Monday, September 18, 2017

There are none so blind. . . .


"Uncle Pelz" deserved better than this. He deserved more dignity than what you'd afford a Pekingese in a write-up about someone's dead lapdog.

In death, as in life, he deserved to be just a man -- not a "negro" or a "darky." Especially at 87.

He deserved to be written about as a member of the human race, not as slightly greater than a thing. Or a dog.

Pleasant Quitte was a man. He had feelings. He was loved by God Almighty. He knew things. He saw things. He remembered things. He possessed the wisdom of his many years.

This obituary from the Sunday edition of the Morning Advocate in Baton Rouge, La., ran Nov. 2, 1941. In the Deep South of 1941, an 87-year-old African-American almost surely would have been born a slave.

Morning Advocate, Nov. 2, 1941
Certainly, he also had an amazing story. Maybe he had children and grandchildren -- and great-grandchildren. They, if they existed -- and that, we do not know because it wasn't considered newsworthy --  did not know Mr. Quitte "familiarly" or otherwise as "Uncle Pelz." In the South of 1941, "uncle" was the patronizing moniker white people hung on black men of a certain age and fancied it respectful.

"UNCLE" was the language of those who found "the idea of a darky and a Pekinese" just ridiculously adorable enough that it might make a hell of a magazine cover. The Saturday Evening Post, perhaps.

Maybe Better Hoods and Crosses.

Mrs. J. Simon, Jr., of 617 North Boulevard -- and in Baton Rouge back then, if you had the money to live at 617 North Boulevard, you had the money to have both a Pekingese and an old black man to walk it -- presumably was who informed the newspaper about the passing of this downtown adornment with whom Baton Rougeans were "familiar" . . . but not too familiar. If you know what I mean.


Too familiar in the Baton Rouge of 1941, as well as the one of my birth two decades hence, would be acknowledging the humanity of an 87-year-old African-American. Too familiar would be acknowledging that "Uncle Pelz" had a story -- a life -- beyond walking Mrs. Simon's Pekingese and being a familiar downtown sight, like the Old State Capitol, Stroube's drug store, a palm tree or somebody's big crepe myrtle.

Too familiar would be saying hello to Mr. Pleasant Quitte, as opposed to that "darky and a Pekinese."

Would you like to know what's too familiar in my hometown in 2017? Pretty much everywhere in the United States in 2017?


How about those too delusional to think that kind of cultural memory -- that sort of cultural reflex -- just disappears without a trace in 50 years, or even in 76 years. Culture is in it for the long haul. It doesn't just disappear, or even change drastically, without concerted effort.



AS RODGERS and Hammerstein told us in South Pacific, "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught." Likewise, you have to be carefully untaught. Probably more carefully untaught.

The problem with white supremacy, however, is that it just might hurt its perpetrators more than it does its targets.

First, it dulls the conscience. Then it goes for one's human empathy. Finally, it attacks the bigot's intellect, curiosity and ability to fully perceive reality. It makes one prone to delusions, particularly delusions of superiority.

Maybe it even cripples the ability to be taught further . . . or, rather, to be untaught.

If the Morning Advocate obit demonstrates anything across the span of seven and a half decades, it's that callous, incurious and shallow is no way to go through life.

That's a lesson all too rarely taught -- or learned. Especially these days.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

East of Yoknapatawpha


It was an embarrassing, dismal night for my Tigers in StarkVegas on Saturday. So, I'm reaching for a little LSU gridiron perspective here.

Some "my native state" perspective here. This otherwise is known as a "rant." A justified one, but a rant nonetheless.

But I prefer "perspective."
Such as . . . I wish to holy hell that Louisianians were as mortified by a failing, dysfunctional and violent state as they are about the mere mediocrity of the flagship university's football team.

I mean, I meaannnnnn . . . how come no one has fired the whole goddamned Louisiana Legislature and all the state's incompetent and venal constitutional officers? (I'm looking at you, Attorney General Jeff Landry.)

How come nobody is firing their whole slew of short-bus refugees, otherwise known as your local city council or parish police jury?

And what about your racially riven, squabbling school boards? Why are those assholes still sucking at the taxpayer teat? I mean, is not an 0-and-forever record sufficiently bad?

While I'm at it, did you ever think there might be reasons some kids don't learn well and become problems -- reasons apart from "It's them commerniss teachers' fault"? Did it ever occur to you that if dismantling public schools were the answer, you might be seeing improvement by now?

Can anyone tell me what the hell this man is saying?
THEN, of course, you have your local cops, who manage to shoot an alarming number of people -- mostly black but not all -- who aren't actually trying to shoot them first. How come y'all can't even fire most of 'em, much less prosecute them?

And speaking of violence and guns, did you ever wonder what the hell has gotten certain heavily-impoverished communities in Louisiana to the point where murder and mayhem is something of an epidemic? Didja ever wonder what gets people -- black, brown, purple, green or white -- to the point where life is that bloody cheap?

If your response is to gloss over the "purple, green or white" part and just hit me with "That's just what n*****s do," thank you for participating, and here's your parting gift -- an official cast-iron, pineapple shaped MP3 player preloaded with Florida-Georgia Line's greatest hits. Just pull the pin and let loose of the handle, and you're good to go!

Finally, did you ever wonder how come football has all kinds of "boosters" with all kinds of cash but, in Louisiana, the folks working in actual university classrooms and decrepit university libraries and woebegone parish K-12 schools . . . not so much?

Has a math major with a pocket protector ever gotten a $100 handshake?

WHY IS THERE the fancy Cox Center for LSU athletes to occasionally study, but just the moldering Middleton Morass for the poor schmuck you're going to be counting on to take care of that bum heart of yours someday? Assuming he or she doesn't look around too closely, decide (in the eloquent words of ex-Tiger coach Nick Saban) "F*** that shit!" and haul ass two seconds after graduation.

This is my attempt at football-fanatic perspective tonight. Yes, I've been drankin' a little, and thus feel free to tell the God's honest, God-forsaken truth.

Amen.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Radio and dance in an age of theology and geometry

Baton Rouge (La.) State-Times, May 14, 1941 (Click to enlarge)

In 1941, WJBO -- 1150 on Your Dial! 5,000 watts! -- was the only radio station in Baton Rouge.

But at Louisiana State University, "WJBO" was a modern-dance composition, too.

I'm unsure what the LSU WJBO says about the state of modern dance 76 years ago in a sleepy, Deep South state capital. But I damned well can tell you that, today, listening to Rush Limbaugh on your average denuded talk-radio station (enter the 2017 incarnation of WJBO) might inspire me to do many things, but dancing isn't one of them.

Alas, in 1941, radio was radio, and dance was dancing, and my parents and grandparents were spared the likes of what stations like WJBO have become.

The State-Times (peace be upon it), gave its readers a preview of this exciting danse electronique, in which collegians chase electrons to and fro:

"WJBO," illustrating in the dance the various types of programs available from the push-button radio, will open the recital. Elizabeth Green of Haynesville, graduate student, is the composer. First there will be war news, with dictators presented against a background of sorrowing women and children. Another push of the button will bring the serial, a very usual sort of triangle story which will be interpreted by David Stopher and two girls of the dance group. Next will be the symphony, which Miss Green will give, and at the conclusion Linda Lee's social column of the Air, to be presented by a group.
MY PARENTS' generation, God bless it, obviously did not yet lack for theology and geometry. I scarcely can picture what a contemporary "WJBO" might look like. I assume it would involve a fat guy waddling around with a microphone, pantomiming a conniption fit as a large troupe rhythmically evoked opioid abuse and falling IQs around him.

In the second movement, the microphone may or may not be placed where it was not designed to go.

I'm not sure about the third and final movement. I don't think anyone would stick around that long. Kind of like AM radio today.


That concludes your news from May, 14, 1941. I'm your Mighty Favog. Next, Your Esso Reporter. Good night.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tom Snyder's alive & well & wrangling hurricanes in Florida


TV legend Tom Snyder, of Tomorrow fame in the 1970s, died a decade ago at age 71.

Well, that's what he wants you to think.

But Revolution 21 has it on good authority that the impish, acerbic NBC anchorman and interviewer -- last seen enveloped in a cloud of cigarette smoke and wearing a tan leisure suit -- actually snuck off to sunny Florida in 2007.

But he didn't stray far from a TV camera and a microphone.

How?



WELL, we're not sure of all the how-tos and wherefores, but a highly reliable source at a Macedonian investigative-news website says the "death" and re-emergence of Snyder went something like this:

Tom Snyder
Snyder, about 15 years ago, stumbled across the Florida location of Ponce de Leòn's fountain of youth, reputedly located in a remote, uninhabited area somewhere between Cypress Gardens and Legoland. The whole "cancer diagnosis" was a ploy that allowed him, after preliminary planning, to disappear from the public eye. And with his "death," attention shifted away from the one-time media icon who did battle late nights with everyone from Johnny Rotten to Rona Barrett.

Sometime late in 2007, he made his way to central Florida. At some point, he immersed himself in the rejuvenating waters of de
Leòn's lost wonder of the New World, then took up meteorology.

Tom Snyder, born again in the magic waters, took on the identity of "Matt Devitt," it is said. The old TV fixture -- once so ubiquitous and recognizable that Dan Ackroyd built a career parodying him on Saturday Night Live -- had undone most telltale signs of his old existence.


"Matt Devitt"
But not all.

He could lose the leisure suits and the cloud of smoke. He could lose the groovy '70s hairdo. He could lose the past several decades, and lose the public's attention. He could lose his old specialty and pick up a new one.

What he couldn't leave behind, though, was that voice. The mannerisms. His way with words. The impishness.


"Matt Devitt," WINK television weatherman. Yeah, whatever you say "Mr. Devitt."

We'll play along. But you're not really fooling anybody . . . Tom.

We've learned to recognize fake news when we see it. And we damn well know that Tom Snyder will never die. He'll just go to Florida and dunk himself in the old explorer's saving waters as needed.

But don't worry, Tom. We won't tell Rona where you are.


Saturday, September 09, 2017

3 Chords & the Truth: Can't buy a break


We must have crossed our old man back in Oregon.

I hope somebody finds us alive.

It's been that kind of stretch in these United States. Got a case of dynamite. I could hold out here all night.

Yes, I crossed my old man back in Oregon. Been that kind of night.

And as hurricanes sit on us and spin, and fires burn and Washington won't take us alive . . . we cope the best we can. Come to think of it, a case of dynamite might. . . .

No, nix that. The Big Show ain't going there. I'll get a case of LPs, instead.

Good music will get us through it -- alive.

3 Chords & the Truth will get us through alive . . . and groovin'.

Yep. It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.


Friday, September 08, 2017

No papists need apply


Dear Democrats:

You will NEVER get rid of Donald Trump. Why? Because as truly apocalyptically awful as Trump is as president of the United States, millions of people who acknowledge that Trump is a vile, small-handed a**hole think you are worse.

Some of these millions are Catholics. You've done nothing to convince them otherwise. They think y'all would like nothing better than to put them in a gulag . . . because Catholic. That bigoted sentiment is not, alas, unprecedented in American history.


I voted for Hillary Clinton not because I disagree with that assessment of the Democratic zeitgeist -- frankly, I think many of you would like nothing better -- but because I concluded that Trump was the greater clear and present danger. I figured the SOB would get us all killed before you could get around to hounding me and mine from every aspect of public life and polite society.

You're bloody welcome, for all the good it did, given what a catastrophically bad candidate Hillary was and what an incoherent, elitist, crap pie of identity politics Democrats tried to pass off as a party platform.

I am a Catholic. I used to be a Democrat. Sometimes, I think, "Oh, what the hell -- I'm sick and tired of sitting out party primaries as a 'nonpartisan' voter." But I am not and will not be a Democrat for one simple reason.

This.


And this.


You hate my f***ing guts. You hate my religion's guts. You hate the guts of lots of people I love and respect. For all I know, you hate God's guts, too. At least that's what it certainly looks like, and has looked like for a long time, now.

By the time you're putting judicial nominees through the wringer for no other reason than their religion -- something you wouldn't dare do with Muslims because you're cowardly in your bigotry -- you are getting just about as close to Mein Kampf land as the Trumpified Republican Party. Maybe closer.

Who knows? The stench coming from Washington these days is so terrible I don't dare get close enough for a better look.

You want to know what I and most other Catholics wouldn't do? Assert that Al Franken's or Dianne Feinstein's Judaism, or how much they actually believe in it, is a reason to doubt their fitness as United States Senators. They've given us other reasons to do that, frankly.

Likewise, I may or may not think Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a great Supreme Court justice (I tend to come down on the side of "Meh"), but it's not because she's Jewish. One might think someone by the name of Feinstein would be the last person to start writing people out of government service explicitly because of their religious faith. Then again, America's a pretty screwed-up place these days.

And even if you do somehow get rid of Trump -- and I suspect that will have a lot more to do with Robert Mueller or a thermonuclear apocalypse than it will Democrats in the House or Senate -- what follows won't be much better.

Particularly if it's one of you. And I say this as a liberal -- an old-fashioned Catholic liberal -- but not a "progressive," whatever the hell that might be.

Frankly, if Americans' choice lies between rule by white-supremacist fascist ideologues and ideological-supremacist Stalinists, it's tempting indeed to pull for The Bomb. At least it's quick.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Peace, love and understanding . . . by any means necessary


I am not exactly a Weekly Standard kind of reader. But I read Matt Labash's long piece about how antifa went apeshit on the Patriot Prayer people at a Berkeley "protest" (and by protest, I mean riot), and you should, too.

The takeaway from this story -- and from spending any random three minutes on Facebook or media comment threads -- is that America never will defeat the fascism of Donald Trump by adopting the violent Stalinism of "social-justice warriors" like antifa and all the other toxic granola of the radical left.

The other takeaway is that Donald Trump was unknowingly more right than we're willing to admit. Not right -- just more right than we thought. There are no "very fine people" among the Nazis and other white supremacists.

Likewise, there are none among antifa or other left-wing hate groups, which these assembled fanatics most certainly represent. The sulfurous, Satanic stench coming from each camp smells about the same, because the Nazis and the "antifascists" are about the same. The difference between the opposing vortices of hatred is a mere matter of targeting methodology -- one determines who is subhuman based on race and ethnicity . . . the other, ideology.

Given free run of the United States, each would leave a trail of corpses behind it as the fanatics rampaged their way toward their Father Below.

Below, a sampling of what Labash saw in what must be the first American insane asylum to actually incorporate:



On the walk up to the square, Joey’s several paces ahead, seemingly in another zone, not even noticing the protester in the “Nasty Woman” shirt who starts filming him, as though she’s doing surveillance. After all the hype, he is now so infamous in Berkeley his face is instantly recognizable, and people act like it’s Jesse James walking into a bank. They elbow each other, scandalized.

From the moment we hit the square, the “Nazi” catcalls start. Whatever’s happening on the stage seems to cease to exist, and the energy around us turns very dark, very fast. Joey, Tiny, and Pete start walking with greater purpose, on the balls of their feet, almost like fighters entering a ring or Christians entering the Coliseum, except instead of facing one lion, they’re facing thousands. As the chants rain down (“Nazis are here! .  .  . F— you! .  .  . F—ing fascists!”), we near the stage thinking we might find some kind of buffer zone, since the police knew that some of Joey’s original rally-goers would show up. But there isn’t one. Our progress is halted when we run up into a small clearing snug up against a barrier. And behind that barrier, near the park’s “Peace Wall,” is a wall of human blackness.

A hundred or so masked-up antifa ninjas and affiliated protesters seem to simultaneously turn. It looks like we’ve interrupted al Qaeda tryouts. Joey, Tiny, and Pete all raise their hands high in the air, and flash peace signs, a conciliatory gesture. But nobody here wants peace. Not with fascists on the scene. As Joey nears the barrier, one of the ninjas swings and misses. Then the barrier topples, and they pour over, chanting, “Fascists go home!”

As I’m reading the action into my recorder, antifa slides around me on all sides, nearly carrying me off like a breaking wave. The boys are about 20 yards off and walk backwards. Pete catches a shot right on his stars’n’stripes dome from a two-by-four and goes down, blacking out for a second. Tiny, trying to protect everybody, pulls him up with his massive Samoan hand and pushes him out of the scrum. The mob ignores Pete, as he’s just an appetizer. Joey is the entree.
LIBERAL DEMOCRACY. Don't you just love it?

There's more.

War is peace. Love is hate.
First he catches a slap in the head, then someone gashes him with something in his ribs. He keeps his hands up, as though that will save him, while he keeps getting dragged backwards by his shirt, Tiny trying to pull him away from the bloodthirsty ninjas. Someone crashes a flagpole smack on Joey’s head, which will leave a welt so big that Tiny later calls him “the Unicorn.” Not wishing to turn his back on the crowd, a half-speed backwards chase ensues, as Joey and Tiny are blasted with shots of bear spray and pepper spray. They hurdle a jersey barrier, crossing Martin Luther King Jr. Way while antifa continue throwing bottles at them. The mob stalks Joey and Tiny all the way to an Alameda County police line, which the two bull their way through, though the cops initially look like they’re going to play Red Rover and keep them out. No arrests are made. Except for Joey and Tiny, who are cuffed.

A crack reporter for the Los Angeles Times will later write that they were arrested for charging the police, which couldn’t be less true. A Berkeley cop tells me they were arrested for their own safety (and weren’t charged). When I catch up and reach the police line, the cops won’t let me past to follow my subjects. My reportorial dispassion has worn thin. I yell at the police for doing nothing, for standing by while two men could’ve been killed. One cop tells me there’s a thin line between solving one problem and being the cause of more, as though they’re afraid to offend antifa. I am sick at what I just witnessed. Angry, even. I wheel around on some protesters, asking them if they think it’s right to beat people down in the street. “Hell yeah,” says one. I ask them to cite anything Joey has said that offends them, as though being offended justifies this. A coward in a black mask says: “They’re f—ing Nazis. There’s nothing they have to say to offend us.”

All around me, good non-antifa liberals go about their business, pretending none of this has happened, carrying “Stand Against Hate” signs. There’s the sound truck with preachers in clerical garb, leading a “Whose streets/our streets” chant. There’s the gray-haired interdenominational “Choral Majority” singing peace songs: “There’s no hatred in my land / Where I’m bound.” I want to vomit on the Berkeley Peace Wall.

I’m made even more sick when I look down the road and see a punching, kicking mob form a circle around a new victim. By the time I roll up on them, an older man in camo-wear spits out from the maelstrom. As he runs to safety, an antifa thug runs up behind him, sucker-punching him as hard as he can in the back. I will go home that night and watch several more cold-blooded beatdowns on YouTube that I didn’t personally witness.
SAY WE ACTUALLY get rid of Trump and stem the tide of Trumpkin fascism in this country. What are we going to have left?

This?

What, then, will we have gained? Or, rather, will we have saved ourselves from the frying pan only to find America in the fire?

Remember, Communist tyrant Josef Stalin killed even more people than Nazi tyrant Adolf Hitler. File under: Facts, Inconvenient.

We're supposed to embrace the ideological thugs and bullies to rid ourselves of the fascist ones? Really? When members of the Resistance glibly proclaim "By any means necessary!" are they aware they're coming out in favor of gulags in the name of staving off concentration camps?

I am a Catholic. Not a "progressive" Catholic or a "conservative" Catholic which, in my book, means you're leaving some Catholic out to better accommodate your politics.  I am just Catholic in search of the authentic freedom that lies in my faith's tension between justice and mercy -- between dogma and "God created mankind in his image."

And, as a Catholic, this is what I know as surely as I know fire burns and ice freezes: Die-hard Trumpkins hate my guts, because "libtard." The left's "social-justice warriors" hate my guts, because "hater." Verily, in the open-air insane asylum that is the United States today, from Berkeley to Baton Rouge, there is no greater love than to hate.

For all the right reasons, of course.


Eventually, this, too, shall pass. Someday for America, in the words of the old hymn,
There will be peace in the valley for me, oh Lord I pray
(There'll be no sadness, no sorrow, my Lord,
no trouble, trouble I see)
There will be peace in the valley for me
UNFORTUNATELY, that day probably will come because we've all killed one another. It will be the cold peace of those who rest six feet deep.

God bless America.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

3 Chords & the Truth: Sanity music day


You ever take a "sanity sick day" at work?

Maybe you call it a "mental health day."

Maybe you never have taken such when life is getting you down. And maybe you did a few days in jail for punching a couple of people in the nose after they had the nerve to say "Good morning!"

Maybe you should have taken the voluntary sanity sick day instead of the involuntary soap-on-a-rope sojourn.

Well, we are down here in the 3 Chords & the Truth bunker here in Omaha, by God, Nebraska . . . and there's nowhere to run to when you're already in your hidey hole. Because it's crazy out there.

So, on this edition of the Big Show, we're doing the next best thing. This week, it's the musical equivalent of a mental health day.

I strongly advise you to take advantage of this Mental Health Edition of the program. Consider the alternative.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Moonshadow

The Great Eclipse.
Aug. 21, 2017.
Aurora, Nebraska.

Oh, I'm bein' followed
by a moonshadow,
moonshadow, moonshadow

Leapin and hoppin'
on a moonshadow,
moonshadow,
moonshadow. . . .

-- Cat Stevens
(1970)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

3 Chords & the Truth: State of emergency


This is 3 Chords & the Truth.

A state of civil emergency has been declared for your area of the United States of America.

We're in it deep now, bucko. And there doesn't seem to be a manual for how to handle a mess like this.

Repeat: A state of civil emergency has been declared for your area of the United States of America.

This is your emergency podcast, 3 Chords & the Truth. Stay tuned to this Internet frequency for further instructions. And music.

Much music will be found on the Big Show. Remain calm and listen to the best in music entertainment right here on your Internet dial.

Once again: A state of civil emergency has been declared for your area of the United States of America. This is 3 Chords & the Truth.

Be there. Aloha.

This is 3 Chords & the Truth.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The look of hate is in our eyes


This is what white privilege looks like.

In GQ magazine, documentarian C. J. Hunt says the "video of this part-time Nazi, this junior secessionist, is a perfect portrait of the very white privilege the so-called 'alt-right' decries as liberal fiction."

I cannot disagree. When you're a little chickenshit Nazi who gets separated from his volk in a big, bad race riot, gets chased, then caught by a bunch of anti-fascist counterdemonstrators but gets to walk away alive -- walk away unmolested in any way except for the debasement he has visited upon himself -- because he can strip off his "uniform" and beg for mercy, saying he's not a real white supremacist . . . that's some serious white privilege.

It also is proof positive that Donald Trump's "alt-left" holds all kinds of moral high ground over the "very fine" Nazis our catastrophe-in-chief assures us he knows all about. The Nazis, you see -- the ones who are so tough en masse but turn into sniveling little cowards when alone and cornered -- would not have had mercy on someone who couldn't "pass" by taking off a white polo shirt.

Don't believe me, watch this.
 

I AM someone who thinks, as a rule, "identity politics" is unhelpful in holding this diverse and troubled country together. I also think it's a losing political proposition unless, of course, you are someone as evil and as shameless as Donald Trump, who managed to identify enough of the dispossessed,  the angrily conservative, the hypocritically religious and the blatantly white and fascist to cobble together a barely winning coalition.

But I also say this as a middle-aged white Southerner who's lived in the Midwest for more than half my life. The parts of my identity that I can't strip off like a polo shirt are not likely to get me killed.

Not if I stumble across a Nazi rally, and not if I get pulled over by an Omaha cop.


"White privilege isn’t just an easy bank loan or the cumulative effects of discriminatory housing policy," Hunt, the documentary filmmaker, said in his GQ article.
It's also the privilege to disappear. The privilege to terrorize a community and return to your regular life with the ease of peeling off a polo shirt. The privilege to come to someone else’s town, invoke the symbols and slogans used to terrorize Jews, African-Americans, and countless other races in history’s darkest chapters, and pretend it’s simply your way of showing ethnic pride. It’s the privilege to engage in terror “for fun,” and the privilege to walk away. For most of my life, I've thought of racism as the vestiges of a dying generation. It's far more terrifying to behold a sea of young people for whom white supremacy is just a rec-league sport.
YOU DON'T have to surrender to the relative tribalism of identity politics to admit what is as plain as day, yet as invisible as mountain air to your average white Trump voter: If people aren't looking at you funny . . . or following you around as you shop for fear you'll steal something . . . or blowing your brains out during a traffic stop . . . or trying to make it as difficult as possible for you to vote . . . or assuming that anything you've ever achieved had to be at their expense . . . or beating the crap out of you in a parking garage because of the color of your skin, you're probably not endangered, threatened or have that much cause to feel aggrieved.

And when you see those things actually happening to folks of color, they probably are . . . and have cause to. Be aggrieved, that is. 

To recognize the bleeding obvious today, all one needs is just a bit of empathy, a quality that also happens to be in exceedingly short supply and, when acquired, usually is applied highly selectively.

The standard American conceit is that we're better than this. Obviously, we're not. Maybe we've backslidden in recent years; maybe we never were.
Alton Sterling protest, 2016 / Reuters

WHAT KEEPS me up every night is that I see this country becoming more and more like the Louisiana I knew as a child and a teenager. That's not a good thing. That's a racist, hateful thing.

Surely, it's one of two things -- that we have profoundly regressed as a people, or that we've dropped a societal façade so convincing that it caused us to become somnambulant.

To the great detriment of my mental health, I sometimes read the comments on Facebook pages for various Louisiana media outlets, generally on stories having to do with race or Confederate statues . . . or protests against Trump. If someone, like myself, is perverse enough to read that crap, it's reasonable he's going to be alarmed. It's bad out there . . . or on there, as the case may be -- even accounting for the propensity of nuts and those full of resentment to number among the most constant commenters.

On a Baton Rouge TV station's Facebook post about Monday's protest in Durham, N.C., where leftist protesters tore down a Confederate memorial, there were at least three "kill them all" comments, several more calling them "animals" (contemporary Southern replacement for the N-word), hundreds of demands to lock them all up, several commenters eager for the commencement of civil hostilities . . . and at least one fellow as sure as his 1861 ancestors that the filthy lib'ruls would surrender as soon as the first shot was fired.

Because that's exactly what happened after Fort Sumter, right?

MY SLEEPLESS NIGHTS bring me to another rumination about identity and "white privilege."


We all know what Trump did Saturday. What he reluctantly -- and unconvincingly -- said Monday. How the Trump Train came off the tracks on Tuesday and the president angrily threw his true colors in the face of the assembled White House press corps, revealing himself to be a Nazi-sympathizer. (Really, there's just no other way to put it.)

The coastal media elites seem to think that's the end of him, then.

New Orleans, 1960
Those of us still enough in touch with "flyover country," particularly the Deep South, know better. In the American South, as objectively awful as Trump's words are -- and as awful as he is -- if the 2020 presidential election were tomorrow, he'd probably win in a cakewalk. It would be reasonable for you to ask, at this juncture, "What the f***?"

The eff is pretty much this: Large swaths of the United States are now fully fascist in every way but name. And the Deep South always has been.


When I was growing up, having been born toward the end of Jim Crow (1961) and having lived nowhere else but Baton Rouge until early 1983, I didn't realize that, because I knew nothing else. None of us did -- at least none of us white folk.

I went to legally segregated public schools until 1970. Yes, 1970. In 1970, neighborhood schools was a desegregation plan. White people still lost their shit. Very Trumpian, actually.


"Degenerate Music" exhibit catalog
Between something like 1963 and 1970, desegregation was a "freedom of choice" plan for blacks to go to all-white schools in their attendance district, starting with 12th grade and adding a grade to the plan every year. For an elementary kid like I was, the biggest threat one's parent could make against your misbehaving self would be to "send you to the nigger school."

I imagine parents are still making that threat today -- education is still that segregated there. Only now, starting when the feds ordered busing in 1981, whites have almost totally abandoned the public schools; they're 90 percent nonwhite. When I graduated in 1979, they were roughly 67 percent white.

Likewise, Baton Rouge itself has been largely abandoned by whites. A city that was more than 60 percent white in the early '80s now is majority minority. What was a unified parish (county) school district has turned into four school districts, as suburban cities broke away and formed their own. Unincorporated suburbs in the southern part of East Baton Rouge Parish want to incorporate as a new city so they can form a new (mostly white) school district. This, of course, would gut Baton Rouge's tax base. A couple of years ago, St. George activists fell short after a terrible and bitter battle that got worldwide news coverage.


Yet, they will not go away. The battle likely will resume as soon as electoral law allows.

Someone could argue that, in parts of the United States, we're fighting a civil war right now, just without the shooting (so far).

IN MY HOMETOWN,  there is white privilege. It is deeply institutionalized in law and in custom. Like a white polo shirt, my people -- white Southern people -- could take it off. But they will not. Is that, broadly defined, not the heart of fascism?

Was not the antebellum South, with its brutality, master-race theorizing and chattel slavery, not a spiritual progenitor of Nazism? Did not the postwar Jim Crow South, -- that of ritualized brutality, culturally internalized racist beliefs, de jure segregation and government-enforced second-class citizenship for blacks -- provide a legal blueprint, if not the legal blueprint, for Nazi Germany's Nuremberg Laws of 1935?

That's exactly what a Yale law professor argues.

From the introduction to James Q. Whitman's book, Hitler's American Model:

Moreover, the ironic truth is that when Nazis rejected the American example, it was sometimes because they thought that American practices were overly harsh: for Nazis of the early 1930s, even radical ones, American race law sometimes looked too racist.
PRIVILEGE. Fascism by the name "Americanism" -- or "Southern heritage" . . . or any other damn thing but what it was. That's the all-American world in which I was reared, and which exists even today, in pockets, from sea to shining sea, and almost unbroken from Virginia to Texas.

Yet we are shocked, shocked there are Nazis among us. That white supremacy once again is ascendant.

Yet we wonder how the hell an amoral, racist -- and dangerous -- buffoon like Donald John Trump became the 45th president of the United States.


To me, the issue in this country isn't whether the United States will go fascist; the issue is whether a) the South ever will QUIT being fascist, or b) the rest of the country will become fascist, just like the former Confederate states.

The answer to that question, only God, through His tears, can see.