Sunday, February 6, 2011
Black professional athletes may still be a bunch of million dollar slaves, but Doug Williams was/is still THAT DUDE. I remember going to the barbershop that week and all the folks were still talking about Doug Williams' amazing performance. And not to be forgotten, this was still in a moment when respectable folks could publicly muse about the intellectual ability of black quarterbacks and their perceived lack of the acuity necessary to run a sophisticated NFL offense. How things change? (Or do they?)
Enjoy the game folks, I am more interested in the commercials than the teams playing (my beloved Pats done messed up again, but at least Tom Brady is the unanimous MVP...thank the fates that piece of human debris Michael Vick didn't get one vote from the press for that most high acknowledgment. There appears to be some little amount of justice in the world).
Have fun. Be safe.
Friday, February 4, 2011
One day, far in the future, I will write the book Pimpin' and Reconstruction: Reflections on African American Deviance and Resistance in the Post Civil War South.
Just a quick reminder of sorts, that Black History is made by real people, some heroic, others despicable, and many who are just content to stand by the sidelines of history. We are "blues people." But, black folk are also everyday people. For my dollar, the luxury to be the latter has always been the real goal of the Black Freedom Struggle.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
As I am learning, interviews for a popular audience are difficult to do because personality has to be balanced with communicating complex facts in a setting that is not generally amenable to a college or university lecture. Some folks can do this effortlessly (like Professor West) and other amazingly accomplished scholars not so well (see Professor Nell Irvin Painter's painful interview on the Colbert Report as an example).
I always pay close attention to the great performers of the pundit and intellectual classes. Why? One, I admire anyone who is a master of the craft. And two, many of the skills exhibited by the most engaging and incisive intellectuals who ply their craft in public life are transferable to the classroom. While many of us who make our living in the library and in front of students are indifferent to the art of teaching as a performance, for those of us who ponder such things a great interview is a gold mine of professional riches.
Brother West and Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson put on a master clinic in the art of the interview. While the complexities of Black History Month in the post-racial Age of Obama cannot be reduced to 20 minutes, both gave as good as they got and offered us a good many gems to improvise around.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Let's play this as a hybrid open thread of sorts...
The pundit classes are chattering away on the street-level events in Egypt. I choose to demure. For now, I am just sitting back and enjoying the ride so to speak as Mubarak and 30 plus years of U.S. policy get's shaken, rattled, and rolled. My thoughts on the uprising in Egypt are also more meta-level than policy oriented. I have been increasingly struck by the question of "who watches the watchers?" and how the American media is 1) framing the event and 2) how "experts" of questionable expertise are trotted out for their obligatory 30 seconds of analysis where they offer unqualified observations in the service of very narrow policy agendas.
On an existential level the crisis in Egypt is about politics. This is an observation to which a superficial reader would reply, "and so what?" But, the idea of "politics" and what constitutes "the political" is laden with assumptions (of culture, time period, and social location). By implication, these assumptions go uninterrogated and unreflected upon. Moreover, I would bet dollars to donuts that most Americans (and people elsewhere) could give you examples of things that are political, but would struggle with providing an actual definition of politics.
This is an important exercise if we are going to offer a critique of how the American media is covering the crisis in Egypt. For example, if one watches Fox News there is an implicit narrative that the protests in Egypt are an example of "abnormal politics." If one watches Al-Jazeera the frame is one where the protests are an ideal example of politics as action--regular people are fighting for their share of power against an oppressive State.
For folks in political science this is a basic debate--and one that can become quite heated. In the discipline there does exist a broad agreement on what constitutes politics. However, it is on the margins, in interdisciplinary spaces, and where questions of power, culture, and identity are at the forefront where the "politics" in political science can become very contentious.
A question then: Of this less than exhaustive list, which definition applies most directly to the events in Egypt?
Politics is about how societies negotiate the distribution of power, resources, and access to private and public goods;
Politics is essentially the study of power and authority;
Politics is about who gets what, when, how, and why;
Politics is the study of the large N: institutions, public opinion, mass behavior, and international relations.
Or is the Egyptian uprising an example of some other type of politics (or even a phenomenon entirely apart from Western notions of the idea)?
The floor is yours.
Monday, January 31, 2011
For those who write online (either as bloggers or freelancers) what are your greatest hits and misses? And how do you decide when an idea has gone stale and should best be left by the proverbial roadside of abandoned articles/books/chapters/and blog posts?
These questions speak to the problem of immediacy in the 21st and late 20th century news cycles. With the rise of the Internet, the primacy of soft news, and the death of print, the now is yesterday--attention spans have been shortened with deleterious consequences for the public and the role of the 4th Estate as gatekeeper and watchdog. Great articles often go neglected because they missed a narrow window of opportunity. Inversely, mediocre articles often receive an out-sized amount of attention because the timing was perfect.
In the spirit of sharing, here is one of my pieces from the archives. Last year I imagined "What if Sarah Palin were Black?" This post took on a life of its own. Like a friendly zombie, What if Sarah Palin were Black? has been born, died, and resurrected several times.
I wrote a follow up to that piece and never shared it. Why? Because while Sarah Palin is the gift that keeps on giving she 1) receives too much attention and 2) what was a fresh and novel idea can lose its special quality when one goes back to the well once too often.
But what the hell? Like a Director's cut of a DVD that restores footage that was perhaps best left on the editing room floor, here is the sequel to What if Sarah Palin were Black? Was this a good idea whose moment has past or is there still mileage to be gained from a counter-factual that attempts to expose the normativity of whiteness and white privilege through the lens of the Wasilla Wonder?
Sarah Palin is the queen of white conservative victimology. In the aftermath of The Arizona Massacre she has combined her unrepentant narcissism, egomania, and craven lust for media attention--and the money that it brings--into a parade of self-pity.
Not content to lay low, earlier this week Palin doubled down by appearing on Fox News where she further pleaded her case for martyrdom: a detour into bad political theater that would be funny if the bloodshed in Arizona were not so tragic.
Once more, and as has been true throughout her career, Sarah Palin’s mediocrity is rewarded without consequence. This is just one more example of white privilege in action: Palin’s actions do not blight her whole race; just like Jared Loughner's actions don't throw into question whether white men can be trusted with guns (compared to, say, attacks by Muslims, etc.). By extension, Palin's despicable behavior is in no way taken as a comment on white women as as a whole. In the United States, women of color are afforded no such luxury. They are marginalized both because of their gender and their race.
Ultimately, to be a member of a racial minority in a society where Whiteness is the norm is to be collectively linked to strangers. For example, when white men go crazy, commit acts of political violence, try to kill police because Glenn Beck told them to, behave irresponsibly, or act with poor judgment, it is neither a comment on Whiteness nor on white men as a group. No, it is the deed of one person--an individual who has the privilege of embracing the "I" as opposed to the "we" of collective blame and responsibility.
As W.E.B. Du Bois famously asked, "how does it feel to be a problem?" Because of the shield that is Whiteness, white folk--and Sarah Palin in particular--have rarely (if ever) had to ask that question. For a moment, we shall remedy that oversight. With Sarah Palin’s victimology parade in mind here is a thought experiment.
Just as Tim Wise did in his essay “What if the Tea Parties were Black?” let’s play a game of fill in the blanks.
I will start:
If Sarah Palin were black, Fox News would have demanded that the F.B.I. prosecute her for sedition and inciting political violence.
If Sarah Palin were black, the Right-wing would be calling for Black political leadership, as well as the Democratic Party, to both condemn her and renounce any future relationship with the former Governor from Alaska.
If Sarah Palin were black, she would be publicly denounced for being a vacuous, narcissistic, self-centered, "diva" that is not fit for public service and who cares more about her own fame and fortune than she does the common good or the victims of The Arizona Massacre.
If Sarah Palin were black, her behavior would be used as a launching point for discussing how Black leadership is in crisis. In fact, a major news network would air a whole series on how black women are failing their communities and how Palin is emblematic of a larger trend.
If Sarah Palin were black, the Right would be lambasting her for not embodying the Conservative principles of "personal responsibility."
If Sarah Palin were black, Glenn Beck would have already linked her to his imagined cabal and tradition of violence among "Progressive-Liberal-Socialists." On his blackboard there would direct links from Palin to Adolf Hitler, Chairman Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saul Alinsky, the Black Panther Party, Angela Davis, the Tides Foundation, The Symbionese Liberation Army, and The Weather Underground.
If Sarah Palin were black, Rush Limbaugh would have said that her behavior is one more example of how liberalism is a "mental illness," that liberals are a "cancer," and that progressives should be "destroyed."
If Sarah Palin were black, she would be persona non grata after The Arizona Massacre and run out of the public square on a rail.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Saturday Afternoon Thinking Project: Hagler Versus Hearns--"You Are Too Young For This Fight. Violence Like This Could Hurt Your Soul..."
As we do on some Saturdays, let's reflect on that sweetest of sweet sciences.
With all the dust-up regarding Amy Chua's "Tiger Mom" thesis on Chinese mothers and their "unique" parenting skills, I have been thinking about my formative years. My parents were not perfect (whose are?) Nevertheless, in my humble opinion they did a good deal right. Sometimes this was intentional (my dad telling me that you can have any woman you want if you make her realize how beautiful she is). Other times the life lesson was accidental and unintended (my mom waiting outside in the rain for 8 hours to see Return of the Jedi with me, simply because she promised to do so months before).
Ultimately, there is no universal manual for how to be a good parent. Doctor Spock may help some. But, advice about the aggregate does not necessarily help you raise your own kids given their own unique souls, personalities, needs, wants, dreams, and desires. As a qualifier, I do not have children. But if I have taken any of what I learned from my mom and dad (as well as those of my dearest friends), the lesson seems to be that you have to let folks find their own way--even while you guide them through ownership of their errors, misdeeds, and mistakes.
Thus, to the destination signaled to by the legendary Hagler-Hearns bout...
My dad was a funny guy. He left porn around the house for me to find because he was worried that I read too much and wasn't chasing the ladies enough. In fact, one of my fondest masturbatory memories was finding Black Tail in Prison Volume 6 on top of the VCR one Monday morning. By the way, the fight he had with my mom that evening regarding the corruption of my soul is a close second for my funniest memory of all time.
I was also allowed to read whatever I liked. Why? Because knowledge is power. Moreover, I could see whatever movie I wanted to as long as I gave my parents a report about its content. Likewise, there were no restrictions on what music I listened to as long as I could explain its aesthetic qualities--either positive or negative--to my parents.
I was also allowed to watch classic Eddie Murphy era Saturday Night Live. Lest we forget that before he sold out and made movies for the preteen set, Eddie was THAT dude. I will never forget coming into the den that evening while my parents were watching the legendary skit in which Eddie Murphy pitched over sized diaphragms in a faux infomercial. My mom yelled at me to go back to bed because the skit was too adult for me. My dad said, "let the boy stay, it's just sex."
Some months later I wandered to the den again. It was about midnight or so and the fight between Hagler and Hearns was on the TV (to this day I do not know how he got that next evening bootleg in an era well before pay-per-view). I was wide-eyed and excited. Wearing my GI JOE pajamas I sat down in the recliner and announced that I am going to make some of that old-school, cook on the range top, Jiffy Pop Popcorn and watch the fight.
Pops looked at me. He calmly (yet sternly) said, "You are too young for this fight. Violence like this could hurt your soul. If you watch this fight you will get old before you are ready."
I was annoyed and quite frankly pissed off. I could do whatever I wanted to, but I couldn't watch Hagler-Hearns? Give me a break! To a preteen who thought he was older than his years this was the worst of insults. Looking backwards from 2011 and watching the Hagler-Hearns fight with adult eyes I think my dad may have been right. Such is the wisdom of age.
You tell me: was pops right to shield a set of young and innocent eyes from the drama that was Hagler-Hearns? And how would you less than tiger moms and tiger dads have handled said situation?
Thursday, January 27, 2011
On the post "Howard Stern's Ownage of the "Sarah Palin Tea Party Battle Hymn," Thrasher wrote:
Yes I can define (racism) by inserting a number of conventional definitions However I always reserve the right to define reality from my personhood as a Black man in USA where the articulation of this offense does not have to shaped or fashioned using the paradigms of the ruling class (read white folks or those educated and influenced by the ruling class)..
When Black folks rely on the lexicon and tools of engagement defined by the ruling class than we engaged in making excuses for racists like Stearn and others.. Tragically for some of us Unless we insert and employ their (ruling class) verbiage or tools our concerns are not acknowledged or recognized. I reject such an approach especially when racism is on the table...
I have a few other readers' comments in the queue to bump up. But Thrasher's observations on the nature of racism caught my eye because in the Age of Obama they are quite prescient and lead to no small number of important questions.
One of my formative experiences in graduate school was attending a lecture by noted scholar James Cone of Martin and Malcolm in America fame. In that lecture, Cone mentioned how some of the most difficult students to work with on questions of racial inequality and white supremacy are black and brown folk. Because they often translate lived experience into a universal and generalizable data point, the move from the personal to the scholarly can be a bit rough.
Thrasher's comment brought me back to that moment. What is the definition of racism (or sexism, or homophobia, or any of the other assorted "isms" that are now part of common speak)? Who gets to decide? Is there one definition? Or are there many? Is "racist" as overused and misapplied a word as "misogynist?"
Moreover, we must necessarily tread towards realpolitik in these explorations: What is the relationship of one's definition of "racism" to power? For example, conservatives embrace an insincere colorblind politics where to even discuss the realities of racial inequality is somehow "racist." By comparison, there are many liberals and progressives who would assert that to in fact not have an open conversation about the realities of race is itself racist.
Like many of you, I can offer an academic, dense, and complicated definition of the concept. But, I am curious as to how you balance the point of view of the aggrieved (the politics of feeling and emotion) with the politics of detached intellectualism, positivism, and a belief in the merits of specific historicism.
And yes, I am being intentionally provocative.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
My Dark Twisted Fantasy: Barack Obama's State of the Union Speech Channels "America: Violent to the Bone"
Either way, the result would be grand sport and entertainment.
Listen to America: Violent to the Bone or read it at your leisure.
Question: In your personal alternate reality--one where Barack Obama is a man with cojones, heart, and true grit--what do you wish the President had said in the State of the Union address tonight?
Second question: Does President Obama understand that if you continually stand in the center of the road you are going to inevitably get hit?
Lots of people do die from the violence that America’s political system engenders, tens of thousands every year here at home, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, around the world. The U.S. is uniquely violent among the rich nations of the planet, and that is because of its fundamental political history and social and economic arrangements. American class and racial structures are not only the fruits of great historical crimes of horrific violence, they also require unending applications of violence in order to sustain the prevailing social and economic order.
Therefore, when those who have grown rich from organized violence, who are the same people who have made America, in Dr. Martin Luther King's words, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, today,” start talking about ratcheting down the rhetoric so as not to encourage violence, it is time for us to do the opposite. We must become fixated on violence, hyper-conscious of the violence that is inflicted on our own communities and on peoples and nations around the planet, by the people who benefit from what Dr. King called the triple evils: racism, militarism, and materialism. Put in other terms, that's white supremacy, U.S. imperialism, and rule of the rich.
Those who profit from the existence of the triple evils are the fountainheads of the great violence that afflicts our nation and world. It is no wonder that the most racist political organizations, like the Tea Party, are also the greatest fomenters of domestic violence. They are political heirs to the slave master, who could not have existed without daily application of the most extreme violence to the slave. The militaristic and imperial American state fosters a mass culture of violence that saturates the society at large, inculcating disrespect for human life in general and absolute contempt for the lives of non-Europeans the world over. And the values of the rich – most especially the Wall Streeters that exercise complete hegemony over the machinery of government and the communications apparatus – are those of the mass killer, because the rich few can only remain in power by being prepared to murder the many who have nothing.
So, by all means, let's examine violence in – and from – America. And then let's ratchet up the intensity of struggle against the real culprits who profit from a culture of violence.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Sometimes I just can't resist the sugar high that is The Wasilla Wonder.
Howard Stern's interview in Harlem with Barack Obama supporters is still my favorite demonstration of the dynamics of mass public opinion in America that I have ever witnessed. Stern's analysis of the song "Sarah Palin (Tea Party) Battle Hymn," is a close second. Here, Howard owns Palin with a commentary that sharply echos Richard Hofstadter's award winning book Anti-intellectualism in American Life.
Irony of ironies/random factoid: Did you know that The Battle Hymn of the Republic is actually based upon the abolitionist song John Brown's Body?
As I have said many a times here and elsewhere, Palin is the queen of a cult of mediocrity where stupidity is a clarion call under a Right-wing banner of false populism and "anti-elitism." Her supporters--as highlighted by the Sarah Palin Battle Hymn--are showing us who they always are and have been. Never forget: music speaks to a collective unconscious, a shared imaginary, and a common sense of symbols, signs, and meanings. We may be tempted to laugh at this homage to Palin, but it reveals the naked truth(s) of the worldview held by the New Right and aggrieved "real" Americans.
For your enjoyment, here are the Sarah Palin Battle Hymn's lyrics:
She's a cold blast from Alaska ingrained with common sense,
She's not a Harvard lawyer but she knew what the Founders meant.
A cold blast from the north that freezes Congress in their tracks,
With God and the Tea Party, she's gonna take it back.
Sarah Palin, she won't listen to their bunk,
Sarah Palin coming South to hunt some skunk,
Sarah Palin – she'll throw 'em all in jail,
And when she gets to Washington, it'll be cold as hell.
Sarah has the wisdom to walk through an open door,
She's stomping out the wretches where the evil lies in store.
She will scrub the floors and sweep the riff-raff into cracks,
With God and the Tea Party, she's gonna take it back.
Sarah Palin, she won't listen to their bunk,
Sarah Palin coming South to hunt some skunk,
Sarah Palin – she'll throw 'em all in jail,
And when she gets to Washington, it'll be cold as hell.
Congress pats themselves from some new bill they just passed
I watch as my freedom slowly runs through an hourglass
They think they spend our money better than we do
But they can talk until they're blue and old
'Cuz if they ever gave us anything
They always wanted something in return . . . Sarah knows!
Saraaaaah's marching onnnnnnnn onnnnnnnnnnnnnnn
I'd like to dedicate that to the Tea Party and all the patriots.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Reflections on the Use and Abuse of Eliminationist Speech: Do Conservatives Really Want to Kill Liberals and Progressives?
Something to think about for the weekend. And many, many questions.
The aftermath of The Arizona Massacre has sparked much discussion about political speech and its relationship to violence. For example, one of the phrases tossed about by the pundit classes as they try to make sense of Tea Bag John Bircherism and its relationship to the Right-wing echo chamber is "eliminationism": the idea that some members of the body politic ought to be destroyed or "eliminated."
These efforts to link Right-wing bloviating by the types of Beck, Limbaugh, and others to the concept of genocide is an intuitive and not too far leap of faith: on conservative radio, television, and websites, liberals are routinely called "cancers," "traitors," "mentally ill," or "a disease." Ultimately, the language of violence is a lingua franca of sorts among the leadership classes of the Right because 1) it works to unite them as a tribe; and 2) it leverages their authoritarian personalities for the purposes of partisan cheer-leading.
But, I have a few concerns and considerations...
Primarily, eliminationism speaks to the literal murder, destruction, and removal of whole peoples. And certainly, there is a violence of speech by the Right that is now so utterly common it is taken for granted. But, do we more responsible folks want to massage that observation into what is a historically specific concept that may or may not apply to the United States in the 21st century?
Moreover, in a country that has actually practiced eliminationism as both a matter of national policy (Manifest Destiny and the genocide of native peoples), and as an informal enforcer of America'r racial order (where pogroms against black Americans in such places as Tulsa and East St. Louis were not uncommon) do we want to abuse said idea in order to rebut the vitriol vomited forth by the Tea Party GOP?
These are open questions where the answers are dependent upon how one reads the intent underlying the eliminationist speech offered by the New Right Tea Party Republicans. Are Beck, Palin, et al. simply playing with words in order to marginalize and demonize their opposition, but in fact hold no actual intent of bodily harm?
Stated plainly: Is the new Right's hatred of liberals and progressives just a metaphor for something else?
Or is there a type of protofascism at work (as displayed by mainstream conservatism's fetish for Nazi-talk) in the rhetoric of the Right in which the real end goal is in fact the literal murder of their political opponents on the Left?
In the mainstream media's yearning for false equivalence where the rhetoric of Conservative and Liberals, Democrats and Republicans, somehow is imagined as relying equally on an appeal to violence, these questions are rarely asked. Let's remedy that oversight...if even for a weekend.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
For the record, We Are Respectable Negroes was playing with the "what if x group were black..." counter-factual long before it became so old school and tired (in fact, for a meta-level take on that question in the 2008 election check out our much overlooked "Nigarro Universe" series if you want to read something fresh that you may have missed out on the first time around). But given that memories don't live like people do, our new/old post is going around these Internets once again.
As folks who write professionally know, one of the fun (and at times disturbing) moments is when you see your work quoted or referenced. While it can be annoying when readers go postmodern and (re)read meaning into your work that was not intended, it is still--at least for me--par for the course. However, what I do find head-shaking is how readers, both ideological allies, but more often foes, attribute things to your personhood and character based on one data point/article/or blog post. That both makes my day because folks are paying attention, but it also makes me want to
Apparently, the good folks over at the Right-wing mainstay the Free Republic don't like me because I have been "mean" to Sarah Palin. But unlike George Bush, I am happy to be called a racist. In fact, I am going to say "Chauncey DeVega is a racist" three times a day to keep my teeth white (extra points if you get the joke).
But as always and once more I must ask the following: Why aren't good, smart, reasonable conservatives publicly embarrassed by Sarah Palin?
Is the tribal like support of her by the Right some ideological dingleberry of the authoritarian personality where Palin is like Hitler's lover Eva Braun, the idealized whiteness of femininity mated with the herrenvolk, fascist New Right Tea Bagger Conservative imagination? Please help a brother out in finding an answer.
[Random comment: Damn! I do impress myself sometimes: "Ideological dingleberry." I just pulled that out of the ether...or was that my behind? And wasn't that quotable as smooth as frontage and scissoring with a newly waxed Brazilian half-Indonesian Surinamese goddess on a pair of silk sheets covered in bubblewrap and bathed in baby oil? Be prepared. My jade stalk is now ready for sacred union with the most blessed yoni.]
The Vox Right-wing Populi must now be given their chance to speak. Thus, here are some choice reactions to my post "What if Sarah Palin were Black?"
1. People simply have to move beyond tribalism.
2. She would be a credit to blacks.
3. The website is called “We Are Respectable Negroes”? Good grief. The less said, the better. Maybe just, “Get a life!”
4. WOW..........What's that guy been wallowing in to make him so foul and bizarre? If what he was saying had any validity, why would he be saying it? After all, if Palin is so dumb, folksy, baby daddy'd, ignorant, unsophisticated, and not black, yellow, or red, then why waste the ink and narrow thought?
5. If Sarah Palin were black [or if she had a mixed-race husband] she... would have almost exactly the same support on FR. It’s only to the far left that race still matters. Conservative America doesn’t care.
6. Wow! What a racist bastard!
7. If Sarah Palin were black ... She never would have had to endure the massive invasion of her privacy, the daily calumnies, the insults to her intelligence, the questioing of her competence and attacks on the sincerity of her beliefs which she has had to endure every day since being selected as a vice-presidential nominee.
8. If Sarah were Black... she would NOT be reading articles written by a BIGOT named Chauncey.
9. Someone was very niggardly measuring out this guy’s intelligence.
10. Black and conservative? She’d be shat on even worse than she is now. Black and liberal? She’d be president right now.
11. Sarah Palin is also, last time I checked, a WOMAN. Not only is the Left racist, they are also misogynist.
12. **The website is called “We Are Respectable Negroes”?** Read a bunch of the comments after that article... after cleaning off the keyboard, I’ve come to one conclusion..If that’s the way they want to think... I want Nothing to do with any of them.
13. She does have a “mixed-race” husband: Todd (and therefore all of her children, as well) are part Eskimo.
14. Chauncey de Vega is a racist.
15. You must have had to look hard to dig up this obscure blogger who obviously has serious personal problems. I doubt anybody waits breathlessly to hear from him (yes, I looked Chauncey up and was surprised to discover that he was a him, not a her).
16. If Palin were Black and as circumspect as Obama and had Obama's team, she'd be president. She wouldn't need to be that much different than she is in her personal qualities. She'd just have to learn to make the noises the mainstream media wanted to hear and keep quiet the rest of the time and she'd be thought a genius. If Palin were a typical African-American politician, she'd find a constituency, but not get any further than, say, Congresswoman. Certainly, Palin's already shown that she has more on the ball than Maxine Waters or Sheila Jackson-Lee or Carol Moseley Braun or Eddie Bernice Johnson. But even a trashy blogger may hit on something once in a blue moon: If one likes Sarah and Bristol and feels for Bristol's problems, one would probably go easy on the Black illegitimacy thing, right? Say that these things happen in all kinds of families and not go out of one's way to stomp on that?
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
I do some great impressions. My personal favorites are Mick from the Rocky films and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Not content to rest on my past performances, I always try to innovate. For Mick, I push the limits and imagine that he could have cursed out Clubber Lang with the most racially, angry white (black) Irish bigotry infused speech possible. With Brother Martin, I alternate between an inflection that is one part car salesmen turned preacher, and one part preacher turned pimp.
Did I just offend?
I often share stories about the perils, mischievous joys, and unexpected ironies of being a black working class guy tasked with teaching classrooms of majority white students about the relationship between race, American politics and popular culture. As I once hinted at, and fellow traveler Gordon Gartrelle once alluded to in a comment some years back, I am no keeper of sacred flames or idyllic truths.
This speaks to both temperament (kid gloves are just not my style) and pedagogy (I do not believe that teachers should allow students to remain in the dark, laying with the other troglodytes in Plato's cave). On Dr. King's birthday my priors almost always inevitably lead to a moment of reflection where I ask the following question: Should we tell complicated, rich, and nuanced stories about a man who did great things? Or alternatively, ought we stick to the official script and tell a flat story that fits within America's mythology, one that offers a vision of King's life which is more appropriate for School House Rock than for a college classroom?
To that end, let's take a trip down memory lane. For those who have already taken this walk please enjoy it once again...as I never tell the same story the same way twice. For those new to the journey, please indulge me as I spin a tale.
As I have shared before in my not frequent writings on teaching, I have found myself in some interesting dilemmas. I have shown videos featuring Fleece Johnson and the Tossed Salad man when discussing The New Jim Crow and the prison industrial complex. I have also used Paul Mooney and Dave Chappelle to discuss the normativity of whiteness and how race is a social construct. Of course I love to deconstruct the unedited version of Nelly's legendary Tip Drill video when discussing gender, the black body, commercial hip hop, and the pornographic imagination.
While some colleagues and friends have enthusiastically suggested that I should put the comfort of students first, and to "meet them where they are," I reject said position. Why dilute a claim that can make for an exciting and intellectually productive exchange? And how better a way to improve one's skills as a teacher, scholar, and thinker, than to salvage what has on occasion become a metaphorical car wreck?
For me, Dr. King is not off limits. Nor is he safe from critical inquiry and demystification.
Some years ago my students and I were having an interesting exchange about mythologies of resistance and The Civil Rights Movement. There I offered a much simplified version of Dennis Chong's argument that the free rider problem is operative in a person's decision to participate in a mass movement (or not). There are numerous rational and self-interested reasons to opt out. Why did so many black folk (and their allies) choose not to? Conversely, why did the vast majority of African Americans choose to not publicly participate in the war against Jim Crow by taking to the streets?
Our exchange was productive until I named that which should not be named. As an example of a grossly oversimplified--and oftentimes flat-out wrong understanding of history--I pointed out how Rosa Parks was not a tired little old lady with hurt feet who decided to sit down on a bus, a moment from which the Civil Rights Movement magically sprung. She was a trained advocate, resister, and activist who chose to exercise real agency in a decision to stand against power. Moreover, Rosa Parks was not the only person to ever be arrested for "the crime" of refusing to sit in the back of a Jim Crow bus. In fact, she was chosen for this act of political theater precisely because of how she modeled black respectability.
Light match. A firestorm then erupted.
One young sister accused me of lying. When I showed her the relevant part of Eyes on the Prize she then become even more upset and proceeded to stomp out of the room to collect herself...all the while muttering that "I killed her heroes." A compatriot said, "that wasn't true, impossible! The Civil Rights Movement didn't happen that way!"
Not one to stop in the face of weakness, I pushed harder. I asked, "what do you know of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? What about Malcolm X? The Black Panthers? Angela Davis? Ida B. Wells-Barnett?" They recited their approved histories of great men, heroes and villains, and quotes taken out of context.
I probed, "what makes these people great? Were they perfect or imperfect? Were they like you and me, or were they otherworldly and divine? What practical lessons can we take from their struggles?" Surprised they looked at each other. I pushed harder: "What about Dr. King's womanizing and adulterous behavior, does this make him any less an important figure, any less monumental and courageous?"
Second explosion. Tears and more anger.
Curious, I asked a flummoxed student to explain the rage. He replied, "we aren't ready to know these things! A racist could hear what we are talking about and use it against Dr. King and black people!" I suggested that we ought not to limit our truth seeking because of what others may do, and that Dr. King as a figure, a 3 dimensional person, is made more complex, his radical Christianity and humanism made more complicated through an examination of the totality of his behavior--as opposed to the "official" Dr. King who is a two dimensional Civil Rights approved mummy or ventriloquist doll.
Ultimately I asked, "Should we not seek out complications in the world around us? Is that not why you are in college?"
Always one to push harder and turn the knife, I spoke plainly and asked, "Should it matter that Brother King was caught on tape mid-coitus moaning that "I am fucking for God!" and "I am not a negro tonight!"
More upsetness. More anger. And no small amount of shock.
On Dr. King's birthday I reflected on that day in the classroom. When not far removed from that moment by years and months I thought it was only youth and innocence which explained my students' inability to come to terms with certain truths, to complicate their stories and understandings of history. But in watching the ritualistic worship of Dr. King on Monday, my sense is that many adults, folks much older than their late teens or early twenties, would have responded in much the same way. Their words may have been different. But the sense that a hero was violated would have quite likely been the same.
This is not a sentiment which is confined to black folk. For some, the fetish object is a reverence for a childish, divinely inspired view of the Framers and the Constitution. For others, it is a pantheon of heroes of whatever ideological camp, political movement or people's struggle that they choose to identify with. Some have the myth of Reagan. While others have the myth of Martin. And more than a few tightly embrace Brother Malcolm.
I understand the need for true lies. I also understand the role of these true lies in a given community's myth of origin. But on a more basic level what explains the need of some for simple heroes? Am I so twisted and strange that the failings and complexities of those who do great deeds makes them more tangible to my eyes? That I am reminded that these heroes are real people who made choices...some for good and some for ill?
On this day after Dr. King's holiday I am curious: How do you like your heroes? On a pedestal too high for you to reach, or at eye level where they can inspire you directly?
Thursday, January 13, 2011
A Double Dose of Ugliness: Giving Voice to Sarah Palin's Know-nothing Brigades and The Tennessee Tea Parties Want to Whitewash the Constitution
Like clockwork, the reactionary Right-wing keeps it classy.
After my previous post on Sarah Palin's dog whistle use of the phrase "blood libel," I thought it only fair to give equal time to her supporters. As I tell my students, as folks try to work towards common solutions in the interest of the public good, we should treat the worldview and demands of the opposition with sincerity and honesty. Thus, we are obligated to let the Tea Party Populists New Age John Birth Right Wing reactionaries exercise full agency as they speak for their own issue positions.
In keeping with said commitment I offer you the above documentary. Right American Feeling Wronged is an insightful look at the bleeding heart of Palin's Know-nothing brigades. As a complementary piece of the puzzle, the following story details the struggle by the Tea Party and the New Right to "correct" the narrative that is U.S. history. Once more, the New Right shows us who they always have been. And one cannot help but smile when the White Soul displays its own unrepentant narcissism and myopic ugliness.
NASHVILLE — Members of Tennessee tea parties presented state legislators with five priorities for action Wednesday, including “rejecting” the federal health reform act, establishing an elected “chief litigator” for the state and “educating students the truth about America.”
About two dozen tea party activists held a news conference, then met with lawmakers individually to present their list of priorities and “demands” for the 2011 legislative session that opened Tuesday.
Regarding education, the material they distributed said, “Neglect and outright ill will have distorted the teaching of the history and character of the United States. We seek to compel the teaching of students in Tennessee the truth regarding the history of our nation and the nature of its government.”
That would include, the documents say, that “the Constitution created a Republic, not a Democracy.”
The material calls for lawmakers to amend state laws governing school curriculums, and for textbook selection criteria to say that “No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”
Fayette County attorney Hal Rounds, the group’s lead spokesman during the news conference, said the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another."
“The thing we need to focus on about the founders is that, given the social structure of their time, they were revolutionaries who brought liberty into a world where it hadn’t existed, to everybody — not all equally instantly — and it was their progress that we need to look at,” said Rounds, whose website identifies him as a Vietnam War veteran of the Air Force and FedEx retiree who became a lawyer in 1995.
The group also wants the state legislature to reject key provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 as “an insult to Constitutional principles.”
The activists also said they want legislators to either start the process of amending the state Constitution to provide for the popular election of the state attorney general or to create a separate position of solicitor general who is directly elected by voters and with much of the litigation authority now vested with the attorney general.
In Tennessee, the attorney general is appointed by the state Supreme Court. The group’s printed material says the attorney general has reflected “views of the U.S. Constitution that conflict with those of the people of Tennessee.” It specifically says the current attorney general, Robert Cooper, has rejected “the call of the people and the General Assembly” to join with other states in contesting the constitutionality of “federal mandates, including ‘Obamacare.’”
The priorities also include terminating state subsidies for unfunded or unconstitutional federal mandates, and “enforcing constitutional law.” Later Wednesday, the Tennessee Health Care Campaign said repealing the federal health reforms would mean repealing protections the law gives consumers against insurance companies.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
This has been a very exhausting week. For my dollar, I do not know if there is any better example of the concept of collective consciousness than the spent feelings that reasonable folk are likely experiencing in the aftermath of the attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
What has really tired me (on an almost existential level) is the utter predictability of the events that have followed The Arizona Massacre. Rather than reasoned self-reflection, thus far this week we have witnessed a Right-wing media offensive. In this reimagining of events, Conservatives are now the "real" victims: they are being punished by a speech code and "McCarthyism," and (where if Rush Limbaugh is to be believed) Barack Obama and the Democrats are actually the masterminds of the political violence in Arizona.
Committed to outdoing themselves, Glenn Beck and Fox News have now embraced Sarah Palin as the victim of a proverbial witch hunt. It would seem that the collective ugliness of contemporary Conservatism and its allies has rarely been so collectively ugly.
In a video on Facebook, Sarah Palin has added her obligatory exclamation mark to the fray. In a slickly produced, teleprompter-glaring video (you can see the reflection in Palin's glasses), she named herself a victim of "blood libel." I am not surprised by this appeal to white victimology and Conservative victimhood. These tactics are staples of the Conservative, Right-wing playbook and have been for decades. And as I have said elsewhere, Sarah Palin is the premier example of white privilege and the ways in which it rewards mediocrity--rarely has someone accomplished so much with so little...and no, I am not going to play the "What if Sarah Palin were black?" game again.
I am immediately struck by two aspects of Palin's speech. Primarily, her video is a strident example of pathological narcissism (frankly, to call Palin a media whore would be too kind). How she can justify her own status as a victim in the aftermath of The Arizona Massacre, where six are dead and many more wounded, is beyond the limits of my imagination. And here I will be transparent: I am unsure if my inability to process her egomania is a failure of my own political vision or is instead a deficit in my understanding the depths of her lusting for attention and power.
Second, Palin's use of the phrase "blood libel" has attracted a good deal of negative attention and condemnation by the pundit classes. Because of the anti-Semitic roots of the phrase, Palin has been criticized for being insensitive, both because Gabrielle Giffords is Jewish) and that the term blood libel is injurious and bigoted against those of said faith.
These condemnations are misplaced. Palin was in fact hinting that she too was martyred and harassed like the Jews of Old--persecuted and killed, driven out of town, home, country, and into a semi-permanent state of Diaspora. What are claims prima facie utterly absurd.
There is however an inside game to Palin's use of the phrase blood libel--and here is where I suggest that the attention should be more rightly focused. For her audience of Right-wing Populists and Christian Evangelicals and Dominionists, Palin's allusion to martyrdom is infused with biblical and eschatological undertones. In a game of projection she/they are persecuted. She/they are victims of a liberal conspiracy. And she/they are God's elect and chosen to lead this country to greatness against Barack Obama, the mainstream media, and the "liberal totalitarian Socialists." Those outside of the club cannot hear the dog whistle politics of the Tea Party GOP and its Christian conservative base. In much the same way that McCain-Palin's wicked Barack Obama as the anti-Christ ad went over (or is that under?) the radar of the secular mainstream, "blood libel" is landing its mark with her base.
Ultimately, this is the danger embodied by Sarah Palin. She has perfected a game of feigned innocence and stupidity. Her "little old innocent me" con job has been politically (and financially) profitable despite its injurious consequences for both the public good and body politic. I used to think Palin a fool, a crony of sorts who did not know she was being played by some greater power(s). Now, in the light of The Arizona Massacre and a long pattern of demagoguery, I see Palin for the true danger she represents: She is the center of a cult of personality, one that embodies a know-nothing, reactionary, New Right, White Conservatives as victims politics that at the nadir of American Empire may become the new normal.
Frighteningly, this brand of political ideology is incapable of peaceful disagreement and reasonable negotiations over matters of public concern.
It is not so much that Palin is the problem. No, it is Palin's blind base of supplicants that take her, Beck, and the reactionary Right-wing mission as a calling. The question then remains: How did America get here? And how the hell do we navigate our way out?
Monday, January 10, 2011
On The Arizona Massacre and Gabrielle Giffords: The Right Claims Innocence But Their Language Wars Began with Newt Gingrich and GOPAC
Politics is chess and not checkers. Of course, candidates and parties can go after one another. But, we should also be mindful of (as I am so fond so saying) how styles make fights. Clearly, and this is not a condemnation per se or even a criticism, the Republican Party has been masterful in using explicit and coded language in order to generate fear and anxiety on the part of its electoral base.
Research in social-psychology has repeatedly demonstrated how fear drives the Conservative, authoritarian personality type. Thus, it makes good sense that a Right leaning politician would both encourage an environment of political insecurity and rage, and then seek to benefit from it.
Evidence of this strategy is none too hard to find.
For example, here is an excerpt from New Gingrich's style guide that was circulated during the GOPAC meetings of the 1990s in which Republican candidates are counseled on how to best describe Democrats and liberals. Notice: many of the words and phrases are still in use by the Tea Party GOP today. And one must ask, what type of politics and politicians has this game plan spawned?
Language: A Key Mechanism of Control
As you know, one of the key points in the GOPAC tapes is that "language matters." In the video "We are a Majority," Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates we have heard a plaintive plea: "I wish I could speak like Newt."
That takes years of practice. But, we believe that you could have a significant impact on your campaign and the way you communicate if we help a little. That is why we have created this list of words and phrases.
This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media. The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used...
The list is divided into two sections: Optimistic Positive Governing words and phrases to help describe your vision for the future of your community (your message) and Contrasting words to help you clearly define the policies and record of your opponent and the Democratic party.
Contrasting WordsOften we search hard for words to define our opponents. Sometimes we are hesitant to use contrast. Remember that creating a difference helps you. These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast. Apply these to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
The Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords May Lead to a Momentary Pause in Right-wing Rage, But It is Encoded in Conservative DNA
I wonder if the folks who should be closely listening to Sheriff Dupnik's sage advice and wisdom will do so...
We are learning more details about The Arizona Massacre and Gabrielle Giffords' would be assassin Jared Loughner. For me, this is a difficult issue to write about because the factors leading to Saturday's shootings seem so utterly obvious. Given the Right-wing rage machine, the Conservative imagination's fetish for guns, and a bomb-throwing approach that mates a rhetoric of "real Americans" with a smearing of President Obama as a "Socialist" and a "tyrant," political violence of this scale was a matter of "when" and not "if."
Because of a reluctance to revisit already well-trotted territory, I may or may not post my essay on The Arizona Massacre. So much has been offered on the topic already--much of it far better than I could. To point, the following piece from the Guardian UK is a provocative exploration of the connections between the Arizona Massacre and the Right-wing political imagination.
It was instructive to read elected Republicans' official statements in response to the Gabrielle Giffords shooting for what they did not say. The House Speaker, John Boehner, said: "An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society. Our prayers are with congresswoman Giffords, her staff, all who were injured and their families. This is a sad day for our country." Arizona Senator John McCain issued the following: "I am horrified by the violent attack on representative Gabrielle Giffords and many other innocent people by a wicked person who has no sense of justice or compassion. I pray for Gabby and the other victims, and for the repose of the souls of the dead and comfort for their families. Whoever did this, whatever their reason, they are a disgrace to Arizona, this country and the human race."
All well and good, and I have no doubt every word is sincere. But you'll note that they are silent on the question of the violent rhetoric that emanates from the rightwing of American society. You don't have to believe that alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, is a card-carrying Tea Party member (he evidently is not) to see some kind of connection between that violent rhetoric and what happened in Arizona on Saturday.
Is he a nut? Of course he's a nut. By definition, anyone who shoots innocent people like that has a screw loose. But nuts come in many varieties. There are some who think Dick Cheney planned 9/11, others who believe the CIA has installed eavesdropping devices in their fillings, and still others who insist they're the reincarnation of Mary Queen of Scots. So what particular type of nut is Loughner? We don't have a full picture yet. But we have enough of one. His coherent ravings included the conviction that the constitution assured him that "you don't have to accept the federalist laws". He called a female classmate who had an abortion a "terrorist".
In sum, he had political ideas, which not everyone does. Many of them (not all, but most) were right wing. He went to considerable expense and trouble to shoot a high-profile Democrat, at point-blank range right through the brain. What else does one need to know? For anyone to attempt to insist that the violent rhetoric so regularly heard in this country had no likely effect on this young man is to enshroud oneself in dishonesty and denial.
I would like to report to you that my nation is in shock, and that we will work together to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. Alas, neither of these things is close to true. Of course an event like this is hard to believe in the moment; but in the context of our times, it's really not surprising at all. Last summer, a California man armed himself and set off for San Francisco with the express intent of killing liberals at a nonprofit foundation that had been pilloried by Glenn Beck and others. Only the lucky accident of his arrest en route for drunk driving prevented the mayhem then.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has documented more than two dozen killings by or arrests of rightwing extremists who intended to do serious political violence since 2008. One Tennessee man killed two worshippers at a liberal church, regretting only that he had not been able to ice the 100 liberals named by author Bernard Goldberg as those most responsible for destroying America. Giffords herself received threats after voting for the healthcare reform bill, and shots were fired through the window of her district office. An event like this has been coming for a long time.
As to the future, some things will change, at least for a while. Sarah Palin will be deeply diminished by this. Speaking about the now well-known cross-hairs imagery over the map of Giffords' congressional district on Palin's website, Giffords herself last year expressed concern about "consequences". Palin pooh-poohed this at the time. Her unctuous and hypocritical "prayer" for Giffords and the other victims will mollify only those who think she can do no wrong. But in general, this hastens that blessed day when we no longer have to pay attention to her self-serving lies and idiocies.
Republicans and even Tea Partiers will have the sense – again, for a while – to steer clear of directly gun-related rhetoric. We won't be hearing much in the near term about "second amendment remedies" and insurrection and so forth. But this will be temporary. Guns are simply too central to the mythology of the American right, as is the idea of liberty being wrested from tyrants only at gunpoint. For the American right to stop talking about armed insurrection would be like American liberals dropping the subjects of race and gender. It's too encoded in conservative DNA.
In addition, contemporary American conservatism has been utterly arrested by this ridiculous paranoid fantasy that our government is a tyranny. Here was Republican Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia, speaking in Washington last April on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing: "Fellow patriots, we have a lot of domestic enemies of the constitution, and they're right down the Mall, in the Congress of the United States – and right down Independence Avenue in the White House that belongs to us. It's not about my ability to hunt, which I love to do. It's not about the ability for me to protect my family and property against criminals, which we have the right to do. But it's all about us protecting ourselves from a tyrannical government." The year before, this same Broun singled out then-Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, as one such "domestic enemy of the constitution". He was re-elected last November with 67% of the vote.
This kind of rhetoric will go into hibernation now, but only for a bit. Because not only is it too central to rightwing mythology; it is central to Republican electoral strategy. This is one of those things that no one says, because it can't really and truly be proved forensically, but everyone knows. Get people to hate liberals. Get them to think not only that liberals have ideas for the country that are wrong – get them to believe that liberals despise the country and are actively attempting to hasten its demise. Say progressivism isn't just invalid or even dangerous, but "evil" and a "cancer," as Glenn Beck says. Fear gets people to the ballot box.
Direct responsibility for what happened Saturday? No. Mentally ill people are mentally ill. The Beatles weren't responsible for the messages that Charles Manson heard in their music. But there's a difference. Paul McCartney had no earthly reason to think that an innocent song about a fairground ride (Helter Skelter) would lead a man to commit barbarous acts of murder. Today's Republicans and conservative commentators, however, surely understand the fire they're playing with. But they do it, and a tragedy like Saturday's won't stop them, as long as they can maintain a phoney plausible deniability and as long as hate continues to pay dividends at the ballot box.
Whither Now American Exceptionalism: On the Attempted Political Assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and Its Parallels With Pakistan
So here is a Sunday thinking project for you all.
Back when Denis Leary was still a stand-up comedian, he had a funny yet sadly true bit about the fact that it's only the good ones that get assassinated. This morning, as I was reading a New York Times article about the sad killing of Pakistani politician Salman Taseer by a religious extremist, I lamented to my wife the bitter irony that it is always the voices of tolerance who are the assassinated by bigots.
How was I to know that a similar thing would happen on these shores later this very day? The shooting in Tuscon is proof positive that violent extremism knows no borders in these strange days. We like to think of the kind of political violence witnessed earlier this week in Pakistan to be something that happens elsewhere, something committed by the "other." Although the ideologies underlying the extremism in Pakistan and Arizona come from different sources (the Taliban and New World Order whackos hate each other), their unthinking, violent natures are very similar. Unfortunately, so are their consequences.
We should all be shocked and apalled, but not all that surprised. The recent rhetoric and actions of political extremists and politically motivated nutcases, almost exclusively on the radical Right, should have given us ample warning. Anyone remember the mob violence and racial slurs visited upon House Democrats when they voted on the health care bill? It fell down the memory hole, but someone actually showed up at a presidential event in Arizona with an AR-15. Or how about rhetoric like "don't retreat, reload" and "2nd Amendement remedies" that we've heard recently? Or the armed whacko who was going to kill people at the TIDES Foundation? For that matter, the sadly more "successful" crazy who shot up a Unitarian church because of its liberal views? Furthermore, I'm sure you'll recall that there is a popular demogogue on a national news network who continually likens progressives to a cancer on society to be eradicated.
Years ago this same man would have been ranting on a street corner, now he is only one of many fire-breathing hate mongers with a large and highly suggestive audience hanging on every blood-dripping word. Many people in this country attack Al-Jazeera and madrassas, claiming that they abet hatred and terrorism. Perhaps, to paraphrase a man that many of these same people claim to follow, we ought to pay attention to the beam in our own eye rather than the splinter in our neighbor's.
Friday, January 7, 2011
Pro-Slavery? Or Just Unapologetic? Glenn Beck Defends the Three-Fifths Clause of the U.S. Constitution
The Tea Party Glenn Beck Sarah Palin New Right's naive worshiping of
Yesterday the Tea Party GOP Congress sponsored a Right-wing politically convenient reading of the U.S. Constitution with all of the "inconvenient" and "naughty" parts omitted or politely glossed over. Glenn Beck (historian in residence at Fox News) had to set them right on their embarrassment motivated rewriting of history. Predictably, Beck did this by lecturing the Tea Party Republicans on the divine genius and perfection of the near deities known as "The Founders."
[Apparently, this cabal of historical superheroes--a bunch reasonable folk know as John Jay, Washington, Madison, Jefferson, et al.--can do no wrong. For Beck and the Tea Bagger crowd, this disparate collection of personalities were not real people, political pragmatists who committed deeds both ill and good in the interest of political expediency--interests and deeds both selfish and generous. Nope. Not here.]
Of course, instead of having an honest and transparent conversation about how the 3/5ths compromise empowered the South, reinforced their ability to preserve the slaveocracy through inflated representation in the Congress, and led to a Civil War, Beck instead indulges in a line of reasoning that does not pass the most simple tests of reasonable historiography and common sense.
Glenn Beck's misrepresentations point to a bigger play at hand. The Texas rewriting of U.S. history, the banning of "Ethnic Studies" programs in Arizona, the Neo-Secessionist movement, and the general politics of white victimology and racial resentment that are the beating heart of the Republican Tea Party, speak to an old and deep vein of anti-intellectualism in American public life. Symptomatically, as we work through history and its relationship to American politics, Beck and the New Right are possessed of a belief that all opinions are created equal, and that the historical record is simply a "social construct," a function of mere interpretation that can be massaged at will to fit the political demands of the day.
Question: Who would have thought that post-modern, New Times theory would have gone so amok?
We can only imagine the consequences of fiction and myth as the basis of a political movement that seeks to remake the very foundations of the social contract and American's constitutional republic.
I am not asking Glenn Beck to be the next Woodward, Williamson, Berlin, Franklin, Holt, or Hahn. Nor am I asking the Tea Party GOP brigands who carry around copies of the Constitution in their pockets as they play 18th Century America costume party to be especially sophisticated citizens.
All I ask is that Glenn Beck in playing the the role of pseudo-historian at least maintain a pretense to truth seeking behavior...be it ethical, moral, or philosophical.
Is this all too much to ask of a dilettante historian with an on knee, mouth open, and ears ready audience that takes what Beck utters as wisdom from on high, metaphorical rain come down from the mountain top? Or am I just being too hopeful?
A question for a our first poll of the year 2011: Is Glenn Beck ignorantly willful? Or is Glenn Beck willfully ignorant?