Friday, May 19, 2017

Race is the reason for the season . . . of hate

WWL-TV in New Orleans had to ask.
Here are some facts about the Robert E. Lee Monument: 
Are you for or against its removal?
That probably wasn't the best idea in Louisiana, as a Democrat mayor takes down Confederate monuments in a state where a great many native-born whites have no idea who they are, apart from being the aggrieved progeny of "persecuted" mid-19th century slaveholders. Above is a meme that's emerged anywhere on Facebook where the subject of removing the Lost Cause tributes surfaces.

In fact, everything you'll see here is representative of the aggrieved-Caucasian opinion dominating every New Orleans television station's or newspaper's social-media comments sections.

In Louisiana, racism is still a thing. A big thing. And the reactions of these keyboard crusaders to removing some statues -- edifices erected by late 1800s and early 1900s white-supremacists honoring luminaries of a failed rebellion against the United States in defense of slavery -- is justification enough for why they must come down.

Thankfully, the Crescent City's last big one, a large statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee atop a 60-foot obelisk in Lee Circle, comes down today. It's not going quietly, as scores of protesters --  pro and con -- gathered there to argue and emote through the wee hours of the morning.

I've been sitting here watching the WWL live feed from Lee Circle and cyberswimming through a fetid pool of combox racism and societal resentment as good for clicks as they are deadly to a nation's soul. At one point, my very Midwestern wife came into the room to take in the scene.

She had one question.

"Why are all these people that upset over taking down those monuments?"

MY ANSWER was what I've already said: Lots of Southern white people have no idea who or what they are apart from the aggrieved identity they have in relation to the North and from having fought and lost the "War Between the States." Thus, all the talk about "Southern history," "Southern pride" and "Southern heritage."

Left out of all this "history, pride and heritage," of course, is about 40 percent of the South's population -- the descendants of those enslaved, degraded, tortured and killed by "Southern history," "Southern pride" and "Southern heritage." Those folks do not get warm fuzzies from all that blessed heritage as they drive around Lee Circle.

And that doesn't matter worth a damn to those obsessed with the "loss" of their history, pride and heritage. The reason that doesn't matter worth a damn is rather obvious, I think.

My history, important and noble. Yours, not really.

Naturally -- because men usually marry up, not down -- my wife is as tenacious as she is cute and smart and, therefore, had a follow-up:

"Why is being Southern such a huge part of your identity and your self-worth? I'm a Midwesterner, but there are a lot of things more central to who and what I am than being from the Midwest."

Great. Why not ask me why being a pissed-off Serb, Muslim or Croat is so central to Balkan identity? Actually, that was my answer, which I put as a question. Sounds better than "Beats me."

To my credit, though, I did also mention the perhaps better example of the centrality of being Protestant or Catholic in Northern Ireland, and then hating the other side because it isn't. That, she got a little more readily.

Not that it makes any sense, just like devotion to the Lost Cause or that particular definition of Southernness makes no sense . . . or how the overriding importance of one's Southernness, in the end, makes no damned sense. Of course, one of the hallmarks of being human is not making any damned sense much of the time.

WHAT MAKES absolutely no sense, though, is Southernness as defined not only as whiteness, a fallacy in itself, but as whiteness characterized by antipathy toward and contempt of a race your ancestors demeaned and oppressed. It's as if white Southerners' true religion, for all their vacuous protestations of Christian devotion, is really nothing more than some ooga-booga variant of ancestor worship . . . with the caveat that those one worships never could have done anything wrong or been gripped by evil.

Therefore, slavery must have been the fault of the black slaves. Somehow.

White man, good. Black man, bad. The end. Now, for a stirring rendition of "Dixie!"

As God is my witness, back when I was a fourth grader and first allowed to attend public school with black kids, I thought the South might be over this kind of thing by the time I was old like my parents. Well, now I'm notably older than my late parents were in 1970 -- yes, 1970 -- and this sort of hatred and bigotry is still very much a thing in Louisiana.

Obviously. That's one among several reasons I am happy to be long gone from Louisiana . . . not that the Midwest, particularly in the Age of Trump, doesn't have its less-than-edifying moments.

AND SPEAKING of Donald Trump, Louisiana's Lost Causers also use standard Republican "kick the poor" ideology in service of "Southern heritage."

This variation on the theme of African-Americans as deadbeats wonders "how many of the people whose support [New Orleans Mayor] Mitch Landrieu relies on to remove monuments actually pay state income taxes?" There are two assumptions implicit in this odious bit of dog-whistling.

One is that no decent white Southerner would be against removing paeans to the Confederacy and the Old South. Another is that people getting government benefits would be pro-Democrat, anti-"Southern heritage" . . . and largely black. That is because, as defined by the aggrieved Lost Causers, "Southern heritage" is a white thing, inextricably intertwined with reverence of the Confederate States of America and its heroes.

That's just how it is. Uhhhh . . . except when the pro-monument, pro-Confederate crowd is trying to convince the world that 1) tens of thousands of slaves and free blacks fought for the Confederate army (not so much, and usually not by choice), and 2) there were more free-black slaveowners than white slave owners (there were black slavemasters . . . but come on!).

SO . . . when considering the point where white-identity politics intersects with right-wing quasi-libertarianism in the racially aggrieved and Republican-dominated Gret Stet, I have a few public-policy thoughts that dovetail with the whole Confederate-monument conflict.

Given the righteous (and right-wing) convictions of the good, white "Christian" people decrying the villainous, minority poor who so oppress them, so suppress their "heritage" and so endeavor to erase their "history," I put forth a modest proposal. Put simply, I think Louisiana ought to be forced to live by the principles the majority of its voters are hell-bent -- and I mean that literally, by the way -- on forcing upon "the least of these," their perceived oppressors.

It is well known that Louisiana and other Southern states famously suck at the federal teat, largely because they've never been able to get their shit together. Ever. A vast, free labor source (slaves) and the lack of concern about any manner of civil society at all only masked that basic societal incompetence in antebellum times.

Therefore, we Americans who live in states that get back only what they pay into the federal treasury -- or not even that -- should just cut off America's proud, Southern, freeloading parasites. If they want "secession" and freedom from Yankees' mores, fine. They can have it, if only fiscally, alas.

And when, say, Louisiana has yet another hurricane or flood its residents and government never adequately prepared for -- even though epic floods came regularly before anyone knew of global warming and come ever more frequently now -- it need not come begging Yankees for help. Louisiana should have made better "lifestyle choices."

Tough shit now. Does it actually contribute to the fiscal well-being of the government? Federal ledger says no.

Or, as the Bible says -- and Louisianians luuuuuuuv to invoke the Bible on behalf of all kinds of stuff, particularly in service of the kinds of evil the Good Book actually condemns outright -- "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

Reap away,
Reap away,
Reap away, Dixieland.

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