Edited on 7/11/2019 for MAJOR grammatical errors.
The latest incident of seemingly random violence, where two police officers were gunned down in cold blood in a CiCis Pizza in Las Vegas, should hopefully be a wake-up call to the nation, but somehow I doubt it. At the nexus of gun control, which cops have been painfully absent in the discussion of late, and extreme Right ideology, to which many in the departments may secretly espouse, there is the threat and now, the actuality of violence against police officers. Now I am no blind believer in the sanctity of law enforcement, I believe that in many cases they have grown painfully unaware that they serve US and not the other way around. Police have been getting more and more bold about restricting and in some cases outright trampling on the public’s rights. But under NO circumstances would I say that cops should be killed execution-style, or any style, while not engaged in law enforcement activities. Police are aware of the fact that they have the ability to use deadly force, and therefore are targets, they accept this as a part of their job, but this…
That being said, there is a terrible irony in all of this, actually several. Just last week another incident in Forsyth county Georgia (anyone else remember Forsyth county? 1987? ) where a “sovereign citizen” Dennis Ronald Marx attempted to lay siege to the county courthouse. He didn’t make it inside. So here you have two incidents of anti-authoritarian, anti-government violence directed by whites against a largely white power structure yet there is not yet an outcry. Here comes the irony. Remember Ice T? Not the TV-friendly streetwise cop on Law and Order, not even the OG, but the lead singer and primary lyricist of Body Count. Body Count who wrote a little song called Cop Killer. A fucking song, and not even a particularly good fucking song, got law enforcement, political leaders and the whole country talking about free speech, the POTENTIAL of violence against police officers and well at least covertly, race. Where is that outcry now?
I’ve been telling friends and family for years that I feared such a resurgence of this type of ideological violence, that the rhetoric of G. Gordon Liddy and the burgeoning right-wing talk phenomenon he heralded would collude with the erosion of the White middle class that started with Regan and accelerated with Clinton, that Angry White Males were only being made angrier by reinforcement of their elemental belief that they were superior by the talk radio establishment, that all of this and more would coalesce into violence in a way we haven’t seen yet in this country’s modern history. It now seems that my biggest fears are coming to fruition.
The ideologues are taking over the GOP. The Tea Party is at the nexus of Koch, God, Guns, Manifest Destiny, American Exceptionalism ™ and fear. Just as the great brainwashing of American people of color that opportunity was within their reach and that racism was no longer a “thing” and its resulting gangs and poverty dyslexia, Whites who had always been absolutely sure of their Americanness and golden ticket holding status are now experiencing their own form of Mxyzptlkian confusion. Already having the established “right” to bear arms drilled into the culture, that “right” and all the power/impotence it implies has made them a confusing mess. These thugs are no more than gang members, they behave in the same manner, have either formalized or implicit codes of conduct, and traffic in drugs and violence, one being the mind-altering type the other of their implicit superiority, their “birthright” and the fear of being just as economically bad off as the brown people, one gets you fucked up and high, the other gets you fucked up on fear. It is very easy to get twisted up in the racial politics but that’s only because of the 200 years of programming not only inflicted on Black America but White America as well. Everything is about race, but nothing really is about race at all.
Which brings us to 2008…
White America was quietly stunned, at first.
At first, surprisingly, only Fox News had speculated that the couple involved in the incident had fringe ties. But to anyone who lived through the sporadic violence of the ’80s and ’90s, the skinhead resurgence and the Alan Berg incident as well as the numerous beatings, stabbings and dragging’s that have occurred over the last 30 years all hallmarks of the manifest anger of angry white males.
I’ve been struggling with the ideas surrounding the apparent eclipse that began covering the bright light of White privilege for a while now. Although I saw, like millions of others, the election of Barack Obama as a major turning point that I also think some of us also knew would not be smooth sailing through. In fact, in many ways, it would get worse
before it got better if in fact, it gets better at all. I remember watching the 2008 election results come in and feeling a sense of promise and dread. As all pivotal moments go, from graduation to landing a new job, to saying “I do” the luster of the thrill of accomplishment rapidly gives way to the sheer terror of “what the hell do I do now.” I can only imagine what the reaction was on the other side.
The Palin effect.
The first indication that there was blood in the water came before the election itself when the GOP made the head-scratchingly bad decision to run Palin as McCain’s running mate. Aside from her painfully dim political I.Q. and her strikingly horrific faux-folksiness, she was uniquely unqualified for the vice presidency, in fact she was uniquely unqualified for Girl Scout troop leader. I realize that all candidates vetted through the party system are sculpted in some way by the parties expectations, or what they think the party is expected to be by the eggheads in its leadership, but this Frankenstein’s monster of ignorance was probably the worst move the GOP has made in recent memory. A calculated (probably on an abacus, because calculators are the work of the devil) concoction at the crossroads of gender, jingoism, and religion, her ascension to the throne of chief wing-nut was the bunker hill of the current and future civil war within and without the Republican party.
Never had a candidate been so built around so many false notions and disparate parts as Palin. A fiscal conservative governor in a state that receives a disproportionate amount of federal funds for a relatively small number of people, a social conservative who’s daughter’s out-of-wedlock birth caused more than a casual derisive snicker or twelve and a gun-toting grizzly mama NRA loving every-white-woman who was rumored to have secretly boned an African-American basketball player star, Palin can’t even be described as a mass of contradictions, she’s simply a hot mess.
Despite all of this, and demonstrating one of the central insanities of the Tea Party and its loose socially conservative Ecumenism/ (borderline?) racism, she was and to a certain, clawing to still be relevant sense, the poster woman for the movement. Choosing her, the GOP phase-shifted from doling out chum to “the base” to trying to outright co-opt it. The results have not been pretty.
Of course, the prevailing feelings of entitlement were stirred by Palin’s big spoon; the soup was already boiling for many years. In a lot of ways, the election of Barak Obama signaled a sea change that the White Right have been fearing, warning against and arming for since before the civil war. But it was the election of 2008, the emergence of the Tea Party and Palin’s fawning, despicable and disgusting approbation of it that began to galvanize this “other America.” Bringing together Libertarians of the economic kind (The Pauls are only Libertarian when it suits them, opposing Gay marriage on religious grounds and opposing general Civil rights as a way to add froth to the already rabid base and remaining largely silent on Marijuana decriminalization, many of the above clearly NOT Libertarian in the least) old angry White men who have found themselves in a world they did not make (because the very premise of America to them had always included a sanctified place in this country for even the least of THEM while demonizing the rest of US, no matter how productive, no matter how American) and now instead of blaming the greedy and the wealthy who have been lying to them and using them as foot soldiers, bulwarks against the unwashed brown masses, they have reverted to their worse nature and are blaming the victims.
There is something inherently horrifying to many people that is very comforting to these folks, the old romanticized order of things that has good hard-working (white) folks getting by (barely) on hard work and “skilled” manufacturing and mechanical labor (which is being lost to the same “market pressures” that have lowered the number of skilled jobs in the US to the lowest level in modern history) and shiftless Blacks and Mexicans serving them in some capacity. They don’t need to be reminded that it was less than 70 years ago when slavery effectively ended in the south, though they won’t call it that. They call Obama a Socialist without really knowing the meaning of the word, either do not know or conveniently forget that the consensus among historians and most rational people is that union membership and wartime government spending was what created the middle class and that when one group is deposed as the convenient scapegoat, they will eventually fill that role.
Next, the radical right goes mainstream.