Right Wing Hysteria = Bullsh*t Kabuki

Among the people I’ve worked with during my Hollywood career is mega producer Joel Silver. Back in the day, Joel produced huge box office hits like the “Lethal Weapon”, “Matrix” and “Die Hard” franchises. He also executive produced “Tales From The Crypt” which is my connection to Joel. Joel remains a controversial figure for various reasons and he was controversial back then because of the work environment he created. Joel was notorious for being a monster — for having his way because he was willing to shout louder than anyone else in the room. That was true; Joel did have his way because people simply feared having to “deal with him” (deal with his extreme craziness). But, having sat in the room with Joel while he actually “performed” his craziness? I know for a fact — a lot of Joel’s craziness was an act. It was based on his over-sized personality and hair trigger temper, but, what most people in Hollywood experienced as “Joel Silver” was really “Bullshit Kabuki” — performance art with a purpose.

What our news media calls “white rage” has, at its core, an element of truth: how America was is not how America is going to be — and that will impact white people in a particular way: they will no longer be able to take their cultural hegemony for granted. That’s it. That’s the ONLY thing any white person is about to “lose” — the automatic win. Stone cold fact: white people compete with the rest of us, they step onto a playing field already tilted significantly toward them — and it’s tilted even more so when a white Christian man steps onto the field. Anyone not white, Christian and male has to climb a mountain just to get to the heavily tilted playing field. This applies to business opportunities, education, criminal justice and pretty much everything in America. This happened because when America’s founders wrote “All men are created equal”, they didn’t actually mean “all men” (though they did mean the “men” part).

America has always been a great idea poorly executed. That’s because the white European man who coined “All men are created equal” came from a culture that automatically excluded everyone else. Thomas Jefferson, like all the founders, took his white racial superiority for granted — because of course he did. That doesn’t mean Jefferson or any of the founders was right. Because of course they weren’t. The Catholic Church insisted until quite recently — despite evidence to the contrary — that the earth was the center of everything. Big ideas get perverted by little people all the time. Good thing there are re-writes.

Though America’s founders got the “All men are created equal” part wrong, they got the idea of a living, breathing Constitution right (albeit with way too many giveaways to slavers whose whole business model laughed at “All men are created equal”). They made the document correctable. So far, we’ve made 27 significant revisions to the founders’ vision. A lot of those have gone to expanding “All men are created equal” to include everyone as in “Everyone is equal before the law” and, so long as they follow that law, they can be anything they want to be in America. They’ll have to put in plenty of sweat equity but, as Americans, we accept that challenge because we know — if we do this right — we can get the very best out of every American and make America the very best it can be.

That’s the desire on ONE SIDE of the American equation. On the other — the descendants of privilege crave a return to the days where America was a great idea poorly executed. Democracy won’t get them from here to there because only they would vote for representatives who’d try to make that happen. That’s why the right wing has turned its back on democracy: it isn’t working for them anymore — as in “working exclusively for them”. White Americans have always been happy to import other humans if those humans were willing to work as slaves of one kind or another. What we did to Africans, we also did to Chinese men. We imported them into America to build the railroads for little money then — when that work was done — we made it nearly impossible for them to remain by enacting laws that discriminated against them cruelly.

Let’s be quite clear: Black people in America have NEVER treated white people the way white people treated Black people. Same goes for Latinos. And anyone who came from Asia. In America, the history all runs one way: white people have treated everyone else like shit. White people have worked overtime to prevent everyone else from voting or even from getting to hold onto the wealth they earned through their hard work. Events like the 1921 Tulsa race massacre weren’t just about racial violence. We don’t know for sure how much Black wealth the riot (white people were the ones rioting) blotted out. But, the blotting out of that Black wealth was very much the point. Much of that wealth was taken — by white people. Deliberately. Black people have NEVER done such a thing to white people here in America.

Chinese Americans did not write the exclusionary laws that made their lives hell. Japanese Americans did not write the laws that turned them from good Americans into prisoners of war in their own country. Mexican Americans do not look down on white Americans because those white Americans speak English like a third language.

There is literally nothing legitimate about a white point of view that insists white culture is superior and therefore white people deserve to run everything but that IS the white point of view. To accept it — without forcing it to admit what it really is — is to give credence to bullshit. White culture isn’t superior. Any argument that starts with or from that premise starts out fatally flawed — a fact it knows itself. That’s why those arguing FOR the white cause have to resort to theatrics. They have to put on a show because if anyone actually listens to the arguments themselves, they’re finished. Thus the Kabuki.

Marjorie Taylor Greene is a Bullshit Kabuki star.

Here’s what I look forward to — MTG getting to perform in the theater space she most deserves to perform in — a courtroom. I look forward to EVERY Republican getting their moment to shine — their Bullshit Kabuki rehearsed and pitched to the very back row. I look forward to Jim Jordan performing. Matt Gaetz. I look forward to Ron Johnson putting on a show on the witness stand as he Bullshit Kabuki’s the story about dinner on July 4, 2018 when he and seven other Republican members of Congress cut a deal with Vladimir Putin. I look forward to GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy’s singing and dancing as he explains — under oath — what he meant by “There’s two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” The entire Republican Party has a gi-bungo problem: they’re all guilty of committing TREASON.

To be fair to white people, there are two kinds of white rage. There’s the real rage — coming from white people who, in some cases, have never gotten their share of America’s promise. There’s also the rage of people whose good fortunes turned bad when technology changed and left their businesses in the past. Blacksmiths feel coal miners’ pain. Most blacksmiths quickly got up off their asses and found themselves new work. That’s how it works for everyone. And, yes, it sucks when you’re the one being disadvantaged by changing circumstances. But, white people having to share power with everyone else in America is not the same thing. These aren’t “changing circumstances” depriving white people of their hegemony, it’s fairness. It’s the actual promise of the American experiment finally getting a chance to shine.

White people may perceive life as a zero sum game but that’s just them seeing the world defensively instead of how it is or could be. The thing they think they’re losing was never really theirs to begin with.

That’s the difference.

The people demanding fairness and equality have always been promised those things but never actually gotten to experience them. They will not accept the status quo any longer. That, too is a difference.

White people attacking the Capitol to try and overturn a (relatively) free and fair election is not an expression of legitimate rage. It’s white hegemony stomping its feet and throwing a temper tantrum. To see it any other way is to give white hegemony credence it does not deserve. It is to see white kabuki as something it isn’t: a legitimate point.

Honest actors are honest actors. They step onto the stage speaking from their hearts but also from their heads. They may have a political point of view, but the thing motivating them isn’t political, it’s an ideal for a better, more prosperous, more diverse America. Dishonest actors — Republicans — spew bullshit and lies and call it patriotism. It sure would be nice if the people charged with reporting our collective story understood the difference.

The Problem With Conservatives Is WHAT They Want To “Conserve”

I call myself a “progressive” instead of “liberal”. I’m extremely liberal in most ways but the word’s got too much damned baggage. It’s been abused and misused and neo-ed to the point where, to my mind, it’s become too imprecise to describe how my mind sees the world. I want the American commonweal to progress into the future with gusto. I want us to embrace our challenges. I want us to go as far outside the box as we need to to solve those challenges. I want America to live up to the motto on our Great Seal: “E Pluribus Unum”. Out of many, one. I want America to live UP to its ideals — even the ones it didn’t fully embrace at its creation like ALL “men” are created equal. Here’s the irony — in a way, conservatives WANT America to live up to the same ideal — but EXACTLY how the founders meant it: “all white, Christian men are created equal — so long as they’re landowners.”. That is what too, too many conservatives have in mind when they take up conservatism — America circa 1850.

A debate now rages in conservative circles, started by longtime Republican strategist Stuart Stevens. In his book “It Was All A Lie”, Stevens (who has been instrumental in crafting the messages that elected hundreds of Republicans to office) unabashedly accepts responsibility for having contributed to the deeply cynical enterprise that, he now sees, was always the GOP’s true self. Stevens even sees Saint Ronnie Reagan in this harsh, new light. As satisfying as it may have been hearing Reagan deride “welfare queens” for living off the government, what Reagan really was doing was spewing racism.

Racism and white supremacy have nested at the core of Republican intent at least since Barry Goldwater, Stevens says, and it disgusts him. He now understands: the Republican Party stands for nothing today. They exist to hold onto power however they must. If that means destroying the republic? So be it. This isn’t Trumpism, insists Stevens, it’s pure Republicanism screaming at the very top of its racist, bigoted, misogynistic, ignorant voice. This is conservatives making it crystal clear WHAT exactly they want to conserve.

Obviously, no conservative wants to conserve the future. The future’s the thing conservatives are trying to keep at bay. They want to hold onto as many of their conservative values as possible so as to slow, mitigate or prevent the future from ever happening. The conservative ideal, after all, is to make the future look as much like the past as possible. If the future could BE the past? So much the better (from the conservative POV)!

This isn’t rocket science (a thing conservatives fear because rocket science causes innovation and innovation causes change). Look at anything most conservatives want to legislate. The goal is to keep white people in power. To keep money in their hands. To give them advantages versus the rules that non-white people won’t get. Conservativism, by design, wants to maintain the status quo. To conserve it. The present contains as much of the future as a conservative can tolerate. They want to preserve as much of the past as they can in the present.

If every conservative was honest, that’s what they’d tell you. That’s why you should vote for them — because, unlike the progressive who’s unafraid of the future, they, the conservative, will take you back in time to when it was safer to be white. To when white people felt more assured that the future belonged to them just like the past did. One of the reasons to scream about Critical Race Theory is that CRT demands that we tell the FULL story about the past. The reason so few Americans even knew that a “Black Wall Street” existed (only to be wiped out by a race riot 100 years ago) is because “we” never reminded ourselves that it was part of our story. White people never want to hear stories about white people acting like monsters regardless of how true the stories are. They don’t want to see themselves that way.

That, too, is part of conservatism’s nature. Conservatism cannot look itself in the eye. It can’t self-analyze. It cannot stand being judged (judgmental as it is toward everyone else). It has no sense of humor. Oh, conservatives can laugh — but they never laugh WITH anyone (except other conservatives) while they’re collectively laughing AT someone else. Conservatism regards those not conservative with cynical distrust. It assumes the very worst about the rest of us — that we’re out to destroy the thing they love; for them, even freedom is a zero sum game. It’s not possible, they think, for others to have rights without white people “losing” rights. Power sharing just ain’t in their DNA.

And, so, conservatives gerrymander and voter suppress and even conspire with Russia in order to win elections that they know they can’t win fairly — all in order to conserve a version of America that never existed in the first place except in their minds. That’s the nutshell our problem sits inside of — conservatism can’t even be honest with itself about its intentions. About what IT wants and why.

Good thing the rest of us are here to explain it to them.

Hi, My Name’s America And I’m A Racist

The first step before you can begin any 12-step program is to recognize that you have a problem. Speaking from experience — I never ever thought of myself as “an alcoholic” though I abused alcohol exactly like one. Often, we are the worst judges of our failings, being so close to them, as we are. But, if we want to conquer our weaknesses — if they’re holding us back from the lives we want to lead — we can’t conquer shit if we don’t own up to the fact that we have those weakness to begin with. Look, racism (like beauty) is entirely in the eye of the beholder. Just as beautiful people can’t really judge their beauty, neither can racists judge their racism. Whether or not someone thinks they’re attractive or not is one thing — the worst thing most beautiful people are guilty of is self-adoration. Whether or not they’re racist is entirely different. When racists act on their racist impulses, the subject or subjects of their racism often get hurt or killed. Racists are all time bombs unaware that that’s what they are.

Eight people, six of them Asian women, are dead today in Atlanta. Eleven Jews were murdered, six wounded at the Tree Of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018 (the shooter wanted “all Jews to die”). There’s a whole freakin’ LIST of church shootings — that’s Black churches or Muslim houses of worship being shot up by angry white guys like Dylan Roof. A nominee for president began his presidential campaign by telling the world “Mexicans are rapists”. Almost every bit of Republican opposition to Barack Obama started with his skin color. The British royal family (well, Prince Charles, most likely) worried aloud that they feared “their blood” might appear “tainted” should the color of Meghan and Harry’s kid be thought “too dark”; what on earth makes ANYONE think any royal’s bloodline is superior to any other human’s? That’s bullshit — on steroids. I know it ain’t America’s racist problem, but it flows from the very same poisonous well of racism.

I drank to excess because I had anger issues that I mistakenly thought alcohol was “helping me” with. I was wrong. Radicalized white Americans (men mostly) think their racist attitudes are helping them. They think America should be some sort of “white homeland”. No, that would be Europe. America WAS a “homeland” — but not to anyone white. Racists are like a virus — infecting things and taking them over, converting that thing into them. And just as viruses are harder to kill than, say, bacteria (penicillin is useless against viruses), diminishing the impact racism has (and anti-Semitism and misogyny and bigotry of every stripe) will require not only vigilance but persistence.

America was born a racist. “All men are created equal” did not mean “all men”. It certainly didn’t mean all humans. C’mon, America — say it out loud. The Truth will absolutely set us free: We’re America and we are RACIST!

“Both Sides Do It” Is Racist Claptrap, Not Journalism

Both sides “doing it”…

There are two sides to every political situation: power and resistance. One either HAS the power or one is resisting the guy who does. By definition, by purpose, both sides are not doing “it”. They’re not doing the same thing. They’re doing the opposite for very specific purposes. “Ah, yes!” says the “Both Sides Do It” practitioner, “But if the resistance were to GET power, THEN they’d ‘do the same thing’!” Which means… exercise power? Abuse power? Is that the accusation? WHEN both sides get power they DO the exact same thing? Sorry, American Journalism, but you’re going to have to back that up with receipts — which you absolutely do not have. In America, Black people have NEVER had power. They’ve ALWAYS been the resistance. We don’t know how they’d behave if or when they ever became “THE” power because it’s never happened before. There’s not precedent to use as a basis for “both sides do it”.

To say Republicans and Democrats behave the same is cynicism on steroids. It’s not intellectually lazy, it’s intellectually inert. It ascribes motives to human behaviors that don’t add up, that don’t describe reality. Republicans are far better at marching in lock step than Democrats. The press is always jumping on how “divided the Democrats are” as if that’s never been the case before. No, that’s how Democrats are (that’s modern Democrats, not the Democrats of the 1800’s which became the Dixiecrats which became the modern Republican Party – per Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party“). Modern Democrats began in the 1920’s. Will Rogers nailed our spirit: “I’m not the member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat”. That spirit endures. It’s kinda what happens when your tent really is open to anyone and everyone. Diversity is messy. It demands constant compromise as the group accommodates new immigrants. But the deal is, new immigrants into our system rejuvenates it with new energy, new aspirations and new ideas. It always, always, ALWAYS pays for itself.

Both sides do not use voter suppression of the other side’s voters as a campaign tactic. Democrats aren’t afraid of the marketplace of ideas because they have new ideas to solve old problems that the old ideas didn’t. A lot of those old problems were CAUSED by those old ideas. Both sides, for instance, do not and did not approve of slavery. Slavery isn’t a dead issue here in America. It’s still painfully alive. There are two parts to this monster. We see the racist part — of course we do! But there’s an economic part to the monster. It’s the economic part that birthed the monster in the first place — stolen labor. Slaves work for free.

Colonial America relied heavily on cotton, sugar cane and rice to cash flow its economy. All three crops are labor intensive. If one had to pay all the labor required a fair wage, one might not make any money growing and selling those crops. Or one might not make enough (whatever that is). But, if one could get all the labor required for free? Suddenly slavery’s on the table. The expenses of housing, clothing and feeding the slaves needs to be figured into the accounting, but you have to figure it penciled out positively for slavery. The free labor made all the expenses of slavery worthwhile.

Now, ask yourself — how do we feel about people who work for free? Who have no choice in the matter? If we’re the power, we like them. We’d like more of them. If we’re the resistance…

Though we made literal slavery illegal, we’ve done nothing to make theoretical slavery a part of our architecture. Even when Black people have been paid for their work — and allowed to accumulate earned wealth — white people found ways to take it from them. Jim Crow laws, for instance. Poll taxes that made voting extremely difficult. Sometimes, as with Black Wall Street, the Black section of Tulsa, teeming with luxury shops, restaurants, movie theaters, a library, pool halls and nightclubs that a white mob burned to the ground in a race riot that started on May 31, 1921, the “taking” was as literal as literal can be.

Both sides do not do that. Both sides don’t even think that way. Only one side does — and they’ve left behind copious receipts that any journalist can eyeball.

Of course, the trick is, you have to WANT to eyeball those racist receipts. You have to WANT to find them if they’re there. But, first, you have acknowledge that they could be there! And once you open your mind to that fact? Suddenly, that racism appears everywhere. It’s not the racism that suddenly appeared, it’s your capacity to SEE the racism — that it indeed IS there. And once your mind opens to that fact, you can’t help asking “how’d it get there?” And the answer to that is — it didn’t have to “get there” because it always WAS THERE.

“Both sides do it” is the grossest kind of generalization. It assumes that the slave and the slave master are equally culpable for the slave’s situation. It asserts that because the slave master HAS a point of view that therefore that point of view (just because it exists) must be valid — equally valid, in fact, to the slave’s point of view. Ummmmmmm, no. The slave master may have a point of view but they most definitely do not have a “point” — justification for their vile point of view.

Oh, right — I forgot — they have “economics” to back them up. If they don’t pay their labor nothing (or a ludicrous “minimum wage”), they won’t make enough money for their stockholders. And if the stockholders don’t get the return on their investment they want, they’ll take their investment dollars elsewhere — so, whatever we do, let’s not raise the minimum wage! No one can live on the current federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour!) and no one will be able to live on the $12 an hour Republicans and dishonest Democrats like West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin insist is “all we can afford”. Horse shit. We can’t afford NOT to pay people a fair, sustainable wage.

One side in this debate wants as many Americans as possible to have the best lives they possibly can, to be as healthy as they can be, to educate their children without bankrupting their futures, to have every opportunity every other American has, to vote because it’s their right. The other side — plenty of receipts to pick through — DOES NOT!

Dear Christians: Why Do You Make It So Hard To Live Side-By-Side With You?

Some of my best friends are Christian. For real. Correction — some of my best friends are Followers Of Jesus (FOJ). In my experience — as a total outsider — those two things (being Christian and being FOJ) are not the same. While all FOJ are Christian, not all Christians are FOJ. Maybe that’s the problem! If every Christian was FOJ, America would be a very different country from the one it is now, dominated as it is by people who call themselves “Christians”. FOJ would make America a country where people actually “did unto others”. It definitely wouldn’t be a country where some people believe their racism and bigotry are “sanctified” — giving them all the justification they need (inside their heads) to regard all the other citizens (who aren’t like them) as if they were cockroaches. In my experience, Christians do do that. FOJ do not. There is a difference.

These Christians might thank Jesus for Donald Trump, but I’d bet the ranch Jesus would not feel as “passionate” about Trump as they do. I bet Jesus would look at the people who believe they’re his biggest fans with palpable horror — mostly because they’re coming for him. Because of who he is…

Let’s be quite real and quite clear here — and, growing up Jewish in America (and in the world), I can attest to this fact because I have lived it: when most Christians learn that you’re Jewish (or “identify you” thus), a little light goes on in their eyes. It’s subtle, but clear. “So, you’re Jewish, are you…?” It means “You’re different. Not like us”. If the next thought isn’t “You killed Jesus” or some variation on that theme, you’re talking to an alien. Regardless of how any Christian might presently feel about Jews and their Jewish friends (if they have any), they grow up being fed a steady diet of mythology whose core message is “the Jews killed Jesus”.

Yeah, that’s Christianity’s core message. It’s the ace that’s always in their pocket. When you really want to get folks together, you don’t shout “Let’s all go do unto those Jews the way we’d have them do unto us!”, you shout “Pogrom!” or “Jews poisoned the well!” or “Jews own all the banks and newspapers!” or “Jews will not replace us!”.

Jew-hating is part of some peoples’ Christian experience. Please, tell me I’m wrong.

Crickets.

In theory, Christianity’s big selling point is “believe in Jesus the way we say you should and you, too, can live forever!”. That, my opinion, is genius. Judaism imagined a deity intensely focused on humanity (in a world where all the other deities didn’t). Paul improved upon that idea by giving Jesus super powers. This deity (deities, really) wanted to fix humans for once and for all, granting them eternal life even — totally defeating death, the scariest thing in any human being’s life. But first, Jesus has to die in order to initiate the whole process. In order for anyone to be “born again”, Jesus has to die.

But that’s not how the story’s messaging works. Whereas the logic says Jesus dying is essential, the messaging insists it’s the worst thing that could possibly have happened. Make up your minds! Or am I thinking of this the wrong way? I suppose “the Jews killed Jesus” will get a crowd going a lot quicker than “Pull up a chair — at some point, you’ll beat death!”

Judging by history, putting your faith in eternal life pales in comparison to feeding your bloodlust. I bet that’s why The Crusades were invented! You get the promise of eternal life and bloodlust for one fabulous, low price. For the record: Jesus didn’t militarize Christianity (he never even knew Christianity existed and would probably be shocked by what it’s done in his name — especially to Jews). Paul though did introduce this military metaphor. In his letters, he describes a “Christian soldier” (miles Christianus) “spreading the good news”. One’s Christian faith is a weapon to be used on infidels. And Jews.

As I’ve written here before — I grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust. The Holocaust, really, was a millennium of Jew hatred all rolled up into one mechanized death machine. Think about what the Nazis called it — their “Final Solution”. Solution to what?

Do ya suppose when all those Nazi soldiers — Christians to a man! — looked at the Jews they were guarding, did they ever think to themselves “Boy, these poor Jews!” Of course they didn’t. The first step in genocide is you stop thinking of the people you want to commit genocide on as “people”. You see them as something less — cockroaches is good. Killing cockroaches is easy. They’re cockroaches. It makes killing people easier if you don’t see them as people.

The same dynamic applies to giving people rights or allowing them to live in peace. Why, the racist thinks, would we ever give cockroaches rights — or allow cockroaches to live in peace? Here’s the problem, my Christian friends (and, I do aspire to make you my friends — that’s my threat): are you even capable of NOT thinking of us as cockroaches? If you can’t stop yourself from thinking of us that way, you definitely won’t be able to hide it. And if we can see it in you, that that hatred IS you.

Here’s something everyone needs to understand: racism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. The racist does not get to say if he’s racist or not. His perspective sucks. Unless he’s proudly racist (quite possible!), he won’t want anyone knowing or even thinking he’s racist. More and more, it’s bad for business. But, keeping hate in your heart is hard when what you really want to do is share it with the world — and other haters. American racists were getting bored apparently with keeping all their hate on the down low.

In this country, Christians have done some terrible things in the name of their faith. They treated the Native Americans as inferiors (not very Jesus-like). Held up their Bibles as justification for slavery. With their Christian faith fully displayed — and sometimes blended right into the horror — Christians lynched innocent Black people.

Their hateful, racist organizations were deeply connected TO their religious institutions.

That same religious fervor stormed the Congress on January 6…

And those with religious fervor burning in their heads, weren’t just doing it for country, they were doing it for God, too. Aside from them? I don’t know anyone else whose God behaves, lives and thinks like their God does. I think their God needs therapy and medication.

Look, I know what it’s like to be so screwed up you think neither therapy nor medication can help. You’re wrong. And the religion you’ve turned to will not bring salvation. It has no idea how to.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what to suggest here — how to help you overcome this. And you absolutely do need to overcome this.

Maybe — it’s just a thought coming from an infidel — start with “Doing unto others”. Look, I’ve seen what following Jesus has done for my friends’ lives. Even a humble atheist can “do unto others” — most do, in fact. The first thing you must do though — it’s imperative: nothing can proceed without it. Try to freeze how you look at other people in your mind’s eyes. Take it away from your face and analyze it.

See how your eyes look out at the world? Do you see now how others see you seeing them? Like a cockroach? Put yourself in OUR shoes now — as the object of your disrespect and worse. As the “cockroach”.

If empathizing won’t do it for you, maybe this will. Jesus said “the meek shall inherit the earth”. He also said that what anyone does to the least of us, they do to Jesus himself. Jesus stands with us — with the cockroaches. Because in Jesus’s eyes, no one’s a cockroach. And we won’t seem anywhere near as “meek” when we finally DO “inherit the earth”.

Trust me, you won’t want to be on the wrong side of THAT bit of history.

Mitch McConnell Doesn’t Speak English; He Speaks “White Bamboozlement”

Let’s not mince words: Mitch McConnell is a traitor. His name will replace Benedict Arnold’s as the epithet Americans use when they want to call someone a “traitor”. Every mealy-mouthed word that Mitch mumbles is literally soaked in cynicism. He is the banality of evil writ large. But, make no mistake, Mitch IS evil. And the banal way he expresses that evil demands our attention. First, one has to realize that the words droning from Mitch may sound like English, but they’re not. They’re a language spoken by Mitch and a coterie of wealthy, white, Christian Republicans: “white bamboozlement”.

Example — re reparations to Black people for what slavery did to their families, to their rights, to their wealth, to their lives, to their history, to their status in America today, to justice, to fairness, to ever doing the right thing for the right thing’s sake, Mitch said THIS in 2019:Republican C

“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, for whom none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea. We’ve, you know, tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We’ve elected an African-American president. I think we’re always a work in progress in this country, but no one currently alive was responsible for that. And I don’t think we should be trying to figure out how to compensate for it. First of all, it would be pretty hard to figure out who to compensate. We’ve had waves of immigrants, as well, who have come to the country and experienced dramatic discrimination of one kind or another. So, no, I don’t think reparations are a good idea.

Betcha if the roles were reversed, Mitch wouldn’t feel that way. But then, Mitch’s attitude is based on the fact that Mitch and people like him have ALWAYS had the advantage, ALWAYS abused the advantage and ALWAYS will resist giving up that advantage. They believe advantage is their birth right.

A shame they’re wrong. White Bamboozlement is white people thinking everyone they’ve abused should just forgive and forget the abuse.

Another example: Mitch said in 2016, when Obama was POTUS and Antonin Scalia’s conservative seat (point of fact — SCOTUS seats don’t have political labels!) came open with 9 months to go till the 2016 election: Mitch said, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” True to his despicable word, Mitch did not grant Merrick Garland (soon to be our Attorney General) so much as a hearing. However, in 2020, Mitch crammed Amy Barrett down America’s unwilling throat in record time, soup to nuts in two weeks. Ruth Bader Ginsberg wasn’t even in the ground before Mitch dug his treason turtle claws into her seat.

White Bamboozlement.

Today, Mitch asserts all kinds of bullshit, phrased in that special way he has. But, when Mitch says he speaks for America or “the American people”, he most certainly is not. Registered Republicans account for just 29% of Americans vs Democrats who account for 33% of us. Independents make up the largest part — 34%. Of those Independents, 49% either identify as Democrats or lean to the party, while 44% identify as Republicans. Contrary to decades of Republican mythmaking, America is not now (nor has it been for a long, long time) a “middle-conservative” country. Now, more than ever, America is a centrist-Progressive country with so much yet to learn but also so much to teach.

One thing we’ve learned — People like Mitch who speak “White Bamboozlement”, aren’t interested in making America the best it can be even when it sounds like it. That’s the genius of “white bamboozlement” as a language. Those who speak it, understand intrinsically that none of the words actually mean anything.

Repeat after me, please: WHITE BAMBOOZLEMENT.

Necessary Trouble

Courage is a mysterious thing. You can’t buy it. If you have it, you can’t save it till you need it. You have to rely on the fact that your courage will be there — and that there will be enough of it — at the moment you really, really need it.

Maybe, as with John Lewis, you’re born with it. Or, maybe as John Lewis taught, it’s something can cultivate in yourself.

John Lewis died last night. He taught us so much — and had so much more still to impart. Even when he spurred us to action, he did it in a way that understood both what he was really asking of us and how we might best understand what we were really doing.

“My philosophy is very simple. When you see something that is not right. Not fair. Not just. Say something. Do something. Get in trouble. Good trouble. Necessary trouble.” –

Representative John Lewis

Say something. Do something. Get in trouble.

Good trouble.

Necessary trouble.

Good trouble is the moral imperative to fight what’s wrong. Necessary trouble is the act of engagement — of putting your ass (or your head — as John Lewis did) on the line. If a thing is necessary, it takes away any moral equivocating. You have to do it. It’s necessary (not just “good”).

The day John Lewis’ skull got fractured by Alabama State Police, he knew from previous experience that things could get violent. Deadly even. But the necessity of changing America overrode everything. It demanded Necessary Trouble.

It’s our obligation to carry John Lewis’ hopes for America forward. The Black Lives Matter protests aren’t the culmination of necessary trouble, they’re the process of necessary trouble producing its desired outcome. In a way, it’s like a glacier carving out a mountain as it flows downward. It’s a long, long grind.

America’s latent racism has become blatant. That cannot stand. We owe it to ourselves to make America live up to its ideals — if only for the first time.

That’s white people I’m talking about. Black people, brown people, native people, Asian people — any people not strictly White – they’ve always lived up to America’s ideals because they actually believe in them. They actually believe that all people are created equal before the law.

White people need to own a hard, painful truth about ourselves: we tolerated racism because we benefited from racism.

That can’t be.

We must confront it head on — in an act of necessary trouble.

How To Tell If You’re A Racist

Racism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. But with a difference. Beauty is subjective. Racism isn’t.

I may walk around being the only person who thinks I’m “beautiful”. So long as no one’s bullying me though — and so long as I’m not being destructively delusional because I think I’m an Adonis — what difference does it make? No one’s getting hurt by me thinking I’m better looking than I am.

But, if I walk around thinking I’m no racist — while doing incredibly racist things — first of all, I’m hurting people and second of all my “opinion” about whether I’m racist or not is irrelevant. If you do harmful things to other people — if you think harmful thoughts about them — because of the color of their skin, how they dress, the way they pray or who they love — it’s not a matter opinion whether you’re a racist or not.

If someone calls you, calls something you’ve done or something you’ve said “racist”, it’s a sign you might be a racist. If your immediate response is to deny your racism — that’s another sign you’re a racist. Racists don’t listen. They whitesplain or mansplain over their victim instead. Another sign.

After a while, all the signs kinda add up — if you’d stop to count them. In the “I’m a racist” pile — plenty of chits. In the “I’m no racist” pile — just one: you and your insistence that you couldn’t possibly be a racist.

It’s soooooooooooo simple. No one gets to decide if they are racist. No one gets to decide if they’re bigoted — or misogynist — or even generically cruel. Our victims get to say.

That is, they should. We need to stop giving racists street cred over the people they’ve bullied. We need to make being racist impossibly expensive — both financially and personally.

We need to make being thought a racist as bad as being one. We need to fear being called “racist” the way we’d fear being called a “child molester”. It’s that offensive and unacceptable. It’s that counter-productive.

So — if someone calls you “racist” (and I don’t mean some Trumpian shithead who’s projecting their racism onto you as part of a meaningless argument) — take it seriously.

By the same token? If someone calls you beautiful? Accept it.

Every White Person Has To Own Their White Privilege If They’re Ever Going To NOT Be Racist

A recent production of James Baldwin’s “The Amen Corner” in Washington, DC.

First things first: racism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It’s not up to the racist or the person who might be racist to decide whether or not they’re racist. They’re a little too close to the subject to judge.

So — no white person can say “I’m not a racist”. It’s not up to you. I know — that makes it tricky. “How do I know I’m not being racist at any given moment then?”

You don’t.

The fact is, we’re all “racist” in that we differentiate between ourselves and our immediate tribe with everyone else. It’s hardwired into our DNA. Other social animals do it too. Survival instinct, ya know?

But, being intelligent animals (or, at least, fancying ourselves intelligent), we have the ability to check our impulses and native instincts. It’s a little like not shitting the moment the urge hits you like, say, a horse might. Humans have learned — go elsewhere to do that — may we suggest the bathroom? Just like with moving our bowels, sometimes it’s just not convenient to do it. So we hold it in for as long as we need to.

Because we can.

It’s not a matter of denying our racism, it’s a matter of keeping it in check at all times. The goal is, in time (with personal experience), eliminate those feelings altogether. It’s a little like changing one’s bowel habits — to extend the metaphor. A bad diet produces bad bowel habits with plenty of bloating and discomfort and difficulty that only gets worse over time. If you change your diet though — voila!

I was having prostate issues. I cut back on caffeine. Now I don’t have prostate issues.

And we all know how important it is having adequate roughage in your diet to help clean everything out. Maintaining a diet instead of eating whatever you like is hard work.

So’s not being a racist — and you have to do it every single day.

I know the moment I realized I was an “institutional racist”. Now, I grew up an “other”. I’m Jewish. I was told by my culture that I was a “Chosen People”. Considering the cruelty visited upon my tribe, perhaps it would have been better for us if this god creature had chosen someone else. I grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust where institutional racism became industrial racism.

I am old enough, sadly, to remember knowing there were quotas — unspoken but understood: a certain number of Jews or Blacks or Latinos or Chinese or Japanese or Indian (if any) to be invited into “the club” — a private school, a country club, a college.

I do know the sting of not having privilege.

But I don’t know it — personally — on the scale my black and brown brothers and sisters have been forced to endure. Having white skin, there was always the chance for me to “pass” for a bit — until the real white people heard my last name or stopped to reconsider the shape and cut of my nose. White Europeans are bullies — cultural and otherwise. But certain tribes were always excluded from Christian privilege. Romani people were one. Armenians were another. And, of course, there was always the Jews.

Still — white European culture and bullying are pervasive enough — and, by the time I was born American Jews had begun assimilating enough — so that I was afforded a significant amount of white privilege even though lots of that privilege was denied me. I still had some white privilege where others had none.

It’s just a fact.

I grew up outside of Baltimore, Maryland in the 70’s. My parents were ardent theater-goers. There was a big theater downtown called “The Mechanic” (after one of it’s big donors — last name Mechanic) where big touring productions of Broadway shows played. A few blocks away was Center Stage, an Equity LORT theater that staged original productions using Equity actors. Real quality stuff. Great plays with lots of great actors — known, unknown, about to be known.

It was 1982. The year after I graduated from college. I was visiting from New York. My parents had subscriptions to both the Mechanic and Center Stage but couldn’t make that night’s Center Stage performance and didn’t want to waste the tickets. They gave them to me. I was able to use one of them.

The show was James Baldwin’s “The Amen Corner”.

Right off the bat — though I loved theater, though I’d just graduated from Vassar College as a DRAMA major — I hemmed and hawed. “That,” I told myself, “Is going to be a boring couple of hours.” That was my fear. How could a show about black people possibly be interesting to me?

Assuming that other peoples’ cultures are uninteresting is… if not exactly racist, it’s stupid. Let’s call it racist adjacent. In my defense, I went. I was lost but not a lost cause.

The Amen Corner‘ is about Margaret Alexander, the pastor of a storefront church in Harlem. Margaret is fiercely protective of her teenage son David — especially when her estranged husband (David’s father) Luke (a jazz musician) returns to them because he’s dying. Margaret has always painted Luke as a weak man who left his family because he loved playing music more than supporting them. To Margaret’s growing unease, her son David is showing a similar passion for music over a passion for, say, God.

But Margaret, it turns out, hasn’t been entirely honest or faithful to the truth. Luke didn’t leave her — causing her to find God for salvation — she found God first. Her single-minded devotion to God — to her own religious impulses — caused her marriage to break up. Luke didn’t leave her, she left Luke — who still loves her.

The play asks a lot of hard questions about faith and culture and religion and community and love, and, of course, racism. Racism sits beneath everything.

Whether or not “The Amen Corner” is a great play from a literary standpoint — I don’t know frankly. I’m amazed it hasn’t gotten more attention. If theater is meant to not only entertain but inform, “The Amen Corner” checked off every box there was and then some.

I walked in the door, figuring I’d get a little sleep and ended up so emotionally drained that I was literally the last person to leave the theater when the evening’s performance was finished.

The leads — Frances Foster and Bill Cobbs — as Margaret and Luke — were exceptional. The story grabbed me early and would not let go of me. But that wasn’t what left me drained and touched so deeply that — as I write this, I can feel the same awe I felt then. I was racist to think Black culture would bore me.

That night, James Baldwin, Frances Foster, Bill Cobbs, director Walter Dallas and the rest of the magnificent cast opened my eyes. Of course it’s not boring! It’s human! And all human drama is interesting. All human drama teaches us something. Only an idiot or a racist would turn up their nose at learning more about the other people with whom we share the planet and the present.

That Black culture was as rich as my culture wasn’t the point. That Black culture touched me as deeply as my own — that I understood its values and its struggles and could see myself in their place and care as deeply about their pain as about my own.

That’s what happens when you realize how much we all have in common.

Important point to make here: I do not deserve a medal for this. I don’t deserve a cookie or praise even.

I’m just meeting an obligation — the same obligation everyone has — to come clean. As the name of my blog says — I aspire to live Bullshit Free. It would be bullshit, for instance, for me to say I’ve never benefited from white privilege.

Now jump forward 39 years to 2001.

I’m in my second year as a Co-Executive Producer on Showtime’s sci-fi anthology “The Outer Limits“. I adapt in interesting idea that was pitched to the (all white) Outer Limits writers room about an invention that can “mine” the talents and skill sets from seniors so they can be “passed on” after they die. But those talents and skill sets can also be stolen — “mined” from these seniors before they’re fully ready to “surrender them”. It was, at heart, about warehousing old people.

We shot “The Outer Limits” up in Vancouver but the main production office was based in Los Angeles. While we cast most of the show in Vancouver, LA always cast the lead or leads. I never had any real say over who my main actors would be but I can’t think of a time when the actors cast for me let me down.

The episode — “Fathers & Sons” was about a black family. The dad (played by Anthony Sherwood) was a middle-of-the road guy with a middle-of-the-road job and approach to life. His very ordinary life was a kind of rebuke to his dad — an itinerant jazz musician — who lived with the family (because he was pretty much broke). The dad was especially fearful of the impact his father was having on his son — who aspired to be a jazz musician just like his grandpa.

Gee, it even sounds like “The Amen Corner“. The two leads LA cast were the grandson Ronnie Dell — they got Eugene Byrd — and the grandfather Joe Dell. For Joe, LA cast Bill Cobbs. I didn’t write the episode (borrowing heavily from “The Amen Corner“) expecting to get Bill Cobbs. I just got Bill Cobbs.

Sometimes you have to think the Universe is speaking to you. Or trying to.

I didn’t even make the Joe Cobbs — “Amen Corner” connection immediately. To be honest, I wasn’t that familiar with Joe’s work. Or, I didn’t think I was. Joe’s like a lot of great character actors: they work a lot but you don’t necessarily know their names (even when you cast a lot of actors).

When I looked up Joe’s credits out of curiosity, there it was: “Luke in ‘The Amen Corner’ at Center Stage”.

Ho-ly shit!

I won’t bore you with the long conversation Bill and I had about “The Amen Corner”. I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with some huge actors (well, their names were “huge”) — Kirk Douglass, Tom Hanks, Daniel Craig, Brad Pitt, Whoopi Goldberg (just after she won her Oscar too), Steve Coogan, Joel Grey, Michael J. Fox, Christopher Reeve, Tim Curry, Ewan McGregor & Timothy Dalton to name but a few. Working with Bill Cobbs was right up there with those guys.

I hope like hell I didn’t creep poor Bill out, I became so reverential. It’s nice to be able to tell performers you like how much they mean to you. It’s even better when you can tell them that while you’re working with them.

Having an open mind means having an open mind — not a semi-open mind. Being legitimately too tired to go to a show is one thing. To not go because you’re a systemic, institutional racist?

You NEED an evening of theater to sort you out.

Why Did We Ever Criminalize Drug Use To Begin With? Because Judging People Is Easier Than Helping Them…

The “war on drugs” was never a war on “drugs”. Like the drug laws it was meant to epitomize, the drug war was always entirely focused on drug users. And not just the users because they were using, but on their race.

First Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger spells it out: our drug laws are all about racism, racism & more racism.

The first drug law in America was written in 1875 in San Francisco — aimed at stopping the spread of opium dens. A noble idea. No one wants to live near an opium den. And, it’s a fact, opium is highly addictive. It needs to be approached with care; even doctor’s get prescribing it horribly wrong. But the law itself — as written — wasn’t concerned with anyone’s neighborhood getting ruined. It wasn’t concerned with anyone getting addicted. In fact, it had no data on hand to justify any concerns it might have about opium’s impact on its users’ health — if it had had any such concerns which it didn’t.

This is from the Schaffer Library of Drug Policy via Wikipedia

The reason cited was “many women and young girls, as well as young men of respectable family, were being induced to visit the Chinese opium-smoking dens, where they were ruined morally and otherwise.”

This law and virtually every opium law that followed drew an important distinction that would ripple through history.

“Though the laws affected the use and distribution of opium by Chinese immigrants, no action was taken against the producers of such products as laudanum, a tincture of opium and alcohol, commonly taken as a panacea by white Americans. The distinction between its use by white Americans and Chinese immigrants was thus based on the form in which it was ingested: Chinese immigrants tended to smoke it, while it was often included in various kinds of generally liquid medicines often (but not exclusively) used by people of European descent. The laws targeted opium smoking, but not other methods of ingestion.

Schaffer Library of Drug Policy

Sound familiar? Depending on whether you snorted cocaine as most white people did or smoked it as crack as lots of black people did, the drug laws treated you differently. The laws punished smoking coke far more harshly than snorting it. Same drug, same basic impact on the user — but different law and (especially) different, harsher penalty. And still not a single concern for the user him or herself and the drug’s impact on their well-being.

The very illegalization of drugs has always been about judging the drugs’ users. Let’s face it — white Europeans are the biggest bullies on the planet. They’re professional hegemonists — spreading their culture and “true faith” like an STD. But, even when the Europeans weren’t judging others because they were “others”, they were judging other Europeans for being “weak” and punishing them for their weakness.

In America, prior to enactment of the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, there were no federal laws regulating drugs of any kind. The very real health concerns about opioids aside, the drug laws simply didn’t consider them or even refer to them in its legislation. It wasn’t the point. Here’s the key to the Harrison act: “The courts interpreted [it] to mean that physicians could prescribe narcotics to patients in the course of normal treatment, but not for the treatment of addiction.”

What that means for this highly addictive drug — doctors could prescribe it to relieve pain but once the cause of the pain stopped (and who is to say whether another person is feeling pain or not?), so did the opioid — regardless of what cutting it off did to the user. The law willfully condemned people to suffer. It denied their physical pain — and then wanted to punish them for ever experiencing pain to begin with.

Where does that come from?

Look to your bible. America has always had a strange love for religion — especially a twisted form of Christianity that perverts “Do unto others” to “Do what we say”. The Puritans may have been seeking religious freedom in the Massachusetts Colony, but that was only for themselves. There were reasons no one back in England liked them (and so made them feel despised): they were judgmental. And, while the Salem witch trials were an anomaly, they did reflect Puritanism’s witchcraft-fearing id running wild.

The witchcraft trials were to women what drug laws would later be to black and brown people.

Jesus taught simply “Do Unto Others”. He didn’t say “judge them” or “force your way on them”. The meek, Jesus said, shall inherit the earth. He didn’t say they’d have to do it drug-free. Just as well, as drugs go, there are few as terrible as religion.

Marx got it wrong. Religion isn’t the opiate of the people. If all it did was sedate them, that would be bad enough. It incites them — like angel dust or meth — to mean, dangerous, soulless behavior. Religion (vs spirituality — a very different thing) doesn’t care about what’s hurting them, what’s causing them pain. It’s got its own rules and regs to push. It’s followers are there to do what they’re told not be attended to. They’re a flock of sheep after all. And no one wants an “uppity” sheep.

The painful irony is that alcohol prohibition sprang from a very progressive ideal. It was Europeans judging how Europeans behaved when effected by a European-approved intoxicant: alcohol. And alcohol was a very real problem for a lot of Americans in the latter part of the 19th century when support for prohibition began to grow. But, as we know, in the whole history of human beings, prohibition has never worked — not as intended.

In America, alcohol prohibition criminalized virtually the entire adult population and turned organized crime from a local problem to a national one. Criminal syndicates suddenly had a product to sell — alcohol — that everyone wanted but only they had. We’re still dealing with the mess.

Prohibition may stop people from using a substance because getting it is hard — but it won’t stop them from wanting it. It won’t stop them from gerryrigging ways to either get it or craft a replacement of dubious safety. In general, prohibition wants a grey world to be black & white regardless of how grey it’s always been and always will be.

In America, there was a twist: prohibition wanted the world to be white only. The opium laws (first written in San Francisco) were meant to punish Chinese people brought to America to work — who dared relax in the way they liked. Using the same racist playbook, the first marijuana laws were written to first punish “Hindoos” who “…started quite a demand for cannabis indica; they are a very undesirable lot and the habit is growing in California very fast; the fear is now that it is not being confined to the Hindoos alone but that they are initiating our whites into this habit.”

“Initiating our whites into this habit”. There you have it. No one cared about the Hindoos as people — just as later laws wouldn’t care about individual Mexicans or blacks using marijuana. The laws cared about the white people — about white people doing something “black” or “brown” or “yellow” did. And that was entirely unacceptable.

America’s drug laws have never, ever, EVER been about anyone’s health and always about racism with a side of hatred for “the weak”. Our drug laws mirror something demented in our religious fervor. They speak for it.

Racism is fear. Drug laws are that fear’s manifestation in the law. They’re legalized forms of institutional racism. Period.

In America, Christianity was used more as a cudgel than as a sanctuary. Slavers pointed to the bible to justify their cruelty. Bible thumpers continued pointing at their “good book” to justify miscegenation laws that prevented black people from marrying white people. They used their book to justify all sorts of racist claptrap.

Imagine the audacity of judging love. It’s as stupid and heartless as judging another person’s pain.

No wonder everyone fleeing religion needs a drink.