Tuesday, April 17, 2007

This week: Racism and School Shootings

By Nicholas Allanach

Despite the lies we tell ourselves, America is not kind, compassionate, rich, or free –perhaps, it could be. But for now, America is incapable of becoming the manicured image it imagines itself as; moreover, America is ineffective at sustaining any semblance of legitimacy on the world stage. Certainly America will continue to frantically and hastily sustain its influence through military might but this is not a solution, this only prolongs the inevitable –America is failing and will continue to do so until it honestly (and without guilt) acknowledges it’s own (present and historical) criminal actions, removes the poisonous influence of a rising theocracy, and then –like Imus—“apologizes” to itself and the world. Such scenarios will likely never unfold. After all, America’s strongest defense is to stubbornly resist self-reflection, let alone change.

Now that I’ve vented this vague and, admittedly, bleak assessment of the “state of the union” let us turn to this week’s grim headlines …

Racism can be a slippery subject, or not; after all, you’re either a racist or not. Admittedly, one can get lost in distinguishing latent vs. implied racism; but ultimately, what racism comes down to is whether one truly believes racial differences produce an inherent superiority of one race over another and whether one expresses this belief through their words and actions. Of course, what could arguably be a more messy subject is what we’re willing to consider and accept as offensive.

Don Imus has said his share of offensive things, some more tasteless than other’s, such as back in February when Imus suggested, “It might be good to start with somebody who is willing to take three big ones [bombs] and drop one on Mecca, one on Jedda and one on Saudi –one on Riyadh.” No doubt, Imus had it coming for sometime. I’m not surprised Imus called anyone a “nappy-headed ho.” In fact, I expect Don Imus to speak more sanity from out his ass than his mouth, just as I also anticipate Pat Robertson to continue being bigoted against homosexuals and Lou Dobbs xenophobic and racist to Mexicans.

Sure, as much as I loath these fuckers, I guess I take a certain solace in knowing they’re given an opportunity to speak whatever bullshit they have on their mind; after all, it’s up to the audience to decide whether or not to listen or take such speakers seriously. Thus, if we’re offended by someone in the media, it is our choice to turn them off. What is troubling about the Imus debacle is not only the racism/sexism, but the way it illustrates market fascism –the advertisers called the shots, if companies didn’t pull their support, then Imus would still be on the radio. Thus, people speak through products.

Whereas, I’m delighted that that ignorant redneck Imus has been yanked off the air, I’m afraid the reaction to this event will only fuel those already eager to further their “standards of decency.” After all, if Imus isn’t allowed to say “ho”, does this mean the new Jay-Z album should be without such lyrics as well? Obviously, as Snoop Dogg pointed out, "It's a completely different scenario... [rappers] are not talking about collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing shit."

Nevertheless, I'm leery of suggestions such as those made by the Reverend Al Sharpton who has stood at the head of an initiative to convince rappers and hip-hop artists to cease their usage of insulting and derogatory comments (specifically towards women). Admittedly, Sharpton’s request is reasonable, but my feeling is that it is risky to even entertain such censorship games. Sure, I’m not offended by a rapper calling a girl a “ho”, but that's because (as Snoop pointed out) some women are hos! Just as some men are “dogz”. Moreover, I understand that rappers are often being ironic. Sure, Imus wasn’t being ironic and, thankfully, his comments were caught. But what about all his other offensive comments? What about all those crass comments from others? We could get into a real back-and-forth witch hunt here if we wanted to, and nobody would be safe. You see, whereas I’m glad another racist has been exposed and brought down, I’m leery of supporting any initiatives that ban or inhibit expression.

I’d love to pull the plug on Bill O’ Reilly and just as many would like to yank Bill Maher’s. However, if society begins preventing people from expressing what they think and feel, or ban what they listen to (no matter how obscene), then how can we continue to justify the semblance of our “freedom of speech”? We cannot. Thus, please count me as standing alongside those who like their church out of their state and prefer their laws out of their art. No matter how offensive it gets, it will “never be too weird for me.”

Banning and censoring anything only gives the said offensive material more power. We must protect our ability to freely express ourselves; otherwise, this expression will develop new ways of being communicated. Besides, how will we ever figure out who the real racists are if they’re always in hiding?

Massacre at Virginia Tech:
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you inferior without your permission.”
Fuck you Eleanor! Your words may have rung true to your New Deal generation, but this is Year Zero baby and all the “loners” feel really inferior and are subsequently lashing out against a system they feel never gave them a chance to be heard. Eleanor Roosevelt never read about anyone “going postal.” But we can.

In fact, as much as I could go-off on a tangent about the Virginia Tech shooting, it seems pretty obvious –the “nobody who wanted to be somebody” couldn’t take being treated like shit anymore. It of course also comes as no surprise that the shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, was “a loner” who “was very quiet and always by himself.” Duh! The person that goes postal is never popular.

I encourage you to read my good friend Mark Grueter’s review of Mark Ames’ “Going Postal” for Stop Smiling magazine which is, in my humble opinion, an important observation of this very American problem. And, if you haven't already, to watch Michael Moore's excellent documentary "Bowling for Columbine".

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