Saturday, July 24, 2010

Stop it. Just FUCKING willyouplease STOP it!


White men.  White men in America in 2010.  There seems to be an outcry from the White Male Constituency that they are suffering from some kind of racial bias, and that, as victims of racism, they deserve some kind of alleviation or mitigation or something diametrically opposed to the kick in the groin I'd LIKE to give them.  I swear, we're only weeks away from hearing calls for affirmative action.  What will it take to put an end to this ugly, artificial and dishonest campaign?  Honestly, I can't even think about it without seeing the leering visage of Rush Limbaugh.  Liars, charlatans and bigots.  Ok, let's think it through.

The first question one has to ask is who, exactly, is doing this discriminating against white men?  Is it other white men?  Because overwhelmingly, the business owners and decision makers in America are white men, and historically they have actually quite blatantly favored other white men.  If it requires people of color being in a position to exercise racial prejudice against white males, as represented in the fear mongering that President Obama favors African Americans over whites, then the opportunity for real world expression of this racial animosity is tiny.

Which is not to say that there are no poor white men in America.  Of course there are, plenty of them.  But they are not poor because they are being discriminated against because they are white.  They are poor because, in post-Reagan American economy, opportunities for upward mobility have been reduced to effectively zero.  If you want to know if an American will be wealthy as an adult, you need merely look to see if he or she was wealthy as a child.  The greatest predictor of wealth in America is birth status.

Second, and more importantly, you have to wonder where is the evidence of this anti-white bigotry?  White men still seem to have the vast majority of the money and the power in the US.  They occupy overwhelming majorities in State Houses, Legislatures, Congress and the Judiciary, while blacks and Hispanics occupy overwhelming majorities in penitentiaries and inner city poverty.  The thing that makes each of these examples of anti-white racism so ridiculous is that each is a small anecdote out of day-to-day life, a conflict (remember Henry Louis Gates?) or the kinds of old resentments that America's ugly past has built into the family and community history of most of her citizens.  There is precisely NO evidence of the kind of widespread, systematic and institutionalized unfair treatment that we can, tragically, so easily document in the case of African Americans and other people of color.

As a final note, there is something else that needs to be mentioned when we are talking about race relations in America.  It seems that there are a lot of white people in America who have grown frustrated at a society that has been moving past it's own history of racial animosity for over fifty years.  Well represented by the teabaggers and their ilk, they seem desperate to be allowed to express public racial fear, resentment and hatred without being considered racists.  How that is even possible is unclear, but you see them constantly railing against being forced to speak in "PC Terms", when they'd like nothing more than to be able to use raw racial slurs in the discourse.  You see them finding it difficult in modern America to openly hate Black people, so they turn quickly to Latinos, who they can tar as "illegals".  It's odd that even though immigration is down due to the economy, deportations are up significantly and crime along the border is at the lowest levels in decades, the outcry against the so-called "illegals" gets louder and uglier.  I suppose we are not supposed to notice that it's actually a hatred for Hispanic people being couched in immigration terms.  Or perhaps we ARE supposed to notice - these white people seem to be trying to make their mindless hatred clear.  And the worst expression of this desire to go back to a white supremacist world where hatred of other races led to regular, open slurs and dehumanization, and incitement to violence is the treatment we're seeing of Muslims, both foreign and American.  The excuse, as inaccurate and deceitful as it is, is "they attacked us".  But it's become obvious - that's just another excuse for a large number of white American racists to vilify and discriminate against another group who is not like them.  It seems almost part of their DNA.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Teachable Moment?

So depending upon who or what you read, there is apparently a lesson to be learned from the whole Shirley Sherrod/NAACP debacle.  And to the extent that this entire incident has been greatly illustrative, they're right.  Where they go wrong is there are THREE lessons here, of equally desperate importance, each standing alone from the others, and each crying out for an end to the denial and delusion that surrounds it.

First, there is the speed of the so-called "news cycle".  Yes, in the age of cable TV, the internet and smart phones, it has gotten very close to instantaneous, and in this globalized society, there's always somebody awake somewhere, contributing to the tsunami of information, commentary and spin.  There's no doubt that this is utterly toxic to any possibility that the dialog will be thoughtful, considered and productive.  But when this 'unsafe at any speed' mindset bleeds over into policy-making, or even personnel decisions, then it's time to step back and reconsider the value of partial information.  In the specific case of the Obama administration, it seems as if they just haven't come to terms with the fact that they are going to be attacked no matter what they do, and while they will take hits in the media, in the long run if they take the time to gather all of the data and context and act in a measured, responsible way, they'll come off looking better than if they just react to anything anybody dumps on the White House lawn.

Second, this ridiculous and specious argument we find ourselves having about race.  No, not the REAL conversation about race, the one we sometimes come fairly close to having before we skitter away in fear and acrimony, or watch it deteriorate into a juvenile shouting match to see who can claim the mantle of the aggrieved party in the loudest and most obnoxious terms.  I mean this other argument about race, the offensive one being put forward by white men like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Breitbart that somehow it is white men who are the victims of racism in America today.  The concept is laughable, except the consequences are deadly, and the future appears to be one of a nation at loggerheads over it's own growth and diversity.  It's time for the media and thoughtful people of all ideological stripes to acknowledge that white men are not oppressed in America today, and any fear that they might suffer from racial prejudice or bigotry is obviously false, and must be assumed to be manufactured to offset perfectly reasonable claims that there are white people in this country who are bigots.  There's just no way to take this discussion seriously, despite the willingness of the media to try.

Third, and actually most important, because it's turning out to be the hardest thing for other journalists to come out and say, it the willingness of activists and advocates to create false or misleading data that supports their political position and hand it off to the media as a viable story.  Whether this constitutes edited video, photoshopped images or counterfeit documents, it's very easy to create 'evidence' that proves whatever you want it to prove, and sometimes it's not as easy as it was in this case to get to the truth.  But now that ship has sailed, real journalists, out of self preservation if nothing else, need to come down hard on false, misleading or manufactured media events.  Anyone found purveying, producing or participating in stories that include artificially modified audio, video, images or documents needs to be summarily excommunicated from the business, never to be taken seriously again.  There should be a taint on all their stories forever.  It should be one strike and you're out.  Brietbart's been caught red-handed twice - why should anyone ever again assume he can be trusted with any bit of inflammatory or newsworthy media again?  He is left only to be mocked, and, for what it's worth, Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller should be on probation, on a very short leash.

If the other media sources allow lying, ideologically driven, blatantly dishonest outlets to occupy the same level of trust and credibility that they seek to represent, then they all lose.  And, of course, so do we...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Kashmir Conundrum

What is it about this place?

I understand that in most cases a sovereign nation is loathe to give up even one inch of territory, for in the final analysis a nation is nothing more than its land and its people.  And in most cases there are commpelling reasons for a nation to cling to it's territory, and even, when circumstances allow, to increase it.  Whether it's industry, tourism or nationalism, governments will fight seperatism and go to war over borders, even the most arbitrarily drawn.

Which brings us to Kashmir.  When the British drew the line separating India from Pakistan, they did so primarily on the basis of religious and sectarian identification.  In Kashmir, they got it wrong.  The people of Kashmir don't want to be part of India.  The Pakistanis don't feel they SHOULD be part of India.  Only the Indians, guided by the logic of nationalism and supported by a historical line drawn by a foreigner for political reasons, want the land and people of Kashmir to remain part of India.

What, exactly, does India get out of the deal?  A restive population, a history of endless wars and low-level fighting, a tremendous cost to keep the border garrisoned and the population controlled, and now the threat of a sudden escalation that leads to a nuclear exchange.  There is no industry to speak of in Kashmir.  Remote and rugged, in a high valley between the Himalayas and the Pir Panjal, Kashmir's best and only hope of contributing to GDP would be tourism - if only it wasn't a heavily militarized war zone.  So it drains manpower and money, contributes to South Asian distrust and instability, and for all India's willingness to fight and bleed, contributes nothing but cost and risk.

Surely a deal might be struck between India and Pakistan whereby Kashmir reverts to Pakistan sovereignity and India is recompensed fairly for the transfer of land.  Certainly the world would not be changed in any significant way, except for a reduction in tension and nuclear threat.  India would still have all her power, prestige and even a little extra wealth.  Pakistan would have a piece of land at the top of the world populated by people who WANT to be Pakistanis.  The world would have one less looming conflict.

I'm sure there are strong Indian counter arguments.  I'm not an expert, so I'm certain I've oversimplified a great deal of the discussion here.  But at it's most fundamental level it's difficult to argue with the basic premise:  If, as a nation, you can reduce tensions, eliminate an ongoing headache and increase your national wealth, it seems that losing what amounts to nothing more than a tiny sliver of land supporting an unhappy population would be something to be considered favorably.