Tuesday, August 16, 2011

History's Echoes: Ruby Bridges Visits the White House vs. White Students Who Benefit From a Virginia School Desegration Scholarship

First, I would like to thank Ruby Bridges for her courage. She and others like her made America a better place. They are the shoulders upon which so many of us stand. Although I often lament the fact that regular people do often make history for the worst (see Right-wing populism), they also make history for the better as well.

The latter is why I hold those black folks and others in such low regard who could have made a difference in our time of struggle, but like the Herman Cains of the world, had better things to do and "didn't want any trouble." My contempt also extends to those individuals who have directly and indirectly benefited from the Civil Rights Movement, but who feel no affinity for black and brown people.

As I have been fond of saying as of late, history's echoes are indeed deep and long. Reflecting upon the Black Freedom Struggle and the work done to integrate America's schools by such pioneers as the Little Rock Nine, Ruby Bridges, James Meredith, and many others, I began to think about justice and how far this country has come on matters of racial inequality...and so far she has to go.

Ruby Bridges' trip to the White House is so poignant symbolically precisely because of how it seems to close the circle. Thinking people know the work is far from complete--American schools are as segregated (if not more so in some areas) as they were during Jim and Jane Crow--but the moment brings a nice warm fuzzy feeling to those prone to such things.

Ironically, those fuzzy feelings are also cousins to the flat history, and the twin lies of nostalgia and kumbaya colorblind America that have been thoroughly taken to task in the recent discussions of the white savior film The Help, a movie whose lessons on these matters are clear: racial inequality and the lived legacies of white supremacy in the present can just be solved by a big group hug, a good rewrite of history where all parties are made equally culpable, and by working really hard to avoid any conversations of responsibility or blame.

The language of racial justice is quite limited in the post-Civil Rights, American context. "Reparations" is verboten. While the very word itself is terrifying to a good swath of White America, and the idea that groups of people can petition for grievance, lost wages, wealth, and for some accounting of one of the greatest crimes in human history is well-established in International Law, to even utter "reparations" is deemed a sin that will exile one from the mainstream of American politics.

There is always a caveat: in experiments where the scenario is fictional (but a mirror for what happened in this country), and under which they could conceivably benefit, white Americans are in favor of reparations. But, the same white folks are repelled by the idea of reparations when it applies to Black Americans. Adding an additional complication, other groups in America have petitioned for a group redress of grievance with little protest.

Riddle me that one...

I have always suggested that it ain't about the money and never really has been: the most real and substantial obstacle to reparations is the very idea that White America owes a formal apology to black Americans. To do such a thing, the very act of saying, "I am sorry, we are responsible, and a crime was committed by Whites against Blacks in America" or "yes, whites have and continue to receive unearned advantages because of the color of their skin and the State aided and abetted this" is too much for many to countenance.

Whiteness allows white folks to selectively be a people without a history. Because they lack history, to be held accountable is anathema and unthinkable. In all, opposition to reparations has little to do about "principled" ideology or beliefs about what the State should or ought to do relative to different groups on matters of justice. There are simply too many exceptions made for the consistency rule to be in effect.

The other obstacle to rich and significant conversation about matters of race, justice, and compensation is that everyone is "black" in post-Civil Rights, multicultural, colorblind America. To talk about blackness as something historical and real, a social fact which impacts life chances, and is influenced by institutional structures, as opposed to a "lifestyle" choice mediated by the black culture industry and Multicultural Inc., is simply too "angry" and "un-pc" for the Age of Obama, what is a moment when to critically engage race is to be a "racist" who delights in playing the "race card."

Because Blackness is a commodity that is both sold and consumed, blacks art, black music, black culture, black letters, black genius, and black artistry are made accessible to all. In twenty-first century America, black suffering, black injustice, and black struggle are also products and experiences to be shared across the colorline.

Funny, everyone want to be black when it is convenient; but few ever want to be Black when it counts.

For some time, I have wanted to discuss the following story on how white folks in Virginia are benefiting from a scholarship for those harmed by school segregation and Jim Crow. Ruby Bridges' visit to the White House has provided the fulcrum to finally share it with you all.

I must ask: How did justice ever get so twisted?

Some of Virginia's Brown Versus Board College Grants Go to Whites

“Both black and white students lost an opportunity because of the state’s decision, and both deserve this aid,” said Brenda Edwards, who administers the Brown v. Board of Education Scholarships for the Virginia Division of Legislative Services. “White people hear Brown v. Board, and they think they’re not eligible. We’re trying to change that perception. . . . We want more people to get the education they missed out on years ago.”

Half a century after many Virginia public schools shut their doors rather than accept black students, the state is offering college scholarships to compensate those whose education suffered in the era of “massive resistance” to desegregation. Among the recipients: white students.

Since 2004, about 70 people have won the scholarships, including a handful of white Virginians whose schooling was disrupted in the late 1950s and early 1960s. A precise count of white scholarship recipients was unavailable, but the total is thought to be fewer than 10. Officials who oversee the state program say they want to spread the word to more white students who might be eligible.

Phyllis Archer, 57, a scholarship recipient who is black, said the push to include white students in the program is misguided. “This was the state’s chance to apologize for wrongdoing, not to award people who have never known racism,” Archer said.

June Jeffrey, 69, is also a scholarship recipient. She is a real estate agent who is studying English at Lord Fairfax Community College in Warrenton and is white.

In 1958, four years after the landmark Supreme Court ruling that found school segregation unconstitutional, Jeffrey’s high school in Warren County closed its doors.

While black students left the county or attended loosely organized classes in living rooms and church basements, Jeffrey’s school reestablished itself as the Warren County Education Foundation School, which enrolled only white students. It held classes in buildings across town, keeping the same teachers and paying them partly with public funds.

When a federal court ruled in February 1959 that Warren County schools must integrate, Jeffrey and most of her classmates remained at the all-white foundation school. But she said they lost access to facilities, counseling and the trappings of a traditional high school experience.

“We missed having a real senior year,” Jeffrey recalled. “We just wanted to finish up with our friends.”

Jeffrey detailed those experiences when she applied for the scholarship years later.

“I was just hoping that they wouldn’t ask me for a photo,” she said. She was never sure whether white students qualified.

Not only do they qualify, she later learned, but officials are traveling the state to inform residents — including white residents — of their eligibility. Former students whose public schools in Charlottesville, Norfolk, Prince Edward County or Warren County closed in the late ’50s and early ’60s are eligible.

The effort to recruit white applicants has reopened wounds from Virginia’s painful racial history.

Archer, who is working toward a degree in nonprofit management from the University of Richmond, said she wonders whether some scholarship recipients are from families that defended segregation. “That’s really unacceptable,” she said...

The story continues here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Now Introducing Michelle Bachmann the New Kielbasa Queen

I would buy that for a dollar.

Sometimes you just can't resist. The caption possibilities are endless, the jokes are easy given our good lady theocrat Michelle Bachmann's desire to always submit to her husband in all things, and we don't even have to mention professional homophobe Mr. Bachmann's "questionable" sexual identity.

But any chance to revisit the Kielbasa Queen on Howard Stern's classic Channel 9 TV show is worth taking:

An Epic Fail From the Peanut Gallery: Tea Party GOPers Defend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Honor When President Obama "Dares" to Channel His Memory

And now that King has his own memorial on the Mall I think that we forget when he was alive there was nobody who was more vilified, nobody who was more controversial, nobody who was more despairing at times. There was a decade that followed the great successes of Birmingham and Selma in which he was just struggling, fighting the good fight, and scorned, and many folks angry. But what he understood, what kept him going, was that the arc of moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. But it doesn’t bend on its own. It bends because all of us are putting our hand on the arc and we are bending it in that direction. And it takes time. And it’s hard work. And there are frustrations.

In a recent fund raising speech in New York the President evoked Dr. King and his prophetic vision. As with all matters related to Barack Obama some on the Right are using that moment to vilify the President. No surprise.

But, there are at least two interrelated issues that warrant exploration.

One, how do we locate President Obama relative to Dr. King? Given that the former is a corporatist and quite center Right in his politics, I would think the comparison on policy matters is a bit of a stretch.

Second, who "owns" Dr. King's legacy and vision? This one is a bit more complicated. On one of my favorite black garbage pail kids black conservative websites, we were having a little go around where the one and only Cobb, enabled by his white conservative feces slinging supplicants, wanted to suggest (as he often does) that the Right is "colorblind" and somehow Conservatism "gets" King's vision on race "correctly." Although I clearly disagree with the priors, Cobb did however hit on an interesting question: Why do some folks become almost apoplectic when Conservatives try to claim Dr. King?

I offer the following answer.

Overlooking the overt racism and racially resentful politics of the Tea Party GOP, as well as the tons of evidence from political psychologists and others that Conservatism is linked to authoritarian personality types, and thus racism is a natural outgrowth of those traits, a claim that contemporary Conservatives are invested in Dr. King's radical vision just strikes me as dishonest. He was vilified by the Right in his own lifetime. If Dr. King's vision on poverty, race, social justice, and health care were offered today, he would be driven out of the town square and tried in absentia by the Fox News Tea Party GOP cabal.

Because Dr. King is an American icon all parties want to own a piece of the action. That reality leads to an almost inexorable flattening and oversimplification of history where Conservatives can claim one part of the "I Have a Dream Speech" for example, to in turn argue against positions that King would have actually supported.

I typically want to dismiss such moves by Black Conservatives, Glenn Beck, and others as predictable and uninteresting. One cannot expect an ideology that in practice is prefaced on anti-intellectualism to be at all rigorous. Yet, in the Age of Obama those inversions of history have started to bear fruit. Thus, they must be treated more carefully.

The Right has with great skill moved moved the political terrain in their favor, shifted the language used to discuss politics and policy, created parallel sources of "information" from "think tanks" whose only purpose is to advance a far Right ideology (regardless of the facts or science on a policy issue), and created an alternate media and professional propaganda wing that subverts the role and responsibility of the Fourth Estate in a democracy. The sum effect of these elements is that the foot soldiers of the Tea Party GOP actually mistake thin, specious, politically oriented opinions for rock solid, concrete facts.

And as I argued here, because the Tea Party GOP and their faithful are ideological cultists on every almost issue from climate change, to the separation of church and state, to the economy, facts and reason are subverted by faith. In short, it is true because they say so. The mainstream media enables these delusions because they exist in a marketplace and cultural moment where all opinions, however ridiculous, are framed as being equal, and consequently worth reasonable discussion and attention.

The Right's response to Obama's speech on Dr. King is one more of those moments. As I often do, here is the peanut gallery in all of its glory. The mouth breathers of the Right defend King against Obama, and by doing so dishonor the former's memory, through their own twisted lens of history as it relates to the present.

Take special note of both their basic misunderstandings of history and fact, and the mental gymnastics needed to make it all cohere.


Chuck, a vet August 13, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Remember Dr. King very well.

First of all, he was an American and a Patriot! He did not want a socialist welfare state, nor did he substitute his loyalty to this Country for anti-American interests.

He was not a redistribution of wealth fanatic, but really wanted a level playing field. Most of all, his goal for all was a real policy of “a hand up”, not “a hand out”. Big difference.

For this guy to compare Dr King to himself is like throwing a rose into a pile of fertilizer. (Which is the only thing that was really “shovel ready” in this administration).

Dan August 13, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Obama is not even close to MLK. First and foremost MLK was willing to die for his beliefs, Obama can’t even make a decision that might result in him being a one term president.

Luke August 13, 2011 at 1:32 pm

How dare he compare himself to MLK, MLK gave people freedom and Obama is taking peoples freedom away.

JoeKidd August 13, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Americans are citizens of The UNITED States of America — not Obama’s divided states of America.

They belong to one race: The HUMAN race.

And under their skin, they bleed ONE color.

Now Obama may think he can get that color to run in the streets — he has been busy stirring his pot of Hate — but he’s wrong! You only separate colors when doing wash.

Hmm August 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Martin Luther King Jr was not known for hating the United States of America – try again, Mr. Obama. Martin Luther King Jr was not known for promoting divisiveness – try again, Mr. Obama. Martin Luther King Jr was not known for encouraging dependence on government handouts – strike three, you are out, Mr. Obama.

StopGovtBondage August 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Barry compares himself to a lot of important and successful people: Abe Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and now Martin Luther King Jr.

Thing is – Barack Obama has earned nothing – there are NO ACCOMPLISHMENTS…..his positions have either been Affirmative Action, or positions have been purchased or politicized….nothing has ever been based on merit.

And with the chip on his shoulder regarding successful people – Obama is now tearing the country apart with his class warfare……MLK – I think not.

wrongagain August 13, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Biggest difference would be everyone loved Dr. King. Dr. King worked to ensure everyone was judged based on the content of their character, not the color of their skin. You have decided skin color tells you all you need to know.

Susan August 13, 2011 at 11:19 am

All this talk of August vacations has me wondering. Do you ever take a vacation Keith? Love coming to your blog each day to get an unfiltered view of what is happening in DC, and you are always here. Thank you for what you do.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was also a Republican. He believed in non-violent resistance, just like us Tea party advocates. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” That is one of the quotes Obama had weaved into the oval office rug. It was actually Theodore Parker, an 1800′s abolitionist and not MLK who originally said those words. Too bad the progressives stole that quote and twisted its meaning. I’ll bet neither Theodore Parker nor MLK thought those words would one day be used to justify Obama’s version of social justice and redistribution of wealth.

srdem65 August 13, 2011 at 10:43 am

MrO should hang his head in shame to compare his travails to those of MLK or to imply that his agenda is the same as RevKing’s.
RevKing never once called his many opponents “enemies” or called for their punishment, he never ridiculed anyone to further himself, but instead, prayed for a day when all would be judged by their character, not the color of their skin.

12wlw12 August 13, 2011 at 2:50 pm

How dare that flea compare himself to Martin Luther King! He is no more than the dirt beneath King’s shoes!. We all shared King’s dream and prayed some day it would happen. Of course there are, and always will be, those with hate in their hearts, on both sides who will not give it up. But remember this, it was not only blacks marching with Rev. King. His dream was to bring America together.. Obama and his ilk have almost destroyed everything MLK stood and fought for… the unmetigated gall of that ‘person’ comparing himself to such a great man… He has no shame!!

Susan August 13, 2011 at 1:42 pm


pilgrimsjog August 13, 2011 at 2:33 pm

“I have a nightmare that one day the sons of former slaves will sit at the table of victimhood, screaming at the sons of former democrat slaver owners, under the big tent of the democrat, progressive, slave party. Cause there ain’t no party like a democrat slave party. Git yo victim on and git paid. That’s why we vote for ‘em! To git back wages for picking democrat cotton!

kitman3 August 13, 2011 at 2:38 pm

MLK was not a social justice advocate he believed in individual redemption not collective redemption.
Personal responsibility was his creed.
Progressives are so desperate to reelect our socialist-in-chief they will lie and distort MLK for their own use.
Progressivism = Totalitarianism
The “ONE” is DONE
The “O” has got to GO

Ron August 13, 2011 at 3:05 pm

MLK wanted a world where people were judged by the content of their character, and not by the color of their skin.

Obama, through his racist actions, and support of affirmative action, racial quotas and setasides, has proven that he wants to judge blacks based on the color of their skin, and NOT the content of their character.

What hasn’t Barak Hussein lied about?

Carl Spackler August 13, 2011 at 4:04 pm

what the H is the “arc of moral universe?” And is it ironic or fitting that his metaphor of morality is taking something straight and bending it?

jack prong August 13, 2011 at 4:03 pm

the only people who vilified dr. king were your fellow democrats, barack. dr. king was a card-carrying republican. your fellow democrats started and operated the ku klux klan from the civil war forward to today. dr. king did not lay down his life so guys like barack obama could peddle snake oil socialism. he died in a quest to get others recognized for their character and their individual rights not so you could start up a super-plantation in the united states called obamaville.

Johnny B Good August 13, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Dr King stood up against white racists and black racists and remains as a national hero to people of all skin color. BHO thinks that anyone who disagrees with him is automatically a racist. BHO and his mindless minions use racial fear like a teleprompter to accomplish their sad agenda.

marg1 August 13, 2011 at 1:39 pm

King calmed the stormy waters. Obama creates chaos everywhere he goes.

What an arrogant jerk obama is. Delusional, manipulative, and dangerous for the entire planet.

How ’bout them drones he’s playing war with? And doing it all on his own without Congressional approval. Congress should impeach him, and the Nobel Committee ought to be screaming to get their Peace Prize back.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hiding in Plain Sight: Racism's Role in the Tea Party GOP's Efforts to Destroy President Barack Obama and the U.S. Economy

A Standard & Poor’s director said for the first time Thursday that one reason the United States lost its triple-A credit rating was that several lawmakers expressed skepticism about the serious consequences of a credit default — a position put forth by some Republicans.
Without specifically mentioning Republicans, S&P senior director Joydeep Mukherji said the stability and effectiveness of American political institutions were undermined by the fact that “people in the political arena were even talking about a potential default,” Mukherji said.
“That a country even has such voices, albeit a minority, is something notable,” he added. “This kind of rhetoric is not common amongst AAA sovereigns.”
The statement seems likely to bolster one Democratic line of attack, that it was tea party intransigence — not a shortcoming of leadership by President Barack Obama — that is to blame for the U.S. downgrade, from AAA to AA+. Obama himself called on Republicans to “put country ahead of party” Thursday — a dig at conservatives in Congress who are blocking his agenda.
In black and white and from the horse's mouth.

For the first time in its history, the pristine AAA credit rating of the United States has been downgraded. Through the Great Depression and two world wars America was able to remain first among nations, a sure bet for investors, and the gold standard for following through on a promise that it would pay its debts in full, on time, and with interest. Apparently, the credit rating of the United States could survive all these perils, but not the tenure of its first Black President.

While deeply concerned by the federal government’s failure to resolve the long-term structural weaknesses in the economy, Standard & Poor’s was clear about what drove its auditors to lower the credit rating of the United States: the politics in Washington D.C. are dysfunctional and broken; and a mature and reasonable solution to the debt ceiling debate, one that grew out of normal politics and not economic terrorism, would have likely averted this most unfortunate, but wholly predictable, of outcomes.

As the pundit classes try to make sense of the debt ceiling-credit downgrade political drama, they are overlooking a central element in the Tea Party GOP’s almost mouth-frothing resistance President Barack Obama since his landslide election in 2008.

While the black blogosphere (and even Twitter) has been bubbling with this issue for some time, the mainstream media has been dancing around a fact which remains hidden in plain sight. Just as they did with their poor coverage of the Birther issue, and out of fear of a Conservative backlash, the mainstream media is loathe to speak truth to power and point out the obvious: racial hostility is one of the primary forces driving the opposition of the Tea Party GOP to President Obama. This has been evident during the debt ceiling debate and on policy matters across the board. To fail to understand this most basic of realities is to fail to understand American politics in the Age of Obama.

Having matured with the smear campaign against President Bill Clinton, Right-wing talk radio and Fox News have created an echo chamber in which ideological purity is the premier value: this dynamic has amplified the tensions between conservatives and the rest of the American people, and removed any possibility of finding a shared middle ground on issues of common concern. A normal politics of negotiation and compromise is imperiled because the terms of the debate are presented in dire, stark, and apocalyptic language.

As a result, extreme party polarization, when added to a political conversation in which the volume has been turned up way high by the Right-wing rage machine, has created a situation where the temptation to use racial appeals to destroy President Barack Obama is almost too great to resist.

In short, while extreme political ideology by the Right may be driving their stubbornness, and a cult-like belief in Free Market Fundamentalism demands tax cuts for the rich and austerity for the poor as the only solution to The Great Recession, the election of the country's first black president is a license to abandon all hold on the world of facts and reason.

There are several elements driving the Tea Party GOP’s efforts to “blacken” President Obama with the goal of limiting his ability to lead the country, and hobbling the Democratic Party at every turn.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Post-Debate Friday Right-Wing Theocracy Watch Mashup: Rick Perry's Prayers; Roger Ebert's Rebuttal; Kevin Phillips' Warning; and Frank Zappa's Ownage

One of the joys of all this tricknology is that you can clutter your pages with all sorts of videos, text, and music. I haven't fallen victim to that impulse in a few years, so please allow me to indulge myself today...

Sinclair Lewis famously wrote that "when fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." The unapologetic Christian Nationalism of the Tea Party GOP and its cadre of potential 2012 nominees, a crumbling economy, and a people hungry for existential meaning on a ship of state that feels rudderless and a bit nihilistic, are a nasty mix that could in fact lead us there.

The alarm has been sounded before, and will continue to be rung. To point: here are a few clear voices for us to consider and reflect upon as we work through America's inverted totalitarianism and slouching towards Christian Dominion Theocracy.

How could we forget Frank Zappa's broadside against the Christian Right when he owned their butts on national TV?

Kevin Phillips, historian, journalist, and political scientist, called it clear a few years back during the latter years of Bush the Junior's regime, that America would be brought down by a wicked combination of radical religion, imperial overstretch, debt, and energy dependence:

But my favorite of the bunch has to be the always humble and charming Roger Ebert. Just as the most high and fate took Muhammad Ali's physical gifts and his propensity for gab to teach a lesson about the Great One's other gifts, Ebert was robbed of his verbal powers of speech so that he would find a gifted pen and a "new" voice.

Good stuff from his Sunday essay "The Error of Political Prayer":

There are vertical prayers and horizontal prayers. Vertical prayers are directed heavenward. Horizontal prayers are directed sideways at others.

It fills me with misgivings when a possible Presidential candidate warms up by running a "prayer rally" in a Texas sports stadium.

A prayer "rally?" I can think of words like gathering and meeting that might more perfectly evoke the spirit. Prayer rallies make me think of pep rallies. Their purpose is to jack up the spirits of the home team and alarm the other side.

Of course the other side has its own pep rallies, presumably leaving it to God to choose sides. That is why team prayers before a game strike me as somewhere between silly and sacrilegious. No infinite being can possibly care if Illinois beats Michigan. No God worthy of the description intervenes in the drift of a field goal kick.

It is sometimes said America was founded as a Christian nation. It was specifically not founded as a Christian nation, or the nation of any other religion. The founding European settlers were refugees from Christian nations, and had experienced quite enough at the hands of state religions. The separation of church and state is central to our democracy. It is impossible to conceive of any of the Founding Fathers approving of prayer rallies in connection with political campaigns. That is equally true of Fathers who were Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, atheist, deist or agnostic.

The rally convened by Texas Gov. Rick Perry was, like many such meetings, a free concert featuring rock and C&W singers. If prayer and only prayer has been offered, the attendance, I suspect, would have been smaller. Its purpose was achieved not so much inside the stadium as outside--so that they could pray horizontally at us.

Such prayer strikes me as unseemly. Your religion is a matter between you and the god of your definition. The eagerness to convert outsiders strikes me as one of the aspects of a cult. I believe the low emphasis placed on conversion by Jews is admirable. If you want to become a Jew, you go to them. I believe religions should convert by attraction, not promotion. Respect for other beliefs, or the lack of beliefs, should be at the heart of religions.

The separation of Church and State has rarely seemed more threatened. Many political leaders seem opposed to it. Some would translate their religious beliefs into the law of the land. Candidates are being asked to sign a "pledges" designed primarily to embarrass those who do not sign them. A self-respecting candidate would explain that he will make his own pledges, for himself, by himself.

I have not taken a liberal or a conservative position. I have not spoken as a believer or a non-believer. What I've written is Civics 101. I wonder that no political leaders of either party have had the nerve to question the rally in Texas.

There are not two sides to the separation of Church and State. There is only this: They must be separated for the health of our democracy. Americans are of many faiths and none. Our laws must apply equally to all. If your God doesn't agree, does that mean He accepts instructions from you? Are you content with such a God?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Inconvenient Facts: The Whiteness of Memory in "The Help" Versus the Ugly Realities of Jim and Jane Crow America

Stockett’s novel presented a vision of segregation in service of a feel-good story, but the film version of The Help is even more distant from the virulence of American racism. Its villains, Junior League bigots who wear smart little suits to cover their scales, are so cartoonish that viewers won’t risk recognizing themselves or echoes of their behavior in them.
The heroines—a privileged, liberal, white Mississippi woman named Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone) and two black domestic workers, Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (a particularly good Octavia Spencer)—are much easier to identify with. The project that brings them together, a secret oral history of maids’ lives in Jackson, may spotlight the domestic side of racism.
But other than a mention of unenforced minimum-wage laws and a scene of the aftermath of Medgar Evers’ murder, the movie is disengaged with the public legal framework that let white women treat their white servants dreadfully in private. In The Help, whether you’re black or white, liberation’s just a matter of improving your self-esteem.
I took in a few movies yesterday and saw quite a few exuberant movie goers leaving The Help all excited and comparing the book to the film. There were middle aged and older black women who were pretty quiet and sat on a bench talking about the movie. I also saw a group of twenty and thirty something year old women full of giddy excitement as they enthusiastically mused about The Help's "transcendent," "empowering" themes and characters. I reserve judgment about The Help as I have not and will not see it: but after reading about the movie, talking to folks who have read the book, and listening to the trusted reviews of black women who called The Help "loathsome," I will take a pass.

Like Captain America: The First Avenger and X:Men: First Class, The Help appears to be one more data point in which the white washing of history and nostalgic memory are ways of dishonestly negotiating racial realities in post-Civil Rights, Age of Obama America. As always, and as I am so fond of saying, once more politics is popular culture and popular culture is politics.

Alyssa Rosenberg continues in The Atlantic with her sharp observation that:
Indeed, the movie, which necessarily sacrifices some character development in the name of space and speed, also conspicuously cuts out powerful illustrations of racial violence. While we get soft-hued flashbacks to Skeeter’s memories of Constantine, the black woman who raised her, there are no such flashbacks to the violent, unnecessary death of Aibileen’s son.
In another scene, Yule May, one of Minny and Aibileen’s friends, is arrested for stealing a ring from her employer. The shot shows white police manhandling and cuffing her, but when they swing at her head with a baton, the impact of the weapon against her skull is cut out of the frame. An incident of racial violence that illustrates the cost of the main villain’s quest for separate bathrooms for African-American servants is left out of the movie entirely. Even a notably gory miscarriage scene from the book is reduced to a blood-soaked nightgown and an artfully smeared bathroom floor visible only for a moment.
One way to deal with the “shitty things” in our past that Louis C.K. refers to is to downplay their existence and persistence; to cover them up in candy-colored dresses and the memorable sight of Allison Janney, as Skeeter’s mother, in a turban; to tell us that Medgar Evers was murdered but to show us John F. Kennedy’s funeral instead. The film’s timidity shows that we’re not even close to eliminating racism in America. While Skeeter may have Richard Wright’s Native Son and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird in her bedroom in Mississippi, The Help is a pastel ghost of those predecessors.
The Whiteness of memory involves a necessary a flattening of history. Often, in the white savior genre, black agency is made secondary to the opportunity of white folks to rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of history. While the Other is included, the White gaze necessitates the centrality of whiteness--and a reframing where the evils of white supremacy are a device for good white folks to show that white supremacy was an aberration and not the norm governing American social and political life. A sideshow in our own freedom struggle, Black people's agency is muted as a mere means to the ends of the recuperative project that is Whiteness in "colorblind" America.

In my conversations with folks, especially younger, "post-racial" United Colors of Benetton types, about the intersections of race, politics, social, political, and cultural life in America there is 1) a deep avoidance of the role of institutions/structures and the impact of power on their life chances; and 2) a misunderstanding of Jim and Jane Crow as something so long ago, and just an inconvenience that was overcome by a bunch of people marching with Dr. King.

As hinted at by some of the reviews of The Help, there is an avoidance of the true depth and evil of white supremacy in segregated America and how the colorline ordered life from the cradle to the grave--where one could buy clothes (or even if a black person could try them on before purchase), walk on a sidewalk, or be buried upon dying were governed by racialized law whose primary intent was the "preservation" of "social order" through the oppression of African Americans and the false elevation of Whites.

Moreover, the laws governing Jim and Jane Crow were signals to social custom, guidelines for day to day life practices, and a normative project for how the races ought to be situated relative to one another. In black and white, when presented in stark relief, they upset the fuzzy nostalgia of the flattened history offered by the white savior genre of popular films of which The Help is apparently part of.

For your consideration, some inconvenient examples of the Racial State in practice, most pointedly taken from laws governing some of the more common aspects of life in these United States:

Pool and Billiard Rooms It shall be unlawful for a negro and white person to play together or in company with each other at any game of pool or billiards.

Cohabitation Any negro man and white woman, or any white man and negro woman, who are not married to each other, who shall habitually live in and occupy in the nighttime the same room shall each be punished by imprisonment not exceeding twelve (12) months, or by fine not exceeding five hundred ($500.00) dollars.

Juvenile Delinquents There shall be separate buildings, not nearer than one fourth mile to each other, one for white boys and one for negro boys. White boys and negro boys shall not, in any manner, be associated together or worked together.

Mental Hospitals The Board of Control shall see that proper and distinct apartments are arranged for said patients, so that in no case shall Negroes and white persons be together.

Barbers No colored barber shall serve as a barber [to] white women or girls.

Burial The officer in charge shall not bury, or allow to be buried, any colored persons upon ground set apart or used for the burial of white persons.

Amateur Baseball It shall be unlawful for any amateur white baseball team to play baseball on any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of a playground devoted to the Negro race, and it shall be unlawful for any amateur colored baseball team to play baseball in any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of any playground devoted to the white race.

Circus Tickets All circuses, shows, and tent exhibitions, to which the attendance of...more than one race is invited or expected to attend shall provide for the convenience of its patrons not less than two ticket offices with individual ticket sellers, and not less than two entrances to the said performance, with individual ticket takers and receivers, and in the case of outside or tent performances, the said ticket offices shall not be less than twenty-five (25) feet apart.

The Blind The board of trustees shall...maintain a separate building...on separate ground for the admission, care, instruction, and support of all blind persons of the colored or black race.

Promotion of Equality Any person...who shall be guilty of printing, publishing or circulating printed, typewritten or written matter urging or presenting for public acceptance or general information, arguments or suggestions in favor of social equality or of intermarriage between whites and negroes, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to fine or not exceeding five hundred (500.00) dollars or imprisonment not exceeding six (6) months or both.

Fishing, Boating, and Bathing The [Conservation] Commission shall have the right to make segregation of the white and colored races as to the exercise of rights of fishing, boating and bathing.

Telephone Booths The Corporation Commission is hereby vested with power and authority to require telephone companies...to maintain separate booths for white and colored patrons when there is a demand for such separate booths. That the Corporation Commission shall determine the necessity for said separate booths only upon complaint of the people in the town and vicinity to be served after due hearing as now provided by law in other complaints filed with the Corporation Commission.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Why I Loathe The Tea Party GOP Brigands and How Sadly, Sometimes "Regular People" Do in Fact Make History

What democracy has brought us. Is this the face of excellence in responsible leadership and politics?

I had a moment of clarity while sitting in an airplane, reading, somewhere over flyover America the other day. As I have written about here and elsewhere, I find the Tea Party to be one of the most pernicious, dangerous, and disturbing elements in American political and social life. A few of us were sounding the alarm about their mischief when the tea baggers first emerged as a movement several years ago.

Some suggested that they were a flash in the pan, and should best be ignored. I hate being correct on such matters, but I rightly argued that the New Right is a symptom of a bigger malaise and a deep, existential crisis in American public and social life. The tea bagger's mischief making and brigand, economic terrorism during the debt ceiling fracas is their ejaculatory moment, one to be followed up by more blind groping and trouble making in the months to come.

Even while sounding the alarm, one should maintain perspective.

The bigotry and anti-intellectualism of the Tea Party GOP are centuries old. Bachmann Palin and crew are mere updates of the 19th century Know Nothings. Their evolution as 21st century John Birchers is old wine in a new bottle: the Tea Party GOP New Right alliance is just a festering boil on the ass of America, one that has long been there and occasionally needs to be lanced.

In reflection, I am also none too moved by their racism. Me and my tribe of Respectable Negroes are experts by necessity in the various flora and fauna of White Trash America. From the Southern redneck lynching tree Jim and Jane Crow variety of North Carolina, to the anti-busing, angry white ethnic rock throwing restrictive housing covenant signing PWT of Boston and Rhode Island, my kin folk have been fighting with and busting those skulls for generations. We give as good as we get.

Echoing James Baldwin's The Ways of White Folks, we have a gifted vision for seeing the Tea Party GOP for what they are, and thus can deal with them accordingly.

In all, it is the out sized influence and emergence of the Tea Party GOP at this key moment in the decline of American Empire which ultimately gives me pause. The use and abuse of the language of "patriotism" and a dishonest, although not new, manipulation of the icons and imagery of the Founding and American Exceptionalism are other signals that something is very and deeply wrong in this country.

Moreover, how the Tea Party GOP so casually rapes The Constitution is chilling. The Tea Party GOP's belief in their own radically democratic possibilities (where facts are inconvenient as the tea baggers are a top down organization and funded by the Koch brothers) and the reinforcement of this meme by the Right-wing propaganda machine is head-shaking in its effectiveness.

In sum, it is the synergy of these variables where the risk for all Americans of good conscience and the Common Good lies.

Don't get it twisted: I am all for the little guy. In fact, the politics of the subaltern and how regular folks find ways to fight Power has long animated my interest in race, popular culture, and American politics. Regular people can and do make history all of the time. Herein lies the danger of Right-wing populism: regular folks are often manipulated and tricked; false consciousness is real; and we do not all have the equal capacity, ability, or expertise to lead well...or even govern beyond our own narrow and petty self-interest.

To point, why I call (and will continue to do so) the Tea Party GOP a faction. They are the very definition of the Federalists' worries. Nothing more and nothing less.

As a qualifier, I do not believe that every freedman or runaway slave was a perfect person, that the foot soldiers in the Civil Rights Movement were motivated by purely selfless ends, nor do I suggest that the suffragettes at Seneca Falls, or labor organizers at Matewan and elsewhere were gods and not men. But, collectively they were on the Right side of history. By contrast, the Tea Party GOP is on the wrong side of history as they fight to destroy the social safety net in the interest of the very political and economic forces that have gutted the American middle class and ushered in a new Gilded Age.

Here is the crux. Most folks want to make history, to be something more than an anonymous name, or one of the unknown masses. This want has been refined and polished by the dream merchants on Madison Avenue and nurtured by the Facebook reality TV show culture of (very) late capitalism in 21st century America. In this world we can all be famous, even if we are in fact utterly mediocre.

The sale of products are secondary to the sale of lifestyles, emotions, sentimentality, and feelings. These frameworks have been skillfully applied to politics. Obama's "hope and change" was one side of that coin. The Tea Party GOP and their rage machine is the other. The lie of false equivalence cultivated by a 24 hour news cycle which elevates all opinions and beliefs to the level of reasonable discourse is the ether that the Right-wing echo chamber both lives in and is ultimately dependent upon for sustenance and circulation.

But, what if the little guy is not fit, nor prepared or trained to be more than that anonymous soul in the back of the crowd, finger raised, testing the winds to see which way he or she will go? What if he or she is working in the interest of Power as opposed to against it? What if this person, moved by the language of "democracy," "take our country back!" or some half digested treatise written in another time, by a man or woman long dead and now recycled by Glenn Beck, does not even realize that they are being gamed by the System?

Writer Martin Booth has a great observation that rings so true in these matters. From his book A Very Private Gentlemen, where the protagonist anti-hero observes that:
These were people who could not make the tiniest mark on history, could not affect their world--the village, the parish--no matter how they tried. The best they could hope for was to share vicariously in others' petty achievements. Their ambition was to be able to say, 'Him? I knew him when he bought The Glebe,' or 'Her? I was with with her when it happened,' or 'I saw the car skid, you know. There's still a hole in the hedge: a nasty corner: someone should do something about.' Yet they never did and if I were a betting man, prone to taking a gamble, I should wager tyres still squeal on the bend, doors dent of a frosty morning.
The New Right Tea Party GOP are these folks elevated to prominence and given just enough power to believe that they have the right and privilege to alter destinies and make history. Normal politics and good sense be damned by their jihad and yearnings for ideological purity.

Participation for participation sake in a democracy has never appealed to me. The rabble of the Tea Party GOP have fulfilled the prophetic worries of The Framers regarding the perils of mass democracy and have gummed up an already broken system.

Because the Tea Party brigands play with concepts and ideologies they have little understanding of in either the macro-historical sense (e.g. a government's budget should be run like a household...or a pizza company), as a practical matter grounded in reality (there will be no real consequences for a debt default and this controversy is inconsequential political theater), or that can go beyond shallow talking points and Right-wing memes ("job creators" or "cut, cap, and balance"), no good can come of them, except as a barometer for the existential crisis the United States is experiencing as her position in the world is challenged and reevaluated.

The Tea Party GOP fancies themselves the heroes in the debt ceiling debate and free of responsibility for the financial storm their economic terrorism and hostage taking directly helped to unleash on the American people. In reality, they are villains. And like most villains, the Tea Party GOP imagines that they are good and noble, and maybe just a little understood. Sadly, we will all pay for the Tea Party GOP's little exercise in dysfunctional democracy, as they prove once more that the lumpen rabble are often best left to the footnotes, a sideshow in history.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

For Ghetto Nerds and Military Grognards: Seal Team Six Shootdown Military Roundup

My sympathies go out to the families of the servicemen killed in Afghanistan over the weekend. As I occasionally do with military issues, here is a good roundup of some of the stories related to the topic that I have found useful and/or of interest.

1. Sebastian Junger's above interview with CNN was one of the few dialogues on the topic that did not veer into histrionics ("My God! How could a helicopter in a war zone with our super soldiers on board actually get shot down!"), overreach sensationalism ("This event is a referendum of the whole Afghan war and every strategy therein"), partisanship (more proof that Obama sucks), or high tech war porn navel gazing by Monday morning quarterbacks ("Incompetents! I would have done xyz as opposed to abc").

Junger offers a key insight: what's going on in country where the strength of the insurgency is apparently so great that elite infantry, i.e. Rangers can be overwhelmed and need emergency relief from a backup force?

2. The Seals are getting all of the shine since the kill mission on Bin Laden. The media forgets that the Joint Special Operations Command consists of units from across the military. The families of the Air Force Combat Controllers, and the helicopter pilots and crew of the CH-47 (who were not members of the famed Nightstalkers as was previously reported), as well as the Afghans on board should also be acknowledged for their loss. And we had best not forget the military working dog, a four legged friend that lived to serve, who was also killed in the line of duty on Saturday.

3. The shoot down was apparently part of a "missile trap" of sorts, a coordinated effort by an insurgency that knows how to work PR. Don't forget that Al-Qaeda has been teaching its franchisees the RPG shoot down a helicopter trick for sometime, going at least back to Somalia.

4. Seal Team Six is a small group within a very tight community of special operators. This loss will impact recruitment, training, and promotion. If the numbers are accurate, Seal Team 6 lost at least 10 percent of its personnel in one incident. One hell of a hit by any count.

5. The special forces are quiet operators. I wonder how they and their families feel about all of this attention? This report from NPR explores the relative surprise felt by outsiders to that community's routine, day by day approach to the human losses that inevitably come from action in the line of duty.

6. Context: the late night raid which Seal Team Six was providing backup for is part of a highly secretive "Kill/Capture" program in which thousands of such missions have been completed in recent years.

Here is some great coverage of the program courtesy of Frontline.

7. In the classic Star Trek episode "Space Seed" Kirk and crew reflect back on the latter part of the 1990s, the era of World War 3 and The Eugenics Wars. Although, the Trek universe has retconned those events, i.e. tried to explain how said events did but also did not happen as originally recorded, with the Global War on Terror and U.S. special forces operating in at least 120 countries, was Star Trek onto something? When historians look back on these decades will they refer to them as World War 3? How will historians and political scientists frame the deepening ties between the CIA and the Department of Defense where the leadership of both agencies exchanged roles with one another a few months back?

8. This is a bonus. C.J. Chivers is a war correspondent whose book The Gun on the history of the AK-47 is just a great exploration of how one piece of material culture can be a lens through which to view the history(ies) of the 20th and early 21st centuries. No ifs, ands, or buts. A must read. This interview on his experiences in Libya, friendship with slain photojournalist Tim Hetherington, and how Chivers, a former Marine, balances his tactical knowledge of combat with a principled and critical distance from the events he covers as a reporter, is a powerful example of stalwart principle in action.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Age of Obama Chronicles: The First Black President May Be a Failure, But at Least We Got a Black Cleopatra in a Summer's Eve Commercial

As Rome burns, some fun for us on a Monday. I got something good coming on Wednesday that should both equally offend the Herrenvolk real America types, as well as provide some affirmation for those already in the know.

We may be in the midst of the haunting of President Obama by the Tea Party GOP and a day where the Chief Executive tried (and failed) to give an FDResque fireside chat on a sick economy in the middle of the summer, but it is still okay to laugh. Moreover--and file this under the rule of unintended consequences in postracial Age of Obama America--there remains much to celebrate: it took decades, but the Afrocentrists have finally won a key fight in the overlapping terrain of the public imagination, consumer culture, and historical memory.

While Elizabeth Taylor was the source of much grumpiness for her portrayal of a "white Cleopatra," and others have complained that Angelina Jolie is "too white" to play Cleopatra in an upcoming movie, and always allowing for the space Negro/Egyptian coolness of Sun Ra and the funkiness of George Clinton and P-Funk, I for one never got the deep investment in the Afrocentric dreaming for Mother Africa...and the fixation of some on making Cleopatra a woman of color.

As was explained to me by a Professor of Classics some years back, she was a rather plain and hook nosed, inbred, Greek woman. Political acumen aside, I see no reservoir of "strawnggg black womanhood" to be drunk from or celebrated there. In a world where some folks need to wear their affirmations on t-shirts, fictions too provide comfort. But then again, as a black man in America I am the envy of the world [insert snark].

In the Age of Obama, the Strong Black Woman of Mother Africa and Cleopatra is an icon and motif for Summer's Eve douche. Better than Lysol, but still not too healthy for the ecosystem of the yoni, we can at least be happy with our small victories.

Sister Shahrazad Ali would indeed be proud.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Debits of Whiteness: Of the Tea Party GOP's Racism and the S & P's Credit Downgrade of the United States

More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011.

Since then, we have changed our view of the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy, which makes us pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the Administration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government's debt dynamics any time soon.
The Tea Party GOP got what they wanted. Their game of economic terrorism has resulted in one more step towards economic calamity for the American people. The austerity recession is here, if not already fully arrived.

The other shoe has fallen as well: although America's AAA credit rating made it through two world wars and a Great Depression intact, it could not survive the country's first black President. The Tea Party GOP can sit in the corner, smugly smiling now, as they prepare to carve up Barack Obama just a wee bit more as the 2012 election approaches.

Let us be frank and state the obvious...a reality that so many in the mainstream media are loathe to admit: The Tea Party GOP and its highwayman want to destroy President Obama because he is a Democrat. But, they despise him because he is Black.

The intransigence and obstructionism that the President experienced at every turn, especially as seen in what is almost always a routine decision to raise the debt ceiling limit, has been--pardon the pun--deeply colored by the bugaboo that is white racism.

My claim is not one that is lacking in nuance, where it is "only" white racial resentment and hostility that drives Right-wing, Tea Party GOP opposition to Barack Obama. In a moment of extreme political polarization ideology is made to trump all. The Right-wing rage machine has made compromise, normal politics, and reasonable discourse all but impossible. Race, as the third rail in American political and social life intersects all of those variables. Thus, White racism is a sweetener of sorts that amplifies an already high stakes game of political poker and brinkmanship.

Noted historian David Roediger, echoing the magisterial W.E.B. Du Bois, introduced the phrase "wages of whiteness" into the vocabulary of those who study race, politics, and American history. His pithy turn of phrase (and what is a rich concept) has been infectious. The framework was subsequently expanded to include the idea that white skin privilege brings with it unearned material, economic, psychological, and legal resources/benefits/gains to those classified as "white" in American society. Thus, the "wages" of Whiteness.

The racial resentment and hostility of the Tea Party GOP towards President Obama has now introduced a flip side to that concept. In order to destroy a President, the Tea Party GOP was driven by both racism and partisanship to wreck the American economy and hold the people of the country hostage in a time of the Great Recession.

Here, Whiteness has become a debit--one, to the tune of billions or perhaps even trillions of dollars--as the impact of the Tea Party GOP's reckless behavior, driven by racial hostility and animus, reverberates out across the American and world economy.

Once more, the pathological nature of Whiteness hurts all things and all people across the fuzzy divides of the colorline. There is no escaping it. Even for those deeply invested in its permanence.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Buchanan's "Boy"; Obama the "Tar Baby": Forget the Amateurish Racism Chasing, You All Need to be Reading This Piece on Tea Party Confederates Instead

Amateurs study tactics. Professionals study logistics.

Some folks have their underwear all up in a bunch over Pat Buchanan calling President Obama a "boy," and the dual foot in mouth moment in which Representative Doug Lamborn called B-Rock a "tar baby."

Let's take a moment to exhale folks. And perhaps it is because I accept the utter disrespect that the Right and the Tea Party GOP hold for President Obama (they might as well just call him THE word that runs through their collective imagination every time he comes on TV), but many of us just need to slow down.

This is all chaff. Moreover, and lightning will strike me for suggesting the following, but Uncle Pat is Uncle Pat, and his mouth utterance was just one more example of feigned brotherly familiarity with Al Sharpton. Doubling down, Representative Lamborn chose a perfect analogy to describe the debt ceiling shit sandwich Satan bill enema for everyone in America who is not rich or a corporation.

To digress, I would have greatly preferred if President Obama were a Br'er Rabbit. Alas. We cannot always get what we want.

I would suggest that our collective attention should primarily be focused on the disaster capitalism and shock doctrine policies of the Tea Party GOP, and the planned destruction their debt ceiling win will bring to the country's economy. But, if we are going to do some critical analysis let's look to something more prescient and wise, with some real explanatory power and teeth for locating the Tea Party faction in the proper historical and political moment.

Salon has a great essay from Michael Lind who simply mercs the Tea Party by combining a great interpretation of history with a compelling argument about their inherent racist bonafides (there is a dissenting argument here which is also worth considering). The Tea Party are neo-Secessionists. We/Us/You here at WARN have sounded that alarm before. It is nice to see that folks are picking up on what is in the ether, hiding in plain sight.

The most telling passage from "The Tea Party, the Debt Ceiling, and White Southern Extremism" is the following:
In light of this recent history, it is clear that the origins of the debt ceiling crisis are to be sought, not in generic American conservatism, but in idiosyncratic Southern conservatism. The goal, the methods and the passion of the Tea Party in the House are all characteristic of the radical Southern right.

From the earliest years of the American republic, white Southern conservatives when they have lost elections and found themselves in the political minority have sought to extort concession from national majorities by paralyzing or threatening to destroy the United States.

The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 and 1799 asserted the alleged right of states to "nullify" any federal law that state lawmakers considered unconstitutional. This obstructionist mentality led to the Nullification Crisis of 1832, when South Carolina refused to enforce federal tariffs. Civil War was averted only when President Andrew Jackson, a Southerner himself, forced the nullifiers to back down.

In 1820 and 1850 the South used the threat of secession to force the rest of the United States to appease it on the slavery issue. In 1861, the South tried to destroy the United States, rather than accept a legitimately elected president, Abraham Lincoln, whom it did not control.

Following defeat in the Civil War, the former Confederate states regrouped as "the Solid South," a one-party region, first Democratic and now Republican, that has tended to vote as a bloc in national affairs. The South sought to block the federal civil rights revolution by a policy of "massive resistance" to court orders ordering racial integration. Some Southern states went so far as to try to abolish their public school systems rather than integrate them. It is hard to avoid seeing a link between this racist rationale for privatization and modern conservative plans to scale back Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, relied on disproportionately by black and brown Americans and low-income whites, while increasing taxpayer subsidies to private retirement and healthcare accounts enjoyed mostly by affluent whites.

I couldn't have said it better myself. Your thoughts?

Monday, August 1, 2011

In the Aftermath of the Debt Ceiling Debacle: What if Barack Obama’s Presidency was a Children’s Fairy Tale?

Barack Obama's debt ceiling plan is a big shit sandwich an unsatisfying as well as disappointing compromise for the American people. I used to think that the President was playing a game of 3 dimensional chess with the Tea Party GOP. I still have faith that the dude I voted for will one day reappear. Alas, perhaps a chronic compromiser and thinking person simply cannot understand the type of irrational zealotry which motivates the abnormal politics of the tea bagger Right-wing in this country.

In these matters, one cannot forget a basic life principle: We teach people how to treat us. The President has taught his opposition that he will give away everything to gain comparatively little. Ultimately, there are many lessons in the debt ceiling debacle, lessons both for adults and children. Moreover, Barack Obama and his journey to this point are also ripe material for thinking through how we explain the "real world," with its ups and downs, to our youngest citizens.

As a ghetto nerd, I love a good fairy tale. They teach readers lessons about how to deal with life's disappointments, pain, hurt, loss, and sorrow. Fairy tales also teach us lessons about civility, hubris, and how to be successful while also being graceful. In sum, what are ostensibly stories that are "just for kids" can have meanings and wisdom that span the ages, helping us all to make sense of the world.

In trying to make sense of Barack Obama's presidency to this point, one year before the election, I have decided that a series of fairy tales would be the best way to creatively process the journey of a man who was heralded as a savior, but succumbed to outside forces and temptations, and to this point, has lost his way.

Each week or so there will be another installment from some of WARN's guest contributors. If you like how it is going by all means send in your own Barack Obama fairy tale, it can be a continuation of what we are starting here, or a stand alone piece.

Let us begin.
Barack Obama, the Crown Prince and Special King Who Lost His Way (and Found It Again?) Part One

Barack Obama was a special child. He grew up surrounded by a loving family who told him that one day he would do great things. He was a lad of destiny. Coming of age in lands close and far, Barack Obama learned the ways of many peoples. Even if they picked on him at first because he was different, they all came to realize that Barack Obama was a good and earnest young man. They would always teach him their wisdom.

With his mother’s love and blessings Barack Obama returned to the land of his birthright. He was told that he would one day be King...but only if he worked really hard and made good choices. How this would happen he was not sure. Raised as a humble boy with little gold, all he could do was be his own person, and strive for better things in life.

Barack Obama had an advantage over others though. He always sought out people who could teach him things that he did not know before. Barack Obama was especially bright and won all of the ribbons and prizes in school. He adventured across the land every chance that he got. Barack Obama would win every battle he fought as a child and also as a young man because he used his natural gifts and tried harder than all of the others to succeed.

Barack Obama knew that he would always find victory if he applied himself and used his special talents.

He soon grew up to be a man. One day he met a fair and beautiful woman who would be his bride. She would always tell him the truth and make him strong where he was weak. They would have beautiful children and a wonderful family together.

Sadly, there was a cloud hanging across the land. Bush the Younger had locked many people away, gave the people’s treasure to his closest friends, and used fear of war with strangers to keep the people obedient and quiet. He was also fond of lies. The farms had stopped being prosperous and the people were going hungry. Many in the kingdom were afraid. They loved their king out of fright for what could happen if the evil hoards from other places came to invade their country. Others knew something was wrong. Few people had the courage to say so in public.

Tired of his Empire, Bush the Younger chose his successor. McCain the Fallen Knight was to be the next King. He was a good man at heart. But he liked power too much and would do anything to be in charge…even if it meant walking away from what he truly believed in his heart.

The people of the kingdom reached out to Barack Obama and asked him to be their Leader. He knew his destiny and said yes. The people were gaining courage and wanted Barack Obama to be their King more and more as the days went by. Bush the Younger was such a petty tyrant, wasting their gold and killing children in foolish wars, that the people wanted nothing more than to be free of his evil rule.

Barack Obama was a young man. To help govern the kingdom and to give him advice he chose an older member of the council. Biden the Outspoken was to be his advisor. Now, McCain the Fallen Knight was confused and worried. He needed help if he were to be the next King of the land.

Scared, he sat outside and looked up at a tree on the hilltop. In a flash of light a Sorceress appeared. Her name was Sarah Palin and she told McCain the Fallen Knight that she would help him beat Barack Obama. Although he did not know her, McCain the Fallen Knight listened to his friends who whispered in his ear that Palin the Sorceress would help him destroy all foes near and far.

Barack Obama and McCain the Fallen Knight fought many battles. The people of the kingdom were divided about which champion to support. One day Palin the Sorceress distracted McCain the Fallen Knight. She wanted to rule the kingdom and would do anything, even if it was wrong and dishonest, to defeat Barack Obama. McCain the Fallen Knight was upset and angry at Palin the Sorceress for such misdeeds. While they fought one another, Barack Obama came at them both in an act of great courage. Because she was a coward, Palin the Sorceress pushed McCain the Fallen Knight in front of Barack Obama just as his flaming sword came down true and just.

Barack Obama was a merciful and kind man. He looked into McCain the Fallen Knight’s eyes. He could see his sadness and weakness. Barack Obama told McCain the Fallen Knight that he would be spared. He should go home to his desert home and beg the people for forgiveness. Palin the Sorceress then cried magical tears that blinded Barack Obama. When he raised his sword to smite her, she had already disappeared. The air smelled of sulfur and smoke.

Barack Obama was made King of the Land by his people. They were excited by what they thought was change for the better.

Sarah Palin the Sorceress had other plans though. She went to the Tea Party Troll who lived under a bridge in a town far away from the capital of the kingdom. He was angry that he had been ignored for so long. To survive he ate mushrooms grown in the dark and would gobble up any travelers who came too close to his rickety bridge.

The Tea Party Troll would take their screams and put them in a magical box. He would open the box every day, over and over again, for his joy and pleasure. The voices told him that he was a good man and that everything which he did was right. He grew to love the box for all time.

The Tea Party Troll hated Barack Obama because of his bright and magical sword. He resented how smart and sophisticated the new King was. The Tea Party Troll was also enraged that Barack Obama was handsome and had traveled the world. The Tea Party Troll had never done such things and despised any person who looked different from him or knew how to speak the fancy words in those things called books. Palin the Sorceress told The Tea Party Troll that she would return soon to help him get his revenge.

She offered advice to The Tea Party Troll. Instead of eating and killing the people who crossed the bridge, he should use the magic box to trick them. If he did this, The Tea Party Troll would become popular. Everyone who listened to the box grew angry. They came to hate their new king Barack Obama even if they could not explain why.

To great applause and love Barack Obama was made King. He walked away from the joyous crowds to enter the great Ivory Tower and White House where all the Kings lived. At the door a man in gray appeared. He was the eldest of the old, and head of The Wise Men who had advised Kings for decades upon decades. Barack Obama bowed his head and was very polite. The Gray Man told the new King that he could not bring his flaming sword into the Ivory Tower and White House. It was tradition that he would have to forge a new sword from what was left to him by the King who came before him. That seemed unfair to Barack Obama. But being a respectful and confident man, he surrendered the flaming sword to the Gray Man who smiled upon taking it.

Barack Obama entered into the great place from which he would rule the kingdom. He walked up to a resplendent box that sat in the middle of the room. Here were the materials with which to forge a new sword. He opened the vessel. Bush the Younger had left him nothing but a few broken pieces of metal and a dull handle. What could Barack Obama do with such things?

The door immediately opened and The Wise Men entered. The Gray Man asked him what would be the first task. Now the King, Barack Obama closed the great box before anyone could see what was inside. The people were plagued by many illnesses. He told Biden the Elder and The Wise Men to send the land’s greatest knights to ride out on a quest to find a cure for all the sicknesses that ailed the people.

The Gray Man smiled. The Wise Men and Biden the Elder asked the new King why they would send their greatest warriors on such an errand when so many had died on like adventures before, and the people needed work and were hungry now.

Barack Obama told them that was his decision. It would stand. The people would be happy if he brought them such a gift. The Wise Men and Biden the Elder clapped in agreement as they were forever loyal and obedient.

Palin the Sorceress listened intently as her minions relayed the new King’s plan. She immediately looked into her pot of ugly poison and conjured up a vision of The Tea Party Troll. He was hungry. Palin the Sorceress told him of her evil plans and how together they would destroy Barack Obama the King. Happy and pleased beyond belief, The Tea Party Troll began to laugh so loud that villages for miles and miles around heard his bellows as the earth was made to shake...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Debt Ceiling Follies: The Tea Party is a Faction That Has Betrayed The Constitution, Why Doesn't Anyone Have the Courage to Call Them Out as Such?

An opening question: Is the Tea Party GOP trying to force President Obama's hand into using the 14th Amendment to resolve the debt ceiling morass they created? Thus, adding more fuel to their narrative that he is illegitimate and should be deposed from office?

The debt ceiling debacle is like giving yourself a prostate exam. A few years back, I fondly remember listening to Dr. Dean Edell answer a caller who asked how to perform said procedure on himself. The good doctor said it was possible, but it was not at all easy or particularly pleasant.

There are multiple levels of political mania at work in the Tea Party GOP and the free market fundamentalism jihad and suicide game they are playing with the American economy. On one hand, watching Speaker Boehner being neutered by his own zealots is great sport; the ascension of Michele Bachmann is also a fun spectacle as she lays in wait, sharpening her knives; when Conservative Right-wing low information voter populism runs amok I always enjoy the car wreck...except when I (and all of you) are potentially the collateral damage. But alas, this is serious business and the adults in the room have given in to the impetuous brats in the Tea Party wing on the Republican Party.

Normal politics is dead. The Republican Party (with the help of the Koch brothers) made the monster. Now they are trapped by it.

There are two ironies at work here regarding the Tea Party's gambit and hostage taking.

First, while the Tea Party GOP are Constitutional fetishists, they have a deep and profoundly childish understanding of said document. In fact, their policy goals are more in line with the Articles of Confederation than the United States Constitution they onanistically worship, while they sit, self-satisfied, rubbing themselves with the political feces produced from their own fat and bloated guts.

Second and most pointedly, the Tea Party brigands are acting like the very definition of a Faction as outlined by The Federalist Papers. Their policies are counter to the Public Interest and speak to how the framers were quite properly worried about the out-sized power of small groups in a democracy to work against the Common Good in the pursuit of their own narrow agendas.

I wonder if the Tea Party GOP highwaymen understand the beauty of that fact? History is a great teacher, as she always is. The Federalist Papers echo in the debt ceiling debate and I am curious, as I often am about such things, why a talking head among the pundit classes does not call out the Tea Party for the Faction they are? It would make for a clear and easy talking point that would ether those trolls.

I won't even charge--this time--for the suggestion.

Some words of wisdom from Madison, Hamilton, and John Jay from The Federalist Papers Number 10:

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects...

The inference to which we are brought is, that the CAUSES of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its EFFECTS.

If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution.

When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

John McCain Channels Chauncey Devega: The Debt Ceiling Holy War, Tea Party GOP Free Market Fundamentalism, and the Power of Lies

You know things are bad when John McCain agrees with Chauncey DeVega is the voice of reason. Last week I ran a featured piece on Alternet where I worked through the relationship between the Tea Party GOP's blind faith in the unprovable and how said group's delusions have colored their strategy in the impasse over the debt ceiling.

Although it feels good to have been ahead of the curve in stating the obvious regarding the brigands in the Republican Party, I do wish that I were wrong, and that reasonable and rational voices would have prevailed by now and put an end to the debt ceiling morass. Sadly, Conservatives and the Republican Party are held hostage by a monster of their own making.

How is all that "take our America back" talk feeling right about now I must ask.

Then again, chaos and economic destruction could actually be the real plan of the Right-wing and Conservatives..a little disaster capitalism shock doctrine treatment for America and its first black President served up with a little Chianti and a side of fava beans.

In the interest of sharing my piece follows. You will need to click on the jump link to read all the way through. Share and comment as always. I am working on a followup for next week and your input is always appreciated.


Debt Ceiling Holy War: Why Do Conservatives Have Unshakable Faith in Ideas That Are Totally, Demonstrably False?

The Republican Party is holding the U.S. economy hostage. While the American people overwhelmingly support a solution to the debt ceiling impasse that includes a mix of tax hikes on the rich and cuts to the federal budget, the Tea Party GOP is deaf to their concerns. Moreover, even though President Barack Obama is willing to make painful concessions on entitlement spending—a move that hands the Republican Party a practical win—the Tea Party GOP remains intractable in its refusal to support even the most minimum of tax increases on the wealthiest Americans.

The American people, the world’s financial markets and the pundit classes remain perplexed by the Republican Party’s dangerous brinkmanship. Why would they risk financial armageddon? What is the practical gain to be had from such irresponsible behavior? Is this a ploy to undermine the Democrats before the 2012 election?

Observers remain befuddled because they have failed to connect the dots between the Republican Party’s intransigent stubbornness and a populist brand of conservatism where the world of facts has been made secondary to the intoxication of faith.

Consider the following: faith is based upon a belief in that which cannot be proved or demonstrated by normal means. Faith is also immune and separate from tests of empirical proof. Not to be overlooked, the contemporary Republican Party is home to the Religious Right. Consequently, the primacy of “faith” as the decision rule in political decision-making is both a perfect and logical fit for conservative populism.

When coupled with conservatives’ penchant for authoritarianism, their adherence to simple moral scripts, and a either/or binary world view, the allures of faith mated with fiction are irresistible to the Republican Party. Thus, the idea that politics should serve the common good for all is truncated and superseded by the pursuit of a common good that is only for the faithful, the few and the ideologically pure.

This cognitive framework colors a wide range of the Republican Party’s policies.