Tuesday, November 15, 2016

White Power's Ugly Last Stand

Americans have been through a lot this year.

It's been especially hard on us because, for the past fifteen years or so, we as a people have become world famous mainly for 1) conspicuous material consumption, 2) overeating, and 3) bragging.

We also have a giant military and have been accused with some justification of being at the summit of a quest for empire. But that happens somewhere else while the rest of watch "Survivor."

Personally, I understand how eating and shopping can relieve chronic stress, (or at least seem to relieve it). I enjoy both of those activities. I'm no zealot. The biggest cause I've championed lately involved warning the world about *vegan baked goods*.

But then suddenly the 2016 elections were looming over us and all of our fear, dread, and loathing started ratcheting up by a factor of ten every week or so. For a solid year. More and more intense. By November 8th we didn't think it could get any worse.

Enter fat, comb-over Caligula stage far-right--A bloated, narcissistic orange demagogue who spent a solid year sucking so much air out of our cozy little room of a nation that half of us fell under his spell and immediately sold off our souls for more warm lies, while the other half plugged our ears and started singing "la la la" at full blast until, on that fateful November 9th, we woke the fuck up and started screaming for real.
Having fun yet?

A Buddhist aphorism observes that, "Everybody wakes up in hell."

It's true, I think.

Classically speaking, hell is just a synonym for 'cauldron': a fiery invitation to deep and painful transformation. You always have the option decline this invitation and go back to sleep, but if you go that way your dreams become more and more poisoned with echoes of suffering and pain.

The better but more challenging choice is to accept the invitation: to take a step forward, breathe. Then take another. Breathe.

Rinse and repeat for as long as it takes until you can take hell deep inside yourself, work on it, and spit it out as something kinder and gentler. Healing, even. It can happen, but not easily.

So here we are, five days into the reign of Hatey McHateyPants and already the U.S. looks and feels like some kind of bad reality-show/dystopian nightmare. Suddenly, without warning it feels like we all work up in some special American version of Hell.

But the truth is, it has always been thus.

Beautiful Dreamer/American Horror Story 

America has always been a beautiful dream unfolding beside a horrifying reality.

Four hundred years ago, the vast American forests and shorelines seemed to promise European settlers untold space and timber for homes, barns, farms, churches, businesses--and yet the unforgiving climate and the wildness of the land itself confounded these hopes in ways white people like to leave out when we tell the story.

For example, there is evidence of cannibalism at Jamestown, the first American settlement, a travesty built in a swamp. Fevers and other ills were harvested in the damp and heat, damp and cold, but not much else. When winter came the few settlers froze. The food vanished.

There are human bones at Jamestown that show gnaw marks from human teeth.

The first slaves were shipped to the Americas in 1619, about the same time that the Lord Mayor of London began to round up orphan children from the streets and send them to the American continent to work. It is doubtful these children even made it across the oceans. Because the ship captains were paid up front to transport prisoners (or orphans), it was easier to just throw them overboard early in the journey.

The first thieves and debtors sentenced to transportation met the same fate as the orphans. Only about 20% actually made it to an American port. Pressed by horrified members of the English middle class, the government eventually insisted that money per transportee be paid upon delivery of that laborer in one piece to an American land owner. Once that change was made, the numbers flipped and about 80% of the transported lived long enough to be shoved off a boat and put to work.

For awhile in the mid to late 1600s, slaves, transportees and indentured servants of various races were treated in similar ways and were able to help each other. However, plantation owners soon realized that slave labor was much cheaper than indentured servitude, and then the slave ships started arriving more and more frequently.

Even the Pilgrims we so revere in our beautiful dream about the first Thanksgiving did not escape  America's original sin. Puritans allowed themselves to own slaves if 1) the slave was captured in battle, or 2) if the person had sold him or herself into slavery under his or her own volition, or 3) if the person was a child of a slave.

The slave trade became so lucrative many major banks became investors. White people pushed westward, Indians were massacred, and dreams of a small plot of land and a home as often as not turned into nightmares of starvation, disease, or massacre.

I could go on. But you get the picture.

Wake up!

Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up 

Some white people seem to think that White Power is good for them, even if it is bad for everyone else. That is why political pundits are now busy telling us that Donald Trump won this election because Hillary Clinton wasn't nice enough to working class white men.

This is bullshit. 

Donald Trump won because a bunch of white men and their white Church-Lady wives decided to sell themselves to Satan and throw the rest of the country into the depths of Hell just so they could have a self-destructive racist temper tantrum.

Working class white guys are suffering, the pundits say.

Guess what? We're ALL SUFFERING.

Trump's constituency thinks that their suffering should come first, and also that anyone who gets attention or sympathy or help reduces the size of a finite, tiny pool of resources. They are playing a zero sum game that says any minority's gain is their loss.

In this twisted world, women's freedom reduces masculine authority. Freedom of religion threatens Christianity. LGBTQ agendas create rampant immorality that will result in a world where men suddenly go crazy and start sucking penises willy nilly, bringing about the collapse of civilization.

In their world, if Black Lives Matter then White Lives Don't Matter. If immigrants get health care, white children will starve. If black children get free oatmeal the economy will collapse.

The world of White Power is a world of perverse fear combined with self-righteous rage, and now, thanks to people who thought they'd "give Trump a chance" because they wanted "change" have now accomplished what no terrorist attack ever could: They've transformed the US into a fascist state.

Some of us can see this clearly.

We are the ones who are awake.

We now have a grave responsibility to the sleepers to face the fascist threat directly, to stand up, to speak out, to be willing to feel uncomfortable, to listen when our brothers and sisters speak their pain, to cry when we grieve, to show anger when faced with oppression and hate, to stand with the vulnerable and the targeted, and most of all, to survive.

This isn't complicated.

Remember: tolerating hate speech for the greater good is like being a little bit pregnant.

If you thought putting up with some ugly words was going to get you a better job, you're in for a nasty surprise.

If you knew that was bullshit all along, welcome to the resistance.

You may feel like everything depends on you now, like the whole world is suddenly on your shoulders. But that's only because it does, and it is.

Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.