Thursday, September 30, 2010

White Brained

Steve Thrasher in the Village Voice:

About 12:01 on the afternoon of January 20, 2009, the white American mind began to unravel.

It had been a pretty good run up to that point. The brains of white folks had been humming along cogently for near on 400 years on this continent, with little sign that any serious trouble was brewing. White people, after all, had managed to invent a spiffy new form of self-government so that all white men (and, eventually, women) could have a say in how white people were taxed and governed. White minds had also nearly universally occupied just about every branch of that government and, for more than two centuries, had kept sole possession of the leadership of its executive branch (whose parsonage, after all, is called the White House).

But when that streak was broken—and, for the first time, a non-white president accepted the oath of office—white America rapidly began to lose its grip.

In a larger sense, there’s always been a sense of entitlement among certain people, especially conservatives and those who live by the credo that all the rules they’ve put in place to run a nice polite society apply to everyone but them. (I had to sit through a rant from someone who has a marital history that rivals thrice-married Newt Gingrich on how outraged! he was that Bill Clinton got a blow job. It was hard not to laugh.) That’s why they feel entitled to tax cuts that will increase the budget deficit but refuse to approve of jobless benefits for the unemployed because they say we can’t afford it. They also presume to tell other people what to do with their bodies and their relationships while they’re fending off divorce lawyers and grand juries.

This irony-impaired phenomenon has been around for generations, but it’s always been relatively low-key; it was one thing to hear about the dangers of “class warfare” when it was on the level of the Buckleys chiding the Roosevelts or the Kennedys, but the arrival of Barack Obama took it to another level. All of a sudden those catch-phrases such as “All men are created equal” and “Equal rights under the law” took on a new dimension: they’re all well and good, but we didn’t actually mean it, and it’s absurd to think that they apply to everyone.