"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, February 13, 2015

Everyone’s A Bit Racist, But Is That A Reason To Condemn Us All?

The definitions of racism, sexism, and homophobia have gotten so twisted out of shape that it is not surprising that just about everyone is suspect. FBI Director James Comey, in a speech at Georgetown added some polite invective of his own when he invoked the song Everybody’s a Bit Racist from the Broadway Show Avenue Q.

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Buddy Sharpe is an old college friend who has a problem with women.  He likes them well enough and, like most men, thinks about sex all the time.  He simply picks the wrong partners. Everyone has sexual radar.  Women scan for success, health, and strength; and men for fertility, beauty, and allure. What men see as big tits and a well-packed, high shelved booty is only Evolution’s come-hither.  Nature provides the hormonal cocktail.  We have to do the rest.  Buddy, unfortunately, had been given more than his share of the sexual cocktail, but not enough juice to run the radar.

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His first wife took her pound of flesh for the most incidental offense. Beneath her sweet milkmaid demeanor was a succubus with a twisted idea of righteousness, a vindictive, spiteful streak, and real meanness. How he missed this and saw only sweetness, morning dew, and warm sunlight was a surprise to just about everyone.  How could he have not seen beneath his wife’s cleverly but clearly disguised emotional makeup?

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His wife, on the other hand, was well aware of the criticisms that had been leveled against her ever since she was a child. ‘Willful…a mind of her own…principled’ were the kindest reflections her parents could muster.  Privately they admitted they had given birth to a vixen, and woe be the man that got caught in her tender trap.  Her cannily-devised persona was no more than an evolutionary gambit, for Dolores Ames had just as powerful an urge to populate the planet with her genes as anyone else.

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Buddy fell for her hook, line and sinker.  As I have said, the sexual surveillance circuits normally installed at the factory were somehow left out of his unit; and poor Buddy couldn’t make heads nor tails of a woman’s advances. Although the basic human sexuality function had been properly installed on the assembly line, the good sense accessory which was supposed to be included was mistakenly left out.

Having been dealt a very bad hand, Buddy had a lot to overcome.  He listened patiently to the advice of his friends who had seen through Dolores Ames’ charades; but there was nothing he could do.  He was a sucker for her sweet kisses and soft caresses.

His second wife, a Jewish American Princess who maxed her Nordstrom’s and Saks Fifth Avenue cards in a year, seemed nothing of the sort to Buddy when he first met her. She was from a conservative rabbinical family, had her religious orthodoxy tempered by the right New England finishing schools and an acceptable women’s college.  To him she was just elegantly dressed, poised, and amiable.  In fact he was charmed by her attentiveness and sexual interest.  He never picked up the obvious clues that anyone with even serviceable software would have red-flagged – the daily, whiny calls to her mother; the needy search for compliments; the extra eyeliner which accentuated her Semitic features but made her look more like Cleopatra than a New York beauty; and her choice of expensive restaurants, better remembered for the waiters’ fawning service than for the food.

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His third and last wife had hot pants – not for him but for every swinging dick in Arkansas; and although reluctant to go so public with his grievance, was advised by his attorney to sue for divorce on the grounds of ‘wanton promiscuity’, an oddity in Arkansas state law that enabled judges to overlook peccadilloes but to come down hard on ‘the sexually negligent’  which characterized Buddy’s case.

“They’re all cunts”, he said, referring not only to his three wives but all women; and had anyone but me heard him say this, he would have been strung up.  I knew that he wanted to throw every last camisole-and-skirt in the same burlap sack as his bound and trussed three wives and throw them all into the East River.  He didn’t really mean it; and I knew that after he got over Inez, he would certainly be on the prowl for others to take her place.

So, what to make of Buddy Sharpe? Was he a misogynist? Hardly.  He simply conflated all women with the three succubuses he had married. All of us base our larger convictions on smaller experiences; and anyone who had lived as long as he had with The Three Sisters could not possibly come out unscathed and charitable.  At the same time women always turned his head, and he noticed the best that they had to offer – their charm, perkiness, sexual awareness, and particular intelligence.  They were great in bed, better at the office, and knockouts to look at.  He could easily hold two seemingly contradictory ideas in his head at once.

Franklin Obbits was as obtuse about racial matters as Buddy was about women.  Frankie was a died-in-the-wool liberal and remained committed to racial equality for decades.  He was one of the few white members of NAACP (in this era of identity politics, he was only reluctantly admitted over the objections of one senior official who wanted “no cracker, redneck, white boys up in here”), he was in the front lines of the Reverend Louis B. Farrakhan’s Million Man March on Washington, and was an untiring advocate for affirmative action and minority hiring.

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At the same time he had no common sense.  He thought his liberal credentials provided him some kind of armor against the crime, violence, and racial hatred occurring in the ‘hood. He insistently drove through bad neighborhoods to show his solidarity, and three times he had been carjacked, robbed, and assaulted. Ironically repeating the words of the NAACP Co-Chair, one of his assailants stuck his head into the car, pointed his Uzi at Frankie’s head, and said, “Whatchoo doin’ up in here, white boy?”

Frankie’s sister, cut from the same progressive cloth as her brother was a teacher in the DC Public School system and had volunteered to work in one of worst schools in the city, deep in the heart of Anacostia.  The only reason the Superintendent allowed a white woman to teach at Randall T. Owens high school was because none of the black teachers were willing to work there anymore, and the City was desperate to show its solidarity with the most disadvantaged of its citizens so had to keep the school open.

Elva Obbits was even more idealistic than her brother when it came to social justice. “The children”, she repeated over and over again. “How can we let the children down?”  All children were innocent in God’s eyes, she believed, and a true Christian had to sacrifice everything to preserve that innocence.  She had worked in white schools, Latino schools, and mixed-race schools; but felt that her calling, like that of Jesus, was with the poorest.

She of course had not reckoned on the chaos, disrespect, and violence in the school and the utter dereliction of the neighborhood. Buildings were abandoned, needles and syringes were everywhere, pimps and ho’s came out on the streets before school was over, and every time she left the school she felt threatened, intimidated, and frightened. She lasted one month.

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For the first time her academic and theoretical liberal values had been put to the test. “They’re animals”, she said to her brother, regretting the racial slur the second it came out of her mouth; but she never could chase the thought from her mind. “These are the people we have been fighting for?” she said.

Was Elva Sharpe racist? Hardly. She simply faced disturbing facts and felt anger and distrust.  Then, righting herself, she rose out of the slums to a more detached intellectual aerie and redoubled her political efforts for social change. Had she expressed her primitive feelings aloud and had anyone of her progressive crowd heard her, she would have been dunned out of the Movement.  Acknowledging reality, as uncomfortable as it may be, is only acceptable if couched in exculpatory language.  Bare-bones criticism is not allowed.

Nick Dawkins was a fundamentalist Christian from Aberdeen, Mississippi.  Despite his severe religious upbringing, he had managed enough interest in the secular world to be aware of the new and to him disturbing trends that were more and more evident even in the Deep South. Homosexuality had been proscribed in the Bible.  In the Old Testament it is called an abomination, punishable by death; and severe injunctions against it occur throughout the New.  Although Nick was as concerned with individual liberty as much as anyone, he simply could not square Biblical injunction (after all, the Bible was the literal Word of God) with secular calls for marriage ‘equality’.

"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22)

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Perhaps more importantly, Nick loved his wife and their three children.  He and Belle were passionate, considerate, and always attentive to each other.  They reveled in each other’s sex and were genuinely awed that God could have created such a wonder.  They had uninhibited, orgiastic sex every time they made love. Nick never doubted his wife’s fidelity and correctly understood that her passion was conjugal, ordained, and right. When they started their family, their lovemaking was even more passionate because it had a purpose.  Procreation added fuel to their sexual energy.

So it was that Nick could not understand homosexual sex.  He couldn’t think of it without wincing, and despite himself felt a wave of revulsion every time a salacious image came into his head.  “It is a sin against God”, he admitted to himself, “and it is disgusting.”

Was Nick Dawkins homophobic? Hardly.  He was no different than Frankie and Elva Obits who entertained two opposing ideas, but were forced by heritage, training, and perception to choose one over the other.  The fact that Elva came to the most unthinkable and unacceptable conclusions about black people; but still returned to the dignity of the cause of social justice was only human.  Nick understood the need for considering gay marriage within the context of civil rights; but simply would never be able to think of it as natural, good, or acceptable according to a higher moral code.

In short, the head of the FBI was absolutely correct in suggesting that most whites harbor suspicions about black people.  How could they not when they commit crime at a rate far disproportionate to their number? When their social patterns are so far removed from acceptable and historic norms? When despite of decades of public investment and liberal crusades, black communities are still mired in poverty?

How can heterosexuals not wonder about the direction of America when the natural order of things is being so directly challenged.  When Pope Francis recently said that couples who refused to have children were ‘selfish’ (ironically echoing Shakespeare who in Sonnets 1-17 insisted that his lover procreate), most people knew exactly what he meant. Children are the only reminders of our innocence; and although Dostoevsky railed at Christ for having betrayed them through his responses to the Devil’s temptations, they are the closest thing to God that exist on earth.

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There is no man alive who hasn’t thought at least once about a world without women.  Women complicate their lives, tether them to hearth and home, take pounds of flesh at the most innocents sexual adventure.  They want the toilet seat down, whiskers out of the sink, and elbows off the table.  And there is no woman alive who hasn’t at least considered a world without men – thick, insensitive, abusive, wayward, and completely untrustworthy.

Racism, homophobia, and sexism should be reserved for unbridled, irrational, and virulent hatred.  A racist hates all black people and can make no distinctions between socially integrated and ghetto.  A homophobe hates gay people absolutely and without codicil. Sexists hate women, resent their power over paternity, and will do anything to keep them down.

The dilation of the terms only serve to harden the resolve of true bigots.  The witch hunt for homophobes, racists, and sexists is as bad as those in Salem or the Inquisition. Witch hunts, fueled by sanctimony and misplaced righteousness, are the problem, not the supposed violators of progressive trust.

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