Thursday, September 5, 2013

White Privilege is John McCain Playing a Video Game During a Hearing on Going to War in Syria

Irresponsible. Lazy. Traitor. Bad citizen. Incompetent. Un-American. Disloyal. Not patriotic. Impeachable. Treasonous.

Those are the labels that would be applied to a black congressperson or senator--or perhaps, even one who is a Democrat--caught playing a game of poker while sitting through a hearing about, what are quite literally life and death matters, if the United States should intervene militarily in Syria.

In order to both survive and remain sane in a country where racism has dominated life chances and life outcomes, black folks have historically been taught by parents, teachers, and other mentors that we had to be at least twice as good as a white person, one with less than comparable skills, to get half as far in the world. 

Such advice is true but incomplete--whiteness and white privilege also allows a given white person to be significantly less qualified, and to have moments of incompetence, while still retaining goodwill and an assumption of credibility and trust, that others who are not part of said racial group are not afforded or allowed.

Yes, white privilege is about the "big things" in life. But, white privilege as a social force is perhaps most pernicious in how it manifests in day-to-day ways, such as through unstated assumptions about one's ability, trustworthiness, and authority.

White privilege works through double-standards too. For example, the Right-wing media is attempting to gin up a faux controversy about President Obama because he put his foot, like so many other presidents before him, on the Oval Office desk. 

And just imagine how the Right-wing media would respond to a black or brown John McCain playing a video game, and perhaps even gambling, while serious matters of war and peace are being debated by the United States Senate.

Such a moment would be Birth of a Nation revisited on Fox News and Right-wing talk radio:

John McCain suffered in Vietnam as a prisoner in the infamous Hanoi Hilton. One would think his horrible and hellish experience there would make him especially sensitive to the high stakes involved in sending American forces to attack Syria. 

It would appear such empathy is not present. Old men declare war; young men and women die and fight in them.

White privilege lowers the bar for his behavior. It also provides insulation for any type of criticism, as being white, male, a veteran, and of a certain age, provides an a priori assumption of one's "Americanness" and "patriotism". 

And because whiteness and white privilege are precisely about race and citizenship, such buffers are a type of "money in the bank", both material and psychological, that does not apply equally across the color line. 

White folks can be distracted and play video games in Congress while the war drums beat; Barack Obama, the country's first black President, was heckled and harassed while giving the State of the Union Speech. 

The lie of post racial America in the Age of Obama reveals itself in many ways both small and large. Some folks by virtue of skin color are given respect. Other folks by virtue of their skin color are denied it...even if they are President of the United States of America.


DeistPaladin said...

QUOTE: "...or perhaps, even one who is a Democrat..."

Most assuredly. IOKIYAR is definitely the rule.

Can you imagine what would have happened if a Democrat had screamed "you lie!" as W Bush was giving a State of the Union Address? They'd be forced to resign instead of lauded as a hero (and unlike Obama, W Bush really was lying).

When Clinton was in office, the GOP had no problem with impeachment during wartime. In fact, when asked about the hazards of impeachment while our troops were in the fields at Kosovo, the GOP insisted it was our duty to them that we uphold the constitution. "Even the appearance of impropriety" was the rule for Congressional investigation (translation: someone somewhere said Clinton did something shady). Then W came in office and suddenly it was treason to even question the president at all during a time of war. In the words of Bill O'Riley, who certainly reflected the mood of the time, we either needed to get behind the president or "shut up", else our patriotism comes into question. Then Obama comes into office and we're back to investigating everything and talk of impeachment even while we're still fighting W's wars.

When Clinton was in power, the rule on deficits were "OMG, where did all this debt come from? Clinton, give up your agenda and concentrate on reducing the debt". Then the GOP came into power and W Bush ran against the surplus "that's not the government's money" and "deficits don't matter". Then Obama comes to office and we're back to "OMG! Where did all this debt come from? Quick, slash and burn the safety net now!"

When the GOP wins an election (2004 or 2010), even if it's a close election (2004), the talk all about the media, not just Republican circles, is all about "mandates" and "political capital" and "Democrats need to come to the center" (as if they're not already centrist enough). When the Democrats win an election (2006, 2008, 2012), that's when the media talks of "biparisanship" and "reaching across the aisle".

I won't defend Anthony Wiener He's a narcissistic douche, but when he had a sex scandal, he was run out of office. Sen. Vitter is still in office. AFAIK, there have been no calls for his resignation.

A good test on whether its IOKIYAR or IOKIRW is how the few black GOP politicians are treated. I don't know the answer to that but whatever it is, it would be telling. It wouldn't surprise me if both rules are practiced.

chauncey devega said...

Clinton would have been run out of time. I love the accepted as fact narrative that the GOP is the party of "national defense", as such they get a pass on their mess. if you repeat something enough times people will believe it. Never mind that there is so much overlap between the 2 parties to begin with. The efforts to find any sort of controversy, even one about a black president putting his foot on a desk, is very revealing about the racial pathologies at work on the White Right.

Vic78 said...

They treated the RNC chairman Michael Steele shabbily after he helped the party make their gains in 2010. You should've saw how they talked about Miss America in Illinois.

DeistPaladin said...

At least the feet on the desk was a real event (though something many other presidents have done). By contrast, could someone please explain to me what that "scandal" is supposed to even be? What's the allegation exactly? What do they want? Video footage of Obama parachuting into Benghazi while personally leading a commando team to rescue the ambassador?
You're right that they're looking for anything at this point, even if the source of the outrage isn't even real.

chauncey devega said...

The scandal is that Obama is black and president.

DeistPaladin said...

IMO: They just needed a token in the immediate aftermath of the first elected black president being a Democrat. Once he served that purpose, they found someone who's pigment they were more comfortable with.
I imagine they'll use the same tactic when the first woman president is elected.

DanF said...

If Congress votes "No" on military adventurism in Syria, and Obama bombs them anyways, the GOP will become unified and relentless in their howler monkey chorus to have him impeached. It will approach a level of viciousness unseen in the Lewinski scandal as the right tries to "take back their (white) country!!!!"

DeistPaladin said...

Ooooo, what a dilemma.
They hate Obama but they love war. What will they do in that situation?
My prediction is they'll go with impeaching him for Benghazi.

Maike Hudson said...

It's white Republican privilege, to be precise.

Vic78 said...

It was a big deal when he did an interview without his tie on.

Michael Paul Goldenberg said...

I think there are two points to be made: one, McCain's mind is already made up on this issue, so he probably was doing something that accurately reflects what he felt he needed to be doing: anything but listening.

Two, I hope that a black legislator doing the same thing wouldn't have lost "thousands of dollars" as McCain said he did.

More seriously, Jon Stewart took this whole thing apart with his usual laser-like wit. Check it out if you missed it.

Miles_Ellison said...

That sums up the essence of American politics.

Gable1111 said...

If they had caught on film a black senator or congressman doing this, for the bigot crowd; the Limbaughs, Palins, Beck, Fox News, etc., it would have been every holiday there is rolled into one. They would have revved up the hate machine so high a new cottage industry of stereotyping would have emerged.

The Sanity Inspector said...

Doesn't seem to me that McCain is getting a pass for this. In addition to being slammed on the Left, he's been lambasted even at Breitbart and Twitchy.

chauncey devega said...

A broke clock is right twice a day...get the pun w. Breibart apparently. Small things and the universe may on occasion converge to the middle.

chauncey devega said...

Christmas in September for the right wing noise machine :)

chauncey devega said...

I will check out Stewart. I must be one of the few folks who does not find him entertaining. Dude is razor sharp, I just don't vibe w. his style of delivery.

Gable1111 said...

Every successive president adds to the frame for the next one. Bush's contribution to the frame was war for political benefit of a president or party is legitimate. And we as a society accepted it. The frame is supported by money in politics, and in the end, no matter how "transformational" a president might imagine him or herself to be, they cannot step outside of that frame, without severe consequences (JFK?).

Obama, for all of his good intentions, is constrained by the frame. To what extent his actions are a result of that constraint, or his own wants, we don't know.

It seems clear that, there is more to the desire to want to go into Syria than is being said, given the facts. They're saying Assad has killed 100,000 people. No, 100,000 on both sides have died in a civil war, some civilians but many combatants. They say look at the horrific pictures of these 1400 people gassed to death; but how does that sound in the face of 100,000 deaths? Did we not care about that? They're not making what should be obvious points to make when reporting this story that (a) Assad waited to use gas while the UN inspectors were on site, the same inspectors Assad himself invited in; and (b) the Syrian government was winning against the "rebels"; why would they need to use gas then?

Even more concerning is the fact that, several weeks ago, there was evidence that gas had been used. But they could not get around the evidence that pointed to the "rebels" being the culprits. If we have such a "moral obligation" to prevent the use of chemical weapons, why didn't we hear calls for bombing them?

If there is a "moral" concern to prevent poisonous gas from being used on innocent civilians, it seems the best way to do that is not to "degrade" the Syrian government's capability to use them, but to stop the fighting altogether. Why aren't we hearing calls for that, instead of the narrow "stop the dictator from gassing his own people?"

The result of the frame that created this situation is that people are tired of war. Polls show democrats, republicans and independents are not for it. But war is business, and this is why the frame supports it, regardless of what the people want or not.

But here's the biggest irony: we say we want to democratize the world, and we're "ignoring our own people" when it comes to starting these damned wars.

As for Obama, I get the sense that he is being dragged along by events and the frame. Being a president who happens to be black is but another handicap he has in trying to deal with the frame. And while it initially appeared to be a good move politically to put the ball in congress' court, the outcome was probably preordained to begin with. Hence McCain's game playing -- hell, why should he "engage" when we all know the outcome anyway? All that they're doing in congress now is just the kabuki.

rikyrah said...

at least he showed up for this one.

remember during all that Susan Rice/Benghazi bullshyt when she offered to come to the Senate and answer any questions they had in a private session with Senators and Country Last couldn't even bother to show up?

Jeroniomus said...

I can tell you that White nationalists hate John McCain and the Bushes. We do see them as no better than the blacks depicted in the Legislature scene of Birth of a Nation.

skilletblonde said...

Geritol John McCain is another screw-up son of privilege. He graduated 5th from the bottom of the Naval Academy. He got accepted into flight school because of his father and grandfather's naval status. He would go on to cost the navy millions in wrecked planes.

When he was captured in Vietnam (some say because of a pilot error) he would again receive preferential treatment. He spilled his guts to his Vietnamese adversaries. He was dubbed "Songbird McCain" by his military colleagues because of it. A Cuban psychiatrist who interviewed McCain while he was captured, described him as a sociopath. McCain has spent his time in the Senate quashing and oppressing the speech of other POW's and their families. I wonder why?

The Mainstream Media is responsible for the career McCain has enjoyed for the past 40 some years. He has done nothing for the people of Arizona, nor is he sane enough to serve. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't trust him to flush a toilet. He has hit people on the Senate floor, threw temper tantrums, slapped a POW's widow, told racist, sexist, and homophobic jokes. The media has covered up every abhorrent thing this man has done. That includes his behavior in the POW Camp, and the criminality in the Keating Five. However, their greatest cover-up appears to be his absolute incompetence when selecting that deranged Snowbilly for the vice-presidency of the United States. Yet the Mainstream Media treats him like he won the election. He is sought after on every move President Obama makes. Now that's really white privileged. And my or my have we seen white privilege at its zenith during the black man's presidency.

Christopher James Willis said...

The most fucked up thing about this is that the only comparable thing to this phenomenon is something cops like to say all the time: "We can make a million mistakes. They only get to screw up once."... I think that says it all on how black people are still treated in this country. We only get to screw up once, and that's a wrap.