Friday, March 28, 2008

The Sorry State Of The Black And White Union

Like your ailing rich Aunt Mabel the Irish language has made a career out of dying while never mustering enough decency to actually cease to be spoken, a sine qua non, you would agree, of language death. This never-ending death-watch has inevitably drawn many well-meaning souls - I am numbered among them - to the cause of restoring such a beautiful and ancient tongue to its former glory - and glory indeed it was. Cuideachd Ghaedhilge Uladh (The Ulster Gaelic Society) was founded by Belfast Presbyterians in 1830, yes, 1830, to accomplish this purpose. Some 60 plus years later Conradh na Gaeilge (The Gaelic League) was established and what is called An Athbheochain (The Revival) was up and running. In 1922 the brand new nationalist Government declared the restoration of Irish a fundamental principal of what is now the Republic of Ireland, still the only free and independent Celtic state in the world.

A further eighty six years have flown by. The Last Post and Reveille have been bugled for the language many times over yet it lives on, tenaciously dying. Organizations, foundations, authorities, agencies, branches, committees and every other organ of social combination known to man have formed, flourished and dissolved or limped on well beyond their use-by date. Laws have been passed, amended, repealed and reinstated. Generations of rabid enthusiasts (me again!) and tepid sympathizers have budded, bloomed and withered. Seminars, conferences, colloquia and symposia, both sacred and profane, have gathered, discoursed and dispersed. Countless school children have puzzled over irregular verbs, memorized conditional tenses, guessed at the inflection of nouns and scattered initial mutations about with the profligacy of the terminally mystified. Vast quantities of public treasure and private energies have been expended.

To what avail? If endless talk, feverish endeavor and decades long government support worked, Irish would long have regained its place as the day-to-day speech of the people. This, it is now clear, will never happen.

And so as I viewed clips of Tavis Smiley's State of the Black Union held last February in New Orleans I was overtaken by a fatigue as dreary as it was familiar. Here was a huge hall packed with Gaeilgeoirí (Irish language enthusiasts) like myself only they had donned new skins and more vivacious personalities and instead of banging on eternally about Ceist na Teangan (the language question) they were yammering on incessantly about the Race Issue! On stage were the Great and the Good of the Movement - Dick Gregory, Cornell West, Julia Hare, Louis Farrakhan - all with their own particular analysis long since set in stone. They spoke with eloquence and passion and enunciated obvious truths. This was their life's work, the cause by which they measured the rising and setting of suns. They were fascinating, engaging and sometimes mordantly witty. And, like so many African-Americans, vivid with life. Anger, sorrow, laughter, rage, hatred, amusement, irritation and love kaleidoscoped throughout the hall.

Yet for all that the overall tone was shrill. The mood veered between an intense unfocused disaffection and a brooding desire for both personal and communal vindication. The platform party, seated in comfortable armchairs and totally at their ease, were by way of being Keepers of the Sacred Flame which burned not to commemorate the terrible sufferings of the past but rather to re-kindle the sense of outrage and commitment to racial identity which those sufferings naturally and justifiably gave birth to. The battles of long ago were still being fought by people desperate to believe that the building was surrounded by George Wallace and Strom Thurmond in their pomp at the head of a yowling multitude of bloodthirsty crackers complete with hown' dawgs, burning crosses and lengths of sturdy hemp. There was, in a word, something willful about it all. And aimless.

What could come of all this pontificating, air-punching and breast-beating? The general purpose seems to be to get everyone and anyone riled up. The rileder up, the better. The raising of hackles was the solemn duty of anyone within a bull’s bellow of the microphone. The name itself, The State of the Black Union, is as idiotic as it is pretentious. But even if we "suspend disbelief" and take it as a kind of accounting of how things stand with African Americans from one year to the next there is no profit and loss sheet presented as we would expect. The event is one long bellyache. To be black is to be beaten down from out the womb, woefully educated, chronically unemployed, personally persecuted, professionally thwarted, jailed out of pure spite, have cocaine thrust up your nose at every turn of the road and be forever left cabless in New York. Yet, strangely, every one in the audience is living testimony to the robust unreality of this Hieronymous Bosch scenario while a goodly moiety of the 'living legends' on stage are multi-millionaires wallowing in their racial misery all the way to the bank.

And the cause of all this wretchedness? Well they don't say it's 'Whitey' anymore. That's so Malcolm X. If a finger is directly pointed at a specific villain it is, it has to be 'George W. Bush'. I use quotes to distinguish this scheming racist tyrant - whose sole purpose is to impoverish every working stiff in America and return blacks, who are beyond impoverishment, to bondage - from the current resident of the White House who, by an unfortunate and confusing coincidence happens to have exactly the same name. In fact it is the only thing the two Dubyas have in common.

'George W.' cannot perform his vile herculean labors alone of course. He is enabled by 'the Big Corporations' which develop drugs to cure people of disease and produce and refine oil to enable the Gross National Product to burgeon and Mom to drive to the Mall to buy little Susie a doll for her birthday. This is just a cover of course for the real work of Corporate Executives viz. to impoverish every working stiff in America and return blacks, who are beyond impoverishment, to bondage. Oh yes and destroy the delicate ecological balance of the earth thereby wiping out the endangered Yellow Bearded Colorado Snow Snail as well as ending all human existence. They will then retire to a planet of pristine purity, heretofore cunningly concealed and utterly devoid of working stiffs and blacks, where they will live a life of sybaritic ease secula seculorum.

As you can imagine this whole business is as paternalistic as a Victorian papa lecturing his daughters on the evils of the female suffrage. Whatever topic the speakers expounded upon they each ended up sounding like a fanatical high school coach giving a locker room pep talk to a reluctant team of one-legged footballers who were selected to prove that if the coach inculcated in them a sufficiently inflamed sense of grievance about their misfortune they could go out and win the State Championship for Martyrdom High.

Between litanies of past injuries ranging from the slight to the atrocious and boilerplate attacks on 'The Man' it was obvious that even the revered icons on the stage had very divergent views on a whole array of issues that affect everyday life. The audience was equally diverse. Single mothers, old ladies on welfare, regular lunch-pail guys, stony faced fanatics rubbed shoulders with prosperous businesspersons who had never raised a shovel or a mop in anger and Ivy League types who could teach Obama a thing or two about elegance and sophistication. Their reactions to the rhetoric from on high also varied greatly. Some folk frequently shouted, applauded vigorously and long, rose to their feet in approbation while at the same time others shook their heads, frowned or sat resolutely with their arms folded. Yet there they were all willing themselves to feel the crack of Massa’s 19th century rawhide whip on their pampered 21st century flesh.

This stultifying boondoggle is needless and corrosive. It also achieves absolutely nothing. It will continue to do so. Not a single African American in genuine need will benefit. The historic wrongs have been righted. Needed legislation has long been passed. European Americans have acknowledged and denounced over and over again the injustice of slavery which even in its hey-day many of their ancestors deplored and fought to eradicate and from which many did not benefit in any way. Since the Sixties white racism has been ruthlessly suppressed by force of law and the highest moral sanctions of society.

All organs of government at every level as well as private agencies, businesses, universities, corporations, foundations, clubs, neighborhoods, families and individuals have comprehensively mandated, supported, encouraged, funded and put into practice every conceivable program, scheme, plan, proposition, proposal and design that the human mind and heart can draft, dream up, envisage, imagine, cobble together, divine and structure in order to make good on the past and provide an opportunity for all persons of color to make a real go of their lives.

Social engineering on a vast and hitherto unthinkable scale in a free democratic society has been undertaken to bring this about. Grossly unfair racial quotas have been both mandated and self-imposed in every viable arena both public and private. Forcible busing of school children has been ordained from on high, a tactic worthy of the “great engineer of souls” himself, Joseph Stalin. Draconian speech codes have become the order of the day. A Political Correctness mania, in effect socially monitored self-censorship, has fundamentally curtailed the freedom of speech and action of all but the congenitally contrarian. Self-selected and officially appointed grievance invigilators have made life a misery in myriad petty ways for countless millions of hardworking, decent, law-abiding white men and women of good will.

As the genuine grounds for complaint have given way to a level playing field and transparent regulations and then to a stacked deck and loaded dice a great horde of hucksters, charlatans, confidence tricksters, scam merchants, cynical opportunists and run of the mill chancers – not to mention the unlovely brood of grievance industry lawyers - have been conjured into existence to keep the good times rolling. And all this time veritable Grand Canyons of money – which as we know doesn’t grow on trees but is created by the sweat of brow and brain - was first invested, then merely expended and eventually and for many years plain squandered originally in pursuit of a noble dream but now just because to turn the gushing spigot back a bare notch would require the combined political courage and moral rectitude – not to mention the personal guts - of all the Founding Fathers on their best day.

Take a look at our present supply of political leaders, Left, Right and all points between. Neither severally nor in the aggregate could they muster as much honor and courage as still reside untapped in George Washington’s wooden dentures.

Yet turn that spigot we must and not just because of the rampant corruption of the process nor for the very sound reason that it isn’t delivering on the bright early hopes we all shared. This approach has re-indentured entire socio-economic echelons of the black population. The projects are the new plantations, fatherless households the new Uncle Tom’s cabins, the swarms of social workers, public defenders and judges the new overseers, gatherings such as Travis Smiley’s the new auction blocks and all – I mean all - Democratic party grandees of every shade and hue the new Massas.

Thinkers, commentators, even bloggers can be the new John Browns but this Second Emancipation needs a Second Lincoln, one who like the original will free those in bondage not simply for their sake alone but for the sake of this great Union so that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall once again thrive in what is still the freest nation on this earth.

1 comment:

christmasghost said...

Easy for you to say........