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.

State of My To Do List

I think I’m down to Keep doing Think Progress posts; Finish the Afghan; Finalize Demonbreun talk. And I need to remember to finish my taxes, now that I found the pile of papers I put “in a safe place.”

The book I’m going to be talking about at Think Progress today just utterly fucking blew my mind. But I have to say, it made me understand why scholarship in the past takes the attitude that Native Americans were savages who needed conquering. Because when you read scholarship that isn’t racist (or isn’t racist in that way; let’s leave the door open for our descendants to see in us uglinesses we can’t see in ourselves), the magnitude of the American Project and what was lost, or what we attempted to make lost, is kind of hard to look straight at.

But anyway, there’s something weird about going out into the night after finishing a book like that and looking up knowing that the people who looked up at that sky 200 years ago, many of them, had this rich utterly different cosmology. I always look for Orion in the night sky. It’s familiar to me. But, when standing on this ground, looking up at those stars from this spot, to know that I’m looking at a hole where the souls come in… That those stars had this utterly different meaning and may still. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain.

We’re supposed to be comforted by a coherent world-view. It grants surety to know that we all agree this or this. But I’m more and more wondering about what I’m not hearing. Though, I should say, honestly, that hearing these stories was hard.

I’m rambling here but to come at this from another direction, being St. Paddy’s day, I’ve been thinking about my mom’s grandmother, Marie Corcoran, and the ongoing shittiness she experienced from my mom’s grandfather’s whole family because she was Irish and Catholic. About how my own grandfather, who was one of the most awesome people I know, sent the Butcher a letter right before he died insisting we were Orange Irish, if the Butcher ever heard anything about us being Irish.

God, how that must have stabbed his mom right in the gut, to know her own son lied about his ancestry, about her identity.

And yet, I’m not less Clayton Rich of the shitty bigots than I am Marie Corcoran, Clayton’s wife and victim of said shitty bigots. Where shall I stand?

In discomfort. More and more.

“What Was He Even Doing Over There?”

It’s like this. If I accidentally hit you in the nose with my elbow, you should, even if it was completely an accident, have the assurance that bystanders and investigators are going to seriously consider that I hit you on purpose or that I was in some way at fault. That possibility should be entertained and then evidence for and against that possibility weighed and either accepted or dismissed. Your physical characteristics (with the exception, in this case, of maybe the size of your nose–since someone with a really tiny nose might argue that my chances of hitting it by accident are very slim and someone with a large nose might find you’re often getting hit in it by accident) shouldn’t be a factor in whether you get a neutral investigation into what happened to you.

But, if I know, say, that North Nashville is predominately black and I know you are black and I hit you in the nose, say, at Noshville, what am I to make of the fact that people keep asking me why you were even at Noshville in the first place?

Even if no one surrounding the investigation or the fall-out of the investigation ever mentions you’re black, isn’t it weird that they keep asking me why you were in Noshville? Like, what purposed does that question serve. I don’t know you. I only met you because of this accident. And there are a million reasons you might be in Noshville–lunch, job, meet up with friends, whatever. What does it matter? It’s not like you were trolling through Noshville looking to put your nose in the elbow-line of me. So, why am I being asked this question?

Is it because the question is supposed to tell me something? To reassure me that, since I was where I had a right to be and you might not have been, I can rest assured that no one is going to look that closely into what happened? I think that’s it. That I’m supposed to hear that question and kind of know that everything’s going to be okay for me. Now, it’s weird, because I’m fairly certain that I didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t actually need the assurance that everything’s going to go okay for me, because I have the truth on my side.

But how many times do I go back and stare at the place where I hit you? How many times do I look at that place and reassure myself that it went down just how I remember it? And I think I’m right. It was just an accident. But maybe I’m growing unsettled about how quickly that doesn’t seem to matter. The further we get away from it, the more people I have to talk to who weren’t there, the more I hear that question, the more I worry that someone like me could have straight-up punched you in the nose and he might still be getting asked why you were even in Noshville.

And, if only I, the person who hurt you, seems to care about you getting treated fairly, how are you going to get treated fairly?

Dropping Duck Dynasty

I don’t have a big point to make about this other than “ha ha,” but I do have a small point to make. I think the mistake A&E and, in fact, the Robertsons have made here is to believe that there is but one type of conservative Christianity and it aligns with the one practiced by the Robertsons. See, the thing is that, as popular as the prosperity gospel is, it is, among folks who look demographically identical, also as unpopular. It’s a deep split in Christianity–can a rich person be a good Christian? Or, if you were a good Christian, would you have been giving so much away along the way that you would, in fact, not be able to be rich?

As a conservative Christian asked me, “Why should I listen to a rich guy’s opinion about what God thinks of homosexuals, since he’s not listening to Jesus about money?” And this is someone I think agrees with Phil Robertson about gay people.

So, it’s weird. It’s like the old “Preach, preach, now you’re just meddling” joke got short-circuited and people who should have been primed to shout “preach” at the first “gay people are wrong” remark all instead were like “who’s this hypocrite to speak for us?”

I mean, I think people like me turned away. But we weren’t that big a part of the demographic who watched the show. What should frighten people who think they’re marketing to conservative Christians is that that’s the market Duck Dynasty is losing. That indicates they don’t know that demographic as well as they think they do.

Andrew Jackson

I’m writing something for the Scene on Andrew Jackson and so I’ve been trying to think some thoughts about him so that my piece isn’t just like “I shouldn’t cheer for a man who would shoot someone over a fat woman, but I do.” And I do come back to the fact that I have grown to appreciate more and more that Jackson does not pretend to be less monstrous or pretend to live in a United States less monstrous than the one I recognize living in. I mean, let’s just take his treatment of Native Americans. Has there been another U.S. president as blatantly genocidal as Jackson?

But here’s what I appreciate: Jackson looked at the vision he had of the U.S. (and what he believed voters wanted of him) and looked at the Southeast, and he knew that the only way those two things were going to be reconciled was by doing whatever it took to remove the people whose land it was. And so he did. He didn’t pretend that there was going to be some way for the U.S. and native peoples to live together in intermingled nations. He was just the monster necessary to achieve our disgusting goals.

I think we’re uncomfortable with Jackson as a nation because we’re used to our politicians pretending to us that our goals are noble and the ends we use to reach them measured and justified. And Jackson just didn’t do that shit. We often elect presidents aspirationally–they represent what we want America to be. Not Jackson. He wasn’t a symbol. He was a reflection.

And we still don’t like what we see when we look at him.

I Wrote a Thing about Pop

Over at Pith. The pop thing makes sense if you realize that there’s been a push to get pop excluded from items you can buy with your EBT card. So, of course, we must see what a true evil pop is, so that the push makes sense. But, as always, the push is being made by people who are self-evidently not very aware of shopping.. So, the credulousness of hearing that people put 15 cases of pop in a shopping cart, instead of them demanding to see how that’s done. The Butcher and I were thinking that it really depends on the size of the cart. The carts at Kroger, that narrow down in the front, will fit two, maybe three, depending on how shallow the basked is, cases underneath. But you can’t lay the case flat, because of the tapering of the basket, so it’s got to be up on its side. Two, maybe three in the basket. Then, maybe you could stack three more on top of that foundation? We’re talking maybe 10, at most. If the basket is square, and you can stack flat? I don’t know. I’m still thinking you’re only getting a six case pile in the basket.

I would love to see Kevin Williamson try it himself. That would, for me, be comedy gold.

New Year’s Day

So, this weekend, I was talking to E. about my trip to the city archives on Friday and just how heavy-hearted it left me and how part of the problem with the past is that you are born complicit in some shitty things with no way to extract yourself–I’m not in love with the idea of drinking water that flows through pipes put in the ground by a 14 year old boy whose back was already “much scarred with the whip” by the time he got to Nashville, but here we are. I’ve drank a lot of water through these pipes and will continue to. Sorry, Allen.

But the other part–and it goes hand-in-hand with why you can’t even extract yourself from complicity–is that we don’t know our history and we don’t know what we don’t know. So, I brought up, as a for-instance, people touting how the owner of Nottoway Plantation (from the Ani DiFranco mess) having a meal with his slaves on New Year’s Day as an example of what a fine master he was, when, really, to force the people you keep enslaved to eat with you on New Year’s Day? Total dick move. A total dick move that makes sense–if ever there was going to be a moment of rebellion, it’s when you know which family members you’re going to lose tomorrow, but haven’t yet lost them.

She’d never heard that New Year’s Day was the day when slaves were rented to other plantations for the year or sold (slaves were sold year round, obviously, but, if you faced, say, a glut of 10-12 year old girls on your farm, or if you had a bunch of men fit for cotton but had decided to switch to sugarcane, New Year’s Day was, for lack of a better term, the traditional day for bulk sales of people). In some places, it was called Hiring Day (that’s how Harriet Jacobs knew it.) and it’s speculated that this is one of the reasons early emancipation celebrations centered around New Year’s Day–the first tangible difference that most people knew between being a slave and not being one was that, come January 1st, nothing happened. No one came to your door to tell you who was going away. It was a radical change.

So, yes, January 1st was the day you found out who you were going to lose and January 2nd was the day you lost them. Throwing a barbecue for your slaves and hanging out with them all evening on the 1st doesn’t make you a decent person. It makes you a wise person who knows from what circumstances trouble comes.

But E. had never heard of this. Which, of course, is why Nottoway can pass the January 1st story off as a good one instead of evidence of what a shitty person Randolph was. That bit of history is well-known in the circles it’s well-known in and passes unmentioned, untaught, in the wider world.

Anyway, just putting it out there so that it can be more widely known.

When They Are Who You Know They Must Be

This and this.

I have this fantasy that we can all just get along, that we can see people living different lives than us and say “Hey, butt-fucking is not for me, but you guys are obviously in love so, carry on, my fellow Americans!” Or maybe we say, “Oh, you know, I don’t really get the duck hunting part, but I get the part where the family clearly loves each other, so I’m just going to trust that the duck hunting is not for me but is not something I need to worry about.”

And I really like watching Duck Dynasty. I don’t need the Robertsons to be like me in order to recognize that they’re a loving family who’s living their values. But I do, in order to keep watching, need to feel like they respect my not being like them. And they don’t, so fuck ‘em.

But I still fucking hate it.

Here’s another thing, and I admit that it strikes so close to home that I have a hard time thinking about it rationally. I get the idea of a man being the head of his household. Again, it’s not for me and not how I would organize my life or my family, but I get it.

Here’s the thing I don’t get. If you said to me, “Betsy, I’m putting you in charge of this group of people I deeply care about, some of whom are going to be incredibly dependent on you, and not only are you in charge of their physical well-being, you’re in charge of their spiritual well-being,” I’d be nervous as fuck and I’d be not only studying the guidebook, but I’d be humbled by the responsibility. I might fuck up but you know it wouldn’t be from lack of over-thinking every part of it. The weight of that kind of responsibility would weigh on me. And the weight of knowing that you’re going to come back and ask for an accounting of how I treated your loved ones? I’d be constantly going over the ways I’d fucked up in my head. I would strive so hard to be the kind of person who deserved the trust you showed in me and the responsibility you’d given me.

And you’re not God.

But I keep butting heads with this attitude that is all the “God put me in charge” with none of the commiserate “So, I should act like the kind of person who deserves this responsibility.”

And there’s fucking Phil Robertson talking about drinking and drugging it up and THROWING HIS WIFE AND KIDS OUT OF THE HOUSE. And then he finds God and now he’s all back in charge and the past is in the past. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that, in his worldview, he still has to be in charge. It’s how it works. But is there any sense of what a huge second chance he’s gotten? Any remorse for how that had to fuck up his kids? Any sense that, knowing he’s the kind of guy that could fuck up that bad, maybe he shouldn’t be too comfortable being seen as an authority on anything?


There’s no sense that Phil doesn’t think he’s got a God-given right to do whatever the fuck he wants, damn the consequences, and it’s cool, because that’s just how things are. No sense that he’s got a God-given responsibility that he has already royally screwed the pooch on once.

It doesn’t make me angry. It makes me really, really anxious. Okay, think of submission this way. We are trapeze artists. I am the leaper who tumbles through the air and you, my head-of-household partner, are the one who must catch me. I do what you say how you say to do it when we’re performing the trick (marriage in this analogy) because I need you to keep me from plummeting to the floor.

Phil dropped his wife and kids. They hit the ground. And, yeah, he recommitted to paying closer attention to the guidelines of trapeze use. But he dropped them.

Maybe being a little humble about whether the trapeze act is for everyone is in order, when you know what can happen when it goes wrong.

But, not just in Phil’s case, but in other cases, I see a lot of an attitude that, if the women and children fall, well, it’s their own faults or that’s what women and children do, so what does that have to do with the heads-of-household? No indication of the proper sense of fear you’d think a person in that situation would have, if they truly understood the responsibility that comes with the authority they want to have.

Santa is a White Person

It reminds me of all the heathens who sit around and argue about whether the Norse gods are white. Or the fits about Heimdall being played by Idris Elba. I mean, just ignoring the fact that St. Nicholas was Turkish, Santa is a legend. He can be whatever he needs to be to fit the story. I mean, Robin Hood is a fox, sometimes. You see a man in any story with one eye and a propensity for hanging himself, forget what skin color he has, you need to check and see if that’s the Old Man.

The Professor and I have talked about this some. I used to think that we could convince everyone to be more interested in justice and equality because it’s not like the privileged folks would be losing anything. They’d just be making room at the table for the rest of us.

But that’s not true. The truth is that, in order for equality to truly happen, a lot of people are going to lose shit. The idea that not only can you believe that Santa is only white, but that you have a right to a culture that agrees with you? That has to go. Just for starters.

More Circumstantial Finnelson Evidence

Joseph Brown was kidnapped by the Cherokee back in the day. I stumbled upon his account of his captivity this afternoon. In it, he talks about a woman who was also held captive by the Cherokee, who was bought by a guy who Finnelson was working for. (Brown calls him Findelston, but it’s there in Running Water, which is Finnelson’s home). A Creek dude comes along and tries to steal the woman’s child and Finnelson has to run for help to get the kid back.

Thus, to me, lending credence to my theory that Finnelson didn’t trust the Creeks.

There are still people of Cherokee descent named Finleyson, so the name still lingers. But here’s the weird part. The place that used to be Finelson or Finleyson, Georgia? It’s in Pulaski County, Georgia. Pulaski County is where the Creek Confederacy had its capitol.

The Theory that Can’t Be Disproven

In Jesse Walker’s book, he talks about how there comes a point in the life of a conspiracy theory when the absence of proof of the conspiracy is evidence of the conspiracy. So, like, if I came to you and was like “Why did you let them redesign the back of the penny?” and you were all “They redesigned the back of the penny?” under normal circumstances, that would be evidence that you didn’t let them do anything, because you didn’t even know it happened. But once we’re in the impenetrable fortress of the conspiracy theory, I’d be convinced that you were just faking not knowing that the penny had been redesigned and that they had told you to keep your mouth shut. How high does it go? How high does it go?

I’ve been thinking some lately about when I went to see Gordon Belt and his wife talk about Confederate religious beliefs and how Southern ministers would preach against the Confederate soldiers, even to their faces, because they were convinced that the only reason the South was losing the war was because of sinfulness in the Confederate camps.

When researching my upcoming Thanksgiving piece, I found a hilarious but terrible piece in the New York Times about how Jefferson Davis kept calling for these days of Thanksgiving, even as late as March of ’65 and the Times was all “How obvious does God have to make it that He’s not on their side?! And yet, here they go again, offering thanks to a Dude who has plainly abandoned them.”

This is something we don’t really talk about when we talk about the Confederacy–but it is yet another reason the people in power in the Confederacy should thank the gods every day that they did not win the war, because, in losing, all sins could be foisted off onto those Damn Yankees, but, if they’d won, there would have been a reckoning for how soldiers were treated while the powerful sat on the sidelines playing armchair quarterback.–but the Confederate military had a bit of religious cult to it. Soldiers’ heartfelt religious beliefs, which under normal circumstances brought them comfort, were used to assign blame on the soldiers for the battles lost.

But it’s a conspiracy theory, right? If only you act right enough, God will favor you with victory. So, if you don’t have victory, it must be because you’re not acting right enough. Not because God doesn’t make those kinds of deals. It’s an arrangement that can never be disproven. The absence of the favor of God is proof that God is withholding it until we act right.

The amazing thing is that this conspiracy still carries so much cultural weight. You’d think that, after something as traumatic as a civil war, when men must have known they were behaving how their pastors and commanding officers had told them to behave, they’d be suspicious of this idea that “the men” just weren’t godly enough. But no, rather than ever looking at who benefits from keeping you chasing your tail, striving for a goal that can’t be met, they look to the people who must have failed to earn God’s favor and heaped the blame on them for the loss.

And yet, we still have a ton of people in our culture who think God is withholding “victory” in some way until we’re all acting right enough.

Richie Incognito

Two things about this just utterly depress me. One is this idea that you can be that kind of evil hothead and people think that you can just “keep it in the locker room” or “leave it on the field.” I’m not opposed to sports. I don’t think that a person who hits a ball is likely to hit a person. Or that a person who does something while in uniform is destined to do that thing out of uniform.

But I don’t think you can get positive reinforcement for scaring the shit out of people outside of the context of the game and calling names and acting like a jerk and not have it leak out into your regular life. It’s just not a psychological change most people can make. If you get praise for it, it’s very difficult to set it aside when outside of contexts where you get praise for it.

But second, and most importantly, I find the men rushing to Incognito’s defense, trying to explain it away as “locker room” or “its own culture” to be so damn sad. Because you shouldn’t have to work at a job where your co-workers use racial epithets against you. And yet, to see all these guys arguing that it’s okay, it’s obviously okay because that’s the norm. They literally expect no better. They get to be millionaires and cultural heroes and the epitome of manliness. It’s still so ordinary for them to be called or to hear a teammate the n-word or by white guys that they get on TV and argue that it’s okay.

They expect nothing better than Incognito’s actions.

It’s just utterly depressing.