Monday, March 24, 2008

OldPunk Responds to
Individual Commenters
(& Other Saints)

He's not looking, but he's still seeing. And not at all happy.

FOLLOW-ON. So I finally read an attempt to fisk my previous post, which was laudable in that it at least tried to respond to some of the text. The rest of you can thank "Jennifer" for the fact that I'll be commenting on a number of your comments, including some commenters who didn't have the moxy to do it here but only at a distance and only by inference. Jennifer quoted several passages -- none of those describing black people I admired, but let that go -- and came to this conclusion:

There's your "not a racist" post in a might nutshell...a guy who feels justified in calling people "nigger" because a) he doesn't like the clothes they wear, b) he doesn't like the cars they drive, c) he doesn't like the music they like and d) he has this fantasy that they're all playing out some pageant in which the ultimate goal is to intimidate him, the central character. Because, see, it's all about OldPunk dude; these niggers that upset him so are just actors in his personal morality play, not real human beings or individuals, you see. That's why there is nothing offensive or objectionable in his demands that they do as he say and call other people who he doesn't like "niggers". Because again, it's all about him. Black people need to do as he says because...well, because he's an angry white guy on the internet, which makes him more important than them. And if he can successfully demand that enough people - especially black ones - start calling the people he doesn't like "niggers", then that will not only give him cover, it will make it true somehow. And last but not at all least, there's his outrage that black people do not get down on their knees every day and thank white guys like him for the gift of "immigration" to this country, and more specifically, for his own racism, the gift that keeps on giving. They should know he's just doing this for their own good.

So much for your "honest" discussion of race in America. We can easily sum it up by saying: "Black people are different from me, this makes me uncomfortable, therefore they have a responsibility to act and be more like me and if they do not follow through with it, they are niggers. And also, they all need to do what I say, because I'm important and they aren't."

It's a clever attack that will appeal to a lot of like-minded people. It may even be successful, but it's false. I'm willing to bet I'm a good deal older than Jennifer, perhaps a couple of generations older, and when I have encounters like the ones I described I don't feel fear but sadness. As I pointed out, I live in a small town. The schools are not poor, but they are bad, economic opportunities are poor, and those who don't educate themselves out of town are likely to live in the same county forever. Here's what the scene tells me. The clothes reflect allegiance to a self-destructive hip-hop celebrity culture very few derive any monetary benefit from. The spinner wheels (whose prohibitive cost I doubt Linda knows) suggest that sheer appearance is more important than rehabbing a smoking, moribund motor and a rusted frame. The ground-shaking music -- obscene lyrics including the ultra-super-obscene N-Word that's supposed to be magically occluded from white consciousness -- makes it very clear that thinking of others is not high on the list of priorities of the occupants. I wouldn't want Chopin played at that volume. What's going on in the heads of those who clearly see music as a weapon when the people they're assaulting with it might very well represent their best prospects for employment? Not enough.

As you get older your thoughts turn increasingly to the young ones. You don't want them to blight their lives and prospects at the very beginning. (And no, I'm not going to offer evidence and proofs of my concern for youngsters. Talk to other old people. See what they say.) When I think that word I'm not supposed to say, I'm thinking of it in this context: "Shit. Why do you want to be done before you even start? Why do your parents allow you to act out a stereotype that will never die until you stop acting it out. Is THIS what Martin Luther King was fighting for? Why do you WANT to be perceived as a n_____?" And then: because for whatever reason, you have chosen to be.

Jennifer is slick, but all her reasoning is out of context. She doesn't read the scene in terms of local court records, pointless black-on-black shooting deaths, high school dropout statistics, and literally dozens of well-attended local black churches who don't seem to inspire kids to study in school.

Jennifer's position is a deadly and effectively genocidal cliche: all culture is valid culture -- even that which devours its young before they even comprehend the alternatives. And I'm the criminal for daring to notice it.

Of course, Jennifer was not alone in cartooning me to drive home a shallow point. There were those who asked mocking questions whose answers they mysteriously already knew. Like Bridget:

I just feel the need to point out that Senator Obama is just as white as he is black. That is all.

No, sorry, one more thing. I look forward to the follow up post where you fill us in with the reactions from your black friends to your post. Because you do have black friends, yes? You're not just speaking from a reference-point of ignorance, stereotyping and fear, right?

The answers to your questions are: 1) Yes. 2) No.

I'm just guessing here, but I'm pretty sure Bridget is white. She can tell us if she is. Otherwise, my bet is that I've spent more time talking honestly with black people about exactly these subjects than she ever has. I've been a lumber yard boy and truckdriver, a retail music clerk, a telemarketer, a city employee, a press manager for a construction newspaper, a barroom pool player in both white and black taverns, and the spawn of parents and grandparents who were taken care of in their last days by compassionate black nurses and home health aides. As a small town boy, I've known black people since I was old enough to say a name, and well before I took any note of color. Along the way I've always been curious about what they thought about the forbidden topic, and I've listened and debated, drunk and sober, for all my life.

I won't spill truly intimate anecdotes here -- all I'll say is that they're just like the post that inspired so much intolerant fury. They know and use the unspeakable word, even with white people they care about, because I've been warned about so-and-so and so-and-so, and more than most well educated white folks could ever believe they subscribe to the wildest conspiracy theories imaginable. But they're not a monolith, and I never suggested they were. I've experienced the joy of instantaneous friendship with people who proceeded to solemnly warn me about the perfidy of all "white people," and when I pointed out that I was white they assured me they could overlook that. When I was a music clerk I learned more than I could ever have imagined about jazz from old black guys who were anxious to share the art that was their passion with an old white guy who was curious and anxious to learn. None of them ever pretended they didn't notice I was white. None of them ever made a secret of how much they detested the white counterparts of what white people call "niggers," and they always assumed that I would know the difference between that hostility and whatever personal relationship we had.

And, no, I never used the forbidden word with them. I used it here to provoke the discussion. The real advantage of a blog should be that it can be like Catholic Confession, where people say what they could not shout in the street. Private thoughts that might be helpful to others because they convey complicated realities that mix good and evil impulses in the mingled stew that is most often scrupulously hidden from all eyes.

My sin? I have spent much of a long life thinking about racial matters. Born in a nominally northern town that was nevertheless 60 percent black and 40 percent white, I have witnessed the sins and virtues of segregation and the sins and virtues of the civil rights movement. Segregation was a deadly wrong and it ended. Civil rights was a moral imperative and it prevailed. Today, my town and the black community that lived in it since the Revolution are worse off -- families destroyed, prostitution a commonplace where it never existed before, drugs and guns and dead children of both races rife, and because I will die in this town as I was born in this town, I want to understand it and help navigate a new way forward. Not back. I don't want black people to be subservient, or white, or know their place, or be just like me. I just want them to get over the past and start building their own lives without waiting for the government to do it for them.

Which is a good lead-in to WhitePeopleSuck:

Where's the post about white trash? For every nigger like William Jefferson, there's white trash like Randall "Duke" Cunningham, a "war hero" doing eight years. How about a word for the white trash on Wall Street who get government handouts when their investments go south? Did you ever wonder if Timothy McVeigh was a member of a cell?

I'm delighted to provide a 'white trash' list that corresponds to the 'nigger' list. It's even more expansive. It includes people who aren't just dirty, violent, and stupid, but also slimy, mean, hypocritical, and manipulative. And unlike a lot of the commenters, it's not confined to just one political party. I urge our leaders -- and, indeed, all white people, to join me in admitting that the following white people are inexcusable trash:

Pat Buchanan
David Duke
Michael Moore
Michael Savage
Keith Olbermann
Larry Craig
Charles Schumer
Bill Clinton
Hillary Clinton
William Ayers
Bernadine Dohrn
Jimmy Swaggert
Ted Stevens
Britney Spears
John Murtha
Trent Lott
Howard Stern
Don Imus
John Rocker
George Galloway
Sean Penn
& many many others

Yeah, I know the list can be longer. And people will object that some of the entries seem political. But both parties are represented, and no one is on the list who isn't -- regardless of political stripe -- corrupt, a liar, a fraud, damagingly immoral, an unabashed hater, suspiciously well connected, or all of those things...

This is part of my answer to the commenter who wrote:

"We accept that there are doctors and lawyers and police officers and firefighters whose credentials may not be completely up to snuff because of the top-secret compromises associated with affirmative action."

Great line, but what about a President who's [sic] credentials aren't up to snuff because of nepotism?

Uh, right, sure. But perhaps you'll agree it's rare that nepotism gets seconded by 62 million votes. I'm guessing -- given your bias against familial relationships in politics -- you're also opposed to the political careers of Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Jack, Bobby and Ted Kennedy, Chris and Andrew Cuomo, Jay Rockefeller, Lincoln Chafee, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Nancy Pelosi... oh, forget it.

The flip side of nepotism is damnation by ancestral association:

"And you're the only group we fought a war to free."

Uh yeah, because they are the only group you ENSLAVED in the first place.

Wrong. I never enslaved anybody. And you're wrong on the historical record, too. The Chinese who built the transcontinental railroads were slaves in every respect but the name, because the word 'slave' was no longer permitted. They were shanghaied here on boats, bound in chains and murderous conditions, isolated from help by language and legal contracts, and were subjected to endless ridicule as 'monkeys,' 'idiots,' and subhuman utilities. The Irish were victims of genocidal, anti-Catholic riots in New York and other cities after their desperate emigration from Ireland in the midst of the potato famine. They were caricatured as subhuman animals and lived in conditions of urban filth that would make 19th century plantation life look mild by comparison. Black people are not the only U.S. immigrants who have ever had all the odds against them. And don't even dare to ask about the Jews black preachers hate so much. From the beginning and to this very day, they have prevailed against reverse Affirmative Action in all the top schools that granted entrance to the corridors of power. But you must know this. Why do all the politically correct leading lights hate them as much as the Palestinians do? Even though blacks owe their civil rights victories more to the Jews than to any other demographic or political group you can name.

Well, most of the rest of the comments are merely advertisements for the points I was trying to make. For example, Nandino misread my suggestion that current events could make Americans believe African-Americans were a fifth column as a charge that they ARE a fifth column. He deftly refuted the charge by pointing out that hip-hop is crude, apolitical, ignorant, and materialistic. Duh. Then he obliterated his own argument by revealing his zest for a black nationalist movement. That's right. He wants a fifth column. Please try to be smarter about these things, you super-intelligent, morally perfect people.

To all the commenters who looked in, saw the N-Word, and waved their wands in a superior way: BOO! If you're black and never heard a white person mention this word, you've never had an honest philosophical conversation with a white person who wasn't a race whore. And if you're white and never heard this word used by anyone, you've never ventured far enough outside your social clique to recognize that at the university you attend(ed), all the black people are being systematically taught that you are irrevocable racists even as they are being induced to segregate themselves and fail at every real world test of success. Breaking through the propaganda to a non-politically correct discussion would be your only chance of having a real relationship with a person of color. But this you will never have.

I have had. Which is why, to me, you're simply sad. And far more foul-mouthed than eloquent or morally compelling.

And I haven't even gotten to Glenn Greenwald yet. Before I do that, I must doff my hat to Glenn Reynolds and (especially) to Dean Barnett. Glenn Reynolds once talked about an Army of Davids. Now he has book deals, multiple blog contracts, a weekly podcast, and genuine political clout. He's become his own Goliath. Dean Barnett has had a more direct career. He was a blogger. Then he was a political advocate for Mitt Romney. Now he's a writer for a politically influential conservative magazine. For either of them to take credit for NOT linking to the "OldGuy" post at InstaPunk is quite a lot like Obama taking credit for not voting for the Iraq War in the U.S. Senate before he was a senator. There was never any need. Barnett didn't even get the opportunity to ignore the post (never told him about it, bless his innocent little heart), but he still felt obliged to take credit for the elitist Massachusetts conservatism that somehow never involved encounters with armed rappers on Beacon Hill.

There's never been a more profitable virtue than not taking an unnecessary political risk -- unless it's congratulating one's self in public for not having been anywhere near the risk in question. Yeah, Dean. I'll look forward to all your future moral criticisms of Obama.

Did someone mention Glenn Greenwald? No? Well, then, I did. I hadn't given him much notice before, but now I've learned that he's a disciple of Maureen Dowd, a master of the misleading ellipse. He made a small elision (meaning he left out an inconvenient chunk of something he quoted without indicating the omission; it's called misquoting). Not something that will matter to all the dogs at his command. Come to think of it, nothing that will matter to all the ambitious pols who have become the conservative blogosphere. So I'll drop it. But I offer a challenge to Greenwald: I'm happy to debate you on some topic you actually have experience of at your hideout in Brazil.

Does anyone out there remember the smart kids? Not the ones who played chess, because ordinary smart people could win at chess. I'm talking backgammon. The game you had to be bred to play. That's what the blogosphere, right and left, has become. They huddle over the board with their podcast cocktails and CNN/MSNBC/Fox News appearances, and they move pieces that to most of us would be checkers in ways we can't fathom. Actually, most of us -- ordinary bloggers and commenters alike -- think it's still checkers. It isn't.

The good news is this. If I were a member of most any of the popular, "influential," conservative blogs -- like Ace of Spades or Protein Wisdom -- I'd already have been told to "Take my knives and go." They know they can get away with endless cock and boob jokes but nothing that might deeply offend gays, women, or ethnic minorities. That's actually why I was drawn to InstaPunk. Not a lot of gratuitous cock and boob jokes. They convinced me that my cock was my business and boobs weren't a punchline all by themselves. They also didn't think the word "gay" was automatically synonymous with gales of hysterical laughter.

I did submit my resignation to The Boss after Glenn Reynolds threw the whole website under the bus. But he didn't accept it. He said, "If the ADDS morons who glut the comments of the blogosphere come after you, we'll defend you all we can, and then, if necessary, we'll go to our last resort -- The Shuteye Train.

Then they showed me The Shuteye Train. Believe me. No one one wants that.

Believe me.

So I'm here for the duration. Old Guy is my monicker. Aim all your shit at me.

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