A chastened Mark Williams has taken down his would-be satirical "Letter to Lincoln" that escalated this week's war of words between Tea Partiers and the NAACP, but the damage has been done. Readers will recall that TPs lashed out earlier this week when the NAACP approved a resolution calling on the reactionary movement to repudiate racists in their midst. In characteristic fashion, many TPs took the demand (the full official text of which is still forthcoming) as an accusation that all Tea Partiers, and the movement itself, were essentially racist. Williams, one of several self-appointed leaders or spokespersons for the movement, went on the offensive. He mockingly accused the NAACP of being racist itself because the C in its name stands for "Colored," a term no longer considered polite when describing blacks. The "Letter to Lincoln," in which Williams takes on the persona of an NAACP member asking the 16th President to rescind the Emancipation Proclamation, was his attempt at more substantial criticism. He edited and amended it several times before finally taking it down in response to both constructive and hostile criticism, which at least suggests that he meant to make a real point beyond insulting the civil rights movement.
The main point, for Williams, appears to be that dependence upon the welfare state is a functional if not moral equivalent of slavery. That comes through in some of the excerpts salvaged by a critical blogger (more complete versions of the letter in various stages no doubt exist elsewhere online). From the perspective of post-bailout populism, at least as represented by Williams, the welfare state is a perpetual bailout, and a bailout, of course, is an immoral thing. It's immoral, Williams implies, because truly free people have to "take consequences along with the rewards" of freedom. Social morality, in his view, depends on people suffering for their mistakes, though the extent of suffering he deems necessary or sufficient is left unclear.
More offensive, from the presumed perspective of a black reader, is Williams's attitude toward slavery. His fictional NAACP person describes the peculiar institution as "a great gig" that provided "three squares, room and board [and] all our decisions made by someone else." Since slavery, for Williams, is equivalent to welfare-dependence, each state of being is equally deviant from freedom, which he defines as "having to work for real" and "hav[ing] to compete for jobs." Williams shouldn't be surprised (or shouldn't have been, since I'm late to this subject) if someone interpreted this to mean that he thought slavery wasn't "real work." To me, it's interesting that Williams, attempting to parody the NAACP while affirming his own idea of freedom, manages to make freedom sound rather unappealing, little better than "every man for himself." Maybe that's his own tough-guy real-world idea of it, in which case it becomes more clear that the freedom he really values, since the freedom he describes is merely a perpetually uncertain struggle for survival, is the freedom from responsibility for his fellow citizens, which can only weigh down folks like him.
As Williams explains on his blog, he took down the parody letter in response to what he reads as sincere calls for dialogue from NAACP leaders. He warns that anyone who now continues to publicize the letter is getting in the way of "peace and progress," which is effectively an admission that the letter itself had gotten in the way of whatever peaceful dialogue he meant to encourage. He claims a sort of victory, however, asserting that by calling for dialogue the NAACP leaders "realize their error." At the same time, he hopes to mollify them by giving them part of what they wanted. "I reiterate what I and every tea partier have said repeatedly," he writes, " We denounce racists and any who seek to divide the American People along any lines." Notice the evasion, however; Williams still won't acknowledge that there are racists within the Tea Party movement, and actually makes the opposite claim -- "every tea partier ... denounces racists." The dialogue he anticipates with the NAACP ought to be really interesting.