Wednesday, March 19

Caution: First Five Rows May Get Wet.

OKAY, before we get started I wanted to take a moment to savor David Brooks' Monday column, in which he basically said, sure, economic libertarianism is fine when there's nothing more at stake than maintaining power, racking up obscene profits, and bankrupting a reasonable number of widows and orphans (and filling column inches), but now that we've got a real crisis the government needs to act now to bail out all the greedheads who behaved precisely as he was claiming as recently as three days ago was still the Answer to Everything. Except, of course, that he pointedly rejects public assistance for them, since that's the reasonable-soundng thing to do and once the program is in place they or their cohort'll get to suck it dry anyway. My daddy always said that if you lived long enough you'd see everything twice, and the real trick was developing enough grace that you could make it look like you thought it was just as funny the second time around.

In Bobo's honor we quote the inimitable R. Porrofatto:
The idea that the sub-prime earthquake is what unleashed the economic tsunami we are about to endure, as opposed to lucrative structural tectonic deformation brought about by decades of deregulation (or in the case of hedge funds, zero regulation) generating billion-dollar bonus fault lines is the cause stupidé to feed the cable news masses.
Now then: I've been painting for the last four days, beginning at 9PM, after Larry's put in his room for the night (washing primer out of his tail once is quite enough, thank you), in an effort to get the inside Spring chores done before next week's horrible medical mix-up waiting to happen robs me of my good leg. I know, I know; this sort of negativism already puts me on the outs with Senator Obama. Well, fuck him. I read the thing was forty-five minutes long, and I vowed to give him thirty, tops; but it turned out to be 37:change, so I met him in the middle. Besides, he's dreamy.

In all, pretty good speech, as long as he used his inside voice--I noticed here for the first time that once the applause thing started rolling in the second half he'd SHOUT over it and then KEEP GOING for half a sentence after it died down. It was almost as if he caught himself. Maybe someone in the campaign reads this blog. For their sake, I hope not.  Stop and let it die down! fer chrissakes.  

Anyway, MOD-u-LA-tion! It can't be stressed enough. I'm married to a teacher, and it's not uncommon for her to come home still using the voice she talks to fifteen-year-olds with. It insults the intelligence, which I have to take from her, but not from Presidential candidates.  Using it on adoring throngs but catching yourself with a roomful of invited guests is going to start looking like a tell. MOD-u-LA-tion!  I much prefer the indoor, pensive Obama, and I'll always vote for unscripted over scripted, but then there's no fire, which he seems able to kindle only with a blowtorch.

That's parole; what about langue? He's got good speech writers, but they're still overmatched by the demands of working in poll-engendered buzzphrases (nice to see Reagan make an appearance sans halo, but you could still see the shoehorn that paragraph was inserted with sticking out), and they're still in need of a competent historian (I'm sorry, but the Constitution enshrined the answer to slavery?  Declaration of Independence on Line two.  And she sounds pissed.)


Or, y'know, maybe that's one and the same problem. This New Generation stuff was crafted years ago as a way to move up from the pack. Its limitations should have been seen fairly quickly, but this is a campaign which took two months to get around to (correctively) bashing Ronald Reagan in front of Democrats. Now, with the obligation to govern--or at least to recapture some traditional Democratic votes next fall--staring him in the face the seams are straining mightily.

(Incidentally: am I the only one who was made more than slightly uncomfortable by Barack Obama explaining the raucous laughter and bawdy humor of the Black church to "the uninitiated"?)

Which brings us to the point of the exercise. Pastor Wright is another prisoner of Old Style Thinking, now reimagined not as the huge bloc of patchouli-scented excess-peddlers of the 60s and 70s, but a more rapidly dwindling demo:
This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

And kick them to the curb.

This is a crock, and if I may be excused for dredging metaphors from my current chore list, it's the tiny chip of paint that when touched by a scraper leads in short order to replastering an entire ceiling.

First, Jeremiah Wright is 66 years old. Believe it or not, this does not in and of itself mean that he's been oblivious to the world around him for the past three decades. It means that in his early teens he witnessed the Brown decision, and the Montgomery bus boycott (led by another preacher who came of age in the 50s). Seeing segregation and racial restriction was not unique to his generation. Jim Crow laws lasted well into the living memory of Barack Obama, among millions of others. Pastor Wright, in fact, belongs to the first generation of African-Americans who came of age with the knowledge that things might, in fact, actually get better during their lifetimes, and who can personally attest--rather than pay lip service--to the sort of sacrifices that required. I can't vouch for the man himself; maybe Senator Obama is spilling his actual personal history, but if so it dovetails neatly into his campaign sloganeering.

What I can say is this: a hell of a lot of Americans agree with him, even in extremis. Perhaps Wright cynically exploits them for personal gain; I have no idea. If so we might ask--as many already have--where the demands for denunciation of white religious crackpots and charlatans has been hiding the past thirty years. If not, then let us at least respect the more than well-earned right to distrust and dislike the rigged game of American politics, even as we promise to hope things will get better once the sun shines fully on the enlightened playstation (or Wii!) generation.

7 comments:

D. Sidhe said...

Works for me, though I'm going to pretend that "Wii Generation" thing is some corporate market tester trying to be clever for pay and not some member of the younger gen trying to be clever for free.

Good luck with the surgery, Doghouse, and please don't feel that being doped to the gills means you shouldn't blog. Because I would totally cherish reading that. If it helps any, I haven't been unwillingly maimed by surgery yet, and I've had more than my share at my age.

doghouse riley said...

I happen to have a prodigious set of gills, love. And just kiddin' about the surgical mistake, since I'm taking your box of cranes with me.

Anonymous said...

I actually thought after this stuff blew up that it was to Obama's credit that he was associated with somebody who didn't believe that we now live ian era of Racial Paradise or that we shouldn't consider some of the reasons 9/11 happened (hint: blowback!). Considering that Obama floats along a lot on a generous cloud of Uplift and Unity!, I found it reassuring that he finds time in his spiritual life for someone who calls BS on the evils he sees in front of him. I'm not defending Wright's specific rhetorical flights (KKK-USA, g-d America, or that we had 9/11 coming), but at least he raises issues that guys like your bete noire Brooks would never admit exist. The fact that Obama had a guy like that in his corner made me respect him more, not less.

McWyrm said...

Bahhh - again, Riley seems to have little to grouse about beyond a peculiar dislike for BHO's vocal dynamics.


Beyond that, I really have no clear idea what you're on about here. You say that "a hell of a lot of Americans agree with him", although it isn't clear if you're talking about Obama or Wright.

At any rate, I can't see that anybody was kicked to the curb in this speech. I agree with the previous commenter that it's good to see that Obama has some solid radical influences, but I'm also pleased to learn that he doens't belive that the government created AIDS.

Jim Crow laws lasted well into the living memory of Barack Obama...
Uh, no. The Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964. Obama was born in 1961.

LittlePig said...

although it isn't clear if you're talking about Obama or Wright.

Sure it is. Read the next line.

Jim Crow laws lasted well into the living memory of Barack Obama...
Uh, no. The Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964. Obama was born in 1961.


As a Little Rock resident, I can assure you that the passage of a law does NOT cause instantaneous change.

You must be a Wii-Genner.

McWyrm said...

Read the next line - still unclear. Following a discussion of Obama and Wright, the pronoun "him" used in the first line of a paragraph is unclear.

As a Little Rock resident, I can assure you that the passage of a law does NOT cause instantaneous change.

The issues is not "instantaneous change" but rather whether or not Jim Crow laws were on the books "well into the living memory of Barack Obama." Let's say that ones living memory starts at about age 5, and that by age 10 one is well into it (I'm being generous here). So, please provide a citation showing a Jim Crow law on the books in 1971.

You must be one of those horrid boomers I hear so much about.

LittlePig said...

Following a discussion of Obama and Wright, the pronoun "him" used in the first line of a paragraph is unclear.

quote: What I can say is this: a hell of a lot of Americans agree with him, even in extremis. Perhaps Wright cynically exploits them for personal gain; I have no idea
.

That's where "next line" comes in. "them" = "a lot of Americans", "him" = "Reverend Wright". As a couplet the pronoun references are resolved.

So, please provide a citation showing a Jim Crow law on the books in 1971.

Now you're being disingenuous. "Jim Crow" was the name of a class of law with the effect of discrimination and the effect thereof. It is not a legal term nor refers to the laws exclusively. There was a "colored balcony" in my small Southern hometown until 1970, and de facto segregated housing in the community for many years thereafter. I'm sure Obama came into some vestiges of discrimination even in the mid-1970s.