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Current Comedy Notes, 4/15/09: Bamboozled

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First let me admit that though I was briefly raised by a black family as a child, I am not now nor never have been a black man.  According to some that means I am not entitled to opinions on racial issues in this country. But personally I am a huge fan of the Spike Lee film, Bamboozled.

In the film, a black man gets convinced to sell out his ethnicity to initial lavish success, and in the course of two hours and fifteen minutes, everything he cares about, including his life itself, is destroyed. At the same time, Lee surveys Black music and fashion, skewers the media with an insider’s knowing, shows a documentarian’s eye for fascinating fetishistically photographed Jim Crow memorabilia; and, as usual, dazzles us with audacious cinematography, intense naturalistic dialogue and performances, and most importantly, addresses numerous angles on the decidedly American issue of race.

Not to say that racial diversity isn’t right up there with love of god and love of country among the leading murderers and oppressors throughout history the world over; but here in the US of A, we have our own special brand, our own personal history, our marriage of Black and White written in words of blood.

In the 1650s when Virginia-based Englishmen were abandoning the whole class-based indentured servant muck-up they had erroneously  imported with them from England in favor of an All-American flavor of xenophobic racial slavery, they set a tone for Americans, using highfalutin language to justify bloody deeds, couching their self-interest in tones of beneficence, and disguising bestial hatreds as mere privilege, or a government - given right to be an arrogant jerk.

Somehow, even though the White population soon came to train their children to hate the Black population, they married themselves to depending on the blacks’ backs for their easy wealth and blacks’ forced privations for their sense of superiority.

Over the last 360 years, America has gotten really good at ignoring the evidence of that kind of thing, but this week’s news cycle brings yet another case of wondering whether America can ever grow out of this savagery, and further wondering if the current administration isn’t shockingly a part of continuing the problem instead of the apparent solution Obama was once marketed to be. A mix of Black and White, yet neither in one sense, yet Black enough in another to undo all the Whiteness that had shamed our history. Obama seemed to be all things to all people. But as it has been frequently noted, the only way to say you are going to satisfy all the people is by lying to some of them and betraying others. You can’t be all things to all people. Some simply want to hate somebody’s guts.

The same week we learn of the US government aiding a Nazi avoid incarceration for prison camp war crimes, we also learn of Obama’s choice to boycott the UN Racism Conference in support of our partner in crime, Israel. It’s a move that was far more audaciously Bush-like than one would’ve thought possible, even after Obama’s started his slow slide towards reversing his reversal of Bush torture policies and/or the endless war in general.

It was Obama betraying us on race. Just the thought of that seemed too much to take, because that’s what got him elected. Then, as if to dash any hope many Americans had of actually enjoying a just country on the 16th Bush, er, I mean Obama issued immunity to Bush era Justice Department officials for their roles in creating a US that openly tortures. Not just in lynching mobs of the good old days, or cadres of cops out of sight of cell phones. Alberto Gonzales tortured our Constitution; Douglas Feith tortured civility; John Yoo tortured logic; and they’re all getting away with it. And, now that the pretenses are off, Obama’s beginning to torture my patience.

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We’ve been bamboozled. Those who thought they were electing the Black man got the White half too and once again Whitey is screwing us. In comparison, take for example, David Patterson. In comparison to me that is, and, now I guess to Obama too, David Patterson is now and always has been a Black man. Having suffered prejudice, he cares about the suffering of those oppressed by unjust laws. That is why Patterson is joining the gay day parade to get same sex marriages in his state. It’s been clear with Obama for quite awhile that he was willing tolerate an America with second class citizens, so long as they stay in the back of the bus. Does this mean Patterson is Blacker than Obama? Maybe not, but in this case it’s the blind guy who sees beyond the differences and to the equality.

Over on the right, Whitey is busy bamboozling his own self. Tax Day Tea Parties get front page news coverage while the anti-war protests of equal or larger sizes got buried somewhere on page “why-bother.” Claiming patriotism in hating the country and demanding selfish rights, the teabaggers, who so justly earned Paul Begala’s scorn on Tax Day use their hate-speak to begin the process of brainwashing people to vote for their side in the next electoral chess match.

Meanwhile they’re propelling waves of mass shootings (more than 50 dead in 8 recent shootings) and earned an investigation by Napolitano’s Homeland Security. The Right believes they are doing their patriotic duty in curbing some wild liberal by condemning Obama’s every maneuver, and hate groups have increased 34%. These are the kinds of hypocrites who are so ethically bankrupted; those who once insisted on Bush’s right to wage war now sneer at Obama’s efforts.

From over here on the Left, however, it looks like Obama is working very, very well at advancing their interests. White people on the Left have looked to outspoken black politicians in hopes they can actually accomplish something progressive, since they must’ve overcome such a great deal to get elected in the first place. Combine that with a flashy sense of stage presence, and White liberals expect action from all that liberation theology rhetoric.

That’s why they’ve fetishized firebrands like King and X, embraced and abandoned Jackson and Sharpton as their brands went sour, and bought Obama in a big, big way. It’s a reverse prejudice but still a prejudgment. And in Obama’s case looking like a wrong. The Right get sold he’s not White enough and so they get to hate him. They’ve been hating the Black man for a long time. The Left is starting to see he’s not nearly as Black as we thought we bought. But both sides are being bamboozled.

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For now it seems like it’s David Patterson who sees the issue of prejudice clearly. Certainly this week, he left Obama in the dark.

--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of Arizona.  

 

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http://www.mikelweisser.org/
Recently a Democratic candidate for Arizona's new Congressional District 4, Mikel Weisser has been challenging the right and raising a ruckus since the 1980s. Born the son of a nightclub singer, Mikel Weisser watched anti-war hippies getting beaten (more...)
 

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