National Review: Somebody Help Them

buddhasoniaI don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The National Review wants to make fun of Sonia Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” remark, so they dress her up like a Buddhist monk? And make her look Asian? Let’s see, how many insulting stereotypes can be jammed into one picture?

I can’t see the details of Buddha Sonia’s right hand, but if her thumb and forefinger are touching, this is called the vitarka mudra. It represents teaching and discussion of the dharma.

Update: I agree with Matt Yglesias; this isn’t so much racist as deranged.

Update Saturday: Ann and Cara say the caricature reveals that to the National Review, there are two races — white and nonwhite. Could be.

I’m still befuddled that the National Reviewers chose an iconic image of a southeast Asian Buddha to represent “wisdom.” It’s something of a back-handed compliment, I suppose. However, since the intention of the cover image is to ridicule, are they saying there is something ridiculous about Buddhism? Wasn’t there an iconic image from western culture they could have used? They could have dressed her up as Justice holding the scales, for example.

Consider also if the National Reviewers had used Christian iconography to ridicule Sotomayor — dress her up as the Blessed Virgin, for example. How many nanoseconds would pass before William Donohue was all over mass media screaming about anti-Catholicism?

22 thoughts on “National Review: Somebody Help Them

  1. I’m not getting it. If they are making the statement that Sotomayor is ignorant because of her statement of the wisdom of Latina over White men, I think it’s lost on the majority of Americanos. If they’re trying to rip her for being different, that is what is most appealing about her. If she could converse on the dharma, all the better.

  2. Wow, the right wing is in such bad shape these days that they fail even at racism.

    I’m sure the right wing moron sites will shortly be mocking liberals for crying “RAAAAAAACIST!” That’s because they know it is racist, and they have no better answer than to pretend we’re overreacting. But it’s not overreacting, it’s the truth. The eyes alone give it away. Let me drive it home for you. It’s RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACIST. It’s racist, it’s racist, racist racist racist RACIST racistracist IT’S RACIST!

    It’s racist.

  3. Once in awhile I have an onion that doesn’t look from the outside to be past it’s prime until I peel away the outer layers & find a rotting, mushy core. Right wingers seem to be in a competition to sell the most useless onion.

  4. The problem is a subtle one. The trouble with Sotomayor’s comment is not that she claimed to be Latina, but that she claimed to be wise. But the truly wise tend to doubt their own wisdom; so maybe Sotomayor displayed overconfidence.

    But how does one depict overconfidence? Or wisdom? Ir true wisdom had a look, then every fool would adopt it; if fake wisdom had a look, then every fool would avoid it. Therefore images cannot capture wisdom.

    NR ran afoul of this problem. They could have posed her as The Thinker; but instead they gave a compliment/insult to Buddhism. You see, to National Review, Buddhism is exotic; and so is wisdom.

  5. That cover is an awesome pickup, as in bowling. The NR basically nailed a 7-10 split of ignorance: race and religion.

    And if I may add: “Jonah! Get off your critics… they can’t breathe!”

  6. “They could have posed her as The Thinker; but instead they gave a compliment/insult to Buddhism. You see, to National Review, Buddhism is exotic; and so is wisdom.”

    There’s no compliment here. It’s pure “Sotomayor spews a bunch of bullshit about how wise she is, just like those Buddhists who sit funny and say a bunch of stupid stuff and think they’re so smart.”

  7. I still don’t get it! Are they saying that people who think they are smart shouldn’t be judges? Are they suggesting that people different than white rich males are necessarily unwise? I think the point is they are uncomfortable with the changing nature of the country and the world. White men may not be the exclusive decision makers forever and they are scared!

  8. I think the point is they are uncomfortable with the changing nature of the country and the world.

    Nailed it.

  9. I think they are saying there are only two races: the National Review, and the non-completely-stupid. Though they might label them differently, of course.

    If I were to try to interpret, they are, in some way, trying to mock Sotomayor for having claimed any wisdom. (I presume because in the NR offices, Latinas are by definition lacking in same, or perhaps they think the whole concept of “wisdom” is a quaint and vaguely “liberal” idea, worthy of mockery itself.)

    Perhaps the idea of a non-white speaking about wisdom drove one of the editors to recall the last time he’d been exposed to such a thing, during a trip to Asia and lo, a cover was born. Maybe if they got out more their grab-bag of cultural referents would be larger, and not so insulting or stupid.

  10. I disagree that the editors tried to make her look Asian. The likeness is fairly good.
    Look at Ms. Sotomayer’s eyes. They do look like that and it’s an exotic look. So what.
    Furthermore…it’s not so bad to be known as “wise” …the Buddha image is one that’s wise. As an illustrator, I think it’s a good cartoon even though I hate their magazine…whereas Barry Blitt’s Obama as a Muslim was totally tone deaf though I love their magazine.

  11. The ‘wise latina’ comment has not ben discussed in contrast to the cultural melting pot America is supposed to be, at least in myth. Not until the 60’s & 70’s was the idea that a culture could deliberately stay intact(latina, black, chinese, native American, etc) and still be a valuable component of American society. Even in 2009 with ‘cultural diversity’ a byword, there is the hint that to be successful in America in government, if you are a minority, you have to be white inside. You have to be a ‘house nigger’, culturally.

    For years, Sotomayor has challenged the concept in speeches by saying, I’m Latina: I was born that way; I am STILL Latina, and I never sold out culturally. In fact, being a minority, being a woman, ADDS to what I can bring to service of this country.

    It seems to me that the audience(s) she’s delivered the message to have been minorties and students. Groups who can benefit from that message. The idea that you don’t have to sell out your cultural identity to succeed upsets those who fancy themselves keepers of the gate. Where people of color are being considered for positions of power, it’s a prerequisite they are white enough inside. Sotomayor does not even pretend to be.

  12. Although I’m sure NR didn’t intend it, their portrait of Sotomayor looks pretty wise to me – reinforcing what I already thought about her. I think only wingnuts get the supposed “humor” in this one.

  13. A wise Latino would discern that they are grasping at straws. But if they wanted to do a caricature that would leave no room for guess work…They should have portrayed Clarence Thomas dressed up as a pirate.

  14. I’ve seen many photos of Sotomayor, and you can’t convince me those eyes aren’t wildly exaggerated in order to look “Asian.”

    And sure, the Buddha image can be used as visual shorthand for “wisdom,” but it’s also sacred to a specific religion that is neither Ms. Sotomayor’s nor one that the NR ever acknowledges with any seriousness or depth. This image makes that pretty plain.

    Granted, this image isn’t a satirical misfire like Barry Blitt’s “terrorist Obamas” cover, but that’s because this image isn’t aiming for satire. It’s just ignorant.

  15. I agree the cover is racist and stupid. I do think it is a little silly however that one could complain that one particular religion or another is being made fun of. When organized group’s of people promote ways of thinking or ideals that profess some higher knowledge of the universe (religion), they are sort of asking to get made fun of in my opinion!

    The whole Wise Latina thing thing has been played out, most people see it is just red meat for racists.

  16. uncledad, if the NR and its readership were even-handed in their mockery of religious symbols, rather than being defensively pro-Christian and dismissive of any other religion, this image would be no big deal to me, either.

    It’s not the themes and memes of the various religions that bother me; it’s all the fighting between them. And in the lineup of which religions think they’re better than all the others, Buddhism would come in last or nearly last.

  17. To show her as “The Thinker” they would have to show her naked. That wouldn’t have been wise.

  18. joanr16, I agree! The infighting is the overall point of religion. It is the greatest form of crowd control ever devised, keep the factions fighting while those in power are free to exploit the anger, brilliant. I would agree that Buddhism seems to not really participate in the GOD wars.

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