Camouflage

I’ve been seeing posts on Facebook and Twitter this weekend saying things like “look at these heroic redneck guys who are rescuing people! But next week, media will be back to calling them Nazis and KKK.” Tell you what: if anyone in “the media” is randomly accusing guys with pickup trucks of being Klan members or of being Nazis, then they should be dragged through a metaphorical mud pit.

But I haven’t seen that happen. I have seen guys holding swastika flags accused of being Nazis. I’ve seen people dressed in KKK uniform shirts accused of being KKK members.

This isn’t difficult. No sensible observer is calling you a Nazi or accusing you of being a Klan member just because you’re a white person (if someone does that, they’re a troll, plain and simple). However, if your cousin is nice to you, but he dresses in a white hood and goes to Klan meetings on the weekend, guess what. He’s not a nice person.

“Rural white gun owner” isn’t a hypothetical or mythical group for me. I’ve hung out at shooting ranges with these guys for years, and lived among the New England variety. I’ve participated on their gun forums.

Most of these guys are upstanding citizens, many of them are military veterans, and most of them would give you the shirts off their backs if you were in need, or work half a day helping you get your car out of the ditch.

I also know a sweet-looking grandpa who interrupted a funny story about his granddaughter to point out the ‘mud puppies’ who had just walked into the restaurant where we were having breakfast (a young couple with their biracial children, if you’re not up on racist nicknames for people).

He once told me how much he wanted to move back to a farm in Virginia, where he could set up a firing range where he could shoot “darkies.”

But if you look at the larger view, some 80-year-old guy’s racism and bigotry isn’t the hugest problem. He’ll be dead in another couple of years. As hideous as his attitudes are (and as much as they’ve been on display in the news recently), I think (and hope) that they’re gradually becoming less common, less accepted.

There’s another reason that I get angry at the reactionary attitudes of my rural compatriots: They give cover for people doing even worse things. They’re used as human camouflage by industries and corrupt politicians.

The heroic veteran hauling his flatboat from Louisiana to Houston to rescue people makes great fodder for propagandists. They haul out photos of Buford or Cleat pulling people out of the flood and say “look, these guys just want jobs and to go fishing, but your regulations are killing their way of life.” Of course, Mr. Propagandist drives a Beemer and lives in a high-rise luxury apartment or in a gated community. He likely has a degree from a nice college and wouldn’t hang out with Cleat for good money (though he might hire him as a local guide on his annual luxury fishing trip). This marketing guy might work for a giant oil refinery which is fighting regulations because following those regulations would shave 0.0012% of profit off their balance sheets. Or maybe he works for a developer who can build housing estates a lot cheaper if he can do it in an area with no building codes.

Then you end up with a city like Houston, with refineries plunked down in poor neighborhoods where the residents don’t have the political clout to get the pollution stopped. A city where there’s so little permeable land left that there’s no chance for rain to soak into the ground before running into the streets.

Think about it. Most regulations aren’t enacted out of some spiteful attempt to throttle profit. Most of them come about because we’ve seen cities burn to the ground, so we come up with fire codes. We’ve seen people poisoned by water systems so poorly designed that the designers should be up on manslaughter charges. We’ve proven that cars with seat belts and airbags save lives and reduce injury. We’ve looked back at the early days of the packaged food industry and decided that “no, we don’t want contaminated ketchup on the shelves” (read up on this period if you want a really hair-raising experience; you’ll never look at food regulations the same way again).

Yeah, there are regulations that are monumentally stupid. Regulations that exist as protectionism. We should clean those up. But if an expert in urban flooding tells you that building a city in such-and-such a way will lead to massive flooding (and has strong evidence to back up her claims) yet your city fathers ignore that and build a sprawling, concrete city that ends up flooding every time you get three inches of rain; well… Please don’t haul out poor heroic Cletus and his flatboat and expect me to buy your shtick. Clete has had his head turned around so far (from listening to talk radio all day long), he’ll likely go back home and vote in people who will continue to create the conditions for more flooding, more pollution, more industrial explosions. And he’ll be convinced that he’s protecting his freedoms by voting that way.

I saw a quote yesterday that went something like “Americans are great in a crisis, but bad on the long haul.” Avoiding more situations like Flint’s water, or Norfolk, Virginia’s sinking waterfront, or Houston’s sprawl takes planning, regulations, awareness, spending, and long-term determination. It takes a concerted effort to fight political corruption and make sure that we know what’s going on, and why the regulations are important.

Private industry isn’t going to do that. They’ve proven that plenty of times over the last 200 years.

Yeah, I know the old chestnut: “the scariest phrase in the world is ’I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” Funny joke. You know what? At its best, the government is us. It’s made up of citizens who want to fix things so they’re still working a century from now.

If we work really hard, find ways to mitigate the pollution, reduce greenhouse gases, stop the destruction of the oceans and the rain forests, then perhaps Clete’s great-grandkids will have clean lake water to fish in from their flatboat.

Unaccountable

Any group of people with power or authority, who are not held accountable in some way, will end up doing bad things.
 
If you see any group; cops, politicians, priests, judges, jailers, professors, doctors, dentists, business tycoons, psychologists, faith healers, karate instructors, whatever… anyone with authority over others… who is trying to ward off attempts to check on their behavior either is doing something unethical or are afraid they are.
 
It’s not as if people set out to do bad things, generally, but the first slip happens, and if there’s no blow-back there are fewer reasons to fight against that next slip. If there are rewards for slipping, then pretty soon you have institutionalized secrecy as a rule for group membership…
 

“I don’t need to march for any rights,” she said.

I spotted this post on Facebook today written by a Trump supporter in response to the women’s march, a woman with an Hispanic-sounding last name.

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I am not a victim. I don’t need to march for any rights. I have the same rights as anyone else. I’m not raising a victim either. So let’s call today’s activities what they really are, an anti Trump rally for prochoice people. What a bunch of bullies and so much hate speech (scarlet johansen verbally attacking a woman – Ivanka Trump and Madonna talking of her fantasies to blow up OUR White House). I don’t want my daughter looking up to any of those nasty women.

Anyone involved in this farce, I am disappointed in you for being a part of such hypocrisy. You are not victims. I would have so much more respect for you if you just called it ‘Women marching against Trump in fear of losing (abortion) choice.’ I stand behind your right to march for that. Just be honest about what you’re doing.

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I want to discuss this point-by-point, so I’m including the entire thing. I’m also going to write about some things that are at least implied by her profile.

Point one: A woman wrote this. Women only slightly older than I am have told me about rights they only gained within our lifetimes. She seems to assume that, because she has these rights now, that she’ll always have them. Many, many, many women and men have fought for over 200 years to get to the point where she can feel confident that she has the same rights as the men around her. I don’t think it’s overstating the case to say that she has these rights in part because ‘nasty women’ stood up to social pressure to fight for them.

Point two: A person with a minority last name, Hispanic in origin, wrote this. There are American citizens of Hispanic descent in the US today who face daily discrimination, including being subject to unequal policing and discrimination in the workplace. She lives in an urban area in North Carolina, so it’s possible she herself doesn’t see such discrimination, but I suspect that it would be an eye-opening experience for her to drive through some of the states along the Mexican border. Even in North Carolina, though, it’s probably only her economic status that’s shielding her. I hear people casually referring to Hispanic folks with really ugly racist terms, and assuming/implying that “the Mexicans” are only capable of being roofers, landscapers, or house maids. I wonder if she’d be comfortable being addressed with any of those terms, or lumped into those assumed limits.

Point three:I am not a victim” she says. That’s great. I’m glad that she feels safe in her life. I’d never wish any ill to her. But many of our fellow citizens are not so safe. I am able to see that just because I’m not personally being victimized, the incoming administration is putting many more of those citizens into precarious situations or outright danger.

Point four:I don’t need to march for any rights.” Nice. Apparently she doesn’t have the slightest sense of gratitude for everyone who has marched and fought for those rights.

Point five:let’s call today’s activities what they really are, an anti Trump rally for prochoice people.” I can’t call the marches that, because it would vastly understate the reasons I’ve seen my friends list for why they marched.

  1. Yes, some are pro-choice, but not all.
  2. Yes, nearly all the marchers are anti-Trump, but that wasn’t exactly a hidden motivation.
  3. I’ve seen people who are also marching against the incoming vice president and Trump’s choices for his cabinet and other administration posts; let’s not pretend Trump is the marchers’ only concern
  4. I’ve seen people marching in support of LGBT rights, which they see as being at risk with the new administration
  5. I’ve seen people marching in support of minority & immigrant rights
  6. I suspect the list is a lot longer than this.

Point six:What a bunch of bullies” The dictionary definition of ‘bully’ is: A person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people. It’s essentially impossible for someone out of power to bully a person in power. I’ll ding her here for poor word choice at a minimum. Given the tone of the rest of the post, though, I would prefer to list this as a biased word choice. People are often cruel, and if the speakers were, in fact, being cruel, then I wouldn’t support that. If they were, rather, speaking emotionally and emphatically, then I totally support that.

Point seven:I don’t want my daughter looking up to any of those nasty women.” That’s fine. I hope that she models really good behavior for her daughter. I’d suggest she look carefully at her Facebook posts to see if she’s doing so. I’m also really curious as to whether she thinks Trump’s behavior is a good model for her offspring. Would she really feel comfortable sending her daughter out on a date with a young man who spoke about women the way Trump does? I think she’s exhibiting a double standard by defending Trump, but accusing the speakers at the march as being nasty.

Point eight:You are not victims.” How can she know that? Her assumption — that everyone at those marches is as safe in their lives as she is in hers — goes beyond simple privilege into territory I find offensive. She is invalidating the concerns of millions of other Americans just because those concerns aren’t hers. Outrageous.

Point nine: In her second paragraph, she accuses the march of being a farce, and the marchers of being hypocrites. To use the word “farce” to describe hundreds of thousands of people taking (in many cases) days out of their lives to express outrage and concern about a long list of political and social issues is just plain slander. It makes me doubt her claim that she would stand behind the right to march against Trump and for reproductive rights. She reinforces my doubt with her accusation of hypocrisy, because, again, the marchers have worked really hard to list their concerns on social media, on the signs they carried, and in innumerable blog posts, speeches, and interviews over the last two months. I see no hidden agendas, no hypocrisy.

Final point: I saved this for the last, because it would have been redundant to make it for each point above. To assume that — because you have a right — you will always have that right, is to ignore history and ignore all the people who fought and sometimes died for these rights. Rights, once gained, need to be actively protected for many years, and jealously guarded from attempts to diminish them.

To return to the subject line of this post… Why are people marching? People are marching to keep and extend the rights that this woman takes so much for granted.

Marcher in New York City on Jan. 21, 2017. Photo by Robert Stribley, used with permission.
Marcher in New York City on Jan. 21, 2017. Photo by Robert Stribley, used with permission.