People in the modern era don’t get how things didn’t used to be this conservative. It occurred to me that in temperament, in judicious approach and in general policy, Barack Obama is not materially different to what we would have gotten from a Colin Powell presidency in 1996. After all, the Affordable Care Act – that bastion of socialist hellscape nightmare dystopia – is pretty much the Republican alternative to Hillarycare from 1994.
People forget how much the Democrats moved right. They went nuts chasing the white working class vote. They basically gave up on gun control, they sold out on “welfare reform” and Bill Clinton’s need to respond vocally to a throwaway line by one of Public Enemy’s backup rappers turned into one of those inane Washington proverbs – the “Sister Souljah moment” became the necessary gesture for Democrats to prove that The Blacks (or whatever other traditionally Democratic-leaning group) didn’t have them by the nuts. Strange, how we never expect Republicans to do the same for the NRA or the holy rollers.
I say all that to say this: in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. accused America of writing the Negro a check which has been returned, stamped “Insufficient Funds.” Almost fifty years later, we elected a President of color, and the old Confederacy and its amen corner on Fox News and throughout the right-wing media machine lost their goddamn minds. Suddenly, any attempt to restrict weapons that didn’t need a trailer hitch was a sign of incipient fascism, and any attempt to do right in the law by someone darker than a manilla folder was a sign of playing the race card and imminent race war, and instead of fighting back, we just let them keep stacking the stupid higher.
Now, in a story that sounds like it should have come out of Selma in the 60s, a black woman gets puled over in Texas, arrested under dubious circumstances, detained for three days, dies in custody, and the circumstances and evidence are immediately obscured by a county authority that closes ranks. This doesn’t pass the smell test for anyone who grew up in the South. The FBI should be on Waller County like flies on shit right now, and I don’t know why they aren’t. At a time when rednecks are out there marching in defense of the damned Confederate battle flag – arguing for history and heritage that consists mostly of lynchings, pellegra and illiteracy – the federal government should be going the full Mississippi Burning on these Texas necks.
The South lost the Civil War. The South lost the battle against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The South lost the Presidential elections of 2008 and 2012. So why the hell do I feel like I’m not on the winning side? It’s almost like a Bush Curse: victory goes to the side with fewer votes. But that’s not the point. This is: every time we have the Confederate enemy on the ropes, we let them up. We let them up in Reconstruction, and got generations of Jim Crow for it. We let them up after the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and got decades of right-leaning hegemony and the reconsolidation of a Solid South in GOP-Confederate hands. And now, every time there’s a shooting, we wave our hands in the air and say there’s nothing we can do, because we wouldn’t dare give offense to the people who want to need the guns. One attempted shoe-bombing and we’re still putting our boots on the conveyer belt a decade later. One mass shooting a week and we’re doing nothing at all.
We’ve let the Confederacy go for too long. We’ve let them ride along, sponging off the prospertity of the rest of the country. We’ve bit our tongue as the racism persists, we’ve looked the other way as the Rebel flag flies in Michigan and California, we’ve apologized for suggesting that their ammosexual perversions and Talibaptist intolerance were somehow incompatible with American values, we’ve relented every time they felt oppressed by a waiting period or a rainbow flag. Stop it. We are talking about people who won’t be happy until we turn the clock back a hundred years on American values and culture, and that’s not going to happen. If these people are going to insist they’re being oppressed no matter what, then let’s fucking well oppress them. And let’s stand up for the people whose lives have been ignored and devalued and disregarded for so long because we didn’t have the balls to do what needed to be done.