Killing In the Name

June 3, 2008

For those who are unaware… I turned 27 a few days ago.  Happy birthday to me.  My family got together and we had dinner and drinks and cake… and all was nice and wonderful.  As it always happens, we ended up telling stories… like the time my younger cousin took a shit in a doritos bag when they got stuck in traffic – oldie but a goldie, for certain. 

My aunt was telling a story about me from years back… about a time when I was uncharacteristically easygoing and malleable.  I'll be honest, I don't remember what the details were… I was drunk by that point… but I do remember being surprised.  "Really," I said, "I was okay with that?"  My aunt smiled at me… one of those smiles that two people share when they want to communicate that they see the world totally differently… and she said, "Oh honey that was a long time ago… back when you still had a shred of respect for authority."  That stuck with me.

It wasn't a dig – okay, maybe it was in my aunt's own Catholic, passive-aggressive way… but that's not really a bad thing.  That's how she rolls.  I like that about her.  She wasn't really saying it to be snarky… she was saying it to be accurate.  And she's right.

I do not respect authorty.

So let's explore that.

I do not respect authorty because I do not believe any one person, body, organization or body-politic (I just wanted to say that last one) is worth anything by itself. 

I believe that institutions, and the many people who make up those institutions are measured by their actions, not by their costumes.  I do not respect police officers as a whole, I respect individual police officers who don't act like strutting, preening, racist retards.  I do not respect my government because it is not my responsibility to respect my government – in fact it is my responsibility as an American to constantly keep tabs on my government, and call it on its bullshit whenever I see it.  And my oh my has it been a busy twenty-seven years so far.  Respecting authority gives it too much power.  It allows that organism to overestimate its importance. 

But this isn't really the kind of authority I'm talking about.  Yes, I reserve my respect when it comes to organizations like that… but I want to look at authority in a more abstract sense… I want to look at authority as an idea… or a feeling.  A mental state.

Take political correctness, for example.  Now, I know that as a young, well-educated progressive… I'm supposed to be a champion of sensitivity and political correctness.  I'm supposed to really care about how others choose to identify themselves in the world, based on their race and their gender and their sexual identity.  I'm supposed to do this because, thanks to the PC movement, individual self-worth and personal feelings have become a form of authority.  But here's the thing – they aren't.  Or, rather, they are… I just do not recognize their legitimacy. 

My biggest complaint with PC isn't that it requires me to treat others with respect… I'd do that whether society told me to or not… what bothers me about PC is that it inflates the individual's sense of importance.  There's that old expression – opinions are like assholes, everyone has them and they all stink.  Well that's true… and lord knows I'm certainly not hurting from a lack of opinions… but what PC has done is essentially written into social law that we must all smell each other's assholes… and then compliment one another on the odor.

Well what happens if someone's asshole smells?  Most assholes smell… that's what makes them assholes.  I'm more than willing to respect a person's right to have their asshole… and they can do whatever they like with it… but I refuse to tell them that I like the smell.  Because I have an asshole too… and my asshole thinks that their asshole stinks.

Did you follow that?  If you didn't, don't worry… that isn't really what I'm writing about anyway.  I'm moving into my real point… excuse me… my real asshole… don't fret.

PC isn't just liberal censorship (which is really what I consider it, when you get right down to it)… sure, that's kindof how it started… but it's become such an essential part of our social discourse that it's permeated all groups.  It seems that the American public has come to the consensus that all people must clamber to the tune of their own perspective – everyone's opinion is equal… everyone's opinion is valid. 

Apparently, everyone has to listen and respect everyone else… no matter how foolish, stupid or insane they may be.

Take, for example, Capitalist Culture's most recent crime against sanity – the Dunkin Donuts debacle (heretofore known as the D-cube).  For those who are unaware, I'll give some backstory:

We all know Rachel Ray.  She's the grinning manatee on the Food Network who has convinced middle-America that Ritz crackers are a viable ingredient in every possible dish.  She's just another brand – she's a little white Oprah… she's like Martha Stewart… just not evil.  She's a brand.  And apparantly, she's a money-grubbing whore who sells just about anything she can get her sausagy fingers around.  Dunkin Donuts hired her not too long ago to hock their coffee permutations… and for a long time, everyone was fine. 

"Oh, there's that Rachel Ray… she's such a sweetie!" we'd all say when we'd catch her loafing around on our tv set… lumbering into her neighborhood Dunkin Donuts, tossing the bafflingly non-asian register crone a fiver and cackling to the camera about what an amazing taste sensation she was currently experiencing.

She's cute!  She's charming. 

No longer.

Now she's a terrorist. 

Apparently some fashion cretins decided that keffiyehs, those fancy scarf-hats that Arafat always used to wear, would make dandy neckerchiefs.  I've never seen anyone wearing them… but then again, I don't live in New York or LA or any other city where people have more money than brains.  Well, Rachel Ray wore one in the commercial… and this caused a huge ruckus.  Michelle Malkin – FOX News' preposterously unimpressive hate spaniel – got to rabble rousing… she oozed some far-right outrage, called the scarf "hate couture" (which I actually thought was pretty clever, considering the source) and stoked an entire mob of harrumphing yokels into launching an email campaign against Dunkin Donuts.

Now… here's the thing: scarves, to the best of my knowledge, do not hate anyone.  Scarves are not dangerous… unless one happens to be strangled by one… but if we're going to get that specific then shouldn't we also caution the American public against torsion?  No article of clothing is this or that… it's just a bit of cloth.  If we're going to get outraged over keffiyehs, shouldn't we also light our torches and sharpen our pitchforks for our onslaught against white bedsheets?

What is a symbol of hate for one is a scarf for another… is a fitting napkin for me.  It's all just cloth.  It doesn't actually MEAN anything until you project meaning onto it.  This is why refusing anyone the right to wear a certain article of clothing is insane.  This is why our Constitution allows for the freedom of expression – a freedom of speech.  We are allowed to wear what we want… say what we want… and we (and this is the important part) do not have to answer to anyone else.  Authority doesn't get to tell me not to wear it.

Take this other example – though I'm sure it'll offend someone out there… but that's really the point.


See what I did there?  I wrote the word nigger.  I'll do it again: nigger.

Now… that's certainly a word that's gotten a lot of mileage in our culture.  I'm sure that there are plenty of Americans out there who will line up to tell me that I, as a white man, am totally incapable of understanding just how awful that word is… that my whiteness blinds me to the pain and degradation one who isn't white experiences when they see that word.  Well you know what?  You're probably right.  To me… nigger is just another word… no different than shoelace or daisy.  It's just a collection of little scribbles that we use to represent an idea.  The word itself has no meaning until you or I bring our own meaning to it… it's a potentiality… which is why I'm able to write it without any feelings of shame or anguish – because to me (and, I would argue, at its very essence) it's just a word.

Now… if I were to call someone a nigger that would be a different story altogether.  Then the word becomes more than potentiality… more than a blank canvas for meaning… it becomes a vehicle for an idea, or a worldview.  It becomes an act of hate.  And I don't hate black people at all.  Which is why I'd never call anyone a nigger.  See the difference?

But our culture's collective authority overrides that logic.  It inflates hysterical (and warranted, in the case of nigger, no doubt) emotion to the point of truth – personal feelings trump reality… and we all get a little dumber.

Americans are obsessed with symbols.  Why else would we make such a fuss over the flag, or slap magnetic yellow ribbons to our car bumpers (when it was fashionable to do so, of course… yellow ribbon magnets are so '05)?  I have serious doubts that Michelle Malkin actually believed her own bullshit when she led the crusade against the keffiyeh – mainly because s
he's a sluttish pundit from the Coulter school of blustery provocation – but I'll bet you dollars to donuts (ugh) that the thousands of outraged Americans who emailed Dunkin Donuts really meant it.

Much in the same way that many Americans hounded Barack Obama for not wearing a little American flag pin in the lapel of his suit jacket.

We love our symbols.

Remember that?  When Obama answered critics about the pin?  "[It] became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking
out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I
decided I won't wear that pin on my chest." 

My god what balls!

This is why I liked (yes I said liked) Obama – because he bucked the authority that valued symbols above that which they symbolize. 

"I'm going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make
this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my
patriotism," he said. 

As an extra note on this… I'll include Sean Hannity's stance on the pin: "Why do we wear pins? Because our country is under attack!"

The genius that is Sean Hannity, ladies and gentlemen.  Honestly… someone just shoot that fucker.  Really.  Exercise your 2nd Amendment right to blow a baseball-sized hole through that jabbering Neanderthal's face – clear the air of his stench.

I'll wrap this up… I'm going on a long time here.

What is authority but truth in jeans?  Business-casual truth.  Authority is the delusion that causes people to enforce their views on another.  Sharing opinions is fine – disagreement is fine… fuck, that's healthy… but authority isn't happy with differring opinions… it's not enough that we all have our own asshole… authority insists that we start sniffing.

It was the authority of the public that grated on Obama until he capitulated.  Well… that and FOX News' endless repetition of the Rev. Wright nonsense.  Obama broke.  He wears the pin now. 

It was the authority of those imbecilic assholes that got Dunkin Donuts to stop airing the keffiyeh commercial.  Well… that and Dunkin Donuts' cowardice over losing any potential customers.

All of these things are connected, don't you see?  That our petulant insistence that our way is the right way… that our Truth is truer than another's Truth that has created this flimsy world of pandering assholes… of Barack Obamas who shelve their opinions in order to please the stupid… of companies who perpetuate the cycle by not standing by their ad departments… who give the power to the loud and the stupid.

That's what authority is – it's the loudest idiot.  It's the harshest scream.

That's why I smiled at my aunt.  Because I get that.

The world is big enough for all of our ideas… as long as they all get to play.  But if you push… if you enforce… well then it's time to get serious.  If absurdity and jingoism and rigid mandates on propriety insist that we homogenize our thinking… then it's time to kill these ideas in the name of logic. We're American… we love our war metaphors… think of it like that.  Rationalism and fairness are under attack… we're being bombarded on all sides.  Shelled by those who would tell us what to wear, what to think… who to love, how to fuck.  Who can marry.  Where we pray.  If we pray. 

It's authority that attempts to legislate inequality against homosexuals.  It's authority that mandates that headscarves are evil.  It's authority that tells us that we must not criticize our President.  It is authority that tells us that Jesus Christ is the only lord and savior… and that we must convert in order to be saved.

Well, authority…

Fuck you…

I won't do what you tell me.


3 Responses to “Killing In the Name”

  1. Rae Says:

    Hi. I don’t know you and came here from a link on an post of all places.
    I just wanted to say that I greatly enjoyed reading this post which I have no idea why I read rather than just closing the tab after realizing I had stumbled on someone’s random blog. But then again, I am a masochist for exposing myself to other people’s opinion’s. I’m probably the only person on earth who would rather be proven wrong than right. This is because to be proven wrong (and to accept that you were wrong) is to realize and learn and (dare I say) become a better person from new knowledge. Perhaps I just like the child-like cheer of a new discovery. I hope you can understand then why I agree so strongly with your assessment of authority and your dislike for PC language. Both protect people from the threat of differing opinions and new ideas which I feel people should expose themselves to as often as possible.
    Don’t know why I bothered commenting like this. Perhaps it is because it is 6am, I’ve been up all night, and I’m feeling generous.
    Good day,

  2. Sean Says:

    Most of what I have to say has all ready been said by Rae. This was a great post–err.. rant? I agreed with most of it prior to reading it, but it’s always good to see I’m not alone on these things. I even agree with a lot of your thoughts on Obama.
    To thank you for the time you took to write an inspired article on your blog, I’ve taken the time to comment so you know people are out here reading. Amazing isn’t it?

  3. cactus Says:

    The inherent flaw in political correctness is just that … it’s political. It has nothing to do with people genuinely believing in the rights and values of others.
    You might be interested to know it’s not particular to the US – here in New Zealand we have similar issues.
    I didn’t understand what you meant by newswoman wearing the scarf, though. Agree that ‘hate courtre’ is a great phrase. If I can find a way to incorporate at my work I’m not going to hesitate to borrow it.
    But I don’t see how it is an example of PC in action. From my understanding of PC, surely it would have been ‘correct’ to commend that woman for wearing the scarf, rather than rebuke her?
    To my mind, the problem isn’t so much that there is false consensus that we have to be nice to each other. It’s that people feel they have a right to complain about any and everything AND that they have a right to be heard and accommodated.
    If this is a worldwide (read: Anglo-American) phenomenon, then we have turned into a world of whingers, who expect other people to solve our problems.

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