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September 8th, 2017

This essay by Ta Nehisi-Coates is so important that I have to break my dismayed silence since August:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/10/the-first-white-president-ta-nehisi-coates/537909/?utm_source=twb

Coates is the successor to James Baldwin -- he is better in some ways because goes further and to the central issue immediately. He is younger and not in touch with the kind of 19th century rhetoric found in W.E. Dubois (The Souls of Black Folks) that Baldwin wrote a version of.  Coates makes me see what I hadn't before: he's correct on Kristoff, correct on Sanders. I hadn't grasped how their statements of the Trumpite racists that "these are not bigots, these are some my friends" is racist -- though I understood literally they were racists and bigots I didn't go on to try to parse precisely how they then could assert such denials. That plangent tone "please" from Kristoff tells of his identification.

Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist, in February of this year

My hometown, Yamhill, Ore., a farming community, is Trump country, and I have many friends who voted for Trump. I think they’re profoundly wrong, but please don’t dismiss them as hateful bigots

I agree with Coates here on Sanders too.

Within a week of Sanders lambasting Democrats for not speaking to “the people” where he “came from,” he was making an example of a woman who dreamed of representing the people where she came from. Confronted with a young woman who hoped to become the second Latina senator in American history, Sanders responded with a parody of the Clinton campaign: “It is not good enough for someone to say, ‘I’m a woman! Vote for me!’ No, that’s not good enough … One of the struggles that you’re going to be seeing in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond identity politics ...

Also how Obama was profoundly wrong -- which he knows now - - that he could be treated fairly ever. The only counter argument and it is a big one is Obama won twice. That's why the Republicans are so set on suppressing the vote.

And how pernicious is this man's influence. Human beings seem to respond to these numinous figures. So another aspect of why Trump won is precisely that he's an open predator as a man, sexual and financial, especially sexual. He won not only because he played on his whiteness so openly and attacked all non-whites; he won because he played on his gender, his sexual past; far from hurting him, that tape of him boasting may have helped him in the same way his racial bigotry did and does.  He's our first white MALE president. And I read and come across comments about articles or people talking of whether whatever it is is manly, are the French men? is a header on one LRB article (a London publication).  It is just sickening and so dangerous for women this. We are seeing open avowals of racism, and sexism and the attempt to institute these once again as central norms by Trump; he wants violent police to enforce these. I am firmly convinced that many men who didn't vote for Trump but wouldn't vote for Hilary Clinton, stayed home, did so because they couldn't get themselves to vote for her as a woman whatever their excuse.

Someone said to me when I was interviewing for a job and was being offered a course to teach, I needed to think about what it is to be an American, and teach this theme. He said this seriously. My view is nationalism is a delusion, one that can function as dangerously as racism and sexism. I don't identify as an American but as a human being. I have ever thought "the American dream" unreal vague musings -- but admit I knew as a girl that my parents had this idea that when I "set out," I would somehow "begin where they left off economically, so that when I married and Jim and I lived in digs that they would have been horrified by (furniture old, part of the rental, on a poor block mostly Pakistani, I had a job as a secretary, he as a clerk, no money at all), I was glad that I was 3000 miles away as their feelings would have influenced me. I myself was euphoric; I had never been so happy before (or since) than during the 8 or so months I lived in Leeds that way with my husband just after we married. We went to the pub nightly, drank and danced, on weekends went for long walks on the moors, daytime read and talked together. We had no goals beyond making enough to get to the next day. And we never did much for a long time though a year later I was in graduate school and we lived in NYC. I mean to say this myth of Americanism would have prevented me from having the happiness I've known had I taken it seriously. I never let such absurd hierarchical delusions control my conduct. Now Americanism is being openly attached to whiteness and the worst aspects of patriarchy once again. Oh I never answered that man and the syllabus I presented had nothing in it about Americanism in any central one. One week the class would read 18th century texts about the US colonies .... or by people living there (here).

*********************************

However belated -- I have been away twice (for 10 days to Scotland), -- I want also to respond to a "Letter from Charlottesville" from a prominent respected Jewish, the president of Beth Israel in Charlottesville. Although it's now weeks ago it is the immediate relevant background to Coates's essay beyond race and sex/gender:  ethnicity:

http://reformjudaism.org/blog/2017/08/14/charlottesville-local-jewish-community-presses


My first response is this is terrifying. The local police will not provide any protection? This is the backdrop to Trump's indifference. He does not control local police. Indeed what could they have done had these three people with assault weapons attacked the place and people in it?: set fire to it. I appreciate that there are individuals who are good and brave people, but the community as a whole is represented by its elected officials who choose to do nothing.  why?  were they that afraid? This is not a case of the FBI which has attacked, destroyed,  imprisoned people from leftist-liberal groups throughout the 20th and now 21st century but does not move an iota against armed Nazi and fascist and racist militants. Corporations do have private armies. Look at what's in front of their buildings sometimes. And in foreign countries it's understood.

What
I find so useless is this kind of insistence on looking on the "Good side"  through these individual stories. If human beings didn't do this, oppressors couldn't get away with what they do.

A home-y example: Whole Foods has become an inferior supermarket to what it was. A whole new staff -- everyone there  before was fired?  it reminds me of when Giant destroyed the union. as easily. The way corporations and monopolies get away with this is the average person will not admit openly they are abused. On airplanes if you say ot the person in economy this is abusive, they don't like it. They will bring up some positive aspect -- but price is not one of them as it's high. Similarly I said to someone on line at Whole Foods today (I have been buying their cereal and a few other products I could get substitutes for in a decent supermarket) there are fewer checkers. We were waiting on a lengthening line -- only 3 when 2 weeks ago it would have been several.  Her impulse: lunchtime  is so busy.  Will not admit the problem is fewer checkers.

Why do these assholes smile and shrug when they are pulled off a line and subjected to search and seisure without a warrant? Are they protecting themselves from the intruders?  or is it a perverse pride. I've read philosophical essays pointing out how this strong tendency in people is deeply destructive. We just don't want to admit how bad the world is structured.  In Islamic groups women will say how this husband, that brother the other male is so good; it's just a few rotten apples. No it's not -- it's a system set up to crush women and give people to do this and they do and will So I find the second half of the essay deeply telling -- has anyone but the Progressive Populist (a newspaper from the mid-west which comes out every couple of weeks) asked why that crazy young man who murdered 9 elderly people reading Bibles in a church as not treated as a mad man. They don't want to admit the society is sick.

I was thinking also of a friend's irritation at the lack of threatened violence in return or standing there ready to defend yourself with countering violence. First every time African-Americans have tried that, they have been destroyed. The Black Panther movement was an attempt to own guns too, to defend themselves against violence by their bodies and strength -- guns are not allowed black people in our society. If they strike back, they are so pulverized, and they know it. They dare not stand their ground. My feeling is that the Jews who are so often resented or pitied or regarded as caving -- had had hundreds of years of the Austro-Hungarian empires and they knew how harsh the Russian gov't was. We need to read (just a text that comes to mind) Tolstoy's War and Peace his descriptions of prisons in Czarist Russia and what people were incarcerated for. Look at the ferocity of Assad, of the Saudis.

Jews in the US have not been lynched and now weekly murdered in the streets for the slightest offenses  so the thought did cross the man's mind: what should we do? they did stand out there.  But there has been no equivalent to the Panthers -- because it's not been felt to be so desperately needed. Those with legal power have huge power and only in a civil war context do the rebels have anything comparable.  That's why they are so put down.

And yet here it is fierce anti-semitism. Where does it come from? These people don't care that the state of Israel is attempting in effect to exteminate the Palestinian people, treating them like vermin to be gotten out of the way, performing the worst kind of settler colonialism.

Miss Drake

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