A Point of Racism

Slavery is its own thing, but, in order to really get your head around it, you have to, I think, compare it to other things. Slavery isn’t rape, though a lot of slaves were raped. But definitely watching how America deals with rape now can give you some clues as to what was going on with slavery. And watching how racism plays out now… well, same thing.

This morning, as I was thinking about it, I realized that racism plays a very important part in slavery beyond the justification for why slavery is “okay.” Racism is very important because it lets bystanders off the hook.

We’ve talked about this with rape–how there are relatively few rapists but they find cover in a society that seems geared to believe that any man, at any second, might be accused of being a rapist or, worse, might, through no fault of his own except having misunderstood his victim’s intentions, accidentally be a rapist.

So, back to slavery. We’ve talked, too, extensively about how it was impossible to really be a good slave owner. You could be good or you could be a slave owner, but you couldn’t be both, because, at some point, if you are a slave owner, you’re going to be buying rape victims from their rapists, torture victims from their torturers or selling people to people you have to know are going to rape and torture them. You are a part of the system that makes that rape and torture possible.

But it’s so important, if slavery is going to work, for the slave owners who don’t rape and torture (I’m drawing an uncomfortable distinction here between people who “just” physically coerced their captives and people who tortured them, but people, in general, were just more physically violent back then. People beat their kids and their spouses. They beat each other up for fun. They beat their slaves. And it’s not like we no longer do those things, but the scale and scope is just different now. So, I’m trying to draw a distinction, just for the sake of this point, between extraordinary violence–torture–and ordinary violence–everyone is getting knocked upside the head at some point–and not to excuse or downplay the latter.) to have a way to not see the rape and torture. And not just that, but to believe that the rapists and torturers aren’t getting a fair shake. That they need defending, because, at any moment, any slave owner might unfairly be accused of rape and torture.

This is where racism comes in. Black people are liars. Black people don’t feel pain the way white people do. Black people are lusty, practically animals in their “mating.” Black people are… oh and we hear the echoes of this right now in that case in L.A. where the school district is trying to argue that a girl with mental disabilities can’t really suffer from sexual abuse the same way a smart kid could… too stupid to really understand what’s happening to them. Black people are just looking for reasons to be upset, when really, they’re exaggerating the problem. Black leaders are just stirring them up. Etc. etc. etc.

America, by now, we all know this song well enough to sing along.

It just helps put up this screen. White people who are racist don’t have to feel the great discomfort that might spur them into bucking or dismantling the system. Racism is the mechanism by which white people learn to be just fine with horrendous evil. Not just racial inequality, should we ever get to the point when that’s the mountain we have to deal with. But the utter… I want to say “disregard” for black lives, but I feel, too, like that’s refusing to look our history and our society now straight in the face. Our society runs on the destruction of non-white bodies. Even our classism, and we’re a deeply classist society, too, is, like our homophobia is built on men being afraid of being treated by other men how they treat women, our classim has an element of treating poor white bodies like the trash (poor white trash) we treat non-white bodies like.

Racism isn’t the cause of slavery. As people will point out, there have been slaves throughout history. But racism, in our society, gathers like a thick fog to both justify slavery and to obscure from view everything that would make it seem unjustified. Racism is the mechanism by which white evildoers are shielded from justice.

Lady of the Lake, Women in the River

Ugh, this song and Jewly’s writing about it.

I believe the way for things to change for women is for women to come together for each other, to check on each other, to find each other and tell each other our stories.

But I have to say, I keep thinking about how often Death is a woman, the rivers, lakes, and streams are women, sailors can be married to the ocean, and all those ancient earth goddesses. All the places you might put a woman where she’ll never be found, they’re all considered to be feminine spaces.

I don’t know. It makes me sad.

Rigged

The system is rigged. And it’s perpetuated through violence. Both the violence that is actually perpetrated on people and the threat of violence.

I think a lot about whether it’s possible and how one might refuse to play the rigged game we’re born into. If you see that your neighbor is being treated unfairly in a bad way and you are being treated unfairly in a good way, most people’s instinct–if they recognize that unfairness–is to try to rectify it. Unless you’re told repeatedly that it’s deserved or not really unfair or whatever.

But it’s not a conscious decision on most people’s parts to treat you better. You can’t appeal to the leader and demand to be treated fairly. You just get to be treated unfairly well. Your neighbor continues to be treated unfairly poor.

But here’s the rub. Here’s one way it’s perpetuated–generation after generation. When it’s my son or brother or nephew in front of a cop’s gun, I want him to come out alive. And when he does, I feel relief and gratitude. Things have worked how they should.

I don’t want to give that up.

There’s a canard in feminist circles that homophobia is just a dude’s fear that other dudes will treat him how he treats women.

But there’s a similar dynamic at the heart of white supremacy–the threat that white people who buck the system will be treated like non-white people. And yet, when white people are the ones with the power to change things, white people willing to buck the system are what’s need. And yet, and yet, a system that changes in response to white people’s discomfort and not to non-white people’s suffering is still racist.

My heart hurts.

Scape-grace

If the Macons weren’t such fuckers, I’d feel almost bad for John Macon, who, in almost every thing you read is described as being not quite as great as his brother, Nathaniel. Though I did learn a new word–scape-grace. John, apparently, was the biggest scape-grace in the county.

It appears to mean something like “rapscallion” or “lout.” And the insults… like numerous books mention that the Widow Macon and her neighbor set up a school so their four boys can go. And then three of them go on to Princeton. I am not a 19th century writer, so I can’t quite get it across, but the way they deliver that “three” just lets you know that John Macon did not go to Princeton.

It’s pretty funny.

Well, This is Some Kind of Exceptional

I feel like I have the general non-Jewish American feelings about Nazis. They are bad.

I remember watching Shoah in college and finding one part, where Lanzmann interviewed an old Nazi (secretly) who, in the grainy footage looked like he could be the brother of my grandfather. That grandfather.

Which means that, in my mind, the problem of what to do with men who were evil a lifetime ago is kind of linked both to historical evil and to familial evil (which, yes, are often the same things).

I, personally, don’t find even my parents’ belated admissions of ways they fucked up to be that satisfying. I don’t want my dad now to be sorry for standing idly by while I was stalked. I want my dad then to have stood up. To me, this is one of the great terriblenesses at the heart of living–that there is no real justice, no real restitution.

For me, seeing a 90 year old man discovered to be a Nazi in hiding in the U.S., even if he’s put on trial and lives out the rest of his life in prison, it seems to me so too little so too late as to be practically meaningless.

However, I am not all people and I am certainly not someone whose families were annihilated by people like that. So, my feeling on the matter is that, even if I would not find tracking down ancient Nazis satisfying, if that’s what even a few of their survivors want, then that’s what we should do. My feelings in this case are mostly beside the point.

If that’s what even a few of their survivors want, then that’s what we should do.

But, it turns out that we, America, are Nazi collaborators. After the war, the ones we thought would be useful we brought here and gave jobs. Not just in the space program, which we already knew, but as spies for the CIA and the FBI.

So, all those Nazis that we find living in the U.S. and make a big show, no matter their age, of deporting for trial, those are just the Nazis who aren’t our friends. It turns out that America faced an ethical question similar to the one I outlined at the beginning–if we don’t think it’s that bad to keep some Nazis around, is the anguish of their victims more important than our feelings?

And we decided, apparently, that, no, the anguish of their victims was not that important to us. We’d throw them a bone every so often by finding a Nazi every now and then who wasn’t useful to us, so that they’d believe we actually gave two shits about finding Nazis. But we’d keep our Nazis safe and sound.

I guess I’d find this less upsetting if we didn’t still run around acting like we have the moral high ground all the damn time. But we never look the terrible things we do in the face. We never say “Yes, we acknowledge these are our bad people, our wrong-doings, our evil.” We always make excuses and go back as quickly as we can to ignoring and pretending we are always on the side of right.

Slave Culture

I’ve been thinking, on my history weekend, that the answer to why people owned slaves is incredibly obvious. It would be awesome. Yes, it’s got to be soul-corrupting, but, ignoring the moral implications, of course having people to do all the shit you don’t want to–or can’t–do is marvelous. I think even believing that you, because of some intrinsic value, deserve to have these people doing whatever you tell them and they, due to their inherent lack of being as awesome as you, have to do it, is some heady shit. Once you gave yourself permission to go ahead and enjoy the luxury of having slaves, I think it’d be very difficult to give it up.

But another thing I keep thinking about, too, is how much this resonates through into our current discussions of rape culture, how “slave culture” is, perhaps, the original rock in the pond that has sent us the destructive ripple of rape culture.

Because, if you consent to be my slave and I consent to do to you only the things you would allow me to do to you, you’re not really a slave. (Maybe we’d say you’re a non-sexual submissive?) The real pleasure of slavery is the pleasure of rape–I do to you whatever I want and I don’t give a shit how you feel about it. In fact, it’s better for me if you don’t want to do it, if you would say “no,” if you could.

Not all slave-owners, of course. Some must have enjoyed believing that their slaves came around to being willing to submit to those circumstances. That they were “kind.” Seducers, turning a “no” into a “yes.”

But for most, the ones who whipped and kicked and punched and burned, the satisfaction had to be there in the ability to willfully disregard the will of the body they were acting upon.

And, too, it wasn’t just slavery–this is how indentured servants might be treated, or wives, or children, or strangers who insulted you.

Which makes me wonder how you train this out of a people. If we have, for so long, believed that social prestige and status is intrinsically linked to having as few people as possible above you who can act on your body without your permission while we display the ways in which we can act on others’ bodies, why and how do we give that up?

Enemies and Truth

One thing I’ve realized lately is that a person’s enemies are rarely wrong. Your enemies do see some fundamental truths of who you are. The things they hate about you are most likely honest-to-god terrible and annoying things about you.

But what I find fascinating about enemies is that your enemies may have a legitimate complaint against you that obligates you to act–“That bastard killed my sister and I want him to face justice.” or “That woman wouldn’t hire me because I’m gay and I want her to face some kind of repercussions.” What your enemies want from you is not unreasonable, even if it’s incredibly disruptive to your life.–but a lot of times your enemies have a legitimate complaint against you–“God, she’s such a complainy douche!”–but the action they want to see taken against you–“Don’t hang out with her.”–doesn’t really obligate you to act. Just because someone doesn’t like that you’re a complainy douche doesn’t mean that you have to change to suit them. It also doesn’t make it right for them to try to separate you from your friends who also probably see that you’re a complainy douche, but find that outweighed by your undying loyalty and your willingness to drive them places whenever they need it.

It does seem to me like a lot of human interactions are about establishing who can force others to move without having to be moved themselves. Most of the time, I think we’d be better off if we all just agreed to either move together or not worry about whether others were moving but just on our own motions and the outcomes of those motions.

But I find the second kind of enemy so weird and fascinating because they’re arguing that their hatred of someone creates some kind of relationship that the person they hate should honor by trying to be less hated. I completely get why people who like each other come to understand themselves as being entwined in mutually beneficial obligations to each other.

But how does the person who hates you understand their claim on you if their claim on you isn’t, in part, “you are genuinely doing me wrong” as opposed to “you are annoying me.”?

I hate, genuinely hate, very few people in this world who I don’t feel have wronged me. The people who have wronged me, the obligation I think they have to me now is to leave me alone. But the people who haven’t wronged me, but who just annoy me into hatred, I don’t want to spend time trying to make them be more palatable to me. I don’t want to have to spend any more time with them than I do. If they were less terrible, I’d be under more pressure to tolerate them.

I feel like I’m missing some obvious thing here. There must be something pleasurable, even in a deeply twisted way, about trying to assert power over people you hate, but I just don’t see it. I mean, if you could guarantee that it would work–I can see how that would be pleasurable–to watch your enemies do your bidding. But real life isn’t often like that. Instead, you’re more often just struggling to try to get any hint of that kind of influence. Mostly, it’s just you and the person you hate yelling at each other and not doing what the other wants you to do.

Less The Godfather and more Real Housewives.

Lou Lewis

Lou Lewis is the name of the black woman who gave Nathan Bedford Forrest flowers at the 1875 4th of July Pole-Bearers picnic. She called them a peace offering. He accepted them, again, using the words “peace offering.” He called her a “lady.” He gave a speech about Southerners, black and white, needing to learn to get along.

It was a strange day. It was nice of him to call her a lady.

Here’s the thing–when both parties call something a peace offering, isn’t that an acknowledgement that they’ve been at war?

The more research I do, the more it does feel like a war. If black people had lived here all along, it’d make much more sense–the United States conquered your territory, enslaved you, and waged a long battle against people who wanted to liberate your country.

It’s just that the land is missing, so it’s hard to see slavery as an occupation. But nothing else about how we talk about slavery really makes any sense. You just can’t argue that agricultural people with access to farm animals didn’t know their slaves were human. They had children with them. And you can’t argue that it’s just how it was, because so many people struggled against it. Slaves didn’t accept slavery as their deserved lot.

We conquered and occupied a people who would have never considered themselves a people before we kidnapped them and made them one.

Doing Nothing Wrong

I wrote about the Radnor Lake Rambo for Pith today. And I’ve been thinking a lot about how, if his crusade is not about publicly escalating his one-man terror-fest until he works up the guts to shoot someone, it’s about demanding the right to be thought of as harmless, no matter what social cues he’s giving off.

You see this come up in other situations, where men get mad when they know they’re just being nice guys by doing something–say following a girl home (to make sure she makes it), or offering to buy a woman a drink after she’s made it clear she no longer wants to talk to you–that sets off the “this guy is trouble” red flag. Like they’re really pissed that they’re not being thought of as harmless.

There are other instances, but you get the gist. And people try to make the argument that, hey, you might be harmless, but you’re doing this red-flag activity and we are not psychic so we have no way of knowing if the guy on campus with a gun is a good guy or a bad guy or if the guy following us home is a good guy or a rapist or if the woman flirting with our partners is friendly or has ill-intentions.

But you can’t indulge in mildly bad, scary behavior and still be treated like you’re harmless. That’s a really weird thing to ask of the world.

1835

Keeping in mind that John Murrell gave this kind of speech to people he later murdered, if Stewart was telling the truth, or didn’t give this speech at all if Stewart was a big fat liar, liar pants-on-fire, it still fucking blows my mind. Here’s what Murrell was going to say to slaves as he attempted to incite them into a nation-wide rebellion:

We find the most vicious and wicked disposed ones, on large farms and poison their minds by telling them how they are mistreated, and that they are entitled to their freedom as much as their masters, and that all the wealth of the country is the proceeds of the black people’s labor; we remind them of the pomp and splendor of their masters, and then refer them to their own degraded situation, and tell them that it is power and tyranny which rivets their chains of bondage, and not because they are an inferior race of people. We tell them that all Europe has abandoned slaver, and that the West Indies are all free; and that they got their freedom by rebelling a few times and slaughtering the whites, and convince them, that if they will follow the example of the West India negroes, that they will obtain their liberty and become as much respected as if they were white, and that they can marry white women when they are all put on a level. In addition to this, get them to believe, that the most of people are in favor of their being free, and that the free States, in the United States, would not interfere with the negroes, if they were to butcher every white man in the slave-holding States.

I remain stunned to see someone so clearly articulate that the wealth of this country comes from black people’s labor in 1835. Even if they meant it to be evil and ridiculous.

Good vs. Good

What’s striking about the antebellum South is that there’s an informal definition of “good” (at least among white men) as being “that which is pleasing to God.” What was pleasing to God was knowable, because “good” white people were rewarded–literally rewarded with financial success. One’s fortunes rose and fell based on whether one was pleasing or displeasing God. You can see a lot of this playing out in Gordon Belt’s book in reverse, where Confederate soldiers were admonished to stop sinning so much in the camps so that the Confederacy could get back to winning.

So, in a very simple way, when a slave-owner took the opportunity to fuck a slave–in spite of her protestations, crying, and traumatized behavior afterwards (clues we expect “good” people to recognize now as being evidence that they’ve done something “not good” to someone else)–and he remained wealthy, he understood it as God giving the okay to that kind of behavior. After all, if it was a problem, God would have punished him, probably with financial difficulties.

And as Bridgett pointed out in the comments the other day, “good” men who feared putting their wives through pregnancy often found other people to “have sex with.” This was seen as a loving choice.

White men got to equate “goodness” with prosperity.

Slaves were supposed to equate “goodness” with obedience. Possibly everyone in the South was supposed to equate “goodness” with obedience with slaves supposed to be being obedient to their masters the way that slave masters were obedient to God, and everyone knew when they were being good, because there was a tangible measure of it–masters got rich, slaves got to live.

The thing that strikes me hardest about this arrangement, though, is that, when slaves talked about who was a good master, they never talked about a master who was overwhelmingly financially successful. It’s always about how the master treated his slaves.

The definition most of us accept as the definition of goodness is the slave’s definition–that one’s goodness is measured by how little misery you spread to others.

(Importantly, though, even slaves with good masters, by their own reckoning, wanted to be free. You could have “good” masters, comparatively speaking, and still think slavery was not good.)

I was browsing through Nietzsche and Hegel trying to decide if this is what they observed and I don’t really think so.

Hits

It irritates me so much, too, that everyone is like “Oh, Ray Rice! He’s so terrible.” and yet they’ll pass along quotes from Bill Hobbs.

Also, I guess I’ve read some good arguments for why people shouldn’t view the video, but I’ll also say this–when “sources” inside the NFL, who all mysteriously seem not to have seen the video before yesterday, were saying this summer that the video in the elevator gave more context and made what happened outside the elevator more understandable, when they were saying that the events in the elevator were why they could still stand by Rice and why the Ravens felt comfortable having a tweet talking about how Mrs. Rice apologized for her role in the altercation. This video was supposed to explain things.

So, those sick fuck liars made the elevator video an issue by making it an excuse for their unwillingness to do what decent people who just saw how he treated her afterwards thought should be done. I watched the video not to see what happened to her–I knew what happened to her–but to see if the surrounding events matched up with what I’d been told was on the video.

Those surrounding events did not. To put it mildly. And that’s on those sick fuck liars, who watched that video and then lied about what was on it so that they could keep their meal ticket on the field.

Two Games?

I watched the Ray Rice video, the inside the elevator footage. It’s pretty amazing. She gets in one side of the elevator. He gets in the other. She’s clearly standing away from him. He reaches over to touch her, hit her, though possibly in a playful way–I mean, if the video ended there, you’d think it was playful. She turns to confront him, approaches him, and he knocks her out. Thus recontextualizing his initial contact with her as setting up his second hit better.

That you could watch that and give him two games off is mind-boggling.

That you could watch that and then watch his girlfriend apologizing for “her role” in the incident, when her role appears to be being unfortunate enough to run into his fist and give him two games off is horrific.

I hope he doesn’t someday kill her.

But the other thing I can’t wrap my head around is how there seemed to be this assumption that the video would never get out, that they could spin what happened in the elevator however they wanted, because no one would see it. And I get how that kind of shit happened even twenty years ago, but in this day and age?

In this day and age, can you really count on your misdeeds staying buried?

They Pray and Rob Churches

I find this terrifying. The police in Ferguson have apparently robbed a church. After making public shows of praying before press conferences and praying before nights of violence.

We’re all told that, if we just do what the police want, we won’t be harmed. But how can you figure out what someone wants when he tells you to go one way and his partner tells you to go another and they arrest you for not following orders? How can you figure out what they want when you’re not resisting and they say “stop resisting?” When they pray like they’re Christians but aren’t afraid or ashamed of entering a church to steal from it so that the church cannot do the work it’s obligated to do?

I am scared to death for the people in Ferguson. People who pray in public and then rob churches… I mean, what can you even say? These aren’t people who act by a moral code. But they’re armed and state sanctioned.

Ferguson, Continued

I think the thing I find most interesting about this is just watching how the racial attitudes I grew up surrounded by and the racial assumptions of the power structures in those places sound to outsiders.

In a way, the dynamic is very similar to how abusers talk about the people they abuse–there’s always a long list of wrong-doings, and, as we talked about, often those accusations are true. Brown appears to have robbed a convenience store. He had been smoking pot, apparently. Neither of those things being punishable by death.

And, for sure, being angry that a confrontation between the police and an unarmed kid lead to that kid’s death doesn’t justify a quasi-military invasion and occupation of your neighborhood.

But I grew up in towns where it was just assumed that black people, except the “good” ones, were more dangerous than white people (even the “trash”) and that they had to be constantly surveilled by the police if and when they were around because, well, “you know how they are.” And everyone nods along, with rare exceptions.

I can see this same attitude in the Ferguson and county police, who keep trying to trigger the “and everyone nods along” portion of the event. Everything they’ve released is about trying to show that Brown is not “one of the good ones,” and therefore, whatever happens to him, it’s not really important for “good” people to bother themselves with.

That they cannot force this dynamic to play out with this individual seems to have caused them to try to escalate things in Ferguson so that they can try to trigger it at a community level–these are all “bad” ones because they’re outside when they’re told not to be, because they don’t respect the authority of the police, etc.–so that they can be vindicated in their treatment of the community and therefore of Brown.

They are afraid, that much is obvious. And that makes me worried more people are going to end up dead by the time this is over.

Could This Happen Here?

One of the things I find most disheartening about the Ferguson situation is that I see a bunch of folks asking if “this” could happen here.

None of them are talking about whether a cop could shoot a kid down in the street.

I guess we’re just all assuming that could happen. So, let’s jump to the worry about whether people’s rage/grief/fear here could spiral into this kind of chaos. A kind of chaos that might affect all of us.

But I wish we dwelled longer on how to train our cops to deescalate and how to demilitarize their presence.

Justifications for Abuse

This week, I’ve had various chances to observe people behaving badly and other people trying to justify it. From that football player who knocked his fiancee out in an elevator to a website devoted to destroying another website (we talked about this before, but I’m not mentioning names, because I just don’t have it in me this week to argue with those assholes again) to… well, the whole fucking world.

And one thing occurs to me as I watch people argue “Well she did…”

Yes. Folks, sometimes breakfast is burned. Sometimes the kids are noisy and he’s not making any effort to keep them quiet. Sometimes the moderation is heavy-handed. Sometimes your fiancee is a drunken asshole. Yes. A million times yes. The “sins” they’ve committed that are supposed to justify the shit they get are often true. They often have done the things you accuse them of doing.

When someone is abused, though, and you start from a premise of “Well, let’s see if they really did the thing their abuser said they did. Let’s get the whole context.” then you’re starting from a premise where it’s okay in some circumstances to abuse a person. Some people can get punched by loved ones; we’re now trying to decide if you’re one of those people. Some people can get whole sites devoted to trying to destroy them and frighten their loved ones; we’re now trying to decide if you’re one of those people. Etc. Etc. Etc.

I wish we would reject the premise that there is some x that makes y okay.

Shooting Children

Apparently Lamar Alexander wants to send the national guard to secure our southern border to keep out the children flooding across. I don’t think you should send a person with a gun anywhere you don’t expect that person with a guy to shoot someone. So, is that the message Alexander wants to send? Send your children here and we’ll slaughter them at the border?

There’s pandering to your base and then there’s acting like a psycopath. You can guess what side of the line I think sending soldiers to block the ways of children is on.

Hobby Lobby

1. I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that I, as a woman, have fewer rights than a corporation. Every time I try to look at it head-on, I keep finding reasons why it’s not actually that bad. But it is that bad. I am not a full citizen of the United States. Me and Puerto Rico, we’re supposed to feel like we’re Americans but be okay with all the ways we’re constantly reminded that we’re not. I bring up Puerto Rico because my body is property, but not property I can fully own and control.

2. The things the Founders tried to rally against, their fear of overpowering governments. If only they could have imagined that corporations would become just as powerful and just as able to reach into our lives.

3. Mark Twain, in Life on the Mississippi, flat out explains how much freedom in the United States is about being able to force other people to do what you want without being in a position where other people can force you to do anything. We just don’t believe him most days because it feels so antithetical to what we’re taught freedom is.

4. The other thing is that this is bad for Christianity. It’s bad for denominations and Christians that don’t want any part of this but are now lumped in with “Christian” corporations. And it’s bad for Christians that are happy about this. If a person has no choice but to follow your religious edicts, you’re not actually convincing people of the rightness of Christianity. You’re not changing hearts. And, as our culture grows more secularized, if Christianity becomes so thoroughly linked with bizarre and oppressive beliefs about women and gay people and the rights of corporations to decide what kind of healthcare you get, Christianity is going to seem like a weird, scary cult, not like a rich, theological tradition.

 

Things Change

When I was young, I made my mom take me to a talk Ken Kesey gave about, well, being Ken Kesey and doing the whole bus trip across America and I remember thinking that was the most amazing thing in the world.

This weekend, I watched a documentary about said trip and by the end of it, I was like “Has there ever been a more tedious group of people in the world?”

And then I was like, yes, I’m so very old.

Different Thoughts

1. This was for a conference of Christian thought-leaders. $775 to sit around and talk about how to be a good Christian. This is a problem we have in this country–where, for some people, $775 is an unimaginably large amount of money–their house payment, what they need for all their bills for the month, an unattainable car repair, etc.–and for some people, it’s play money you can spend to sit around and talk about how to be a good Christian. And, in fairness, I’m sure, even in Tennessee, $775 could be, for these people, nothing. They could give away millions of dollars. If you gave a million dollars to a food pantry last year, is spending $775 to talk about Christianity with your fellow Christians really outrageous? Not in that context. But man, it’s so much money for most people. And I think the disconnect between the two is insurmountable, for the most part. If you know how much money $775 is, you’re never going to be on the radar of most people who know how little money that is.

2. Bwah ha ha ha ha ha ha. Of course the guy who wants to be treated like a special snowflake by the federal government resents the black people he thinks are being treated like special snowflakes.

Worlds apart

I talked to my second-oldest friend in the world on Saturday. The only person I’m not related to I’ve known longer is his brother. When we were little, I kind of just assumed I would eventually marry him. I also assumed I was going to marry my cousin J., so all that nonsense I said last week about not giving a shit about polygamy? Well, little B. was counting on it.

Anyway, it was really nice to talk to him.

It’s hard not to get down about the world, sometimes. I mean, take what happened yesterday. That’s the world I want to live in–where a Methodist grandpa takes his grandson to the Jewish community center because it’s a community center where things people in the community are interested in happen. I want to live in a world where Jewish people have no reason to fear letting non-Jewish people into their buildings. I want to live in a world where Christians don’t feel threatened or uncomfortable going to the Jewish community center.

But I live in a world where people just trying to live in the world I want to live in pay with their lives.

But what can you do in the face of fuckers except persevere for as long as you can? It aggravates me when people are like “Just love each other” or “just be kind.” But I recognize that there’s a nugget of something radical there.

 

Polygamous Marriage

I wrote a post at Pith on our curtailed second amendment rights here in Tennessee. No, really.

Sadly, there was already a comment there by the time I got around to reading the post when it went live, so I had to see it. But I just want to say this. 1. It’s really fucked up to argue that you have to keep oppressing gay people or the polygamists are going to get out of line. So, I should be able to kick all my commenters to keep anyone who might be thinking about commenting in line? 2. I just could not give a shit less about polygamy among consenting adults as long as women are free to marry as many people at the same time as men are. I do not want to be and cannot foresee a time when I will want to be in a polygamous relationship. But I have now lived in this world four decades and I have seen a lot of people make for themselves defacto polygamous relationships and a lot of people in unwitting defacto polygamous relationships. I’m not frightened by or uncomfortable about the ones where everyone’s consenting and happy together coming into the legal light. And I’m for sure not bothered by the long-term mistress being able to have some legal protections.

I don’t foresee becoming some great champion of polygamous marriage, but I’m not opposed to it. It’s not some effective boogeyman to convince me that we can’t have gay marriage.

We Can Bring About the End of the World

I’ve been thinking a lot about Ta-Nehisi Coates’ post yesterday and it put me in a mind, too, on top of his points, of how we white people, even progressives, tend to talk about Native American issues as if Native Americans are gone or almost gone. We’re really hung up on this idea that we can ruin you good. That any encounters with us must end in your ruination.

We are, white people, obsessed with this idea that we can cause apocalypses.

I don’t want to downplay the amazing destruction we’re capable of. Because we are capable of it. But I’m fascinated by this idea that we do all this shit and then want to either say that you deserved your utter destruction because of your inferiority or say that your utter destruction is understandable in light of our unparalleled dominance. Even when people demonstrably haven’t been utterly destroyed.

And, in a world when it’s so hard to get white people to say “Oh, yeah, that was pretty shitty,” maybe arguing that we tone it down about how shitty it was sounds strange. But I’m convinced that there’s something wrong with our continued fantasy–even in the face of proof that people live on and in ways that mostly work for them–that we have utterly destroyed our foes.

It’s like, even when we want to talk about societal ills, we need to have reflected back to us our unparalleled power to utterly destroy. We want to believe we can end things. The amount in which we’re invested in this idea that we’re strong enough to end histories, if not History itself, is pretty amazing.