pain.

But this post is not about the new biography as such. Rather, it's about "Bo Snerdley", Limbaugh's long-time call screener. The man whose voice we rarely hear, but whose name we routinely do, mostly to play the role of silent straight man to whatever it is Rush is about to serve up to his listeners. If you didn't know it already, you will learn from the biography that "Bo Snerdley" is actually one James Golden. You will also learn, again, if you didn't already know it because Rush hardly ever mentions it, that James Golden is a black man.

In the course of the biography, Chafets tells his readers that at one point he challenged Rush with the fact that with respect to the issue of race in America, he might a have a blind spot. Apparently Rush gave the matter some thought, because the day after the challenge, he walked in on Chafets and Golden who were chatting and interrupted them with a direct question for his black call screener.
"James,...would it ever bother you to go to a school named George Washington or Thomas Jefferson because they were slave owners?"
Golden laughed, "Well, I can tell you that when I was in school, I was the one who stood up in English class and gave a speech about why the Black Panthers are needed."
Limbaugh looked befuddled. "But James, you're a conservative," he said.
"That's right, I am."
"You're an American patriot."
Golden nodded. "I am. Absolutely. But I don't celebrate the Fourth of July--that's not my Independence Day. That's white people's Independence Day."
This little anecdote stopped me in my tracks.

Don't misunderstand, as you gather from other parts of the biography, James Golden loves Rush Limbaugh and takes great personal exception to the charge of racism that is often leveled against him. But here a proud, unapologetic black conservative, who has doubtlessly suffered more than his fair share of "Uncle Tom" taunts for being such, not to mention for being so closely associated with Rush Limbaugh, still does not completley and comfortably identify with this country and its history. This saddened me.

But while I think I understand the sentiment (no blind spot here), I still can't agree with it. And not just because there is in this country no living memory of chattel slavery, nor will there be in the not too distant future any living memory of Jim Crow either.

Each year on the fourth of July, we celebrate the birth of this admittedly flawed, but still uniquely great and good country, this exceptional country. Our founding neither established the heinous practice of slavery, nor did it carry with it its future institution. Slavery was an already well-established, widely-practised, and broadly-tolerated institution at the time.

Rather, our founding brought with it the seeds of the end of this terrible trade in human flesh, the end of this noxious notion that one race is superior to another. To be sure, the seeds were slow to germinate, too slow, and the field took far too many years of cultivation in blood, toil, tears, and sweat to bear fruit. But bear fruit it did. And the fruit was sweet, sweet indeed. God be praised!

The fruit was so sweet, in fact, that when finally afforded both the liberty and the means to express their profound disappointment with this undeniably imperfect country, very few African-Americans chose to do so by leaving it. When they finally could, they did not return to the motherland of Africa. Perhaps it was too poor and too far. But neither did they leave for wealthy and neighboring Canada, a country which had to recommend itself no stain of slavery in its history. Not only did they not leave when they finally could, instead they proudly donned the country's uniforms and fought and died for it both here and overseas. Why?

They did not leave because they were not fools and because the fruit of America was sweet. They knew that inspite of its sins, sins against them directly, that this country was still exceptional. And what's more, they knew that it was by birthright their country too.

So, Bo Snerdley, this Fourth of July, join us, your fellow countrymen, "red and yellow, black and white", as we used to sing in Sunday School, and light a firecracker, will you? I know you want to. And when Old Glory passes and they play the Star Spangled Banner, shed a tear with us too. But then I suspect you already do.


  1. Was slavery a shameful part of our past? Of course it was! Unfortunately so many seem to forget that we did, in fact, bring slavery to an end. They also seem to forget that the black man in America has fared considerably better than the black man in most of the world. Anger at the white man over slavery… foolish can one be?

  2. From what I've been told (the history is a bit muddy) my ancestors arrived in the 1840s from Ireland and, while white, were not exactly "free" (as in "considered equal") for some time afterward. In some cases, blacks were actually more upwardly mobile before the Irish were, I'm led to understand. Despite that, I enjoy the 4th.

    Some folks need to get over the past. You're fully Americans NOW and that's all that counts. The only person limiting you is you. And Democrats.

  3. Maybe because slavery was abolished in England (1772) and in the British Empire (1834) before it was here? While not agreeing with the sentiment, I think I can understand it.