Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Ironies of History in the Age of Obama: When White Folks Yell "U.S.A.!" Black and Brown Folks Used to Best Run Away...Not Anymore It Seems

What a difference ten years makes? On September 11, 2001 America was attacked by Al-Qaeda. In that moment Bin Laden succeeded in initiating a series of events that would eventually kick over the delicate house of cards that was the American Empire.

On September 14, 2001 President Bush would stand triumphantly over the rubble of the World Trade Center where he would proceed to beat the drums of war and blow the trumpets of patriotism. A fews later, speaking to the best impulses of Americans as citizen-consumers, Bush told us that to defy the terrorists that we should all go shopping.

Ten years later, President Barack Obama would return to the site of the World Trade Center and bring some closure to the events of that horrific day. Obama put the hit on Osama. The bogeyman was dead. Now we can move forward as a nation. The symbolic politics are powerful here: The President is our national cheerleader, an informal Head of State, and the embodiment of America's hopes and dreams. Thus, the fixation by the Birthers and the New Right in denying America's first Black President the legitimacy of his position as Commander in Chief precisely because the white racial frame cannot accept a person of color as Chief Executive.

The President's return to the hallowed grounds of 9-11 is also pregnant with no small amount of irony in how the politics of race are punctuated by occasional deviations from the script in the Age of Obama. Black folks have always been loyal patriots. We loved a country that did not love us back.

However, our patriotism is also sophisticated and qualified for we are suspicious of power and are keen to the lies (both big and small) that leaders tell--and how American democracy was exclusive of people of color. Moreover, the flag waving drums of war moments that accompany America's call to battle and triumphalism are often moments of violence, where white Americans renew the brotherhood of citizenship by shedding the blood of black and brown folk.

The Zoot Suit Riots, the lynching of African American GI's while still in their uniforms, the Bloody Summer of 1919, and the acts of discrimination both subtle and gross by the Greatest Generation against black and brown folk in the Age of Jim Crow are testimonies to this ugly history. History is not dead. It lingers in our collective consciousness. For a Blues People, history's echoes run deep. By comparison, one of the historical advantages of Whiteness is the ability to be ahistorical--a people without roots, origins or responsibility.

Thus, when black and brown folks hear chants of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" we are right to be suspicious and fearful, for those nationalist orgasmic utterances have often accompanied a trip to the lynching tree or a bloodied blow to the head as the imagined fraternity of white men was reinscribed and renewed at our expense. The Birthers, White Populism and the Tea Bag GOP's embrace of real American White Nationalism is one more reminder of this exclusive club's continued existence into the 21st century. But for a moment, Obama's trip to Ground Zero has--for a few days--upset this dynamic.

Here is one from the archives (wow, four years have gone by?). Today, we have quite a few new visitors curious of the kind people at Crooks and Liars, so it always fun to reach back and bring out a classic piece. The following post is on vigilante John Horn's shooting of two burglars in Texas a few years back. This essay remains one of my favorite pieces of all time for a variety of reasons.

There is a nice synergy here: the post speaks to the noxious brew of racialized Patriotism and nationalism that is channeled through those old howls of "U.S.A.!"; the coveted shit-huffer award was introduced in this post; and there is no small dose of ghetto nerdness on display. Good least in my opinion.

We are a Nation of Liars, Crooks, Fools, Thieves, and Idiots

A few months back, a story circulated regarding a drug called, "jenkem." Apparently, this "new" drug, a product of Africa of course--where those poor natives do nothing but fight famine, suffer under genocide, live in failed States, and huff shit--consists of human feces and urine in a bong. Here, the "user" would take a "hit" by inhaling the noxious fumes generated by this ungodly concoction:

Apparently, jenkem has now been debunked. But, the idea rang true for a basic reason--people are lazy, stupid, and will try anything once. Moreover, this idea of huffing shit stuck with me because it seemed the perfect metaphor for these good ol' United States.

We are a nation of among other things, former slaves, tax evaders, and cast-off immigrants. More or less, all of us, myself included, have drunk the Kool-Aid, eaten that shit sandwich, and smelled those fumes generated by the American mythos of freedom, equality, and opportunity (or at least the hope that the American creed can one day be made real). More broadly, human beings believe what we want to believe, in a way, and at a time, that is most convenient to us.

As a respectable negro, I focus much of my attention on those black and white shit-huffers who hit that jenkem bong, and spend their time on high-profile issues, issues that are ultimately of little concern, but that nevertheless cause harm to our life-long crusade for human justice, dignity, and black progress. Now to offer a qualifier, shit-huffers are not restricted to those purveyors of race-based hysteria and other nonsense. Those Bill O'Reilly-Rush Limbaugh neo-cons who supported premier Bush in his Iraq misadventures, despite all evidence to the contrary, are a bunch of shit-huffers. Those idiots who follow good ol' Al Sharpton and Shakedown Jesse around on any damn fool idealistic crusade are also shit-huffers.

The shit-huffers of the moment are those knuckleheads in Pasadena, Florida who are defending the white homeowner (a gentleman by the name of Mr. Joe Horn) that shot dead those ignt's robbing his neighbors. These idiots are joined by The New Black Panther Party and other victomologists who are dedicated to valorizing stupidity in the search of a black "hero" (Brother Gartrelle has one percolating on this issue as we speak). Interestingly, this case reminds me of the Duke rape case where everyone involved is an asshole, but where outside forces make the participants emblematic of all the fissures and tensions in our society.

The Horn case, and the one in California where a white homeowner blasted two criminals who beat his son into a coma, are lightening rods for victimologists, right-wingers, and shit-huffers of all stripes because it is great political theater. As depicted by the following video of the Pasadena protest where The New Black Panthers clashed with those white "defenders" of "justice" and "responsible" home ownership, everyone involved is an idiot (thank God there isn't a token negro in the background supporting the protesters...there is always one, and if you find him, please point the fool's sort of like a game of "Where's Waldo"):

It is instructive to watch the above video with the help of my handy viewing guide.

1. 0.01: "that's it?"---sort of sums it up
2. .09: the New Black Panthers make their appearance. Doesn't their leadership look like something out of Reverend Slick's, "Jive Soul Bro' Video?"
3. .11: "You are a disgrace to your race, get a job"--white symbolic racism in action
4. 1:02: "U.S.A., U.S.A."--Uhh ohh, the "White Power," oops I mean "U.S.A." chants have begun. Frankly, I prefer the honesty of Seig Heil and those honest skinhead types who advertise their bigotry and don't hide behind slogans of "equality" or "freedom"
5. 1:17 to 3:07: motorcycle's revving their engines and more U.S.A. chants--You know motorcycles scare off black radicals. Note to any white racists reading this post: motorcycles are more effective than water when it comes to scaring away black people.
6. 3:56-7:40: More U.S.A. chants
7. 8;37-8:51: More rebel yells, motorcycles revving, and The New Black Panthers beat a hasty retreat

As documented by the following footage (doesn't Fox News seem to be everywhere folks are acting stupid?) The New Black Panthers return in full force with the "victims," i.e the family members of those ignt's shot dead by Mr. Horn. Here, we have some wonderfully articulate white meth-heads and angry, marching, black fools. Plus, we all know that whenever someone says it isn't about race, it always is:

This is shit-huffing at its finest. On one side we have the New Black Panthers and Quanell X (you know that was the name of our ancestors and it was stolen from us). Of note, Quanell comes equipped with his own G.I. Joe bodyguard. Be honest, doesn't "Bro Joe," the character in the red beret and black camouflage, look like one of those horrible G.I. Joe figures from the early 1990's?

The data card on the back of his action figure would have probably read:

Member of Cobra

Code Name: Revolution
Real Name: Ty Jackson
Bio: Recruited from the legendary rap group Public Enemy's cadre of elite bodyguards, The S1W's, Revolution is an expert in political theater and all manner of clowning and cooning. Although only 5 feet tall, Revolution has spent time in the Army National Guard where he received a dishonorable discharge for drug use and insubordination. Revolution, later went to prison where he was recruited by Cobra. Following his formal training on Cobra Island, Revolution was tasked with corrupting black radical organizations. As a member of the "Ebony Guards," Revolution worked in parallel with The Crimson Guard. While the latter was tasked with infiltrating suburban communities, corporations, and industry, the Ebony Guards were tasked with urban "renewal" and ghetto "pacification."
Weapons specialties: Saturday night specials; zip guns; Molotov cocktails; spoken word poetry; bad fashion; revolutionary fury; instant recall of conspiracy theories; and knowledge of self.

Regardless, one cannot deny the amazing greatness that was G.I. Joe The Movie:

I could care less about the toothless wonders and the PWT opposing the New Black Panthers. But, I really suggest that The New Black Panthers, if they are going to claim that honorable lineage, at least try to live up to it:

Hell, I would be happy if Quannel and his posse read some classic G.I. Joe comic books (or even the new GI Joe comics where Destro has a child by a black woman--he was creepin' on the Baroness) . At least, this would have improved their strategy and tactics--rushing into the heart of your enemy with insufficient forces to exploit any gap you may create in their lines is a no-no because it inevitably leads to encirclement and the destruction of your forces.

So many shit-huffers, so little time. Here is a thought experiment for you: imagine if instead of The New Black Panthers, that Ghostface, Styles P, and Beanie Siegel stepped up and through that group of white "defenders" of "justice?"..Now that would have been a protest worthy of Fox News:

Yo Joe!!!!!


Mack Lyons said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mack Lyons said...

Hold on....I thought "jenkem" was the product of poor white trash in the Appalachians who didn't have the money to spend on other drugs and didn't have the knowledge or skill set to make meth (The Poor White Man's Crack™). So they mixed up a bottle of their own shit and piss, let it set out a few days and huffed it to a high. Gives the term "getting shitfaced" a whole new meaning.