“Yes it's the same...old song...”
Every once in a while, an odd, mystery stink descends on New York City. Sometimes it's the sickly sweet odor of maple syrup. Other times it's the acrid bite of burning hair. And then, there's the nauseating blanket of methane that comes from nowhere, haunts the place for a day and just as quickly is gone. But while those “mystery stinks” are here, they are pervasive. You can't hide from 'em. You duck into a bar—someone comes in with the smell hanging onto their clothing and plops down right next to you. Ugh. You're in your car, mind wandering as you drive, and a gust of the miasma shoots through the air vents—right into your face.
You can not escape it.
And right now, we're going through the media equivalent of one of those super-permeating, fetid clouds of “Bleeeeeaaah!”, as everywhere I turn, I see the near-catatonic visage of one (in-)Justice Clarence Thomas, droning in that monotone of his as he
flogs pimps shills sphincter-pushes his sad, little autobiography out; “My Grandfather's Son”—for all to...I guess, use to balance out that wobbly table in the back bedroom or something. He has been inescapable in the last few days, (as noted by Doc Wendel downpage) which is quite ironic, seeing as how he's spent the last 16 years of his unjustified elevation to power and prominence as a silent, chameleonic, gnome with nothing more to him than a rubber stamp in each hand—one reading “yes”, the other reading “no”. Seen only, like one of those European clock figures that emerges from a little door—on the hour—with his mallets to strike the chime, one mallet reading “yes”, the other reading “no”, and then toddling back into the clock behind a slamming door...as the world and time just goes on by.
Seeing Thomas rear his granite block-shaped (and countenanced) head everywhere all of a sudden is a peculiar thing. He's promoting this “book”, and is only now opening his mouth about anything worth a damn. The passages and his interviews smack of a certain triumphalism-cum-petulance. A great, big “Oh the hell progressives have put me through, but hey—it doesn't really bother me, because I'm a trailblazer, and look what I've accomplished.”
And when you look at what he's “accomplished”, you're there all day hunting...because in the end, what is there, really?
The book almost seems like a weird “alternate universe” item that appears from some sort of time/space wormhole where history turned out differently, like Hugh Hewitt's tome, “Painting The Map Red: The Fight To Create A Permanent Republican Majority”. It scans like a long-in-the-works, rah-rah piece gone sour, designed to celebrate the dedication of his latter-day followers along the path of Black neo-con idiocy. And just like Hewitt's onanistic tome, post-Thomas's contemporaries repeated self-immolations, it stands as an odd curio, like a dusty, prematurely-printed championship t-shirt for a team that would choke on it's incompetence.
See, Thomas was trotted out as one of the early, operational versions of the transistorized negro conserva-bot. His immediate forebear was the spark-sputtering prototype rolled out during the Reagan administration, Samuel Pierce. When his bigoted patrons tried to sell him as the sober-minded Black leader the “community” needed, said community clowned him so hard that the air filled with “Ha-has” like a Peanuts cartoon. Failing with him, the bosses went back to the dusky drawing board and crafted the Thomas iteration of said negro conserva-bot, wound his ass up, and set him stiffly walking among us.
The timing was perfect. We'd just lost Thurgood Marshall, and it was truly the “Age of the Buppie”, where post-college Blacks began to enter the corporate workforce in larger numbers than ever. Enough of that segment of the populace was blindered by the short-sighted, ”Black faces in high places” mindset, that opposition to Thomas on his considerable demerits by the rest of Black folks didn't take hold. That, and the backing by the disingenuous, hardest-right of the right on the committees in control of appointing him, snaked him on through.
And what a time that was!
White folks and Black folks will remember it differently from each other. Many Whites remember the political brinksmanship, and soap-opera-ish elements. Some focused on the tittilating sexual details of the brouhaha—while some racialized the sexual aspects along old-stereotypic lines. But Black folks for the most part, cringed all the way through—some wanting it to just end, and myopically saying “Just give it to the brother”, without wanting to look closely at whether Thomas wanted to be their brother in the first place. And a large number of us cringed for other reasons—namely for how the hearings “treated” us to a display of hot-house, conservative negritude. A parade of “Uncle Ruckuses” cultivated by GOP gardeners, who spliced seeds of greed, and cross-bred self-hatred, the lifetime hook-up, and “melanated” skin to give us those freaky negro hybrids we saw in those days. But these “Not Ready For Prime Time” negroes thought themselves to be natural occurences and reveled in their time in the spotlight of the hearings...unaware that they were wilting, shriveling, dropping leaves and practically composting before our very eyes.
Remember the laughable, self-important playa “John Doggett” who testified on Thomas's behalf, embarrassingly crowing about how he and his fellow Country-Clubbin' Yalie negroes were all that, and how they practically had to beat the “lay-tays” away with rolled-up Wall Street Journals, so it could only be the case that Anita was steppin' to his main man “C.T.”, right? Or the sweating, ill-wigged toady Phyllis Berry, who seemed to be crushing on her old boss Clarence pretty damned hard as she verbally fellated him during her catty, hissing testimony?
As Dave Chappelle said, “Ask a Black Dude”. He'll tell you what was goin' on then. Better yet, ask a group of Black folks about it, to really get a feel for the deal at that time. You'll hear minutiae on those hearings that the Koppels and Rathers simply couldn't grasp. Who was frontin'. Who got “caught out there’. You'll hear more than one say that those hearings were like the world having a picture-window view of the batshit wing of the family tree at a gathering, as they inappropriately flashed surgery scars, drank too damn much, and shook their asses while swinging from the chandelier.
It was...an embarrassment. For us—Black folks.
But for the conservative movement, Clarence's ascension was a watershed moment. He was the vanguard, the herald of the coming of the next evolutionary step in “Negrodom”. He was the ‘Professor Anti-Malcolm X” that would lead the new race of Black neo-con mutants into the future—“The Anti-Malcolm X-Men”, if you will. Gifted with special powers, they were—they fairly leaped at you, or rather, were thrown into our laps for us to figure out.
One hero was “The Bore”—a.k.a. Shelby Steele, blessed with the amazing power the render Black folks somnambulant with his droning tone and “Sigh! We do it to ourselves” tongue-clucking.
Then behold! “Corroso”, the acid-spitting creature—a.k.a. the late (as in career-dead), lamented Ken Hamblin, talk-radio's certifiable, self-hating, negro ranter. This clown may well have been the actual template for Aaron MacGruder's whacked-out “Uncle Ruckus”. That's how crazy he was.
And then there was the amazing “Press Clip Twins”—a.k.a. former GOP Reps. Gary Franks and J.C. Watts, whose powers were to inundate opponents with their considerable press clips about their being the lone Black GOP members of the House. Of course, their powers being paper-driven, like the same in a game of “rock-paper-scissors”, rendered them kind of one-dimensional and in the end, lame. They were the dogs you marveled at—not for walking on their hind legs well, but for doing so at all. What legacy they left rests at the bottom of history's dustbin. Under the bag.
But for a period of time there, you couldn't drop a biscuit off a table without hitting 10 Black conservatives on the floor waiting for crumbs from “the man”—and Clarence led the gobbling charge for the whole bunch. It was the first of many clarion-calls of “The Age of the Black Conservative!” Which was followed by “The New, Improved Age of the Black Conservative!”—which should not be confused with the “Supa-Dupa-Mega-Ultra Age of the Black Conservative!” that followed on it's oh-so sensible heels.
These ballyhooed “Ages of the Black Conservatives!” are the demographic equivalent of the “Age of the Jet Pack!” It's comin! It's comin! It's gonna be all the rage! And then, just like those haughty promises of the jet-pack—(we were all supposed to have 'em, right?) it never came. The dream fizzled. When you do see one—be it a jet-pack or an ascendant Black conservative, it's a rare thing indeed. But it's a show. A singular performance for a gathered few. It takes off, flies for a short distance, lands and then is done—with no practical application in the real world.
Clarence Thomas was the Republicans Black conservative “Jet-Pack”—a freaky contraption that seemed cool in practice, but in the end, led to nothing worth a damn.
He begat the reluctant, not-fully Kool-Aid pickled Colin Powell, and the wholly embarrassing Condoleeza Rice, whose trained expertise in Kremlinology left her as prepared for the future as a horse shoe-er opening shop just outside the Ford plant as the first Model T's started rolling off the line. I once called Rice “a joke” while with a group of well-to-do Black folks a couple of years back, and a woman took deep umbrage at my harsh opinion. I told her I could cite numerous things to buttress my statement, but opted to give her the singular example of how Rice allowed Israel's Ariel Sharon to diss and objectify her, by merely chuckling at his ogling her—the Secretary of State's—legs and his going on telling everybody who would listen about it. She let him diminish her stature with her willful consent. “Where was her self-respect? Her pride?” I asked. “That really happened?”, the woman asked sheepishly. “Maybe she...urrrgh! Wow. That really happened?”
Thomas then begat our Holy Trinity of negro electoral ineptitude from last year, too. “The Blather, the Dunce and the Unholy Boast”—Michael Steele, Lynn Swann and Ken Blackwell. They were the stars of the most recent sequel in the long running (but straight-to-VHS) series: “The Age of the Black Conservative IV—This Time IT'S PERSONAL!”, or Election '06, which bombed so God-awfully that it made “Meet The Deedles” look like “Titanic”.
Another launch pad failure, as Swann is probably ladling out water to Ben Roethlisberger and the squad during Wednesday drills, Steele one would assume is working at a Nabisco plant sweeping up Oreo crumbs, and Blackwell's on cart return at the Shaker Heights SteinMart.
Which brings us back to Clarence. The pissy, bitter Clarence making the rounds these last few days. I couldn't help but notice in all the interviews something discomfiting about Ol' “C.T”. It was his eyes. Cold, dead eyes that spoke of an either snuffed, or never-lit internal fire. I'd never noticed his eyes before, as the horn-rimmed Urkels he wore back in day obscured them. But as surely as “the eyes are the window to the soul”, I could see, or rather, not see the depth of Thomas's damage within.
This is a man who traded it all...his self-respect..his family's good will via his lying and trashing them as welfare cheats in his paid speeches to the GOP faithful, and respect from his people for working like a devil against them—everything—for what? A pat on the fucking head and the ultimate, lifetime civil service job.
Oh yes, and to stand tall in his position as “HNIC” over all the little Clarence-clones like Steele, Blackwell, and Swann that would follow in his wake and validate his tremendous sacrifice“ in service to “the cause”.
Good God, the irony!
All of this head-bowing to wonderful Grandpa in his book, and Clarence himself was to be a Paterfamilia of sorts to a brood of world-changing children of a sold-out tomorrow.
And that brood failed. Miserably. Sixteen years. Four terms. The GOP futurists predictions of melanin-powered “jet-packs” all over the skies petered out. Leaving the show-model only. Rusting. Dated. Capable now of barely making the shortest of hops. Hardly a thing of wonder anymore.
Not even a spark anymore—only smoke. Those cold, dead eyes again. And that “anger”—no, that bitterness. At what? A life wasted proving what exactly? A philosophy bankrupted. At a decade and a half's worth of grandkids who just didn't measure up—and never will?.
Never mind Grandfather's words hollowly echoing in Thomas's increasingly lonely,
golden tin years...it's the wild cackle of another “relative” that's gnawing at what's left of his soul. And if you listen closely, you can hear him—maniacally laughing in all of his pop-eyed, self-hating glory.
It's his inner “Uncle Ruckus”. And Clarence has finally realized that the joke—was on him all along.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
“Yes it's the same...old song...”