Disconnect

Now that we, as a nation, are kidnapping children and putting babies in detention camps, I have been reading some of the responses. And, I have to tell you, the ones that worry me the most are the ones where the person says something like “Rachel Maddow going for an Emmy in dramatic acting” or anything else that suggests that the author of the comment does not recognize the real emotions of the person they’re observing.

Like, they just can’t fathom that this would be a genuine reaction to what is happening, and so it must be fake.

Those people scare me. It’s one thing to react to horror by agreeing with it (a sick thing but a thing). At least we’re all on a same page with that–this is happening. I think it’s horrendous. You think it’s fine.

But the “it’s not real” “your feelings about it aren’t real” folks? Holy fuck. It reads like psychopathy.

But if it is, then psychopathy is much, much more common than I realized.

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This is Us

This country was founded on white people deciding that getting along with each other was more important than addressing the suffering of non-white people.

We don’t get to say, “This is not America.” It absolutely is.

But we are also a country founded on the premise that we can fix shit later. That’s the whole point of being able to amend the Constitution, of being able to pass new laws and repeal old ones, of having judges look over shit to see if it’s right.

Maybe I’m corny, but I believe we can become a more perfect union.

But we sure as fuck cannot get there by doing the same old “oh, let’s just be nice to the jerks so we don’t alienate them” bullshit we’ve been doing since 1776. We white Americans have to stop prioritizing getting along with white people we disagree with over ending the suffering of non-white people.

This Morning

I’ve only been awake an hour and the cat swatted the dog who then stepped on my foot, which caused me to yell at everyone and refuse to give anyone morning pets. We got rained on on our walk. And I forgot to take my medicine last night.

Which… may explain why my morning went how it did.

I’m very frustrated with the FBI. The John Kasper files I got off of archives.org are much, much larger than the files the FBI sent me. The amount of stuff that’s missing is infuriating. A DC couple’s visit with Kasper in which Kasper brags about his violent friends? Gone. Most of the Hattie Cotton material? Gone. Stuff I care much less about, like all the women who were coming to visit him when he was living on Brushy Hill Road? Also gone.

When I realized that, I basically shoved them into a file on my computer and relied on the archives.org files. But last night, I was thinking, maybe the FBI files contain some unredacted names that I might need, so I decided I should browse through them.

And I came across a thing I hadn’t seen before. Either I missed it in the archives.org version or it’s not in there, but it confirms my belief that one person was working with the FBI and that the FBI kept back vital information from the Nashville police.

So, hey, that’s nice to have.

Oh, Oh!

Y’all, I just realized on my walk this morning that the people I’m looking for–the thing that separates them from more run-of-the-mill racists–are willing to target white people.

That’s the line they’re willing to cross that even other violent racists aren’t.

And that’s why the “community,” even if I don’t have a sense of the full scope of it, seems so small. Because inside the subset of “I know and work with other racists to achieve our racist goals” is “I’m willing to harm and kill black adults to do it” and inside that is “I’m willing to harm and kill black children” and inside that is “I’m willing to harm and kill white people.” The deeper into the subsets you go, the more people you lose.

And as much as the people in the smallest subset may appear to be loners in their own communities, they knew and knew of each other.

Cooley

I’ve been slowly working my way through the Rhinestones & Cocaine podcast. I’m still haunted by the Spade Cooley episode. Coe does a great job with it and I really appreciate the way he lays everything out and treats it as fucked up how many people knew about this and just let it happen.

But my rage toward those people is an inferno.

Spade Cooley is bad enough. He’s a nightmare of awfulness. And when he died, I was like “good.”

But Spade Cooley was in prison where he belonged. All the motherfuckers trying to get him a pardon? Like, on a scale of one to ten, and Cooley’s a ten, what the people who knew what he was doing and still worked on his behalf did has to be a seven or eight.

And it makes me so angry that those folks just go on with their lives.

King

I spent some time yesterday looking into the death of King, as a part of my consideration of J.B. Stoner. All it told me was that I need to get a hold of the new Wexler book, which basically shows how the Mississippi Klan supported Ray in his efforts to kill King. I think. That’s what I took from the book’s description anyway.

And if the Klan is involved, then I’m curious to know if they were able to find out what Stoner knew when.

I guess I’m slowly coming to the opinion that… well, I guess I’m conspiracy adjacent. I don’t believe Stoner was behind every terrible tragedy of the Civil Rights era, but I do believe that he was supportive of every terrible tragedy of the Civil Rights era. And sometimes that support might have come before hand and sometimes it might have come after.

But I also remain convinced that the number of people willing to plan to do things that could kill people was small. Of course, the number who would support them was larger. But I mean, the number of actual people who would take part in something that required planning and action. That was small. Maybe fifty people, if that many, in each Southern state.

I may be making a distinction without a difference but I see one between bombing someone–which requires planning and acquisition of materials–and heat of the moment violence, like people burning cigarettes on sit-in protesters or even filling their own restaurant with bug spray to try to drive protesters out.

It’s all bad, but one allows the perpetrator to tell him or herself that he or she wasn’t planning on doing that, that they’re not a bad person, that they were provoked. The other doesn’t. The other requires someone at peace with hurting others.

In the era I’m looking at, roughly 1940 to 1980, we know we have probably two guys responsible for the Clinton bombing, probably five guys responsible for Hattie Cotton, one or two for the JCC, and two or so for Looby (unless some of those overlap), a handful of people in Brownsville, a couple of people in Memphis, Gladys Girtenti and her accomplices.

And again, to be clear, these folks had support. It wasn’t like Nashville just had ten problematic people and everyone else was fine. But the people who would plan to do something they knew could kill people, that’s a very small number.

And I just don’t believe they were unknown to each other. I will believe, forever, that Gladys Girgenti could have given you the names of the bombers I’m looking at.

And I think Stoner could have provided a list names of the vast majority of racist terrorists in the South willing to plan to kill someone.

I don’t think he was their boss. He’s not some secret super villain. But he was their ally. That’s for sure.

Theft of Ancestors

A thing I find really infuriating and heartbreaking is when black people contact me about something I’ve written about that relates to their family because this is the first they’ve heard of someone who knows something about their relatives.

They’ve been told that there’s basically nothing. And there is next to nothing, but not nothing. There are places to dig, things to know. And even when we don’t have specific stories about particular people, we certainly know enough about the circumstances in which people were enslaved to make broad generalizations.

This morning, I was contacted by a black Douglas. I could tell her that, if she wanted to come to Middle Tennessee, she could certainly still see the things her people did–the churches they built, the roads they cleared, the houses, the city.

Denying that to people… it is genocidal. I don’t say that lightly, but stripping people of their ancestors, denying them the stories–for better or for worse–of their people is an ongoing attempt to destroy them.

I don’t think this mess can ever be fixed. I’m a little jealous of people who think we just need to tear everything down and start over, because there is no clean slate. As long as there are people, there’s people, you know? Revolutions presuppose that we can somehow escape that.

But we can’t. There are no fresh starts. Not really. This is what we have. There’s no escaping it.

Progress

A thing that dawned on me this morning as I was walking the dog and thinking about our fucked up society, in which a white kid who bombs black people is just, so sadly, troubled and a black people who get killed weren’t “angels,” as if you have to be an angel to deserve to live, is that a really fucked up thing about racist societies is that racism becomes the tool through which the dominant culture gets positive cultural change.

Like, say, white people are supposedly perfect. We don’t do anything wrong. If we’re doing it, it can’t possibly be bad. Say we beat the shit out of our kids. And everyone is starting to notice that white children are really, really fucked up by it. But you can’t say it, because it would imply that something white parents were doing was really fucked up. And yet, obviously, good people want to stop child abuse.

Well, then, we need strong child abuse laws because those black people are so violent toward their kids. Look how they treat their kids. Where are the fathers in their houses? Etc. Etc. Etc.

And then, because the social good–stopping abuse–is so great, the cost of scapegoating black people seems worth it to the non-black do-gooders.

Which then reinforces the bonds of racism.

Woman

Sometimes I read news stories and it makes me feel like there’s some component of being a woman that I just don’t have. Like, I can’t for the life of me understand how someone ends up being a Trump mistress.

Like, I guess the folk wisdom is that women are attracted to money and power, but they just seem like such obvious frauds. If I ran in those social circles, I feel like I’d be “sick” a lot and miss parties they were going to.

Like, how do you not look at them and realize they’re just going to constantly be mean and a pain in your butt?

Things Don’t Change

So, the dude who led the mob that beat up that couple in Brentwood got arrested for attacking his wife and father-in-law who were pissed at him for having an affair with his father-in-law’s new wife.

Ha ha ha.

But also, I can totally see racist groups in the 50s falling apart in the same way.

A thing I’m curious about–though not curious enough to really dig into it–is how you can behave these ways and still believe yourself to be “supreme.” Like at what point do they think the moral superiority is going to kick in? Or do they think that carrying on like this is better than whatever “they” do.

There are parts of racism I get–really well, too well. I get the woman at the coffee shop who is looking for a place to sit and who demands a black woman whose cup is almost empty get up and give her that spot. I get how tempting it is to believe that some people just aren’t as smart as other people and it’s genetic and race-based. I get the systemic racism. I get the positive feedback loop it instills in white people which makes itself very hard to even recognize, let alone stop. It’s hard to turn away from pleasure.

And I get the “I hate you” racism. The “let’s go beat up some black kids” or “let’s go scare those Asian kids.” Again, it’s the pleasure of the bully.

But “I’m better than you” is a claim that must, I’d think, be constantly tested. It has to be perpetuated by comparison (which is how systemic racism plays into it). But obviously the comparison must often show you that you’re not all that. None of these white supremacists are as good looking as, say, Idris Elba. If they have a superior social structure, why are they beating each other and fucking around on each other? If they’re so great, why do their lives suck?

How do they look at their own lives and convince themselves that this is the evidence that they are superior? I just do not understand it.

Who Among Us Yet Again Doesn’t Have Enough Yarn?

I got my third panel on this blanket done.

IMG_3417

The third panel is supposed to be the halfway point on the blanket. Please note that it is barely half the size of a single bed. So, I need to go up to seven panels, not five. Which is fine, I just need to get some more yarn. I also think I have a fun border picked out.

Season 3 of Someone Knows Something remains brutally hard to get through. It’s only six episodes, but I often have to stop in the middle of one and take a break. The brother’s grief and rage is heartbreaking. But it ends up not being the Klan members that make me the most upset. They are what they are–evil, sadistic terrorists.

The most upsetting part to me is watching how the whole white society continually shifts around them to give them cover and room to work. How it continues to give them space to be free. The support network, intentional or not.

 

Fox Ran Out on a Chilly Night

tiny fox

At my sister-in-law’s request, I have made a tiny fox for the mobile. Now I’m kind of thinking I may just do these two animals and have them playing hide-and-seek around the shapes. Anyway, at the least, I need to get some of these shapes done.

I like the arm placement on the fox better than on the elephant, but god damn heads are hard to sew on. Both the fox and the elephant have their heads on crooked, but by the time I realized it, they were already pretty firmly damn attached.

I am relieved about Alabama, but I also can’t stop thinking of the women who defended Moore by telling about how their parents had let them date thirty year old men. I believe it. And I think it’s a continuation of one of the main cultural problems of the South–the culture preaches that children must obey and revere their parents who are worthy of glorification, while at the same time, the parents are doing really shitty things like selling their children’s playmates or half-siblings or giving grown-ass men access to them, or just in general valuing power and security over the well-being of the people in your household.

It’s not exactly internalized misogyny, more like internalized patriarchy–if my parents did it, it must be right; my own unease or the unease of others doesn’t matter.

And it’s insidious, because people rightly love their parents, often, even when their parents are shitty and dismantling this train of thought comes very close to telling people that their love for their parents is wrong.

But, damn, “well, my parents let me date a 30 year old when I was 14” is some fucked up shit. And not seeing that it’s fucked up is even more so.

The Kids are All Right

Last week, K and I went to this fundraiser for a local arts group that helps kids develop their poetry skills. One of the things that delights me about Nashville is that it has a somewhat vibrant poetry scene.

The kids were fantastic. Their poems were so beautiful and thoughtful. And they had them memorized! And here was the coolest part: when someone got nervous and forgot a bit or stumbled, everyone would snap for them, to fill the silence with supportive noise.

Is this the thing that beatniks were doing when they snapped? The thing that became a joke? Because it was beautiful. I loved it. And I felt sorry and mad that I had only encountered it as a joke that made fun of poetry audiences.

I don’t subscribe to the notion that everyone is good. But I do believe that most people’s badness is small and surmountable until life breaks them. And once you’re broken, it’s hard to know how people will put themselves back together. (I’m slowly making my way through the Dollop episodes on Trump and Jesus Christ…)

I want so much for these kids to get a chance to fulfill this potential and to not be crushed and broken.

I think another hard thing for me about all this stuff coming out now is that you see how the whole system–every system, our whole society–functions through crushing and breaking and discarding people. You are not supposed to be okay. This doesn’t work if you’re okay.

It’s disgusting. And yet, I don’t see how to disengage from it. You can pull back. A lot of people certainly have. But it’s a comforting fiction to believe you can get out of it. That you can be safe from it. That you’re not replicating it.

 

Roy Moore

Roy Moore is and has been a disgusting terrible theocrat. I remain unsurprised by him.

I cannot imagine being the daughter or the sister or the wife of the men who are standing around Alabama today excusing him.

When you find out your father is okay with a thirty-something man “trying to date” a teenager, don’t you wonder if your friends were ever safe with your father? Don’t you wonder if you really were?

My heart aches for the people of Alabama today, not the folks arguing that, since Joseph did it to Mary, it’s fine for Roy to do it. But for the people who should be able to feel safe in their own home, able to trust the men in their lives to not harm them or excuse harm that befalls them, who have to know today that the people they love are not safe.

Texas

I keep checking up on what’s going on and then regretting it. I have the same feelings I had during Katrina, that we really are on our own. And that because of that, people are going to die.

But at least people got pissed during and after Katrina.

I’m already tired and afraid that people are just going to shift into telling us how awesome he’s doing and how everything is fine.

It’s the gaslighting and the anticipation of gaslighting that’s wearing me down.

Good luck, indeed, Houston.

Fuck.

Kids Today

When I saw the video yesterday of the kid throwing his jacket over the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest or the kids posing, fists raised, next to the crumpled tin busted Confederate monument, I felt my heart swell.

I feel like a lesson we learned from the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s was “Just don’t respond and they’ll get tired of beating their fists on your faces.” Which is not at all the lesson of those protests, which were to make the current situation untenable. If everyone’s fine with you sitting around not complaining about the bad things that happen to you, then you’re not making the situation untenable.

Seeing these young people being proactive makes me proud.

Sumner

Last week, fittingly enough, The Dollop had an episode about the caning of Senator Sumner and how everyone in the South was all “Ha ha, he got what was coming to him! Oh, ho ho!” and everyone in the rest of the world was like “Holy shit. These people aren’t just fucked up. They are a danger to the wellbeing of our government.”

You can imagine I was reminded of that watching the president unable to say that white supremacists are wrong and that racist ideology is evil. I think to him, he had been so accustomed to how much the American media loves both-side-er-ism that he just assumed his condemnation of all violence would be good enough.

After all, he doesn’t want to alienate the only broad group that openly loves him.

But it felt like a turning point, even before that woman’s murder. Not that things like this hadn’t been happening all along, but with Sumner’s situation, the South had been dueling and fighting for ages. But something about an action can make clear stark divisions, unbridgeable disagreements.

And that was this weekend. Calls for love and peace aren’t going to cut it. Praying about it–unless you’re doing like the pastors in the streets this weekend and praying with your arms locked to try to keep violent racists corralled–isn’t enough. Saying you saw violent people on both sides makes you look like a fool.

The stakes are clear and undeniable now. You’re either against them or you’re with them.

And a bunch of us, who don’t all get along and don’t share the same goals and don’t work well together, are going to be standing against them. I hope it works. I hope it’s not too late.

Everything Old is New Again

So, I went over to Fisk to go through the Looby papers. If you like mid-century architecture and you haven’t been to Fisk’s library, you should rectify that now. It’s a work of art inside, with all the kinds of sharp angular brutish shapes you’d expect from mid-century modern with this two story curving flowing staircase in the middle. It’s just amazing.

Anyway, it was something to spend all morning immersed in the aftermath of 1950s racists and then spend the evening watching these evil bozos at UVA.

We have never dealt with this full-on. We’ve always pretended like, if we just ignore it or are nice enough to them, they’ll eventually be good people.

Which, in turn, lets them continue to fester.

Bodies

Yesterday, I stumbled across a blog post about an Instagram account that’s some woman in Australia, I think, who takes pictures of herself in poses similar to ones celebrities post on Instagram, but with often hilarious ensuing results.

I had a weird experience looking at her pictures next to the pictures of the celebrities, in that, rather quickly, I found myself preferring to look at her. Her more ordinary body doing more ordinary things.

And it got me thinking of how advertising tries to show you an ideal to strive for–but the point is that you can’t get there or why would you need to keep buying things? The people need to be otherworldly and they need to have no ordinary people around them or your eye goes to the ordinary person.

It’s not just the lie. It’s the lie without comparison.

The World is on Fire

Yesterday, and I can’t find it now, of course, I read a brief paragraph on how Lovecraft’s fiction, even the stuff that doesn’t deal explicitly with race, is bound up in the terror of discovering that you’re not the most important thing in the universe, which is, at heart, a racist terror.

But this is also the thrill of the apocalypse, which we as a nation love, the belief that we are so important that this moment must be unique among all other moments that things cannot possibly go on after us.

I have been trying not to succumb to that kind of thinking, because it it at heart not helpful and untrue.

So, instead, I have been asking myself things like “What does how I’m feeling right now teach me about how people must have felt about X?”

And I think I am, in part, understanding some of the existential terror on the homefront of the Vietnam war–how you can see with your own eyes that something is very, very wrong, but also have to live with the vertigo of so many people trying so hard to insist that, if we all just go along with it and put our faith in institutions and our leaders, everything will be fine. When, obviously, going along with it and having faith in institutions and leaders is getting people killed.

And yet, if we don’t have faith in each other and find ways to work together, what hope do we have?

Kids

In researching this story, I found a third racist killed by his kid. I don’t know anything about patricide, really, so I don’t know how common it is, but this feels like a group with a lot more of it than most.

I have two main thoughts about it. One that when we don’t deal with social problems like racism, the suffering is society-wide. The people I’m looking at really harmed black people and Jewish people AND they also really harmed their children. Being white didn’t protect their children from them.

Second, I feel like these kids are often harmed a second time because we tend to dismiss the families of racists as also worthless pieces of shit. As if they can’t be anything other than what their fathers were, which lets us ignore the years of suffering and abuse that the kids endured and then treat what they have to do to escape it as kind of a joke.

Me, too. I mean, I laughed when I saw that this dude had died after a fist-fight with his kid.

But it’s not just funny. It’s also really terrible. And you know the 14 words these yahoos love? What future are they securing? I mean, really. When your kids are abused and terrorized because the only way you know how to go through life is as an abuser and a terrorizer, your kids can’t flourish. And removing everyone who’s not like you from the country or the planet isn’t going to make your kids happy and well-adjusted, because it’s not those outsiders ruining them.

The bogeyman is in the house. Has been there all along.

Donald Davidson

The more I work on this story, the more I end up reading Ben Houston’s scholarship and feeling like, damn, maybe he needs to write this, not me. And then I think, too late!

Anyway, I read a piece he did on Donald Davidson and it was just so brilliant I’m still thinking about it. His basic argument is simple–that Davidson’s racism was central to his writing and that scholars who try to treat it like a side matter are missing a lot of what’s going on in his work.

But what’s been sticking with me is the way Houston walks through Davidson’s beliefs about race and regionalism. Basically, Davidson was concerned with a specific, meaningful mythology of the white Southerner as an agrarian deeply connected to the land and traditions borne out of that relationship.

And Houston also shows how Davidson believed that black Southerners–and black Americans in general–did not have a kind of racial mythology because they’d been taken from Africa and stripped of their land, language, customs, religions, and kinship ties. And without this racial mythology to draw from, American blacks were always going to be less accomplished than white Americans who had this kind of racial (and regional) mythology.

So imagine the threat that accomplished black people posed for Davidson philosophically. It didn’t just offend him as a man racist against black people. It threatened his whole belief in what made white people great. After all, if you could be great without the components of this racial/regional mythology, then maybe the racial/regional mythology theory was wrong.

Or worse, what if it’s not wrong? What if there was a southern agrarian mythology that came from a person’s relationship to the land and the traditions borne out of that relationship, but it also worked for Southern blacks? In other words, this is not “my land,” it’s “our land.” Which is practically communism!!!!!!

So, the two components of his life fit together hand in hand. His artistic output is about codifying and strengthening this white Southern agrarian mythology. His racist endeavors were specifically about thwarting black Southern efforts to develop and have recognized as worthwhile their own Southern culture that Southern whites would then also find value in.

In other words, I think, at some level Davidson knew his mythology was false and could be remade and the existential threat posed by black civil rights was that his mythology would be remade. The past could be reexamined to mean something other than what he wanted it to mean.

Anyway, I don’t know how much of this stuff will make it into the final project, but I think it’s very worthwhile to know.

The Mean Racist Idiot

Y’all, I get down about the current situation. I hate knowing that we’ve chosen to represent ourselves to the world this way. I am still so mad, every time he does something, that people voted for him and voted for him specifically because they thought it was funny he upsets people like me. People willing to kill us both, as long as it means I’m dead.

And then, and then, they insist I sympathize with them, that I have compassion for them, that I listen to their lies and tell them I believe them. It enrages me.

We Have to Legalize Pot and Require Old People to Smoke It

Yesterday I went to the retinologist for my yearly check-up (I am stable and my retinas look slightly better even, though nothing to write home about.) which meant sitting in two waiting rooms with elderly people.

It was alarming. First, they were sitting around talking about how wonderful Trump is and how he’s not a career politician and disparaging politicians who were. Then an old guy told another old guy how he’d missed out on Vietnam due to a terrible car accident caused by his own recklessness. A woman kept interrupting the conversation because she was convinced the accident having old guy was talking to her and she would get pissed and embarrassed when he said he wasn’t. Then more talk about how glorious Trump is.

Then the old ‘I missed Vietnam due to an accident’ guy got called back and as soon as he was out of earshot, they switched to complaining about how anyone could possibly have the time to go to the Trump rally tomorrow and, if they weren’t so busy, they’d be down there handing out job applications to people. And at first I thought they meant the protesters, but no! No, the removal of the biggest Trump supporter allowed them to change their conversation from “fuck the people who don’t like Trump” to “fuck the people who like Trump enough to go see him.” But the exact same snide tone.

And then they launched into complaining about kids today which lead to a conversation about how kids are ruined by third grade. THIRD GRADE! I mean, I’m sure there are some dick third graders out there. I’m not discounting that. But they meant the whole lot. And I can’t help but guess that third grade must be about the time that kids start to get wary of this meanness in these old people.

My dad and I had a conversation recently about Fox News because my dad is really disturbed by how much his friends are affected by it. He said it’s not even that they watch it that bugs him. Like, if they were devoted fans of some show on there the way that he’s a fan of Jeopardy and tries to make time to watch it every day, that wouldn’t concern him. It’s that they leave it on all day, so even when they’re not actively watching it, it’s the noise in the background.

I thought of that yesterday because that’s what struck me listening to these old folks–not the content of what they were saying, though that was weird and alarming (I mean what kind of weird cognitive space do you have to be in to flow right from Hurray Trump! to Fuck those Trump Supporters?), but how, even if you didn’t listen specifically to what they were saying, there was that sharp, snide tone. The same one you would pick up on if you had Fox News on in the background all day.

We spend a lot of time alarmed at how much TV time kids have, but I think my dad is right. Old folks could benefit from turning off the TV and going outside or reading a book or listening to music or, hell, even turning the TV back on but watching something they enjoy instead of something that feeds their worst impulses.