Tuesday, August 18, 2009

“Res-pect Mah Authori-taaaaaayyyyh!”

A Tale Of Bitchers, Birchers, and Birthers.

When the news broke about Dr. Henry Louis Gates' epiphanous detainment at the hands of Massachusetts' always fair Johnny Law, I had to kind of fight off some pre-conceived notions I'd had about ol' “Skip”. His nickname itself always rankled me, and many others as it fairly reeked of bourgie privilege and hard class distinction from the vast majority of Black Folks. It sounded like the moniker of someone prancing about a badminton court in Kennebunkport. The petit-mal knock-down / drag-outs between he and his considerably more proletariat counterpart in academia, Dr. Cornel West were always fun to watch—what with Gates' stiff formality and middle-of-the-road-ism versus West's “keep it real” hybrid of academic polish and “round-the-way”-speak. I found Dr. Gates tolerable at best, in that he did not espouse the Black Repug-think he seemed tracked for.

I fought off those notions out of fairness, and once I did and the facts of his arrest became fully known, it was in my mind the hard crystallization of an evil phenomenon people of color—particularly African Americans—contend with every damned day. The phenomenon of one having no rights that anyone who does not look like you has to respect. Further, that phenomenon allows for your very legitimacy to be questioned—your standing, your office, your personhood in general. We can at any given moment at the whim of a pissed-off person with bigotry in his or her heart be deemed a lesser being. Authority is automatically assumed by dint of skin color privilege—end of story.

In “arresting” Officer Crowley's case—knowing full well (after verification from Harvard itself that Gates was indeed the legal resident of the house) that whatever threat / possible misdeed / robbery was now null and void, he instead of choosing to maybe use some of the situation defusement skills allegedly taught at Police Academies, sought to continue the interaction and then end it on his own terms by goading Gates beyond his home's threshold, and then pettily arresting him for “disturbing the peace”

Crowley said of the run-up to the joke-ass arrest, in typical, ass-covering, stilted police report-ese...

“While I was led to believe that Gates was lawfully in the residence, I was quite surprised and confused with the behavior he exhibited toward me," Crowley said”

Moving me to say, “Um...you know what officer? You don''t get to arrest people because your dumb ass was confused. And if you're that easily confused—by the vocal displeasure of someone who had the right to be in his own home questioned, then Mistah Offisah, you are simply not bright enough to be allowed to carry a firearm about the state of fucking Massachusetts...or any state for that matter.” If Crowley was confused, then ladies and gentlemen, my Black ass is Edgar Winter.

If there was any confusion on his part, it was his being thrown by what appeared to be an elderly, bespectacled spook's not deferentially nodding and “Yassuh-ing” him out the door.

Aside from that, he knew exactly what he was doing.

You see, Dr. Gates was not just “sassing” Crowley by daring to question the merits of his intrusive presence in his home, but it was also the fact he (Gates) loudly said things alluding to lofty connections above the officer's station to where he could as a Black civilian, impact his life adversely.

That was Dr. Gates' biggest no-no.

Because he dared assume that his “place” in society trumped Crowley's twisted, but all-too-common sense of overarching privilege—borne of generations of White men with guns representing an extension of governmental authority—be they actually sanctioned, deputized or not. The sad dynamic in America is, that even the so-called “lowliest” of White folk can always pull the ultimate trump card of status...

“Hey...at least I ain't no n*gger.”

This unspoken piece of down-home Untouchable-ism is the great un-equalizer for us as a nation. It's the smack-down with four-hundred years of backswing behind it. There is an old joke, told amongst Black folk that hammers this home in a darkly comedic (“Chortle!!”) manner.

“When does a Black man turn into a n*gger?
As soon as he leaves the room.”

It's rough humor, but it speaks to the Gates issue, as well as tying up quite nicely a confluence of “issues” we see roiling the waters of the body politic. And at that confluence is a vehement and open hatred of what I will call “American Otherness”—in essence, if you do not look anywheres like the powder-wigged, silk legging-ed founding fathers in the old image of the signing of The Declaration Of Independence, your rights—and any authority you may have through an Alger-esque climb through the ranks, or election to office by the people can simply be denied by those who do resemble our rouge-cheeked founding fathers.

Here, some eight months into the first Presidential term ever served by someone who doesn't look like those folks, we as a country find ourselves besieged by a triad of ˚Killer Bs”—The Bitchers, The Birthers and the Birchers.

The situation with Henry Louis Gates is not something new, mind you. But it''s an example writ large of the wave we see sweeping this country's frustrated, fearful class (Dare we include a fourth group in the “Bs”—“Bitter-ers”? Yeah...who didn't see that coming a year ago?) who can feel the ground shifting beneath their hair-topped feet. Gates has long been a Black man of means—easy to dismiss for years by those for whom the safety of skin color privilege still gave a sense (albeit unjustified) of confidence that all would remain as it always has for them—all unspoken connections intact, the barely camouflaged pipelines to power unbroken. But the meteoric ascent of a Barack Obama cast Gates, a certified “F.O.B.” (“Friend Of Barack's”) in a different light. This negro one could once dismiss as a bow-tied, patrician, noir anomaly was now something else again in the new context of American power and the access to it. Gates is one of maybe...the ten most prominent college professors in this country. And you would think that in a small town like Cambridge, typical cop-knowledge would prevail. That knowledge being, “Know your local skells and swells” It's a thing that's endemic to law enforcement. Once Crowley knew (and he did know in short order) that Gates was not a “skell” but rather, a “swell”, instead of extending to him the usual treatment accorded folks of his station (Imagine Gates' peer and fellow Harvard Professor Lawrence Summers—being treated as Gates was...), a certain vengefulness won out. A punishment well above and beyond the so-called offending “deed” had to be meted out, and Crowley saw to that with his baiting and subsequent no-cause arrest of Dr. Gates.

Crowley did what he did, because he was angry at Gates' rank impertinence—based on who Gates was, and because he knew he could get away with denying Gates' legitimacy based on who he (Crowley) was thanks to 400-plus years of socio-racial stratification in America.

It was an Eric Cartman-esque “Res-pect Mah Authori-taaaaaayyyyh!” moment come to life. And just as laughable, nutty and venomous as the South park character's 2D television rant—save for...you know, the actual cuffing, ride downtown and booking in a Cambridge police station, that is.

But it was one of a few Cartman “moments” manifesting themselves lately—and all of them are rooted to the same petty, thorny seed.

Take note of the so-called “Birthers”, the lunatic fringe on the right (and to be fair, also partially on the “bitter” racist moderate Dem side we saw during the ugly end of the last Presidential primary season.) who claim against all evidence otherwise that the duly elected President of The United States, vetted like nobody before is some sort of “furriner” Pinko plant not born here in the U.S.A., but rather in some Moo-slim Madrassa hovel with...I dunno, Osama Bin Laden's bloody hand still treasuring his umbilical cord scissors. There again is that knee-jerk denial of legitimacy. “He is not my President!” “He does not COUNT!” It took the better part of about seven months for this crowd's minds to totally curdle into clumps of fully-set racist stupid, but curdle they did as the realization that “Oh Noez! It'z reallee troo! A fuggng chocolate-fayce iz prez and iz in charge uv Myyyyyyy Amurrrrrika!” hit home like the wave of nausea you get after the initial sharp pain of a drop kick to the gonads. Lou Dobbs, that paragon of choice xenophobic political battles to pick and win, hopped on this “American Otherness” bandwagon like it was the last copter out of Saigon and is riding it for all it's stupidly worth—which is pretty much just huzzahs and dittoes from the scrape-knuckled fucktards who flock to him post-their mid-afternoon Limbaugh-lovin' refractory period. And this dim band is ultimately personified by Major Stefan Cook, the doofus “soldier” who deigned to not fulfill his obligation to go to war (Note how no GOP politicos or pundits dared call this act of defiance un-American) because he did not recognize Barack Obama as President due to his um...“doubts” about the legitimacy of his American birth.

Note again how this is another grumpy, White dude in uniform, an ersatz authority figure (licensed to carry a weapon) directly challenging a Black dude well above his station—just 'cuz.

Smartly though, the powers that be let this clown-ass get away with this bit of insolence, as a loser like this would have been a battlefield liability to the Nth power and a literal risk to everyone within ten feet of him. But also note how he felt perfectly comfortable running that lame-ass game to duck a responsibility, deny legitimacy and yes, lamely assert that authority thing again. He had no problem standing before the world and not only denouncing the Commander-in-Chief (which is well within his rights), but also pretty much saying “This particular Commander-in-Chief holds no power I am bound to respect.” What could inspire such raw hubris in a fellow pledged to protect his country at the behest of its elected leader? I can guaran-damn-tee you he would never have pulled such a stunt with the previous President—a documented draft dodger himself, layabout, and noted non-carer for the military in his charge. A look at the data in terms of who believes in this silliness and from whence they mostly hail is damned telling. What then, is the radical difference between the two men—making one automatically legitimate and the other suspect?

Birther, please.

This is HATE, people. Not the fun, titter-worthy “Hateration” you see in the merely envious, but a roiling, corrosive, capital H-A-T-fucking-E that these people are having extreme trouble filtering into something that can be still be occasionally called civil only because they know to actuallly utter the “N”-word spring-loaded just behind their front teeth in their anger would give the game away totally. They bleat bits from their new talk-radio ingested manifestos with the same nutty fervor as their civil rights era-forged forebears—the conspiracy-addled kooks from the old John Birch Society. All those hoary old “Communist!” and “Socialist!” yelps we're hearing over this stuff is classic “Bircher” bitching. What with all the newfound media fellating of the sixties hepness in “Mad Men”, it's kind of ironic that today's nutbars we're seeing at these town halls are the socio-political descendants of that era's proud, political, actual “Madmen”.

Basically, classic sore loser-ism dressed up as a political belief system.

I've written here about what happened in New York when David Dinkins became the city's first (and only, and it will stay that way for quite some time, thankyouverymuch) Black mayor. A large number of residents of the city's whitest borough, Staten Island voted to secede (Yee-hah.). And the loser of that election, Rudy Giuliani took it upon himself to stage an anti-administration rally near City Hall. A rally populated almost exclusively with “bitter” members of the city's police force. He whipped that armed and drunken bunch of thousands into a frothing frenzy—cursing to beat the band, and they went ballistic, overrunning lower Manhattan and of course, denying the legitimacy of the elected government...particularly Dinkins and Black members of New York's City Council...

And that day near City Hall, was an example of that strategy—writ two-ton jelly doughnut large. At that time, the NYPD was far whiter than it is today—which is to say it was closer to 85% White than it's present-day "egalitarian" 65-70%. And Rudy's rally that day appealed specifically to that very White element. The NYPD chafed under a Black mayor from jump—especially since that election gave Black folks a feeling that for once, the department would be held accountable for its legendary racist excesses. And worse still, Dinkins pushed for a residency law for the NYPD—forcing the officers to actually live in the five boroughs where they worked. This was waving a red cape before a coffee-and-bear-claw-stuffed bull.

Via Reason Magazine:
Cops carried signs that said "Dump the Washroom Attendant," "Mayor, have you hugged your dealer today" and "Dinkins, We Know Your True-Color--Yellow Bellied." Drawings on their homemade posters depicted the mayor in a '60s Afro with giant lips, or engaged in kinky sex acts. They broke through police barricades and stormed the steps of City Hall, cheering "Take the Hall!" and banging on windows... They chanted "Rudy, Rudy," in thunderous rhythm, as he worked his way through the nearly all-white mob, beaming, backslapping, posing for photos, pumping his fist. WCBC-TV camerman John Haygood was called a n*gger. Una Clarke, a city councilwoman from Brooklyn, was stopped by an off-duty copy with a beer in his hand who said to his sidekick: "This n*gger says she's a member of the City Council."

Sound familiar?

Look now at the faces—flushed and spittle-flecked at these Health Care Town Halls. Take a good, long look at the so-called discourse. These people, like their helmet-haired GOP puppet-masters haven't the clue God gave a gnat about how to go about fixing health care. Their whole thing is about emptying the monkey cage of every gloppy turd at anyone who who tries to tend to the zoo. Where were these angry people during the eight years when their beloved Dubya hovered next to 'em, distracting by waving a war-blood stained right hand while they stood idly by as he left-hand filched every green piece of paper with a dead president on it from their pockets? When Denzel Washington's movie from '02, “John Q” came out—about the financially strapped father whose insurance would not cover his dying son's operation—where were these supremely upset people like the this year's unfortunate “Josephine The Plumber”, Katy Abram then? Telling everyone else who had a critical word to say during the Bush debacle years to “Shut Up And Sing”...that's what, if I recall correctly.

You almost want to chuckle at their response when the Black dude now in charge points out to them “Hey, you know how that dude was picking your pocket, right? I'm here to help.”

“Wha-what the hell are you lookin' at my pocket for, man? Thief! Thief!”

The chuckle urge falls away however when you read the reports about many of these yahoos showing up at these meetings toting guns, physically threatening people and spouting / sporting violence-filled rhetoric. We've come a long way from the winger-speak during the Clinton era of healthcare reform of “reducing government to the size where it can be dragged into the bathroom and drowned it in the bathtub”. That phraseology while violent wasn't as overtly aggressive. It smacked of a certain wonky benign-ness. The new “bitter” wingnut front line at these gatherings are a whole 'nother smoke. These aren't the “wonks”—those K Streeters lost out last November and have cannily ceded the grunt work to the whackjobs in their small but exceedingly dangerous base. Wannabe Mel Gibsons in “The Patriot” jiggling their musket balls while openly talking of feeding the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants and patriots. Drowning? They're about shanking, shelling, and shotgunning reform this time around. They have no problem whatsoever with playing the violence card with the people pushing the reform for its avatar, and again—challenging said avatar's authority with the unbridled happiness of their warm guns.

Warm guns...and getting hotter.

Experts who track hate groups across the U.S. are growing increasingly concerned over violent rhetoric targeted at President Obama, especially as the debate over health care intensifies and a pattern of threats emerges.

The Secret Service is investigating a Maryland man who held a sign reading “Death to Obama” and “Death to Michelle and her two stupid kids” outside a town hall meeting this week. And in New Hampshire, another man stood across the street from a Presidential town hall with his gun on full display.

Los Angeles police officers apprehended a man Thursday after a standoff with him inside a red Volkswagen Bug car in Westwood, CA – the latest disturbing case even though officials said the man had mental problems. Experts say a sharp growth in so-called militia groups that helped spawn a wave of domestic terrorism in the 1990s – and are now using YouTube, rock
music and the Internet to recruit members and spread hate and fear—shouldn't be ignored.

“It's certainly a scary time,” said former FBI agent Brad Garrett, now an ABC News consultant. Garrett said the Secret Service “cannot afford to pass on anyone,” and he believes “they really do fear that something could happen to [Obama].”

“Why yes, that is a gun in his pocket...and no, he's NOT glad to see you.”

What the hell changed for all these frothing fools abut the health care debate? Did someone suddenly cancel all their insurance? Evidently not—as evidenced by the brilliantines who exposed their something other than dissatisfaction with health care animus in these classic exchanges...

“I (President Obama)got a letter the other day from a woman. She said, 'I don't want government-run health care. I don't want socialized medicine. And don't touch my Medicare.'”

At a town hall meeting held by Rep. Robert Inglis (R-SC):

Someone reportedly told Inglis, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.” “I had to politely explain that, 'Actually, sir, your health care is being provided by the government,'” Inglis told the Post. “But he wasn't having any of it.”

Well, of course he wasn't having any of it, because these people who are in most instances more than okay are actually pissed off about something else entirely. What seems to be fueling this rage is a fear of the loss of authority—a changing of the guard. The idea that all that was—a system rooted in keeping one group ever up and one always down is no longer the case. The loss of absolute authority. There is a deep fear that should the Black dude manage to crack this tough nut (health care), then all bets are off on everything else. In other words, There'll be no keepin' 'em on the farm once they've tasted champagne in the big city”. The power paradigm shifts forever, and for those who've staked their futures (as most of their past achievements benefited from it as well) on the soft bigotry of a skewed system's benign continuance, it's very much a world-ender.

In the end, it seems it's always about dumb, grumpy clowns with guns and deep-seated authority / control issues.

And I'd love to be surprised about these crazies getting whipped up, but I just ain't. Forgive me.

There's a panic goin' on. A quiet riot in the minds of folks like Limbaugh and his drooling drones with their AM talk-radio i.v.'s on wide drip. Should things go the way they appear headed election-wise, you will hear talk of secession of this place and that from the United States, like New York's wingnut haven Staten Island wanted to do when the city dared elect a Black mayor. We already know Sarah and the rest of the “Whiter Shades of Palins” up north are down with that sort of lunacy. But most laughably, you will hear these poor, twisted souls cross up the talking points something fucking awful as their hate-fried synapses sputter and crackle wildly, like downed power lines on a wet street.

This is a thing that we (regular people beyond the media with a grasp on history taking place before MTV's “Real World”) have come to live with. Jaded? Not quite. Cautious? Yes indeed. Scared? That's what these bullies want to get their way and maintain an eternity's unfair status quo that benefits them. So, the answer is no.

But we will call these charlatans, rage-a-holics and paid disruptors out for what they are. Utah's Orrin Hatch, he of the most contrived-ly homogeneous state in the country rushed to work against the blowback his foot-stomping minions have stoked, defending them with gusto on Sunday, saying...

“the crowds are representative of people 'up in arms' over the plan.” He says the outrage is genuine.

And you know what? He's right. It is genuine—in the respect that they are not faking the feeling. It's as real as gravity. However, the stated impetus for said feeling being genuine? Ehhhh...not so much.

We know the deal. And they know that we know the deal. The game is to pretend like the deal is something else to those in a position to disseminate opinion to the masses in big, meaty chunks. The truth doesn't matter if the lie is what everyone is fixated upon. Thus, Officer Crowley's false confusion allowing him to force his will / cater to his whims in spite of the boundaries of the law...and thus the “Birthers” anecdote salad of “fact-ish” things to force their wills / cater to their whims in spite of an election that went wholly against their choice...and lastly, thus the Town Hall Terrors with their blind rage to the point of shutting down debate, forcing their wills / catering to their party masters' whims as to defeat an important and necessary policy and, annnnnnd, yes—damage a President we know a minute minority of them voted for—much less even considered. These are people for whom justice means—to flip the classic Richard Pryor line around—“Just Us”. And the holy, hot-ass hell with what anyone else feels about it.

Cartman's deranged screech had nothing to do with the acknowledgement of right and wrong. It had only to do with his own sense of fear, and loathing and insecurity.

Is it wrong to compare these flesh-and-blood people to a two-dimensional cartoon character?

Well...perhaps, so.

With that, I humbly extend my deepest apologies—to you, Mr. Eric Theodore Cartman—for deigning to compare the one-dimensional folk we're besieged with in reality to the much more emotionally complex and two-dimensional...you.

(P.S. For added fun, click on the Cartman mash-up up top and read just what's in his right hand. We do it because we love you all.—LowerManhattanite)