Caution, White People

SUBHEAD: Usualtty US politics is a stupid, pointless, but mostly harmless game. Let's keep it that way.

By Dmitry Orlov on 17 September 2009 in Club Orlov -

image above: Tea Bag march on Constitution Avenue on Washington DC 9/12/09. Photo by Ricky Carioti. From  

 I happened to be in Washington, DC last weekend, and on the way to and from the National Gallery I had the opportunity to observe the March on Washington, which was in full swing. Once upon a time I had joined demonstrations, not out of some misplaced idealism, but to pick up women (I was still single at the time).

The demonstrations were always full of pretty, high-spirited young women, and the context of marching and chanting slogans together rendered them approachable. And so my first question concerning the crowd marching around the Mall last weekend was, "Where are all the pretty young women?" There weren't any! Surprised, I observed some more. What I saw only deepened my consternation. Not only were there no pretty women to be seen, but the crowd included exactly zero blacks, Latinos or Asians.

 I don't believe I have ever before seen so many middle-aged, obese, shabbily dressed, melanin-challenged individuals gathered in one place! What political interests bind over-the-hill flabby white people to the exclusion of all other ethnic groups? What is the shabby white agenda? Perhaps the signs the marchers carried might offer a clue?

Most of them carried white corrugated cardboard signs stapled to a sharpened pine stake, of the sort designed for displaying on suburban front lawns. The slogans they scribbled on them were of their own devising, but the form factor of the signs was identical throughout.

The slogans related to disparate interests: health care, monetary policy, constitutional law. I eventually stumbled on a pile of the stock they used to make their signs. These were printed signs: the printed side said either "Office Space for Lease!" or "Condos for Sale!". The demonstrators would pry the cardboard off one sign, staple it to another sign face down, and scribble on the blank side of the one in the front.

These people are refugees from foreclosure-land that somebody organized and shipped in, together with their props! Although the topic of war did not seem foremost on their minds, some of the men, and even a few of the ruddy, rugged-looking women, were clad in warrior garb of one of two varieties: quite a few aging road warriors sported motorcycle gang leathers decorated with Harley-Davidson insignia, while others wore frumpy US Military camouflage pyjamas.

One very large would-be warrior paraded with a sign that read "I will defend the Constitution by any means necessary." He could certainly snuff one or two enemies of the republic by belly-flopping onto them with his gigantic gut! But this wasn't a rabidly militant crowd, unlike some of the pro-war demonstrations I've witnessed. For this bunch, militarism is clearly just part of the clutter in their mental attic. The one theme that seemed to tie it all together could be summed up by the statement "Obama is bad". This message was often couched in laughable, preposterous bits of hyperbole: "Obama is a socialist/Marxist/fascist". (To my knowledge, Obama holds no Marxist credentials whatsoever.)

Interestingly, some of the signs were decorated with the hammer and sickle, but I did not see a single Swastika. I would venture a guess that this was to avoid mistaken identification; it is probably easier for these people to be mistaken for fascists than for communists.

Not that they are either of these: clearly, they are just some regular old shlubby people, self-organized along strict ethnic lines, self-selected by their hatred of Obama. Since Obama happens to be a politician, a superficial assumption is that these people joined forces in opposition to Obama's politics. It is, however, difficult to see much daylight between Obama's politics and those of his predecessor.

There is a dearth of ideas on how to reverse the country's economic slide and point it in a new, more promising direction. Instead, there is a great deal of continuity: in financial bail-out strategies that benefit large financial institutions and wealthy investors (who are part of Obama's base of support just as they were of Bush's), in the policy of open-ended military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Obama's refusal to investigate and prosecute the previous administration for war crimes, and in most other areas of policy as well, Obama has tuned out to be a Bush in sheep's clothing. The latest, desperate effort to avoid national bankruptcy at the hands of the medical-industrial complex is not a new initiative.

Medical reform has been attempted before, and the outcome can be foretold with some accuracy: efforts at reform will fail because any meaningful reform would be financially damaging to powerful vested interests, and so national bankruptcy will have to be an essential part of the work-out. Feelings of the electorate on the matter are irrelevant.

But opposition to medical reform is a convenient ruse to hide the real motivations of these self-selected white demonstrators.

Now, could these perhaps have to do with... racism? Jimmy Carter has recently blundered into the fray, making the following statement on CNN: “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man,” Carter told NBC News."

This has caused a bit of an uproar. Captain Obvious was immediately paged but declined comment. The Obama administration immediately started to distance itself from Jimmy. Jimmy does say the darnest things, such as calling Israeli policies toward Palestinians "Apartheid". (Speaking truth to liars is a dangerous sport, because if you do, their lying turns vicious. Everyone knows that anything short of a glowing endorsement of Israeli policies brings an automatic charge of antisemitism. When is Jimmy going to learn?) Obama's ethnic and racial identity is ambiguous. He is a self-described mutt.

If he is black, then he is black in the way a puppy born of a black Labrador and a golden retriever might be black, not the way a lot of the US prison population is black. He is a cross between a Kenyan and an anthropologist, and a privileged, pampered member of America's ruling class. His people did not come from Africa in slave ships to be auctioned at Charleston and work on plantations. He may not be particularly black, but he is definitely not of the same tribe as the Washington demonstrators, who were predominantly of Scots-Irish or English or German descent.

This is who America's proud owners and proprietors have been through most of American history, the ethnic groups that have built the American empire, driving slaves, running factories, fighting the natives and driving them into reservations, driving the Mexicans out of the Southwest, and manning the police departments, the military bases and the prisons. They are the ones who worked to impose Pax Americana on the Americas, and, for a short while, almost succeeded in having their way with the rest of the world. And now they have grown old, fat and sick and are mired in debt. Their time is over, and they are every bit as upset about it as they ought to be. I can't fault them for it. Up until last year, they could comfort themselves by thinking:
"We may be poor, but at least we ain't black!" 
But now they have a black President. What a shock that must be! What is lost on many simple minds is that the concept of racism is actually a lot of ridiculous nonsense. The term should be retired. It initially presupposed the existence of some sort of natural hierarchy, with a master race (English aristocracy) at the top and semi-evolved animal-like barbarians (Africans, Asians and such) near the bottom.

This theory was responsible for a great deal of misery and injustice, but now it has been thoroughly discredited by genetics. The human genome is not differentiated according to race or skin color: we are all one race. What remains of the concept of race is irrational racial hatred, but racial hatred is neither necessary nor sufficient to produce ethnic strife. Privileged ethnic groups do not have to hate ethnic groups they oppress any more than I have to hate chickens in order to steal and eat their eggs. Ethnicity-based feelings of entitlement and a clan mentality work just as well to divide a multi-ethnic society into warring factions.

You might think that intermarriage and a long history together might mitigate against this risk, but there was plenty of intermarriage and a very long history together between Serbs and Croats in Yugoslavia, and between Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda, and look at where that got them. Multi-ethnic societies are fragile entities, and have a tendency to explode.

When they do everyone loses. Whenever two or more ethnic groups live side by side, the danger of ethnic strife, civil war, ethnic cleansing and genocide is always present. What usually triggers it is the presence of politicians who are willing to exploit ethnic differences in order to grab or hold on to power.

Do we have any of those here? Do they even know that they are playing with fire?

The poor people I saw parading around Washington last weekend didn't seem so threatening, but where there is smoke there is fire. It is possible to excuse those who are upset with the way things are in the country. It is, after all, a sad state of affairs. It is also possible to forgive people for being upset that their leader doesn't look or act like them. Bush did his best to appease them by playing a redneck on TV, cutting up logs with a chainsaw, driving a pickup truck around his ranch during his lengthy and numerous vacations, and cultivating a fake Texas twang to mask his New England upper-class roots.

But what of those in positions of influence who are willing to exploit public frustration and stir up ethnic hatred, all in order to defeat health care reform? Isn't that exactly what we should expect of those who want to continue to extort money from sick people in order to make profits even while the country teeters toward bankruptcy? Are they too stupid to realize how dangerous a game that is?

Or do they think that it might not be too bad for them, and that a bloodletting might be good for their business, making it even more profitable? In the US, politics is a stupid, pointless, but mostly harmless game.

Let's all do our best to make sure that it stays that way.


jonathan jay said...

nice piece

Anonymous said...

Funny, but only slightly accurate.

Orlov does correctly point out the obvious fact that Obama is a black (even if only half, and not African-American, but Kenyan) man and that, no doubt, has shattered the realities of at least a few folks, but the real root is never race; only the mask that gets changed now and then according to necessity. In a not too distant past when Bush ruled I seem to recall a little bit of everyone (whiteies too) protesting the litany of murderous shenanigans pulled of by W and crew.

Color is probably the most useful tool for distracting, manipulating, dividing groups large or small. Gender is growing outdated, therefore less useful as a means of dividing. And while religion (think of the scandal Kennedy's Catholic-ness caused amongst the Protestant majority!) is effective, it's harder to demonstrate. Color or race is the classic fall back and, at times, the most overt means as well.

But for Orlov to say, "In the US, politics is a stupid, pointless, but mostly harmless game." would be a gross misstatement. The list refuting that claim could never be completed because it is so huge and grows daily.

Stupid? No. On the contrary, the political system is so complex and mind-boggling the average person cannot and does not read or even comprehend the simplest piece of legislation in its raw form. Much time and energy is required to even speak the language of politics, let alone follow it, understand it or see beyond it. This is neither surprising nor accidental. In fact, it's been so successful as a means to dupe and rule the masses it has been exported around the world. The Golden Rule. He (not she) who has the gold writes the rules in an intricate and complex way changing the specifics frequently adding to the confusion of the ruled always one step ahead of the game as it is crafted.

That is entirely the "point". So, pointless. Not in the least.

Lastly, harmless. Absolutely not! The damage done by (or allowed by, overseen by, overlooked by, perpetrated by or in the name of) the political process and its consequences are so vast that it may have very well topped all prior imperial exploits combined up until the US took over marching orders. Thanks to the harm caused by US politics our nation is among the most hated of all nations, once an illusory beacon of hope, now the desperate masses still huddle on our doorstep, only because the economies, governments, and societies of their homelands have been wrecked, ravaged, and raped courtesy of US policy. :-)

Note: When I refer to "we" or "our" this or that I am coming from an American perspective. For better or worse I am a US citizen. I was born in Ohio and raised in Indiana. I have a US passport without one of those creepy RFID chips.
I do recognize the wrongness of the ongoing occupation of the US in the Hawaiian Islands and mentally group them in to the mess of the US, not in rightness, but in reality. The US presence is condemnable, unfortunate and ubiquitous globally to the dismay of most.
I hope to see the day, when the records are reviewed and I must apply to naturalize in order to gain citizenship locally, as long as there are not going to be tracking devices in the passports, tattoos required, or chip implants. It would also be nice to be able fly inter-island without having to remove footwear. Can deal with the metal detectors I guess, but my slippers, c'mon. Just a suggestion to whom it may concern.

--Carolyn Blake

Anonymous said...

(continuation from above)

So, while perhaps the ethnic/people of color protest crew was taking a coffee break, still clinging to the false hope that, perhaps, the monumental reality of our political system has changed along with the mask of the beast; the flubby anglo-sax middle have roused from their slumber to hoist pickets and shout the slogans of Renaissance, not Revolution...

"[S]logans related to disparate interests: health care, monetary policy, constitutional law." In reality, I doubt that these interests are much different that the one at the heart of their multicolored compatriots' causes. Mainly because, I think it's fair to say, that the ship of the nation has run aground after flailing around horribly off course for quite some time now. And that's just for starters. We've got some huge problems the least of which is racial.

Race is an indicator of class tension. The minorities or segments of the population that have been marginalized by institutional white privilege, are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine. They are the first to feel the effects of injustice. They are the first to have their power stripped and to be trod upon. The problem is that all too often their plight is ignored because what they lose is given to another. Unfortunately, it is but another lie, because the injustice grows and the power becomes more imbalanced until all is left is an illusion maintained by careful psychological trickery and financial abuse and manipulation.

John Dewey has said that government is but a shadow cast upon society by big business.

So, it should come to no surprise that it has taken so long for many or any to see the light when we live in the shade of such massive and far-reaching institutions of commerce and policy. It should also be heartening that, now, the frumpy tasteless white masses have begun to recognize (even if only in reaction to pressure) that something stinks in Washington. Let us hope that all the disgruntled and disenfranchised masses do allow their eyes grow weak mucking about in the shadows, but lift their eyes higher and see the beasts causing the darkness, blotting out the life giving sun for all.

--Carolyn Blake

danfromatlanta said...

I see, so the people that object to overly intrusive government, higher taxes, socialism, and everything wrong in federal policy are all old, fat, white people. Hmmm, ... whatever happened to color blindness? Aside from the fact, that you noticed only white people, what exactly is wrong with protesting government overreach? And why don't you question the participation of other ethnicities? Could it maybe be that you think minorities overly depend on socialist wealth redistribution? Why is that? Are you so racist, that you don't think minorities can succeed without big brother taking from me and giving to you? Sounds to me like you think minorities are not capable of that, like you think they are somehow inferior! I think you are the real racist, because you dismiss laziness and victimhood mentality as entitlements for minorities. When minorities work to succeed, they do! That just doesn't fit in with the worldview of liberals suffering from the genetic defect of socialist stupidity.

Post a Comment