Those who can’t find anything to live for,
always invent something to die for.
Then they want the rest of us to
die for it, too.
Goldstone emphasizes the white-supremacist character of the Constitution and of the current Republican Party:
The elections of the affable, centrist, competent, and learned President Obama (but not without faults, of course) terrified White Americans. A backlash ensued. The collateral damage includes concentration camps at the border, a lunatic foreign policy, fealty to Putin, ignoring climate change, making nuclear conflict more likely than before, and permanently corrupt elections. The Democrats and the alleged “New Left” don’t seem to have an antidote except to winning. Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?
Short answer: Yes. Today he looked to the sky and said, “I am the chosen one.”
But enough about Trump. Best to ignore him and concentrate, say, on enjoying life. For rhetoric and language nerds, this may include pondering the origins of phrases.
A good site for such exploration is The Phrase Finder from England: phrases.org.uk
The Phrase Finder thinks the most likely source of “barking mad” is the way people talked about rabid dogs in the 19th century. The PF cites the court record from the trial (for murder) of one Walter Tricker in England:
Mrs Hitchins, at the Inquest, says ‘It was not ordinary barking. They [the dogs] were barking like tearing mad.’
The PF discounts an alleged medieval origin linked to the town of Barking, England, where there was an asylum for the allegedly insane.
I am among those who have concluded that the President of the United States in August 2019 is insane. In addition to being stupid, corrupt, amoral, white supremacist, and poorly educated.
Those who can’t find anything to live for,
always invent something to die for.
Then they want the rest of us to
die for it, too.
Daily, weekly, racist news of one kind or another pours in. This week, it concerns singer Kate Smith’s recordings of racist songs, the re-discovery of which led to the Pittsburgh hockey team’s decision to cover the singers statue outside the arena. Black Church arson in the South–the culprit is the son of a sheriff’s deputy. Depending on the day or week, we might hear about another racist incident on a campus or in a fraternity. We might read another column about how baldly Trump appeals to White supremacy in his continuing efforts to make the immigration crisis worse. We might hear about nooses hanging in an auto plant, or a racist arrested at the border for kidnapping immigrants and threatening to kill candidates or office-holders. Cache after cache of weaponry owned by White Supremacists are unearthed.
The reactions and reactions to reactions are much the same. “This doesn’t represent our values,” says the standard PR response of a college, a fraternity, or a company. Of course, it does represent a section of their vaules, and that’s the core problem, not the single event for which they are generating PR. Rep. Steve King might be relieved of his committee duties but continue to say racist things and to be a hero back home. David Brooks might right a column or a book about how important “character” is. Publications from the New Left will obsess over Rachel Maddow’s obsession over collusion with Russia but ignore the 300 pound blond racist gorilla in the Oval Office. Reparations are discussed elsewhere.
But nothing fundamental ever changes. Bandages cover wounds, at best. Rituals of reassurance are re-enacted. We never seek a cure.
To begin to seek a cure, the country, led by the Democrats, the only Party without a “Southern [White Supremacist] Strategy,” must describe the GOP as the racist Party it is. Trump has merely exploited that existing racism, eschewing the dog whistle and picking up George Wallace’s bullhorn. Those Left of Right must take on the Left where it is in denial about White Supremacy. Of course, none of this will happen because the Very Left has its semi-socialist working-class agenda, into which a fight against White Supremacy doesn’t fit, and because Left Center Field is afraid of offending parts of its White base.
People like George Will and Max Boot and Bill Kristol get to wash their hands of Trump and “leave” the GOP but never fess up to the White Supremacy they allowed to determine the core strategy of that Party. If and when Trump keels over, they will be allowed to go back to the GOP without mending their ways.
White Supremacy has been killing and continues to kill Black and brown folks in the U.S. No news there. It is now killing the whole country, as the White Supremacist in Chief goes full authoritarian and continues to stoke the furnaces of hatred. Whatever shared powers the Constitution envisaged are being torn asunder. Voter suppression operates in full view. The N-word is tossed about gleefully in public. Police keep asking Black motorists what they’re doing in this or that neighborhood. The judiciary is getting saturated with White Supremacist judges. White Supremacy is coming for you, no matter who you are; it will take longer to get to White folks, of course, although it has already noshed on their souls.
Jonathan Metzl recently published a book on this topic:
“The politics of racial resentment” is close to being a euphemism for White Supremacy. In general (not referring to Metzl here), white Americans don’t like to say “White Supremacy,” and they recoil from those who do use the phrase. Consider Jemele Hill, fired from ESPN for calling Donald Trump a White Supremacist. Here response later was to say, “I thought I was saying water is wet”:
In the sphere of Orwell’s most famous essay, Hill was refusing to make murder respectable, in other words. A major media corporation fired her for simply mentioning a demonstrable fact.
Here is a data-rich article on White Supremacist violence in the U.S.:
The Original American Sin. The American Dilemma. Plymouth Rock, the Rock on which America stubbed its toe: Langston Hughes’s lines. Malcom X’s line: he (his ethnic group) didn’t land on Plymouth Rock; it landed on me (us). The Lost Cause (the Confederate Meme that never dies). Call it what you will, it’s killing us. News reports, statements and books about values, sympathetic murmurs–none of it touches the core problem. By whatever non-violent means necessary, White Supremacy must be addressed personally, locally, regionally, nationally, politically, rhetorically. As with climate change, we’re about out of time.
The nation needs a vaccination.
And so popular media are once again in a kerfuffle about Tucker Carlson’s exhumed comments, which assert the appropriateness of thoughtlessness, rape, pedophilia, racism, xenophobia, and so on. Add Jeannine Pirro’s McCarthy-like questions about a Congressperson’s hijab, and you have a pretty good Goebbels week for Fox.
Which, I assert, is one of the true sources of political correctness. I’ve long that that PC (not the computer kind) was a Goebblesque piece of propaganda injected into White men and the women who are enthralled with them so that neither would have to change their views of women, people of color, fake American history, language, and simple good manners. It came with an add-on: the ready charge of victim-hood leveled against anyone who disagreed with them. This is Old School propaganda, which accuses the “enemy” (after an enemy is invented) of doing what the propagandist is doing. In this case, policing any hint of change. The Jews are destroying Germany, said Hitler, as he was destroying Germany, of which there was almost nothing left in 1945. In Carlson, Pirro, and Trump, we have a kind of apotheosis of humorless, cultivated stupidity that makes enraged, uninformed citizens more enraged and uninformed. It’s Orwell’s politics-poisons-language-which-poisons-politics scheme exempt of boundaries. That is, if Trump could get away with killing journalists and putting immigrants in permanent concentration camps and killing them (well, that’s already started), he would. No boundaries.
One amusing response to Fox News’s latest poison is the cluck-clucking query, “Why won’t Fox apologize?” I don’t want Fox to apologize. I want it figuratively destroyed–by boycott and any other non-violent means necessary. I wanted Disney pressured to dismantle Fox. I want Mueller and company to eviscerate Trump (figuratively), by any legal means necessary.
That said, I do approve of Speaker Pelosi’s temporary disapproval of impeachment because a) the votes in the Senate aren’t there, b) it’s a nice bit of rope-a-dope against Trump, complete with “he’s not worth it.” Besides if voters and the Democrats can’t defeat Trump in Fall 2020, we’re definitely in a situation that his not unlike (pax Orwell) Nazi Germany. These people are that odious, for real. And it all goes back to the rotten core of America, rotten from the get-go: White Supremacy driven by a political majority of White men. I have heard some progressives opine that this era is one in which White Supremacy is in its death-throes. Wishful thinking. If Fox and Trump and Company continue to wield power, there may be nothing worthwhile left of the U.S. Alarmist? I wish.
Recent developments and long-term trends provide prospects: The criminalization of abortion; further destruction of civil and voting rights; continuing White Supremacist policing and border patrolling; natural catastrophes owing to global warming (half of California’s vegetation is under threat, for example); disarray in democratic Europe (helped along by the Trumpist U.S.); between 3 and 7 more years of a U.S. President who is insane, depraved, White Supremacist, impulsive, unprepared, and stupid–and who is a Russian asset, a point Malcolm Nance (former CIA professional) keeps making. NBC and MSNBC News, June 26, 2018, for instance: “Malcolm Nance Argues Trump Became ‘Witting Asset” to Russia.”) Regarding the latter, the Trump Presidency makes “The Manchurian Candidate” look like romantic comedy. But Nance is more or less a Cassandra. The media keeps being shocked, shocked that Trump disrupts a variety of alliances at the obvious direction of Putin. Most Americans can’t manage to care, apparently.
Please pause and consider: the most powerful person in our national system of government is a valet for a Russian fascist. What could go wrong?
For the longer term: in 60 years the global population will be 16 billion. It’s hard not to think some combination of catastrophe, chaos, and authoritarianism won’t prevail. That said, I am not Cassandra. I have no idea what will happen, and I won’t be here.
The facts, however, tell me that for the present Right Wing White Supremacists have consolidated their power, control many U.S. states, and control all three branches of the federal government. They will abet environmental collapse, widen the wealth gap, wreck healthcare, and kill Black and brown people. They may wreck the economy, as the federal debt amount is closing in on the GDP.
Meanwhile, everyone left of Right seems to have perfected self-division and ineptitude. While Leftists and Centrists squabble and give daily purity quizzes, Right Wingers just keep on winning. Apparently, President Obama and his organization were an exception: they could focus, they could win. What a concept.
In this atmosphere, it makes common sense to give up hope, so I was weirdly heartened by a piece in the Washington Post yesterday by Karen Attiah, “I’ve given up hope on White people” (Washington Post, June 29, 2018). She wrote:
“Those of us who knew we were under threat from Trump have, since Election Day 2016, been told that America’s institutions will protect us from Trumpism. Congress would be a check. The responsibility of the office of the presidency would humble him. None of this has happened. This week, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision decided to ignore the president’s Islamophobic rhetoric and upheld his ban on travelers from certain majority-Muslim countries, legally sanctioning Trump’s anti-Muslim animus into official policy. Now that Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement, Trump can shape the court even more in his own image for decades to come.”
She also quotes Dr. MLK, Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” wherein King comes to the conclusion that white moderates are the biggest obstacle to African Americans’ achieving civil rights, and she notes, as have many others, that white moderates love to pretend that King was all sweetness and light, was not confrontational, and aimed to disturb the peace. Non-violent direct action was never supposed to be peaceful.
Some polls suggest, about half of white Americans think Trump is racist. Half. That in itself is grounds for giving up hope on them. Moreover, that half doesn’t really do anything to rip White Supremacy from the heart of American law and society.
Appiah also wrote:
In her book “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness,” writer Austin Channing Brown says she has “learned not to fear the death of hope. In order for me to stay in this work, hope must die.” She writes: “I cannot hope in whiteness, I cannot hope in white institutions or white America, I cannot hope in lawmakers or politicians. I cannot hope in misquoted wisdom from MLK, superficial ethnic heritage celebrations or love that is aloof. I cannot even even hope in myself. I am no one’s savior.” Instead, she has decided to embrace the shadow of hope, opting to continue “working in the dark not knowing if anything I do will ever make a difference.”
Both Appiah and Channing Brown echo legal scholar Derrick Bell, who in the 1980s and 1990s wrote such important books as We Are Not Saved: the Elusive Quest for Racial Justice (1989), Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism (1993). I recall talking with him when he visited a campus at which I taught, and he said, “When I tell my friends, ‘It’s never going to change’ [it being the racist U.S. society],” they and I feel relief.”
Of course, if you are white, like me, and have been paying attention, you must agree with Appiah, Brown, and Bell, and you certainly must not take these things personally or croak weakly, “But I’m not a racist.” (It’s not about you.)
Of course, Part Deux, Appiah, Brown, Bell, and others do not give up writing, protesting, or advocating. They chose the both/and road: One has to admit that almost all white folks are useless, at best, but also keep fighting. British poet John Keats called this move “Negative Capability,” the ability to keep opposing views in tension in one’s mind. James Baldwin suggested to an interviewer in the 1960s that he had to keep writing and struggling against racism because to do otherwise would make the condition of African Americans a mere academic exercise.
The elections of President Obama provided false hope, in turns out (not Obama’s fault), partly because, obviously, millions of white folks seethed day and night, were obviously shocked and enraged that an affable, prepared Black man could get elected president. So the empire of White Supremacy struck back, Hillary Clinton forgot to go to Wisconsin, the Russians helped Trump, and the New Left and Centrist Democrats bickered their way to defeat (I guess Bernie thought it was funny). Hopeless, indeed.
Trump won’t get impeached or indicted, ever. The Democrats will lose the Senate, possibly even the House. The Supreme Court is lost. Putin will wreak havoc, with the help of his witting asset. All of this will happen because those white people who aren’t white supremacists will never do what it takes to steamroll, at long last, those who are.
In a poem called “Oh, Yes,” American poet Charles Bukowski wrote,
This poem is easy to find on the webs and nets, but I think it also appears in Bukowski’s book, Love is a Dog From Hell. In case you’r wondering, Bukowski never performed with “Up With People.”
My colleague and co-blogger, Professor William Haltom, and I have published Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” in the Age of Pseudocracy with Routledge/Taylor & Francis in Routledge’s Series on Rhetoric and Composition. Now you will be prepared should someone ask you, “Do you know any recent books concering George Orwell’s famous essay about language and politics?” If you know any librarians who might want to order the book, we would not strenuously object to your mentioning it. Here is a link to the book on Routledge’s site, followed by an image of the book’s cover, by which you may judge the book.
A new column by Paul Krugman in the New York Times crystallized for me a problem with the American media in these pseudocractic times.
Krugman argues that the intellectual integrity of American “conservatives” has been degraded so much and eschews evidence to such a degree that conservatives who have influence on the media and policy are “cranks and charlatans,” whereas the few conservatives who retain some principles and integrity (if such people exist) have no influence on media and politics.
The occasion for the column is the Atlantic‘s firing of the newly hired Kevin Williamson, whom the editors were “shocked, shocked” (Krugman) to find out was a crank who wanted to hang women who have abortions. (And note how pervasive the lynching mentality is among Right Wingers.)
A broader issue Krugman’s point raises is the bizarre addiction to “both siderism” to be found in media and academia. At colleges and universities, there is much angst about taking pains to represent “conservative” views on campus. Right wing faculty often play the victim, and centrist or left wing faculty get taken in by it. Faculty like me wonder why we need to take pains to represent homophobia, trickle-down economics, creationsim, climate-change denial, and White Supremacy. Just to show we are, like Fox News, “fair and balanced”? Why the compulsion to entertain abjectly stupid and, in the cases of White Supremacy and homophobia, verifiably lethal ideas? Why not stick with ideas that are at least contestable in the realm of evidence? Opposing views are the stuff of academia, for sure, but not all opposing views are legitimate–measured by the broadest of academic standards.
Krugman uses Larry Kudlow as a supreme example of “cranks and charlatans” who have influence but no integrity and no connection to evidence, and Kudlow is a perfect example. But for me, the greater problem is exemplified by MSNBC’s hiring on George Will and other right-wingers who are “shocked, shocked” to find out that a White Supremacist misogynistic loon is the leader of the GOP, not to mention the nation. Will and others like him paved the way for Trump by supporting the race-baiting Southern Strategy, the “war on drugs,” Reagan’s “trickle-down” scam, the belittling of President Obama’s interest in ideas (recall the “faculty lounge” meme, in which Will and others tried to reduce Obama to a mere “academic,” depending upon the anti-intellectual meanness of the right wing. To pander to “both siderism” (I guess), MSNBC, CNN, and all sorts of online periodicals indulge right-wingers who, because of Trump, pretend not to have been on the side Trump represents all along. For me, this practice is as potentially destructive as the presence of Fox News because it, too, legitimizes cranks and charlatans, even if they are less grotesque than Trump.
I just watched a two-plus minute video (excerpt) of Noam Chomsky regarding “stupid” people. Actually, the interviewer introduced the words “stupid people,” not Chomsky.
Chomsky had opined that two dire existential threats to humanity are the increasing (apparently) likelihood of nuclear war and the increasing damage inflicted by human-assisted climate change. The interviewer asked, “Why do you care about stupid people?” Chomsky answered by pointing to those newly elected to Congress [5-7 years ago] who were “climate deniers”: people who cheerfully dismiss the science behind climate-studies and consequently perceived no responsibility to take action, either to reduce carbon emissions or to anticipate/address effects of climate change. He also opined that these same representatives a) have a “fanatical” belief in the “efficient market” (unregulated capitalism and b) front enormous, powerful financial interests. Here is a link the video: Chomsky
I take “stupid” to mean not so much unlearned as incapable of learning certain things. For instance, I am not gifted in comprehending mathematics beyond basic algebra. My mind took to geometry quite well but recoiled from trigonometry. Probably if I had set my mind to the tasks with more determination, I could have had more success, but even then, I would not have excelled, I suspect.
I am not “ignorant” of mathematics, and I certainly understand their importance. I can grasp basic statistical evidence. I am not indifferent to their (mathematics) central role, nor am I so cynical that I would like to vote for people who oppose mathematics just to–what?–feel comfortable?
The problems Chomsky highlights seem to spring from gleeful ignorance, a view of the world that implies “I know all I ever need to know.” This ignorance and/or tolerance of ignorance seems to blossom into indifference or cynicism. For so-called Republicans and Conservatives, the known includes a deep disrespect for government, but not enough disrespect to decline to serve in government. It is a subversiveness far more effective than anarchy.
For example, the EPA has been told by its director to scrub websites of climate-change language and information. The known includes the assumption that white supremacy is tolerable if not preferable and that all personal weaponry ought to be legal. It includes toleration of misogyny, a wish to abolish legal abortion combined with an opposition to contraception and sex education (go figure). Now it also seems to include a surreal combination of bellicosity and isolationism and enthusiasm about mixing greed, Christianity, and government.
I assume Republicans and Conservatives like Jeff Flake and Mitch McConnell are mentally gifted enough to understand the science behind human-assisted climate change. I assume they pretend to oppose the science so as to pander to their supporters–who may or may not be capable of understanding the science. Flake and McConnell and their ilk represent legions and wield enormous power. They tolerate White Supremacy and, in the form of the Southern Strategy, maintain its potency. They sometimes say tepid things to critique Trump, but they do nothing to impede him or his harmful cabinet and cabinet-level appointees.
Why do so many people, white people especially, support such indifference, ignorance, and cynicism when it puts virtually everyone, including them and their families, at risk? There’s the rub. Political scientists and economists often speak/write of “rational actors”: people who at least can be counted on to make decisions based on self-interest. The American train is being driven by irrational actors, at ease with current and impending destruction. From an African American point of view (to select one of many possible examples), I suppose this has always been the case. At any rate, how does one, how do many, fight back against and render ineffective the cynical indifferent and gleeful ignorance? There’s the rub, part deux.
I recently ran across a fascinating piece by Andrew Lanham in the Boston Review. It concerns the U.S. government’s attempt in 1951 to convict Du Bois–when he was 83 years old, mind you–of sedition because he had helped create a petition opposing nuclear arms. He was forced to criss-cross the country giving speeches to raise money for his defense, which was ultimately successful. Nonetheless, Du Bois regarded the episode to be a final break with the U.S., so sought exile in Ghana, where he eventually became a citizen and where he died. The specifics of the case are interesting, but just the fact that the U.S. would treat such a person–accomplished scholar, important leader, writer, editor, and mentor–as it did remains mortifying–all the more so because Trumpism replicates the anti-democratic, white supremacist “spirit” of those times.
Link : Essay on Du Bois
Lanham wrote, “I thought of this history this week when Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, began his confirmation hearings. In 1986 Sessions was denied a federal judgeship partly because he allegedly called the NAACP, which was co-founded by Du Bois, “un-American.” (In his 1986 confirmation hearings, Sessions walked a fine line, saying that the NAACP “take positions that are considered un-American.”) Trump himself has suggested that the government should revoke the citizenship of flag burners, and Trump’s pick for national security advisor, Michael Flynn, has called for an indefinite world war on terrorism, which he says must begin at home by targeting Muslim Americans. This is the same ugly cluster of ideas that landed Du Bois in court on trumped-up charges sixty years ago: the idea that demanding basic civil rights is tantamount to treason; that protesting national policy means forfeiting one’s citizenship; that darker skin or leftist views make one less American; and that an open-ended global war justifies unconstitutional repression.” And later, he refers to Hannah Arendt in connection with the Du Bois case:
“In 1951, the same year Du Bois waged his battle in court, the philosopher Hannah Arendt published The Origins of Totalitarianism, in which she argued that we can ‘measure’ totalitarianism by whether governments strip their people of citizenship. Despite her own intense opposition to the Soviet Union, Arendt feared that “even free democracies” such as the United States were “seriously considering depriving native Americans who are Communists of their citizenship.” Du Bois did end up practically stateless when the State Department effectively cancelled his citizenship after he moved to Ghana in 1961. There is no description of this more accurate than what Arendt would call it: intellectual totalitarianism.”
Our current intellectual [if it rises to that level] totalitarianism affects civil rights, immigration, foreign policy, access to citizenship, gun-policy, voting rights, and so on. One might generously call our present political disaster atavistic, but that assumes the country advanced and hasn’t simply remained stuck in 1951.
Thanks to Lanham for a timely, illuminating essay.