Sunday, April 4, 2010

Who are you better than?

One of the things that I have come to really enjoy about the internet is that it allows so much overlap among my various interests.  One of the motorcycle forums that I visit has an active politics section and there are some real gems of political analysis posted there from time to time.  What follows is a post made on the forum ADV Rider by a writer who uses the name Jinx.

Jinx named this "...who are you better than?".  He started it with a quote by the character Agent Rupert Anderson from the crime drama Mississippi Burning.  Then he continued on with his own thought provoking article that I will reproduce in its entirety below.  I found this to be an amazing critique of the motivations behind some of the more extreme Tea Party activists and what this says about politics and racism in our country today.  Thank you, Jinx, for letting me quote you here.


"You know when I was a little boy, there was an old negro farmer that lived down the road from us, named Monroe. He was ... (subtle laugh), I guess he was just a little more luckier than my daddy was. He bought himself a mule. 
It was a big deal in round that town. Now my daddy hated that mule. Cause, his friends were always kidding him about, "They saw Monroe out plowing with his new mule and Monroe is going to rent another field now he had a mule." 
One morning that mule showed up dead. They poisoned the water. After that, there wasn't any mention about that mule around my daddy. It just never came up. One time we were driving down that road and we passed Monroe's place and we saw it was empty. He just packed up and left, I guess, he must of went up north or something. 
I looked over at my daddy's face, I knew he done it. He saw that I knew. He was ashamed. I guess he was ashamed. He looked at me and said, "If you ain't better than a nigger son, who are you better than?"
- Agent Anderson, Mississippi Burning 


And welcome to the Tea-hadist mindset. With Barack Obama in charge...who are you going to be better than?
And don't think some of us recognize the symptom because we are a pack of condescending know-it-all asshats. We are...but that has fuck-all to do with the observation.
It's just that we have seen this before. Up North...in our so-called "enlightened" neck of the woods. 
Want to know the difference between North and South? Well, a man once told me that up North, it is OK to have a Black as your boss, but you will be damned if you will have one for a neighbor. Down South, it is OK to have a Black neighbor...but you will damned if you will have one as a boss. 
So we went through all this Tea Party nonsense up North, about 20-30 years ago. And the reaction was just as vehement, inarticulate, and dumb as what is being spewed now. If you want to see hate and spittle, you should have seen how South Boston reacted to school integration. 
But you would not have seen it 24/7 as you do today. It happened...but not in a perpetual echo chamber. And thank Christ for that. 
And if you think the enlightened liberal North embraced integrated housing with open hearts, think again, It was called "white flight" and it damn near emptied some cities. "Sure, we support integration...now excuse us while we move to the suburbs where those Zulus won't be able to spear us with their assegais." 
But white flight was a safety valve. It kept the pressure at reasonable levels. It also prolonged it and led to new levels of stupidity, but you could, after all, vote with your feet. Many did. Many still do. 
OK, the job front was a bit stickier. Northern Industry has always been (at least since the 1950's) largely integrated. Steel Mill owners don't give a fuck what your skin color is. Besides, you could only tell on the way into work, on the way out everybody pretty much looked the same. 
But you always knew what hand you were playing, because the cards were mostly dealt face up. Your boss was still white. Your union steward was still white. Your mayor and your chief of police were still white. And, as much as it pains me to tell you this, Michael Steele did not run the GOP. And even if he did, at least up north, you went home at the end of the day to your own private Idaho in the suburbs, and played golf on the weekends at a club where Michael Steele was never going to get in. Well, not the front door 
The workforce may have been integrated, but you still knew who you were better than. Nobody dared yell "You Lie!!" at a white boss. 
Over time, most of that has changed (but if you take a shot every time you can name a Black mayor of a predominantly white New England city...you are going to bed sober). But it took a very conscious effort to change it. Acceptance of diversity does not come easy when the question is: "who are you better than?" 
And now the way the cards were dealt 18 months ago has upset a huge segment of the population. They no longer know who they are better than. They are lashing out. And there is fuck-all for a safety valve and it does run 24/7 in a perpetual echo chamber. 
They say it is about "freedoms"...but they can point to no freedoms that have been lost over the last 14 months. 
They say the Constitution is being destroyed, but when you ask them what parts of The General Welfare Clause or Congresses' power to regulate Interstate Commerce are being violated...they stand mute with rage 
They say it is about taxes...but they can find no drastic tax increases in the last 14 months. 
Come to think of it, I don't really remember anyone getting speared with an assegai thirty years ago either. But that didn't stop people screaming about the danger. 
And they say they want their Country Back. 
Well, Bing-fucking-O. 
Now we have it. They want to return to a time and place where they at least knew who they were better than. 
And the fact that most of this spittle is flying from the mouths of the poor, the semi-educated, the low information voter, and from By-God Dixie...well, that is only because it is your turn. A lot of the rest of the Country has already gone through this exercise 20-30 years ago. And the same spittle flew from the same confused lips when it was our turn. 
So we don't look on Tea-hadists with scorn because they are alien and unfathomable. We do so because we recognize these very traits as ours and those of our neighbors."All in the Family" wasn't the most popular show in the Northeast because Archie Bunker was despised. It was popular because he was comfortably familiar. But at least he was a character. Nobody tried to run him for President. 
And it ain't just President Obama. It is a lot else: If your job can be done on the Indian sub-continent, who are you better than? If China can launch a spaceship, who are you better than? If the world looks at the mighty Dollar as little better than an American Peso, who are you better than? If an immigrant can work your ass into the ground, and do it smiling for a lot less money, who are you better than? 
A whole lot of life has been shaken and stirred the last couple of decades. 
This whole Tea-Party nonsense will eventually pass. Because there is no "going back". OK, you can move to Idaho, or Montana, and it will feel like you have found what was missing. And you might even be happy. As long as you never watch the POTUS on the national news while you are trying to answer the question: "Who am I better than?" 
But Jesus wept, people are going to keep asking that damned question. Soccer may be watched for it's beauty...American Football is about who is better. We are more of a class society than people want to admit. There is still a very strong vein of Scotch-Irish pride that runs through this Country's character. Unfortunately that pride is seldom based, at least lately, on personal or collective achievement...just who you are better than. You can hear it every time a factory closes in this Country and people cheer. No, they really don't believe that closing the Auto Factories will make America stronger. But it adds a whole bunch of people to the list of those they are better than. 
Still...what the fuck. 600 years of violence and oppression was bound to warp the Scotch-Irish a bit. Hell, you can even consider them heroically well adjusted given their, and my, history. And history will eventually change us again once all the dogs adjust to the new Alpha Male reality and find their place again in the pack. Until then we live in the land of flying angry spittle. 
PS - I never wanted to be better than anyone else. Just faster. 
Cheers 
Jinx

1 comment:

Anne said...

Not long before the 2008 election, a co-worker explained a theory to me: "The Glass Cliff". The theory was that "we" would promote/elect a female/minority boss/candidate in a situation where we consciously or unconsciously knew the challenges we faced were not fixable any time soon.

I told him we could not possibly _suck_ that much.