From the Prologue, Ralph Ellison’s “The Invisible Man:”
I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; not am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you sometimes see in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they only see my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination — indeed, everything and anything except me.
Nor is my invisibility exactly a matter of a biomechanical accident to my epidermis. That invisibility to which I refer occurs because of a peculiar disposition of the eyes of those with whom I come in contact. A matter of the construction of their inner eyes, those eyes with which they look through their physical eyes upon reality. I am not complaining, nor am I protesting either. It is sometimes advantageous to be unseen, although it is most often rather wearing on the nerves. Then too, you’re constantly being bumped against by those of poor vision. Or again, you often doubt if you really exist. You wonder whether you aren’t simply a phantom in other people’s minds. Say, a figure in a nightmare which the sleeper tries with all his strength to destroy. It’s when you feel like this that, out of resentment, you begin to bump people back. And, let me confess, you feel that way most of the time. You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world, that you’re part of all the sound and anguish, and you strike out with your fists, you curse and swear to make them recognize you. And, alas, it’s seldom successful.
It wasn’t the chair that disturbed me, after watching Clint Eastwood’s cunning stunt a second, and then a third, time. It was Clint’s argument with the invisible man in the chair. Our invisible president, America’s first African-American president: Clint made me realize that, for some people — the people in that hall — the past sixty years haven’t been any progress at all. They still see nothing, or a figure out of a nightmare, bumping them back. Since 1952, or so.
Pundits and commentators were puzzled and baffled and flummoxed by the speech, and by The Chair. Twitter exploded with memes around The Chair.
But Clint managed to bring it home for the resentful folks in the hall, victimized by seeing their Tax Money go to The Other. Crumpling up their employment rejection letter. Afraid that universal health care might include the Wrong People.
The folks in the hall at the RNC loved every minute: Clint Eastwood arguing with The Invisible Man.
America’s Black President. The invisible man in the chair.
I Am A Man — ?
No, not really. Not to the folks at the RNC: you are not a man at all.