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

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Toppling Statues And Having Sex–Politics And Love Interests Never, Ever Go Together

The young woman was upset.  Her long-anticipated date had started off all right – drag racing at the Maryland International Raceway and beer and brats in La Plata, but the intended late-night drink in Alexandria, the highlight of the evening never happened. The subject of discussion in the car on the way to the Potomac turned to politics, a no-no for most in any sexual prelude, but because she could not divorce political philosophy from intimacy or sex, the conversation was a dead hand on the evening, a deal-breaker, and a disappointment.  The boy, although white, was cute, European, and open enough to American diversity to date a black girl like her.

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It was by pure chance that they went by ‘Appomattox’ a statue commemorating Confederate soldiers who had died in the Civil War. The young man had heard of Appomattox, the place where Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant, and remarked on the historical significance of the statue.  The young woman, however, knew the statue only as commemorative of the South, its secession, slavery, Jim Crow, and continued, perpetual racism.  They argued.  Statues recollecting important historical events were important markers of the past to be considered, judged, admired, or despised, he said, but part and parcel of a country’s cultural baggage.

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The young woman was furious.  Her date’s views were ignorant, white-biased, elitist, and insensitive.  The least he could have done was to keep his hostile comments to himself, saving her the ignominy of being lectured to by a white boy, foreigner, and Southern racist sympathizer.  

He tried to explain that the statue, not only a monument to the end of a long, brutal, and perhaps unnecessary war, was erected in memory of soldiers who died in battle.  These young men were not fighting for the principle or institution of slavery, for its preservation, or the glory of the South but because they were conscripted, pulled away from their families, their homes, and their farms to die at Chancellorsville, Shiloh, the Wilderness, and Chikamunga without any real understanding of why and against whom they were fighting.  The were young men tragically killed because of the ambitions and hubris of the South, Jefferson Davis, and Robert E. Lee and through no fault of their own.  Don’t they deserve a memorial?

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She fumed and railed at his insolence and white, privileged, biased view of the conflict.  How could she have been so mistaken?  How did she miss the racist signals he must have given off on the first date?  She was chagrined, nonplussed, ashamed, and bitterly angry.  ‘Stop the car’, she said, called Uber and went home.

‘I should have known never to date a white boy', she yelled to no one in particular on Route 1. ‘Stupid, stupid, stupid’, and she never repeated her mistake, dipping deep into Southeast for soul mates who had lived the same black experience and who were, in these impoverished, politically marginalized neighborhoods of DC, still under a white racist thumb.

Yet she found these men from Anacostia crude, insensitive bullies.  Their street creds, machismo, and prison past quickly lost their iconic black allure.  There was a good reason why she had dated Allen, a young man of deft intelligence, with a disarming sense of humor, and a sexual confidence.  White though he was, there was a particularly attractive maleness about him; and to be honest which transcended race.  He was far more appealing and marriageable than any of the bad boys of Capitol Heights.  Could it at all be possible that there was some sense in what he said about the young conscripts of the South, their untimely and sad death, and the need for recognition?  I lived, I died, but I mattered.

After the serially bad experiences in the inner city, she began to reassess her judgment and her prospects.  Here she was, an attractive, burnished oak-skin, Nefertiti eyed, seductive black girl, modestly intelligent, musical, and lithe, who was wasting her time, talents and body on no-account, no future, gang bangers from the ‘hood.  They were behind her one hundred percent when it came to systemic racism, the South, and white elitism; but were clueless about everything else.

‘Why don’t I try Howard?’, she asked herself.  There, at American’s premier black university, whose alumni included the future leaders of her community and among the most respected men in American history. Yet, this too was a disappointment. 

In Philip Roth’s book The Human Stain the young Coleman Silk explains to his mother why he will not go to Howard.  There are no individuals there, he says, only a confining ethos.  We black people.  We the marginalized and the oppressed. We the righteously indignant.  Coleman wants no part of that hermetic righteousness which excludes talent, individuality, enterprise and personal worth in favor of the group.  The young woman of this story found the same tediousness, and predictable political philosophy as did the fictional Coleman Silk; and after a few desultory dates, gave up.

Perhaps I picked the wrong white boy, she thought.  Yes, there is a systemic racism everywhere in white society; but what about those Jewish progressives who marched with Martin Luther King, held hands with Coretta and walked with Jesse Jackson? Their sons must be fallen apples from the same tree.  If there is anyone more sympathetic to the black cause and least infected by white racism, it has to be them.

And so, graciously beautiful and appealing as she was, entry into progressive enclaves was not difficult.  Given the identity politics which characterized The Movement, being black would have been enough, but being beautiful and charming worked wonders.

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But these Harvard boys were just as ploddingly dull as those at Howard.  Worse, they had an absurd self-proclaimed mission – savior of the black man, expiation of white guilt, creator of a new, more peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, multiracial world – and it was as obvious as sliced bread that they were delighted to be in bed with any black woman, the highest order of belonging in their church of the redeemer.

They strutted, swaggered, and pimp-walked just like her former Anacostia lovers.  Look what I’ve done.  Look who was in my bed; and while in bed they never stopped talking, trying to ingratiate themselves with her with their lockstep fidelity to Black Lives Matter, hatred of the South, and rejection of capitalism.  

The Anacostia boys did their version of ingratiation with macho.  Although she liked the fact that boys as diverse as LaTrey, Stephen, Allan, and Bernard were attracted to her and tried to please her, she was always left emotionally out in the cold. Where was the man of her dreams?

D.H. Lawrence wrote perhaps more eloquently than anyone  about the primal nature of sex. For him there was an inexplicable  but undeniable and irresistible sexual attraction between certain men and women with no regard to class.  Lady Chatterley and Mellors, the gamekeeper are ineluctably drawn, and their sex, removed from all extraneous and confounding factors is epiphanic, a coming together which according to Lawrence expresses the most human of feelings.

There are many couples like Mellors and Connie who care little for their lovers’ political profile, philosophy, or inclinations.  Sex is a matter of genes, fathers and mothers, and the raw, unfiltered desires that are derived from them.  Ignoring political difference, political preference, or political ambition is not only advisable, but necessary for honest sexual union.   These partners are far more evolved than the young woman of this story who not only let politics get in the way of lovemaking, but let politics provide the context within which her sexual relations should or should not occur.

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The young woman would never agree – ‘Politics defines me’, she said – and consigned herself to predictable and predictably boring sexual affairs. The all or nothing, single issue, judgmental view of today’s progressives have excluded history’s most attractive, powerful, and reliable men from consideration – Jefferson, Hamilton, Washington, Franklin, and Adams. Kings and courtiers of Europe, writers, artists, mathematicians, and actors all have been excluded because of their supposed racism, sexism, homophobia, or misogyny.  One slave, one intemperate remark, one untoward decision, one relationship, one purchase is enough to remove them from the canon, and to assure relegation and erasure. 

The young woman, slave to her political obsession, stumbled along sexually until she finally settled on a man who combined tediums, who was just acceptable and who had enough sexual fibers still alive to give her some satisfaction.  Not the greatest choice in the world, certainly not the stuff of Lawrence nor of the sexual adventurers who never wore any mantel of sobriety or correctness.  She had been infected by narrow, self-serving notions of ‘justice, righteousness, and restoration’, and she let them fester, riddle her like cancer, and kill any sense of individual enterprise, especially sex. 

Unfortunately there are all too many women like our young woman, too enslaved to think, too intimidated to move, and too convinced of the correctness of their race-gender-ethnicity identity to evolve into anything but caricatures .

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