Tag: racism

A Few Behind the Scenes Notes on the Making of Stanny Couldn’t Make It

“Stanny Couldn’t Make It” came out today in Across the Margins, and, as my practice will be with stories in this series–I’m currently calling it the Zezverse–come out, I have some notes to share about how this story came to be. So, short story trivia fans, prepare to feast.

–The fictional movie in the interview, The Agitator, has a real world counterpart, the 1962 Roger Corman feature The Intruder, written by Charles Beaumont (who wrote several of your favorite Twilight Zone episodes), and starring William Shatner, whose Canadian-ness and background as an actor at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival serves as a partial inspiration for the character of Jack Renner.)

–Stanny is the name of my 1st cousin. He’s very much alive.

–The story is written in the style of Onion AVClub Random Roles interviews, which are among my favorite things on this planet.

–The rise of Donald Trump contributed to the development of Howard Zez’s character. In his earliest incarnation, Howard was bumbling and conservative–but basically benign. As 2016 went by, he became more Trump-esque. Though, since the story is set in 1969, it’s probably better to think of him as a kind of proto-Trump.

–The movie Dope Dealers From Outer Space has no real world analog, though the idea grew out of Reefer MadnessTeenagers From Outer Space, and Ed Wood, Jr.’s anti-porn flick The Sinister Urge.

–An audio version of this short story is available here.

 

 

 

Mugs and Suckers

Last year, much to my surprise, Donald Trump, in all his appalling ignorance, taught me what may be the most important lesson I could’ve learned in 2016. You see, throughout that campaign, I took it as read that Trump could never be elected President because he was such an obvious con artist. No way, I thought, could a guy who’s basically a gold plated Angel Martin from The Rockford Files ever get to 50%+1. There just aren’t enough stupid people in the United States to make that happen. After the November 8th horror, I had to rethink this, and I remembered something crucial.

The success of a scam depends not on the skill of the grifter but on the greed and fear of the marks.

This is what con artists will tell you about their victims, that there’s no way they could have stung them if they weren’t consumed with some combination of avarice and paranoia. Greed and fear are extraordinary motivators, and the person who can manipulate them, however crudely, can take power others. He can get them to invest in fake companies. He can get them to buy worthless information. He can get them to vote for him for President.

Now I and 65 million others weren’t taken in by Trump’s con, and I while I think that’s to our credit, I don’t think it’s because we’re significantly smarter than Trump voters. Instead, I think it’s because our fears and desires don’t match up with Trump’s pitch at all. I don’t fear or hate immigrants, refugees, liberals, or racial minorities. I’m not afraid of women. I’m not worried about someone shipping my job overseas. I’m not aching for an upper-class tax cut or the deregulation of my business. I don’t worry that my health insurance premiums are too high. I don’t worry about someone taking my guns. I don’t see myself as a temporarily embarrassed rich person who’d get my villa and Maserati if only Washington bureaucrats would get out of my way. I’m not a fundamentalist Christian who can’t handle gays getting married or women getting their contraception paid for by their health insurance. Trump could pitch at me all day and get nothing back but my hostility.

But Trump’s voters are afflicted by at least some, if not all, of those fears and desires. They feel them in different combinations and different levels of intensity, but as long as Trump hit on each of these in turn, any given Trump voters could rationalize supporting him. Hey, I may not like the racism, but he sounds like he’s really going to stick it to those Washington bureaucrats and get me my Maserati. Or You know, the whole immigrant thing bothers me, but I don’t think he’ll really hurt them, and I really want a Supreme Court justice who’ll make women carry babies to term. Or Maybe I don’t need that upper class tax cut, but I love how he puts blacks in their place and drives the liberals crazy.

Sadly, the people with the most reasonable fears, those afraid of losing their jobs to automation or overseas competition and those sweating their health insurance premiums, are the ones Trump’ll sting the hardest. Even if he cared about helping them–and since he was hoping to sign a bill that would strip them of their health care entirely, it’s obvious he doesn’t–he has no clue what to do for them. Trump’s a thief, not an economist or public policy expert. They’d have better odds of getting their share of a Nigerian Prince’s fortune. The people driven by pure greed or fear, greed for upper class tax cuts, fear of women or minorities, will probably get something to make them happy. Trump’s a con man, but he’s a genuine bigot and misogynist, and he’ll endorse any scheme that inflicts pain on those that he hates or that makes them pay his taxes for him.

The depressing part of this is that it’ll be nigh impossible to argue Trump supporters out of their choice. Since most people find nothing more embarrassing than admitting they’ve been had, they’ll instead concoct elaborate rationalizations to explain away Trump’s behavior. They’ll try to shift responsibility by saying they wouldn’t have voted for Trump if coastal elites weren’t always calling them bigots. (So you voted for a bigot just to prove you’re not a bigot? I guess you showed me.) The more time they’ve put in to supporting Trump, the harder they’ll be to talk out of it. And the smarter Trump supporters will be hardest of all because smart people build better rationalizations. However much he hurts them, most of them will stick with him. This doesn’t owe to any special talent on Trump’s part, but rather his supporters terrible willingness to suspend their disbelief.

For a bit more context on this, here’s Laurence Rees on Hitler, describing a similar dynamic between Hitler and his followers.

I Understand You

lizza-trump-theories-1200Hey, you. White dude with the red cap. You with the gun rack in your pickup’s rear window. You who live in a white rural town where people are real and eat real food and have real values and go to real churches.

I understand you.

You think I don’t, but I do.

What? Did you think I was born in a city? Well, actually you’re right. I was. I was born in Santa Monica, CA. But I didn’t stay there long. I’ve lived in Ohio. I’ve lived in Texas. I spent six years of my life in rural Utah, and there’s a good chance my town was smaller and whiter than yours.

I understand you.

It’s not hard. I hate to break it to you, but you’re not that deep.

I know that people of color in your towns have to be careful how they act, lest they eat your shit. The only reason I got a pass was that I was passing. My skin is light enough that people didn’t know, right away, that I was “a n—–.” (They’d have felt no embarrassment at spelling out the slur.) I know that gays and lesbians have to hide who they are to avoid your violence. I know how religion binds your communities, because I saw, from the outside looking in, how it bound mine.

I know the stories you use to explain your lives to yourselves. I know you see yourselves as standing in a line. It’s a long line. At the front are the rich people, and you think that if you stay in the line, don’t ask for too much, and behave yourselves, the rich people at the front will one day shower you with riches and all will be happy. You don’t question why there has to be a line, or why you’re the one standing in it. As long as the rich people at the front pass down an occasional treat, it’s a sign of their goodwill. And as long as the darker people are behind you, which they deserve because they’re more unruly and impatient than you, and don’t talk English as good as you talk it, all is right and just.

This is the story your ancestors used to explain slavery to themselves. Most of the more southerly of them didn’t own slaves, but they hoped if they stood in line, one day they could. Later, under our nation’s 100 post-civil-war years of legal apartheid, your grandparents could still tell themselves that no matter how bad off they were, they were better than the “n——“. They could vote, get the front seat on the bus, and ogle a white girl’s ass without dying for it. And if any “n—–” tried to get in line in front of them, there were hoods to wear, crosses to burn, and branches suitable for nooses.

When this system of apartheid was dismantled, suddenly people wouldn’t let your parents, or you, use the word “n—–” anymore. You got yelled at for it, and that hurt, partly because feeling guilty hurts, but partly because that meant that the darker people had moved up in line a little. Soon, black people were on TV and in movies and ads. They played sports. They were cops and lawyers and business executives. Black bodies were closing in on your position in line. Some were ahead. And what’s more, it looked like some of your fellow pale people, ones who lived in cities and always made fun of you, were helping them cut in front!

Yeah, I think I understand you.

Then along came a black President, with a foreign, black name. He never could have been in line. Now he’s at the front of it! How can that be fair? The treats were supposed to come to you first! And when he sends something down the line to you, bails out your auto industry, stabilizes the banks, gets you health care, you’re bewildered. Where does that–you won’t say the word because you’re not racist–get off trying to help you? And why isn’t he doing more? And why is he also helping those other people you don’t like: the gays and lesbians and Mexicans and Asians who don’t live in your town because…well…any one of them who tries gets the message? Now you’re pissed off. And now those fancy types are telling you you’re racist and sexist because you’re angry about all the non-white, non-male people ahead of you. You’re not mad because you hate them. You don’t hate. You’re mad because people of color and women don’t deserve those spots. The rich people promised your grandpappy.

I understand you.

You never got mad at the rich guys or their promises, even though they’re made of lies. You’ll never get that they told your grandpappy to stand in line because they feared he might revolt and then died laughing when the poor sap fell for it. You’ll never ask why your grandpappy, or your pappy, or you, never made common cause with the people of color to take what the rich man was denying all of you. Instead, you’ll let the rich guys pollute your land, air, and water if it means a job. And you’ll elect the smiling toady the rich man asks you to vote for so he can go to Washington and make sure that no uppity people ever try to give you health care, education programs, housing assistance, or the right to form a union. Why would you want those things? The rich guys at the front of the line will be passing down a treat for you anytime now. Anytime.

I understand you.

At last, one day, the rich guys stopped passing their treats down to you. They took your factories away and left you. And that confused you. Where’d the line go? Where’s your shower of riches? They couldn’t have been fibbing all along, could they? No. It must be the fault of those liberals in Washington. They regulated them too much. They drove them away. They’ll pay for that, them and the city slickers in Hollywood who make jokes at your expense and sip lattes and drive nice cars and know Jews. (Not that you’re antisemitic. Why would we think that?)

Idiots. You think voting for Trump upset the elites in Washington? They’ll adapt. They have money, influence, and time. They’ll be here long after Trump’s gone to Orange, Rapist, Con-Man Heaven. You may think by electing Trump you threw a brick at Washington Elites, but you hit poor people, the elderly, the vulnerable, and yourselves. After four years of Trump, your pockets will be emptier, and his fuller. Your towns will still be sucky and poor, and you’ll still be sad, paranoid, and angry. But maybe, if you’re good, Trump’ll send you some of those Trump Steaks. That should tide you over, because now that he’s at the front of the line,  the wait for the shower of goodies can’t be much longer. You’re so close. Right?

Yeah, I understand you.

 

Willis Carto, Sugar Daddy to Holocaust Deniers, Is Dead

From the SPLC:

According to reports from white nationalists, Willis Carto, a man active on the radical right for more than 60 years, has died, aged 89. Carto was one of the most active and influential white nationalists of the past century and leaves behind a legacy of vile racial hatred, especially towards Jews. He heavily influenced a number of racists who were active in the latter part of the twentieth century, such as Klansman turned-politician David Duke and William Pierce, founder of the National Alliance, at one-time the most dangerous and best organized neo-Nazi organization in America.

He earned the respect and admiration of vile people everywhere. The rest of us should feel free to speak ill of the dead.

 

The Neo-Nazi (Who Wants To Be) Next Door

I’ve seen documentaries about Neo-Nazis and skinheads many times before, so nothing in this one, posted today at The New York Times, comes as a huge shock. The subject here, Kynan Dutton, combines raging racial paranoia with a dim kind of nerdiness, like a bigoted version of Mark Borchardt. I doubt he’ll follow in the footsteps of recently convicted mass murderer Frazier Glenn Miller, if only because he seems too preoccupied with arranging and re-arranging the various Nazi flags on his property, but it’s sad to see what Dutton’s decided to turn his life over to, and even sadder to see he’s got five children to indoctrinate into his one-family racist cult.

See for yourself:

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000003898128&playerType=embed

Rough Week

Suspect_in_South_Carolina_shooting_has_b_3080120000_20077645_ver1.0_640_480Sorry to have been away for a bit. Early last Tuesday morning, my digestive system suddenly decided that it was Tommy DeSimone and that the rest of me was six weeks late on the money I owed him. I feel markedly better now, but for a very long stretch of hours I’m convinced that I and the toilet became one.

But at least I wasn’t in South Carolina getting shot by a bigot.

In response to this vicious racist attack, we got the usual bullshit from the usual quarters. GOP Candidates couldn’t bring themselves to admit that it was a racist attack because it’s an article of faith in their party that the only racial problem that exists is the epidemic of minorities falsely accusing white people of racism. The gun nuts claimed that lives could have been spared if only the church’s congregation, staff, and passers-by had all been packing heat. I imagine both groups pre-write these statements to be released whenever a hate crime or mass shooting happens. I guess we’ll know when a press release calling for all teachers at a local elementary school to be armed lands on a reporter’s desk when no shooting has actually happened.

It is somewhat mollifying to hear that the flag that should have never been up in the first place may be coming down. I refuse to give Governor Nikki Haley any credit for that, at least, any more credit than should accrue to someone who, only very reluctantly and under great pressure, does what she’s supposed to do.  (She’ll be getting back to making sure black people in South Carolina have a hard time voting, and that none of her poorer citizens get any health insurance.) Instead, I credit those who applied the pressure.

Still, we’ve got tons of nonsense to get through. Fox News (sigh) is now obsessed with policing President Obama’s use of “nigger” in an interview, while missing his point: that racism isn’t over just because it’s no longer socially acceptable to use racial slurs in public. No doubt they’ve got their pundits lined up to tell us who the “real racists” are. Fox News won’t win the argument, but by throwing enough dust in the air, they’ll obscure the point long enough that everyone will forget what it was. We’ll also get the single-achievement-ends-racism idiots who’ll say “Okay, we took down the flag. Racism’s over now, right?”

What is the source of all this nonsense? Here’s my theory. White America really, really, really, really, really doesn’t want to take responsibility for its greatest crimes, and it will credit any argument, however ridiculous, that tells it it doesn’t have to.

“Something very worrying is happening in France.”

Writing Summer of Long Knives meant spending a lot of time immersed in the crimes of the Nazi regime. It would be pleasant to imagine that those crimes, and the mindset behind them, are museum pieces now, to be studied with the same puzzlement we would a Canopic jar, but recent articles about the rise of racist violence in Western Europe generally, and in France particularly, shows that the sickness is as virulent as ever:

From the Washington Post:

In Western Europe, no nation has seen the climate for Jews deteriorate more than France.

Anti-Semitism has ebbed and flowed here and throughout the region since the end of World War II, with outbreaks of violence and international terrorism — particularly in the 1980s and early 2000s — often linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Jewish leaders here are now warning of a recent and fundamental shift tied to a spurt of homegrown anti-Semitism.

This month, authorities arrested Mehdi Nemmouche, a 29-year-old French national, and charged him with the May killings of four people inside a Jewish museum in Brussels. The attack was the deadliest act of anti-Semitism in Western Europe since a gunman killed seven people, including three children at a Jewish day school, in Toulouse in 2012. Nemmouche allegedly launched his attack after a tour of duty with rebels in Syria, prompting fears of additional violence to come as more of the hundreds of French nationals fighting there make their way home.

In a country that is home to the largest Jewish community in Europe, the first three months of the year saw reported acts of anti-Semitic violence in France skyrocket to 140 incidents, a 40 percent increase from the same period last year. This month, two young Jewish men were severely beaten on their way to synagogue in an eastern suburb of Paris.

Near the city’s Montmartre district, home to the Moulin Rouge and the Sacré-Coeur basilica, a woman verbally accosted a Jewish mother before rattling the carriage of her 6-month-old child and shouting, “dirty Jewess . . . you Jews have too many children,” according to a report filed by France’s National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism. Meanwhile, not far from the rolling vineyards of Bordeaux, stars of David were recently spray-painted on the homes of Jews.

And, as it was seventy years ago, Jews aren’t the only victims. They’re after the Roma again as well (From the Toronto Star):

A vigilante attack against a Roma teenager raised pressure on the French government Tuesday for its policies toward the ethnic minority even as the president condemned the “unspeakable and unjustifiable” violence that left the boy bleeding and unconscious in a grocery cart by the side of a highway.

Anti-discrimination groups say violence in France is rising against Roma, also known as Gypsies, who come primarily from Eastern Europe and are often blamed for petty crime.

Many live in makeshift camps on the sides of highways or in vacant lots, lacking running water or electricity. Without regular documentation of their residence, they have a hard time enrolling children into school, applying for subsidized housing, getting national health care or finding permanent work.

Several dozen Roma families in the boy’s makeshift camp in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, a grim northern suburb of Paris, cleared out Tuesday, abandoning what was already one of the poorest areas in France.

“The motive of this lynching, it was vengeance,” prosecutor Sylvie Moisson told reporters at a news conference Tuesday, saying the teen’s condition remained life-threatening. “To practically condemn him to death is barbaric.”

Police say about a dozen young people went into the Roma camp Friday after a series of burglaries in the area. They seized the boy, who is about 16, and took him to the City of Poets, as the local housing project is known. There, police say, he was beaten unconscious, stuffed into a shopping cart and wheeled to the roadside.

Luc Poignant, a police union official, told LCI television that doctors put the young man into a medically induced coma “because he was in so much pain.”

France, I realize that austerity sucks, that economic stagnation and recession tends to bring out the asshole in everybody, and that those assholes would rather hunt scapegoats than figure out a way to end austerity. (This is one of many reasons why smart economic policy matters.) But you guys lived next door to this once, and you know how it went for your neighbors (and, eventually, for you). You should know that any state in which its possible for two of its citizens to have this conversation is one that should be deeply ashamed of itself (from the same WaPo article):

“I walked into my kosher sandwich shop the other day and the owner asked me, ‘Is it time to leave? Are we Nazi Germany yet?’ ” said Shimon Samuels, the Paris-based international director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “We’ve got the National Front in first place. We’ve got Dieudonné, spreading his hate. So I told him, ‘Well, do you really want to be the last to go?’ ”