Thursday, September 23, 2004


I had some notes here somewhere about the Iranian valet parkers at the restaurant where I used to work - the Communist, the Wild and Crazy Guy, the Devotee, the Strongman, the Seeker, and Milo (short for Minderbinder). I lost those, but maybe they'll turn up. There were a few points I wanted to make about the Maginot Line, or Hard Christians, or low-voltage outdoor lighting or something, but I can't seem to shape them up. An article on Rome, a monograph upon the consequences of nitrogenous outflows from golf courses, a screed against For-Profit Insurance. No, no, none of them will do. I can't seem to write about hybrid SUV's or Swift Vote Veterans...

Big Fog
When I was a kid, I learned about the Revolution, and the Founders, and the Constitutional Convention. They taught me that our forefathers didn't really want to let slavery slip into the Constitution, but the stern reality of the time forced them to bank their ideals in the ashes of the Greater Good, and that our (inherent) nobler instincts sprang ablaze in the Civil War. I learned all that in school. That was in 1964, the year that Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, and California passed Proposition 14, which reversed the state's Fair Housing Act. I didn't know about the legislation then, because I was a little kid, and because none of the adults I knew cared about it. There were no Negros (as they were then tagged) in our town.

The following summer, they had a big thing called the "Watts Riots", which was in all the TV's. It even had a slogan, which was "burn, baby, burn". About a kajillion dollars worth of substandard rental housing and nearly every small business (there was no Big Business) in a large chunk of South Central LA got combusted.

I really believed the stuff I learned in school, and I still do - right down to my toes. But Watts planted a tiny seed of doubt in my young mind. It bugged me then, and it has never stopped bugging me. I've moved from town to town since then, and in nearly every one of them, there has been a "black part of town". Everybody knows it, and it doesn't even seem very strange to say "black part of town", as long as there are no black folks around.

Okay, it's strange to some white people, and some of them fret (night and day) about The Disadvantaged and so forth, but hardly anybody will come out and say that The Great Experiment had a big, fat, steamin' lie at its very core, and we've been covering it up, lying about it, making excuses for it ever since. Lord knows enough blood was spilled in the Civil War to attone for any kind of sin, but we chose to throw that sacrifice away back then, and go on with our lying and denying.

Now it's years later, and we've come to this point. Set aside Race, and all the talk and code-talk that goes with it. Just look at electoral politics, and the War on Terror, and other things that your TV tells you to see. Everybody knows that we're staring into the mirror of history this year, and we're deciding how we want to be forever. I want to believe what I was taught in school - that democracy will inevitably defeat Evil and that our shining Ideals will make all the bad assholes realize what losers they are and just cave before our mighty Right. That seems logical to me.

I wish I could hold that thought clear and pure. I really do. I blame those damn Watts riots for the irritating little whisper in my back-brain that wants me to think that we're really lying bastards who will do anything to anybody if it makes us richer, and that we'd rather live with an elephant turd in the dining room than face ourselves, and that we're headed for a fall.

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