I saw it. But I couldn’t believe it.
There I was, in a fast food drive through, behind a man whose back window decal, in small white letters, sent me a message that sent a chill down my spine—just as he’d hoped it would, no doubt. It said:
THIS COUNTRY WAS BUILT BY WHITE MEN WITH GUNS
Now, I was there because I needed something to eat badly. I’ve been tending a new puppy that behaves and has to be tended like a newborn, so you only get so much “break’ time if you’re keeping to your schedule. I had just enough to grab a bite, get some work done…and get ready for play time number…I’m not sure which.
But I lost my appetite entirely, when I saw that decal.
I’ve lost my appetite for America, period, to be honest—he’s just one of the many reasons. Forget that fact that if he really believes this, this guy must never have read a history book in his life—it’s the fact that he felt comfortable driving around with that ridiculous statement on his back window that galls me most. But I saw it comin'.
When I first suggested to friends that the Tea Party and other Obama detractors were opening a Pandora’s box of deeper, uglier hatreds and behaviors…people told me to stop being so 60s/sensitive/black. But you see…I am all three. Which means that I have lived through and understood, on a very deep level, the messages behind today’s headlines.
As I’ve said once before when discussing another hot button issue, I was born when Jim Crow was under siege and the Civil Rights Movement was beginning. My fifth grade teacher was Emmett Till’s mother, for Chrissake. Her son died at the hands of men like the one with the window decal—lynched and ditched in a river from which his teenage body was dragged, bleached white and bloated.
She had an open casket funeral so that the world could see the horrible price of hate and ignorance. I remember being afraid to read any of the black newspapers or magazines in Chicago for weeks because they all ran pictures of his deformed, defamed body prominently. I lived in a constant state of low level fear and foreboding as a child.
That fear was born of realities like the Till pictures and stories like the one about my mother hiding under the floor boards in Mississippi as night riders ransacked the house and then beat her uncle senseless. I knew that a wrong move of some kind…or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, could get me thrown into a river somewhere. Even in Chicago, there were areas “we” did not go.
I hate it that we’ve come almost full circle back to a kind of hatred soooo many people fought and died to end. To be realistic, most never thought it would really end, but they wanted to make sure that the discrimination it encouraged, did.
They won at least that much. Most of the country was able to grudgingly live and let live. Others went underground to bide their time. And the hatred has lingered and festered. So when Obama was elected…they realized that their cause would be forever lost if drastic measures were not taken. And because there were big business types who also feared Obama might do some of the things he promised, the lunatic fringe found itself being encouraged and funded by men who didn’t need guns—they had money. And real power.
It has to be incredibly heady to be courted by these people, who, under different circumstances, wouldn’t let you anywhere near them except to fix their plumbing. In fact, I’m sure the power brokers aren’t out there waving the posters they help pay for. And I bet if the people who are waving those posters could hear their benefactors talking about them in private…well…they might not really care. Those benefactors are paying them to say things they didn’t dare for decades.
And it feels real, real good.
It feels so good that people are voting for weird candidates almost the way some sorely neglected teenagers dye their hair blue to shock their parents. They may not really want blue hair, but because Dad’ll be stunned and worried and Mom will cry and ask where she went wrong…they’ve gotta have it.
And as more and more of these people “come out” to their hatred and pent up frustration of many kinds, they’re enjoying the hell out of being able to scare and even beat the shit out of the people they’ve hated in silence for decades. Oh we tsk and roll eyes and mutter platitudes, but there are thousands if not millions who, in private, find all of this absolutely…revolutionary and righteous.
Consequently, and recently, one gay child has killed himself because he couldn’t live with it. Another group of goons beat and sodomized a man for being gay. Kids are “beaner hopping” now, looking for Hispanics, especially Hispanics they think are “illegal” (how they can tell is anyone’s guess) to pummel for sport. I could go on, but…I don’t have to. You know the rest. I’m becoming more and more like Chris Rock on this one—it’s not Al Qaeda I fear, it’s...white men with guns.
How can I connect these crimes to the Tea Party et al? Easily. Any country which has gotten to the point where it’s president can be caricatured and spoken of as he has been in the graphics I've supplied, many of them brandished at Tea Party events...is in trouble. Free speech? You bet. But what that right is being used to say and do right now is a chilling statement about where we are as a nation right now.
It’s not really just about Obama, you see. It’s about me, my family and all of the black people of America—the world, really. Yes, there were pictures of Bush as all kinds of things—but they were “ideological.” Much of the awful stuff being done to Obama’s images is racial. Even if the image isn’t, the “subtext” is.
Black folks know we’re being put back in our places in “code.” And it’s an old code we know all too well—it’s a Nouveau Reconstruction thing.
If you’re a person of color or of an “alternative sexuality” or anywhere outside what the far right and Tea Party people consider "main stream" today, all sorts of internal, instinctive alarms are going off. That old, cold feeling I carried in the pit of my stomach as a kid resurfaces regularly these days. And it’s starting to be a chronic ache.
You see, as I've said, I absolutely believe that this general loss of civility and humanity and fundamental respect is being encouraged by a small, cynical segment of this population which would rather see the country die than to lose control of it. If it means releasing the hounds of hatred to keep us fighting and fault finding—so be it. While we’re distracted, all manner of mayhem can go on unabated.
We can even elect total idiots to Congress…or Palin to the presidency, so that these forces won’t even have to hide any longer. She will say what they need her to say. Do what they need her to do. And the white dude with guns will be right in step. He’s practicing, that’s all. He knows his day, however brief it might be, is at hand.
Now, for those of you still not quite with me yet…let me say it another way. A more, gut level way. Think back to a dicey romantic relationship –one that started on shaky ground and went down hill from there. You knew from the start it wasn’t the greatest match, but there was some compelling reason to attempt it, even so, and you were able to be civil even in the worst of times.
And then one day…in the heat of battle, one of you said something that couldn’t be taken back. Something so hurtful, so insulting, so incredibly bitter that from then on, the gloves were off. There were few if any civil words, just a raging civil war.
If you’re lucky, you escaped soon after that. If you weren’t…God bless you.
Well, that, I think, is where we are now. We tried. For a long time. But now, we’ve crossed this weird, invisible line. What’s being said can’t be taken back, and what it allows some very sick people to think and, now, say and do will be very difficult if not impossible to stop.
Scares me to death.
I can’t—refuse to-- “escape” the country I live in and love, even as it spirals out of control. But I’m wondering how my daughter and her children will fare when I’m gone. I fear that even some of the laws may change back somehow—when I hear Glenn Beck talk about the Constitution “hanging by a thread,” I get nervous.
That’s just more code to rally the white men with guns while the rich white men with financial and political clout get their real political strategy perfected. Only the white men with guns have no idea that when that day comes, they're going to suffer along with the people they're currently debasing and terrorizing.
They are not rich. The power they wield is an illusion which can and will be taken away as soon as the rich men pulling the strings have gotten what they’re after, and those poor gun guys will discover that their rights have been diminished, too. In fact, when it’s expedient for their rich benefactors to retire to their mansions and pretend they had nothing to do with any of this…they will throw their lap dogs to the coyotes and plead innocent if called to testify.
Old story. But men who haven’t read a history book in their lives…don’t know those stories. In fact, the poster below proves that many of them haven't read many books of any kind:
I rest my case. Well, almost. Here's a little more of the ugly, ugly stuff that blew the lid off Pandora’s box. These pictures are worth more than a thousand words. They’re letting the rest of the world know that America really is a sinking ship. And they’re also telling guys like the one in the fast food line that it’s open season on…everybody he doesn’t like.
Cause…he’s a white man. Guns optional. He’s got enough nerve—and kindred spirits—not to need ‘em.
Oh, and by the way—if you want to comment, please do. But I won’t be responding to comments pro or con this time. Those who agree…don’t need me to say anything and those who don’t wouldn’t listen if I did. I just had to speak my piece.
Done. Here are the posters and pictures: