Hello, my faithful readers.
Today I thought I’d give you all a quick reality check regarding our current political dilemma by sharing something I saw on Facebook a couple months back. After you read this, feel free to watch the supplemental video.
Civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, ADA, social security, it’s all a hustle. They happened because lawyers insisted that the LETTER OF THE LAW be followed, and judges and congress went along.
Word, the constitution, bill of rights, and the declaration our republic was founded on were not built for all y’all. The words written were of, by, and for the people who wrote them. They were the elite white, Christian cisgender heterosexual males with money, status, and power. They looked around the room at all the other household names, people with servants and concubines, people who could sign for anything they wanted, people with so much land they’d likely never seen it all in some cases, and they built a country for themselves.
That they ended up hoisted by their own petard, their descendants forced to share a little of the great bounty of a continent was not what they expected. It was a clever game taking advantage of the rule of law.
They didn’t build it for us. They built it for themselves, and their natural heirs, names you know, people with jets and metric shit tons of money. Insisting on equality against such a backdrop is as foolish as the child who insists on having their own money. They pat ’em on the head and give them a quarter to make their bed, something they made them do anyway, then charge them thirty cents for lunch.
Until and unless we confront the very nature of the republic, we are still playing a game, running a con, hustling the hustlers who set the whole thing up.
If we are to have equality of opportunity and equitable allocation of resources, we must first call the game what it is, then rewrite the rules. Otherwise we make our beds and go in debt for lunch, and the adults snicker behind our backs and pat us on the head.
I hear you. The more I peel this onion, the more I realize it is, like an onion, the same all the way to the core.
Western and middle eastern cultures, those based on abrahamic traditions, are sorting systems through and through. I don’t know enough about eastern religion to comment too much on those.
When your culture is based on a sorting of “us vs them”, damned vs saved, when that is a basic tenet, you’re pretty screwed to build an inclusive society in anything more than name only.
I’m kinda an oddball. I was 11 years old when I questioned the catholic dogma of salvation through baptism and confession. It was 1967, and I’d seen the iconic photographs of Buddhist monks setting themselves on fire in protest of the war. I asked how it was that obvious martyrs very like those I’d learned about in my catholic school were not going to heaven because they were not catholic. That seemed so arbitrary and immoral to my 11 year old self I couldn’t accept it. I
Left the church soon after, convinced that arbitrary sorting based on the luck of birthplace and what church your parents take you to was nothing I could honor.
Though a working class kid, first in a small town then out in farm country, I learned the redneck code, and the ethnic sorting of the mill town, where Italians and polish and Puerto Rican’s and blacks had their own neighborhoods, yet a half Irish, half French Canadian and Mohawk kid didn’t really belong in any of them. In the rural area I learned the Methodist and baptist churches looked down on one another, and both derided Catholics. They only all agreed on one thing, those who were not members in good standing of one of the above were “lowlifes”, to be avoided. Hello, present and accounted for. Now watch me dust your asses on the regents exam. But I didn’t get many party invites, don’t ya know.
Military service and college and living in different parts of the country and later in the Caribbean, exposure to cultures from around the world, working in industries as varied as teaching “educable retarded” to running a literacy agency, to my own shooting sports accessories business, to working as a contractor, I’ve worn all the shirts and hats, spoken the lingo, and followed the party lines, all the while aware that I was an imposter, a chameleon, the devil walking among them.
In my quiet times I wrote a fair bit, never too deep, lest I blow through the veneer.
What I learned is this. If you’re looking for GOOD people, there is no magic formula. You can get stabbed in the back in a sanctuary or university conference room as easily as in an alley. They just use different tools.
I’ve learned to live my life loyal only to one race, the human race, without regard to anybody’s version of who the cool kids are. I’ve been treated well and badly by about every stripe of people you can pigeonhole. If they’re consuming energy and oxygen, they’re somebody, and have value. Some do terrible things they get locked up for. Some get to live in houses on top of hills after committing atrocities. Good people are where you find them. Any effort to stratify and exclude based on unearned characteristics is bullshit, only works for the chosen as long as they can keep it, and is unfair on its face.
For those of us by definition less able than the fully fit, understanding where we fit in the mindsets of the dominant culture is a survival skill. If you don’t know what they’re thinking, how they allocate resources when it gets tight, you better be good looking, talented, and lucky.
Words are stunningly versatile things.
They have the ability either to create or to destroy, to lift us or to level us, to give us wings to crush us beneath their weight, to inspire us to reach
the loftiness parts of our nature or to drive us to the depths of our blackest darkness.
We know this from the way other’s voices have shaped us in both redemptive and debilitating ways.
The words of others can become for us the language for all we harbour unspoken in our hearts; every unfulfilled longing, each unhealed wound, every beautiful
aspiration, all the catalogued defeats, each perceived wrongdoing.
And the words of powerful people become catalysts for revolutions; hubs around which multitudes gather in tribes of affinity to create the world they dream
of, whether hopeful or horrific. Religious prophets and pop stars and political leaders all tap into the hearts of people in order to move those people’s
convictions from heart to hand—to move them.
Cesar Sayoc is the logical manifestation of the language of this President.
He is the sum total of his every reckless insult, irresponsible untruth, and calculated attack; the disfigured Frankensteined monster, made from every
factless conspiracy theory and incendiary rally rant, each corrosive verbal attack on people of color and immigrants and women (cisgender and transgender) and the media.
Cesar Sayoc is the clear accumulation of a seemingly endless Presidential Twitter feed, filled with nonsensical ramblings, spewed from the head of a man
who feels no accountability for the collateral damage of his words—either on those who are his targets—or those weaponised by him against them.
The words of a President weigh more than perhaps anyone else’s. There is a gravity to the voices of our leaders that corporately shape us in ways few things
do. They have always determined the trajectory of our nation, carried us through unthinkable tragedy, clarified who we are as a people, driven us to reach
for dreams that we believed were beyond us.
The words of a President, when wielded responsibly and with decency, help us to tap into our shared humanity; to remind us of our interdependence, of our
commonalities, of the responsibility we have toward one another.
But when tossed around carelessly, the words of a President (like this President), ratify people’s phobias, stoke the fires of their bitterness, sanction
the violence they cultivate in their heads, legitimise their irrational bigotry toward their neighbours.
Cesar Sayoc isn’t a surprise.
He may be an terrifyingly extreme extension of this President’s words, but he finds himself on a long and growing continuum of millions of angry, scared,
unloved, people who believe the world has wronged them—and now have someone (the most powerful someone), to tell them that they are right.
Whether it’s in racial epithets screamed at strangers in traffic, xenophobic signs posted near voting booths, venomous racists social media diatribes from
grandmothers, xenophobic outbursts at holiday meals, or vans plastered with anti-media propaganda—monsters are being made by this President’s words.
Yes, words make things and they kill things.
Cesar Sayoc is the kind of monster this President has helped create in unhinged campaign rants and social media tantrums and “lock her up” chants” and
dehumanising rhetoric—and the worst of it all, is that he seems oblivious to his culpability, defiant in his outrage, and determined to double down, no
matter how many people he places in harm’s way.
He refuses to use his words for anything but division and injury and enmity, and so those so desiring war, those seeking consent, those who share his heart—find
licence to be horrible.
This President is a monster-maker.
It’s time we admitted it.
Disapproving of people who aren’t “Normal” went from a virtue to vice within my lifetime.
I still see a lot of baffled resentment about that shift in public morals.
I still read a lot of pushback, and a sense that something’s gone terribly wrong.
If you strip away all the rhetoric and conspiracy theories that call marriage equality and gender neutral restrooms a subversive attack on normative institutions in prelude for the ushering in of a totalitarian state that demands full ideological compliance at all times, you’re left with a portrait of some very simple, wrong, but simple feelings underneath:
People miss being socially rewarded for conformity.
People miss being socially rewarded for enforcing it.
People resent being punished for what they were once rewarded for.
The shift in public morals changed the rules on what it took to be seen as a good person.
It used to be about not doing anything weird, and looking down on anybody who did.
Now it’s about not doing anything cruel, and looking down on anyone who does.
There used to be people it was not only OK to be cruel about, but REWARDED to be cruel about.
People fear the loss of unity that a loss of conformity-as-a-public-moral represents to them. They don’t understand what that unity cost, and don’t understand that it was a facade that was no more true then, than it was now, and just required a lot more people to hide, pretend, live unsatisfying inauthentic lives, and often suffer anyway, because the people who fear this were the ones conformity came easily to. They were the ones around whom the idea of “normal” was designed.
They built their senses of self partially on a bedrock of pride at being “the right kind of person.”
They see the idea that there even IS a “right kind of person” going away, as a threat not only to the unity of their nation, but to the socialvalue of the principal virtue from which they’ve always derived their standing and self-worth. Public tolerance of nonconformity, and public intolerance of intolerance toward it, feel like an existential threat.
If you’re wondering what animates and underwrites some segments of the modern Conservative outrage over ostensibly harmless live-and-let-live tolerance being adopted as the norm, and why they cast objection to them as FreeSpeech issues on THEIR behalf rather than HumanRights issues on someone else’s, this is how that logic works.
Within their lifetimes, whole swaths of the belief systems they were raised with and feel religiously and culturally virtuous for espousing, changed entirely without their buy-in from things everybody was supposed to agree with Or Else, to something you’d be treated badly for asserting.
Practically Overnight, as far as they were concerned.
And since these changes came from outside their communities –
And since these changes regarded discrimination and basic human rights –
They were accompanied by changes to the law regarding who it was ok to shun and treat differently.
That answer used to be “Someone”
That answer is now “No One”
All they know is they got a taste of what it was like to suddenly feel like pariahs at the hands of people who suddenly asserted influence over the laws of the land and didn’t respect their values or beliefs, and accomplished all of this without their consent or agreement, practically overnight.
It became NOT OK to hold beliefs that they held dear, not just on a social level, but also on a legal level, where those beliefs meant engaging in discriminatory practices against “the people it’s morally appropriate to treat badly.”
And That Was Terrifying.
It was the closest thing they’d ever felt to persecution.
Legal protections granting equality to the people they felt dutybound to shun and look down on felt like the government, acting at the behest of radicals who “didn’t love this country” (read: love it exactly how it was) felt like an attack not just on the character of the nation but on their individual right to self-determination and free thought.
So the next time you’re on a comment thread and you encounter someone dashing off manifestos about liberal nazi thought police, while you still won’t (i hope) respect and agree with them, you’ll at least know how they came to be as freaked-out as they are by things that nobody should mind, and why they see nothing but tyranny and totalitarianism in a public morals shift that says cruelty’s not ok.