Hateful Hate

It’s difficult to know sometimes what will move us emotionally, what will trigger our tears, cause us to fight back, or lie awake at 3 a.m. in a fit of unresolved rage. For my stepmom and my friend JVD, commercials can launch the “waterworks,” as my dad calls them. When I was growing up, I was much better at taking on the enemies of my cousin and best friend than fighting my own battles, whatever those were. The sleepless, rageful nights though, I’ve had many. Usually over ex-assholes I wish desperately I could forget, rather than waste hours telling them off in my head or in jagged journal outbursts.

Lately, I’ve been beaten down and far too often, furiously pissed off at the political obstruction and racist, classist bullsh*t I see going on in the Gulf Coast. When white, “family values” Southern male conservative politicians pander to some alleged base with phrases like “folks like Maxine Waters” in their public opposition to public housing (watch out!! beware black people and/or women and/or radical liberals with power!!), I can feel my blood boil. And almost three weeks ago, in an episode I’ve been unable to transfer to the blog for your own personal growth, I spent about 24 hours having seizing sobbing fits over deep racial, gender and all sorts of stratification politics that I succeeded in internalizing in my most recent three months of work in the Gulf.

Now, in my Google reader, I see three consecutive posts from Ezra seriously taken aback, I’d say shaken, at the right-wing’s political “lynching” (since the word’s so in vogue these days) of the Frosts, the lower-middle-class family whose son publicly spoke at a Democratic radio address on how he benefited from S-CHIP, the child health insurance program Bush just vetoed. All his posts and links tell the story better than I can, so the best I can do here is urge you all to click through for more detail on the subject.

What struck me was how frustrated, upset and disbelieving Ezra – a blogger I usually consider unrelatably cheerful in his posts – sounded. It’s the “How can this be?? How can they do this?????” feeling of absolute incomprehension I suffer at least twice a week these days. It’s hard; I don’t want to start using phrases like “wingnuts” all the time over here at the RP – I’m more partial to terms like “public enemy** anyway – but it’s difficult to resist just writing people you don’t understand off as complete nut jobs or total a**holes (a word I’ve used at least five times today in my GC work).

What’s been comforting about both blogging and my work in the Gulf is that they’ve provided a political outlet for me, even though the message I’ve received from close friends is that politics is the RP topic they like the least (although one person at least is glad I’m keeping her informed). Yet, being political is not an identity I’m fully comfortable with embracing yet – too easily it means “righteous, alienating, boring, aggressive, full of hot air” or any number of unflattering things. Despite the fact that I get most of my news from blog sources now, I’m still reticent to join many of the political debates, since they seem to me to be dominated by (I assume) men who are full of hot air, out of touch, self-aggrandizing, or unnecc. obnoxious and cruel.

And I’ve been particularly surprised by that last aspect – the outright, easily triggered offensive hostility with which people attack one another on-line. I emailed the M.A.S. the other night to tell him my blog must be growing in stature, because I just had my first commenter swear at me. (Turns out I’m a rare source of information for the federal immigration raid in New Bedford last spring, as well as the Vince Lombardi rest stop on the NJ turnpike.) Though the internet has seemingly opened up new spaces for political activism and debate, these spaces feel a lot less safe to me than those in which I kill a casual inquiry about New Orleans with a too-long-rant about the current conditions in the Gulf. At least then the bored stare isn’t supplanted by a spiteful “jackass” and clenched fists.

Coming from an Irish family where you need liquor to loosen the tongue (unless it’s telling a joke or curse) and “airing the dirty laundry” is taboo, I’ve found the role of conflict involved in my professional, political work very refreshing. I love to argue, I find it exhilarating, energizing, and emancipating. But more often than not, I offend someone, scare someone, alienate someone, who I then write-off as being unable to take it. So where’s the fine line?

Clearly, I’m not showing up on the lawns of my intellectual opponents to terrorize them, nor am I slandering them publicly. And I’d like to think that if I were ever in a position of power (or desperation) to do so, I wouldn’t start. No doubt it’s desperation, fear and insecurity that plays such a big role in these kinds of acts, either because you have nothing or everything to lose. But Erza’s point, that I’ve finally wandered back to, is that we’ve evolved into a political culture of permanent attack mode.

When I wrote at TPM Cafe last fall that I was “waiting for the revolution” before entering politics, I understandably got hammered for my pithy and smug statement.  But I do feel like that’s what’s going on here, a serious, slow, painful transition in power, and I don’t just mean back and forth between the two parties.

For those long used to being in charge, the 3 out of 10 non-white Americans in the room better not have any kids and tip the scales, and for those who live among the foreign-born, it sure seems like there are many more of them in the check out lines next to us (or waiting on us) then the 11% they represent in the overall population. And damn it, women! They keep turning up for work! Looking for raises or some recognition that they have ideas and are smart and maybe need some assistance when kids get sick, or need to be birthed, and isn’t it time to do things a little differently around this place?. And gays and lesbians, well, Christ! They want kids and to get married and all that sh*t now. And the privileged will be damned to change our policies or share the spoils without a serious fight. The culture wars, race wars, call ‘em what you will, but it seems to me we’re full on in ‘em. Why else are we all driving around in these giant S.U.V.s? What the hell are we protecting ourselves from?

One another, it seems.

Post title courtesy of the ever righteous 10,000 Maniacs.

**Of course, the original Public Enemy.


3 Responses to “Hateful Hate”

  1. October 9, 2007 at 10:41 pm

    Interesting post… I was kind of expecting something else, and in some ways I think you get at something that fascinated me too (i.e. Ezra’s upsetedness). As you may have seen I’ve already managed to step in it over there, and will further, no doubt when I bravely explicate my take on my blog… at least, that’s my plan. But it’s late and I have to get to bed.

    I will however, leave you with this. I think the notion that we’ve come to a moment where we are in “permanent attack mode” is old news. We’ve done been in this place since at least 1988, from what I can tell, and it shows no signs of abating any time soon. And while I think conservatives can be vicious and hateful and all the rest… it takes two sides to have this battle and I think none of this gets solved until someone decides the war is not worth having (and, in these warlike times, let that be a reminder to us all). I agree, what the right is doing is attacking from a position of fear and desperation. But I think – as with those who try to wrap Graeme Frost in a protective cloak well after he’s been inserted into the public discourse – that liberals continue to act as if our attacks are good and righteous and unquestionable while theirs are partisan and bitter and mean. All I can say is, keep telling yourself that. Because heaven knows, they don’t do that…. do they?

  2. October 9, 2007 at 11:29 pm

    Well, I was 13 in 1998 and not yet politically enlightened, though I did dig these Greenpeace tapes I had.

    I just wrote a similar comment at Ezra’s, that if blog comment threads are any proxy, both sides of the aisle are out of control.

  3. October 9, 2007 at 11:45 pm

    And if I was 13, then Ezra was like, 8, maybe 10.

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