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Monday, February 1, 2021

Rodney King, ‘Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?’, And The Hype of Biden’s Call for ‘Unity’

Much has been made of Joe Biden’s call for ‘unity’.  The Trump years, he says,  have been divisive, corrosive, and damaging to the American ethos, to democracy, and to the very core of American values.  It is time to come together; and in so saying has channeled Rodney King who pleaded “Why can’t we all just get along? ” before being carted off to jail for the umpteenth time.  Because we don’t want to get along, replied most of us, happy in our antagonisms.  We may be what we are, but more importantly what we are not.  We are not the other and the black-hatted. 

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Rodney King was lionized because of his supposed abuse at the hands of the LAPD, and his name has been invoked repeatedly in the era of “I can’t breathe”.   King was ‘one of us’, say his Black Lives Matter movement – a common man, anyone who could be brutalized and abused because of his ‘otherness’.  He belongs to us because of our collective vulnerability to police power. Any of us could be Rodney King.

Hardly.  We are not Rodney King.   ‘Unity’, urged by Biden, does not include those caught with wide screen TVs on their backs.  Yes it does, Biden continues.  Unity means universal brotherhood, tolerance, compassion, and acceptances.  Even Rodney King – and perhaps especially Rodney King – should be the torch-bearer for the new Administration.  By extension Donald Trump, the most reviled, evil, and discredited man ever also merits our forgiveness.  He, like Rodney King was a product of his environment; and because he was schooled in deviousness, exploitation, manipulation and greed, he should be forgiven for its excesses. Hardly.

Biden has no intention of opening the tent to the likes of the former President, and unity most definitely does not include Trump, his associates, advisors, and Republican supporters.  Nor does it include the 70 million or so Americans who voted for Trump and who, according to Democratic leaders say must be disciplined, marginalized, and removed to a gulag until their re-education is complete.

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In fact there are many in the new President’s party who want to disenfranchise anyone who voted for Trump.  Acolytes of evil are no less evil than those they attend.  Milton understood that Satan’s minions, even those who fought nobly at his side, would be as eternally exiled as he.  No unity there.

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So of what, then, does ‘unity’ consist?  Unilaterally setting aside one’s weapons, never again to take up arms against the forces of righteousness? Acceding to the progressive canon and acknowledging the rightness of the the gender spectrum and all the rest? Paying respectful obedience to the new Chief and all that he espouses?

Yes, and again yes.  Unity never was meant to include the destructive, anarchists of the Right, their more moderate shills, and Republicans.  It was meant to include….well, the like-minded.  Those few in the political middle who had their differences with Trump and might be willing to turn coat.  And who might they be? If they exist at all they are few and far between. 

A lot is made of ‘diversity’ these days, and those communities characterized by a mix of races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations are considered highly desirable.  Yet in most cases even the most progressive-minded young adults after a few year of social experimentation end up with their own kind.  It has always been so. Human settlements have forever been wary of the outsider and The Other.

This narrow self-interest has always made sense. It is not so much that people cannot love or admit someone who was of a different race, religion, or national origin. It’s just that we are naturally suspicious of those who do not conform to our longstanding and comfortable habits and patterns.  Once Muslims wave the American flag; once gays join Rotary and the the Lions club; and once black lawyers and doctors live next door, we lose all reticence and doubt. We wait until they are one of us before opening our doors..

Which is why diversity per se is only a social parlor game.  It is fun to be one of the few white settlers in a transitional urban neighborhood, loving the greens, chitlins, and fatback available in the corner convenience store; the street music and cheap wine; and the thrill of being an urban pioneer.  Once you have a couple of kids and flip your house in Bloomingdale, you have your sights set on Spring Valley, Potomac, or Great Falls. Enough is enough with the ragged edges of your old neighborhood, the ricochets and sirens, and the iron grates.  It is time to re-congregate with your own kind.

West Side Story

A boy like that who'd kill your brother,
Forget that boy and find another,
One of your own kind,
Stick to your own kind!
A boy like that will give you sorrow,
You'll meet another boy tomorrow,
One of your own kind,
Stick to your own kind!

No one really wants to be like anyone else.  Few want to be a BLM thug, a pimp. hustler, or gay dude.  They want the security of their own kind and the freedom to throw rocks at anyone else.  Few realize the power and importance of resentment, self-serving anger, hostility, and vicious animosity.  It feels good to spew venom and bile at Donald Trump.  Hatred for the man defined the American Left for four years and then some.  Without this villainous, evil character in the White House, the nostrums of progressivism would have been tedious and boring.  The glass ceiling, Black Lives Matter, climate change, and income re-distribution? They are nothing compared to intemperate, uncontrolled ad hominem, venomous hatred.  Nothing at all. It was this apoplectic hatred of the man that energized the Democratic Party and set in motion the move to replace him and to reconstitute Congress.  Hatred, vile characterizations, spiteful, vengeful attacks work.

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All of which only confirms what most voters realize – Biden is mouthing homilies and nothing more.  Unity in American politics is an oxymoron.  There is no such thing and there never will be; and unity in American society, so configured by individualism and group solidarity to be wary of the outsider, is a non-starter.  We Americans are the best, most obvious, and most indicative of the absolute certainty of the immanence of a self-serving human nature.  We want, we will get, or we will die trying.

There is nothing in Biden’s first days that suggests anything but a unity hype.  His flurry of Executive Orders have excluded Republicans from voicing their opinion or casting a vote.  There is a right and wrong, Trump was absolutely wrong, and it is time to make amends.  Collaboration and compromise are hopes of the vanquished and not the victors.  We won  the White House, the House, and the Senate; so pack your bags, says Biden.

All electoral winners claim tolerance, bipartisanship and a desire to compromise.  George H.W. Bush proclaimed ‘a kinder, gentler nation’ and his born-again son prayed from the same hymn book; but neither President showed any sign of real across-the-aisle compromise or intention to step back from the rock-ribbed principles of Ronald Reagan, William F Buckley, Milton Friedman, and Barry Goldwater.  Unity, maybe in choir practice, but not on the political battlefield.

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So, as progressive shills line up behind Kamala and Joe, claim victory over the retrograde forces of conservatism, and champion his call for ‘unity’, the rest of the nation has to laugh at the transparent political chicanery, and absolute chutzpah of a man who has never had any intention of ‘healing the divide.’

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