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Ashley Todd and Charles Stuart
Okay, so I am going to write about the election again.

Those of you who are following this as obsessively as I am probably already know all about Ashley Todd. For those of you who are more sane, Ashley Todd is a 20-year-old McCain campaign volunteer. On the 23rd, she claimed she had been mugged by a tall black man who, when he saw the McCain bumper sticker on her car, held her down and carved a B into her cheek. She confessed the next day that it had been a hoax.

The thing about this that makes me so angry isn't that she did this in the first place, or even that certain bloggers were reporting it as fact even as the Pittsburgh police were saying there were irregularities about the story that they were looking into.

No. What makes me really angry is that Obama supporters HAVE attacked McCain supporters, just like McCain supporters have attacked Obama supporters. But these reports aren't getting coverage, even from the kinds of big-name conservative bloggers who love to run these stories. Why did Ashley Todd's story, which so many people on both sides of the fence thought was suspicious, get so many people fired up?

And I can't think it was for any reason other than the fear issue. A big man in New York City gets pissed off at a McCain supporter, breaks her sign, and hits her in the face, and you say, "Wow, those angry New Yorkers and their anger management problems. He lost his temper big time." A door-to-door canvasser gets into a heated argument about ACORN in Wisconsin, and the homeowner grabs her by the hair and starts pounding her head, you say, "Wow. That guy's kind of unhinged."

A black mugger in Pennsylvania finishes his crime and deliberately returns to his victim, whose only crime was quietly proclaiming her support with a bumper sticker, and carves a letter into her face? Now all of a sudden the darkness gets scary again. People in comments start talking about the Obama thugocracy. One man posted furiously on a news site, crying liberal bias because they did not report that the criminal was black.

Because for a lot of these people, THAT was the message. Terrifying black man hates Republican. Terrifying sadistic black man cold-bloodedly mutilates young McCain supporter. It was a way to get people looking with fear at black men in their neighborhood again. I don't think John McCain wanted this to happen, but you know there were some people on his staff saying, "Finally! A new wedge we can use!" just like there were people on Obama's staff popping champagne corks when the phenomenal collapse of US financial markets gave Obama an in. This new attack, which allowed people to listen to their fears and prejudices again, probably looked like a godsend to people. One blogger I read said of Todd's confession, "McCain just can't catch a break." It would have been a tragedy and a horror, but a useful tragedy and horror.

For me, the supreme irony of this is that it happened on the 19-year anniversary of the murder of Carol Stuart. I don't know how many of you are familiar with Carol Stuart, but I grew up around Boston.

Carol Stuart was the pregnant wife of Charles Stuart, a Boston businessman. On their way home from childbirth classes, Charles Stuart alleged that he and his wife were attacked by a generic black man who forced his way into their car, robbed them, then shot Charles in the stomach and Carol in the head. Charles Stuart survived and called 911. Carol's baby was delivered by emergency C-section, but she died that night and her baby, who had seizures due to prenatal oxygen deprivation, followed her 17 days later when his father turned off his life support.

The hunt for the killer had some of the aspects of a witchhunt. Every black man on the streets was stopped and searched. Police were assaulting old women and trashing apartments in an attempt to find the killer. Finally, a man named Willie Bennett, arrested on other charges, emerged as a suspect, and Stuart picked him out of a lineup. They had their man.

Unfortuately, Stuart's brother, Matthew, later confessed that his brother had committed the crime. He'd been enlisted to help in what he was told was insurance fraud, that Carol had shot herself. With his help, they recovered the gun and "stolen" valuables. Charles' wound was self-inflicted.

Willie Bennett was off the hook. But the lives of many, many men had been disrupted by the witchhunt. An incredible amount of institutional racism had been exposed: no one thought to question the story. And now here we were, on the 19th anniversary of that, with a woman turning again, to point fingers at a generic "black man". And again, we see huge sections of the population willing to listen and believe, because it confirms the fears they don't like to say aloud.

God bless America.