After the controversy over The New Yorker's mockingly racist cover of July 21 has faded away, we still will be asking ourselves how many gullible voters were affected by it.
I admit I was shocked after returning from Canada (and, no, not for a former draft-dodger convention) to find the magazine's cover cartoon jumping at me as I sorted through a week's pile of mail.
Barack Obama, whose campaign dubbed the drawing "tasteless and offensive," is shown in the Oval Office wearing a turban and other traditional Muslim clothes. His wife, Michelle, with a '60s black-power Afro, is fitted out in combat fatigues and carries an assault rifle over her shoulder.
The American flag burns in a fireplace, and over it is tacked a portrait of Osama bin Laden.
The Obamas are touching pumped fists, presumably after winning the election in November and moving into the White House in January.
I was shocked not by the message itself, because we've already heard too many racists and religious fanatics espouse their fear-mongering accusations about Obama's middle name and American loyalties. There's been plenty of such paranoid talk.
No, I was surprised and saddened to see a legitimate neo-liberal magazine feeding that paranoia. The drawing's intent obviously was satire, but the impact on many people will not be.
Imagine such a magazine cover in 1960 showing JFK and Jackie in the White House slapping high-fives with the pope and saying, ``Now, let them eat fish every Friday.''
One columnist has compared the drawing to the infamous covers of the magazine Der Sturmer, which spread Nazi racist anti-Semitic propaganda in 1920s and '30s Germany. You can't imagine such sickness having a major impact on a population _ but it occurred.
Of course, no one would question the right of The New Yorker to publish the Obama cover, but many observers have disputed the wisdom or morality of it _ for lending some credibility, perhaps, to the lies circulating in America about the Obamas.
In a small way, I can understand how it feels to be ``satirized'' as a Muslim radical.
It's no secret that I opposed the Iraq war before it began. About a year after the invasion, after having written several columns critical of the Bush administration and its lies and/or ignorance that sold the war to Americans, I found myself wearing a turban in a touched-up photo placed on a conservative website.
So there I was, my turbaned mug shot emblazoned on ``Sheik Cary'' placards being carried in a sea of frenzied Muslims.
Since hardly anyone visited that website, the owner apparently felt compelled to e-mail a copy of the photo to all the managers at this newspaper and all the vice presidents at our corporate offices. To no avail; most newspapers adhere to free-press and free-speech ideals.
What's interesting about The New Yorker drawing is that the Democrats are the most upset about it, while many Republicans (who likely don't support Obama) say, ``Hey, what's the problem? Where's your sense of humor?''
According to a Pew Research Center survey, about 65 percent of Democrats polled said they thought the drawing was inappropriate, compared to only about half the Republicans.
Then there's the South Carolina state senator who posted a photo of Obama and Osama bin Laden on his blog. They were wearing turbans, along with a line that says the difference between them is "a little B.S."
The image on state Sen. Kevin Bryant's website appears to be a photo of a T-shirt and the words "OBAMA" AND "OSAMA," with the "B'' and "S'' highlighted in red, according to The Associated Press.
Bryant told the AP he was tired of Bush being bashed all the time. He apparently doesn't understand the difference between a president being criticized for his policies and making jokes about a link between Obama and a Muslim terrorist.
It's easy to believe that voters are smart enough to see beyond all the satire and propaganda surrounding Obama's race and Arab middle name. But we also have to remember that not too long ago about half of Americans thought we invaded Iraq because Saddam was behind 9/11.
A friend of mine likes to point out that regardless of what all the political polls might show between now and November, when people enter the privacy of their voting booths on Election Day, too many are going to be thinking about race.
We can only hope that the Election Day logic does not go, ``Let's see, this candidate's white and that one's black.''
So, we also have to hope that the satire of The New Yorker cover and the racist jokes lent legitimacy by some politicians and evangelicals have the effect of enlightening voters rather than duping them. That surely was the intention of the magazine drawing.
People have had enough duping under the current administration. It's time for them to get beyond it.
Cary Brunswick is managing editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at 432-1000, ext. 217, or firstname.lastname@example.org.