Circus Maximus MMXVI: Hello darkness, my old friend

13 11 2016

So this is the end of the series—perhaps I should be using the Doors’s “This is the end” to mark the occasion.

The weekend after and I am still stunned. I still can’t listen to the news (WNYC & NPR), although I am reading plenty online. Reading is easier: as soon as I see something about THIS is the reason. . .  I know to move on. I laid out what I thought were the possible variables for Trump’s win and Clinton’s loss, accept that there might be still more; I don’t accept that anyone knows yet how to sort those variables.

I don’t. I have been knocked on my ass, and not have not managed to find my footing I don’t know much about the ground, either.

There were things I thought I knew. I thought I knew the extent of white supremacy in this country, thought most would, if faced with it, reject it. I didn’t think so many would just brush it aside, claim simultaneously that Trump was being both honest and that he didn’t really mean what he said, that the toxins he released weren’t that poisonous at all.

Maybe there’s something there, to be grasped: that those who embraced a racist didn’t want to be seen as racist. It is a slender reed.

So, what next? I don’t know.

What kind of president will he be? I don’t know.

Will he stick to his campaign promises? some of them? I don’t know.

Will he take the job seriously? I don’t know.

Will he turn over the day-to-day executive functions to his staff, to Pence? I don’t know.

Does he even want the job? I don’t know.

What kinds of judges will he appoint? I don’t know.

What kind of diplomacy will he conduct? I don’t know.

How will he react in crisis? I don’t know.

What will happen when he fails, as all presidents fail? I don’t know.

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. The best possible answers are bad; the worst, are more than I can now bear to imagine.

But if one is to prepare, to resist, then all possibilities, the worst possibilities, must be imagined.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Go on and put your ear to the ground

17 10 2016

I. The reasons someone supports a candidate you hate may not be the reasons you hate the candidate.

I think Donald Trump a menace, an unstable, thin-skinned, ill-informed blowhard who built his candidacy on a nasty brew of resentment and bigotry. I consider his terrible temperament—the sulking, the whining, the needy bullying—and terrible policies (to the extent he has any) and think What a fucking disaster.

Some (half? most?) Trump fans look at those same things and think Fuck yeah! Where I see instability, they see authenticity; what seems to me ill-informed seems to them common sense; resentment is, yes, resentment, but a righteous one; and bigotry, well, that’s simply refreshing political-incorrectness.

Some (half? most?) of these fans like the shove-it attitude just because he’s saying Shove it.

And some (half? most?) see only a champion for a life they want to have, think they deserve.

II.  Loss of privilege—unearned, unjust privilege—still registers as loss.

White supremacy is the founding injustice of this nation.

As a matter of justice in a plural nation, its destruction is of the greatest urgency.

As a matter of sociology in a plural nation, this destruction has led, does lead, to existential dislocation, to status disorientation on the part of those white folks who never had to deal with the costs of the construction of that whiteness.

As a matter of politics, both must be dealt with.

III. Everybody knows that the dice are loaded.

And nobody knows another game.

Is it worse to fix the fix, or to blow it all to hell, and start over?

The fix of the fix won’t hold; there’ll be new fixes. And blowing it all to hell is to blow it all away; there will be no restoration.

Pause: This is not to excuse—anything, or anyone.

I am trying to understand, to say what I see, to see what I see.





Show me the color of your right hand, pt II

6 07 2015

I didn’t want to be racist, and knew that whatever good anti-racist politics I might hold, if every black person I saw was every black person, I was a racist.

Cont.

So I figured I needed to get over that, and looked for apartments in, if not wholly black neighborhoods (as in North Minneapolis), then in neighborhoods where black people lived, which at the time included the area around Stevens Square. I took the bus with black people, shopped at stores where black people shopped, hung out in the park where black people hung out, and if I was still the (self-conscious) observer, I was, at least, beginning to see that one black person was not every black person.

It was also at some point in graduate school that I became interested in my own ethnic background, or at least the Irish part of it. I’m more German than Irish, along with Scandinavian, French, and, Polish, but in the 1990s I lay claim to Ireland. It was, I knew, a bit of a pose: I’d been Irish all along, but that had never mattered, and there was nothing particularly Irish about my upbringing, but I loved the Pogues and read Kate O’Brien and scoffed at green beer with the best of them. It was something I chose.

I was Irish. But white? No, that still didn’t make sense, and not in a how-the-Irish-became-white kind of way. It was something I recognized as a social reality—that people would look at me and see a white woman—but I didn’t feel “white”, didn’t know what it meant to be white.

A word about white privilege: I don’t much like the term, not least because it seems to personalize the issue too much, to customize the yawning fabric of white supremacy into a bespoke suit of advantage. It’s not that white privilege isn’t real, but that it isn’t the point: it’s just the final, small echo from the deep, deep well of white supremacy.

White privilege is the erasure of white supremacy, a forgetting that white, too, is a race. To call it a privilege to forget is cast this privilege in the most ironic of shadings: to use the term earnestly, piously, rather than sardonically, savagely, is just another way to dodge one’s own race—to look at the privilege, rather than the whiteness.

What does it mean to be white? What does it mean for me to be white? Again, I can look at social constructions and systems and structures of oppression, but do I know who and how I am as a white woman?

I prefer to talk about ethnicity, these days about how I’m mostly Irish and German, but that, too, is a dodge. I know I’m white, but don’t know I’m white. I see the history of whiteness in the US as a history of negation—this is what we are not—built around qualities and characteristics and people that those who are white are not. It’s not just that, of course, but if I reject the ‘positive’ characterization of whiteness, which is to say, white supremacy, then I don’t know that whiteness has any meaning at all.

I’m not sure about any of this. It seems that I’ve concluded that whiteness (in the US, at least) positively affirmed is white supremacy, that a whiteness without supremacy is a lack.  Is whiteness without blackness a thing of its own? Should it be? I don’t know what a non-supremacist whiteness would mean, that it could mean anything.

I am concerned these days with ontological matters: what does it mean to be? The question ‘what does it mean to be white’ appears as an obstacle, the whiteness obliterating the being. I don’t know if I have to answer this second question in order to get to the primary one. In contrast, I don’t feel as if I have to answer ‘what does it mean to be a woman’, that ‘a woman’ blots out the ‘to be’.

No, there is something about whiteness, a somnolent heaviness which masquerades as weightlessness, a history without a history, which interferes with my ability to make sense.

I’m a white woman, and I don’t know what that means.





Brother, brother

18 06 2015

The names of the dead:

Clementa Pinckney, 41, the primary pastor who also served as a state senator.

Cynthia Hurd, 54, St. Andrews regional branch manager for the Charleston County Public Library system.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, a church pastor, speech therapist and coach of the girls’ track and field team at Goose Creek High School.

Tywanza Sanders, 26, who had a degree in business administration from Allen University, where Pinckney also attended.

Ethel Lance, 70, a retired Gailliard Center employee who has worked recently as a church janitor.

Susie Jackson, 87, Lance’s cousin who was a longtime church member.

DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, a retired director of the local Community Development Block Grant Program who joined the church in March as a pastor.

Myra Thompson, 59, a pastor at the church.

Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, a pastor, who died in a hospital operating room.

—compiled by Andrew Knapp, The Post and Courier

~~~

Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s Republican governor, made a curiously obtuse statement on Facebook in the aftermath of Wednesday’s massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. “While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another,” the governor said.

[. . .]

On the same program, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani also confessed to being baffled about possible motives. “We have no idea what’s in his mind,” he said. “Maybe he hates Christian churches. Maybe he hates black churches or he’s gonna go find another one. Who knows.”

South Carolina Senator and presidential candidate Lindsey Graham questioned whether this was a “hate crime” and tried to suggest factors other than race were involved. “There are real people who are organized out there to kill people in religion and based on race, this guy’s just whacked out,” Graham said on the TV show “The View.” “But it’s 2015. There are people out there looking for Christians to kill them.” (Via)

“I have to do it,” the gunman allegedly told a survivor. “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

In response to the Boston bombing of 2013, Senator Lindsey Graham demanded that the government do everything it could to learn from the attack and prevent future attacks.

This man, in my view, should be designated as a potential enemy combatant and we should be allowed to question him for intelligence gathering purposes to find out about future attacks and terrorist organizations that may exist that he has knowledge of, and that evidence cannot be used against him in trial. That evidence is used to protect us as a nation.

[. . .]

Graham’s reaction to Wednesday’s attack on a black church in his home state of South Carolina was very different. . . .

“I just think he was one of these whacked out kids. I don’t think it’s anything broader than that,” Graham said. “It’s about a young man who is obviously twisted.” (Via)

Oh yes, and this:

Indeed.





Nevermind

2 09 2014

What a dick:

roddreherquote

It should be noted that Dreher is adding this comment to a long post criticizing both Ta-Nehisi’s recent essay on learning French and on his “Blue Period” generally.

I think Dreher misreads TNC, badly, but in the post itself he at least tries to make some sense of TNC’s argument.

But this, this in effect repudiates that attempt wholly, dismissing any need for understanding, and effacing what Dreher wrote before.

Which, fine, he’s free to do.

It’s still a dick move.

 





Better not look down

31 03 2014

It is apparently only okay to talk about how bad things used to be if you contrast it with how great things are now.

Things used to be overwhelmingly terrible and are now just ordinarily terrible! Progress!

And if it’s progress, then maybe it’s not so terrible, hmmm? So maybe you should just turn that frown upside down, Mr. Coates and go back to talking about stuff that makes us feel good.





Let it go and so to fade away

24 03 2014

I’ve been circling around and around this post by TNC; still not thinking in straight lines.

Scattered bits: the bad faith of American triumphalism, of progressivism (as Whig history); the shock of my students when I speak plainly about white supremacy; how it is harder for me to speak plainly of male supremacy (/patriarchy?); how white supremacy doesn’t just hurt black people; how male supremacy doesn’t just hurt female people.

And then the posts on waning Christendom in the US, on the erosion of religious structures, what it all means. More circling.

But this: to look to God is to look away, that religious belief seems to me a form of alienation, a scrim between oneself and the world.

Of course, to the believer, it is I who am alienated.

How any of this relates to kenosis, I don’t know.

And through a side door: we carry our troubles with us. If I have a morality, it is that we should carry our troubles with us. We have to learn how to carry them, so they trouble us less, and when memory is enough.

This is one way to find out who we are.

The troubles are ours; they can’t be given up to God without giving up ourselves.

But then, that might be the point. To some.

I’ll try to think better, to gather these flyaway threads.