Uh…ur doin’ it rong.

Following slowly, and likely unsteadily, on the heels of a few unknown and TV investigatorsnearly-year-old-experiments, everyone’s favorite-to-loathe “drink-soaked former-Trotskyist poinjay”, Hitch, has himself water-boarded.

So, while still completely unoriginal, this time Hitch is at least on the “right” side, and by that I mean the “side that is somewhat opposed to torture.”

That gets him no points with me. First, these supposedly anti-torture demonstrations do much to normalize the practice and make it looks as safe and normal as anything on ‘Fear Factor.”

Second, he couldn’t really do anything to make it all up at this point. This is the same moron who has steadfastly supported the many lies and illegalities of the Bush administration for the last eight years largely on the grounds that these policies, however duplicitous, support and are supported by his deeply racist worldview.

His attempt to take the moral high ground on this issue is repulsive, as his defense of these insane wars and the “clash of civilizations” logic they are rooted in has helped pave the way for secret prisons, torture, shock-and-awe and, yes water-boarding. It seems dishonest. I was hoping he’d finish up the article with a bit about how he tried it and how its not that bad.

Sure, he’d still be lying, but at least he wouldn’t be pretending that the policies hess been advocating for most of the last decade have nothing to do with the horrors he’s now condeming.

But he’s Chrisoher Hitchens; what else did you possibly expect?

Did I mention that he thinks “women aren’t funny?” Reading that essay the first time was like being forced to entertain an aging, rude and hard-of-hearing male relative at an outdoor wedding. I think the face I made while perusing the article must be somewhat like the ones Hitch encounters on women in the real world. Ones that, via the magic of narcissism and confirmation bias, have sadly led him to develop this unfortunate “women aren’t funny” thesis in the first place.

What I’m trying to say is that Htich and I clearly have different ideas of what makes funny.

Hitchens honestly seems to think this latest contribution to Vanity Fair is a probing look into America’s conflicted soul. Whereas the idea itself makes me laugh. “Christopher Hitchens Gets Water-boarded”. Ha! Seriously!

And his constant references to “the enemy” and descriptions of manly heroic soldiers are also a bit giggle- inducing, if they weren’t worrisome; though it is a bit amusing that he is concerned about this one isolated instance of self-torture causing neurological damage.

*UPDATED* to add: I actually find neither alcoholism nor water-boarding funny as general topics. Specifically, I don’t recommend that you watch any of the water-boarding videos all the way through if you are sensitive, as I am. I also don’t recommend that you watch clips of either Hitchens or Amy Winehouse performing live, as these are almost universally sad if they are recent.

The idea of Christopher Hitchens water-boarding himself still makes me laugh, though. I stand by that.

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Round Two! Ding!

May 14, 2008

What *will* they think of next?

If the MSM and the Blog-stream media are to be believed, Hillary Clinton as potential president is toast, or very close to it. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the inner workings of the Democratic Party, nor do I care to underestimate Clinton’s desire to win and/or willingness to resort to technocratic fiat to make her thing happen.

But if it is true, if she is out, that means the fun is REALLY about to start. And by “fun”, I mean “steaming pile of racist horseshit”.

Not that the Clinton camp has thus far avoided racist innuendo, insult and implication. Hardly. But if Barak Obama is crowned presumptive nominee, I think we can expect to see the matter escalate to an entirely new, amazing, level of hideousness.

Because, in a way, Obama is perfect. He’s a perfect avatar for both competing strands of emergent American racism; both naive liberal color-blind racism and conservative, Islamophobic, strategically color-blind racism find a near-exact answer in Obama’s personal and political history.

Thats not entirely amazing; after all, color-blind racism is color-blind racism. They’re not so different. But it is incredible how well-suited Obama is to playing both the hero’s role for the liberals and the worst enemy of conservatives.

For blind liberals, including Obama himself, Obama represents “Hope” and “Change.” It sounds vague, but in fact, its very specific. Specifically, a quick perusal of Obama’s website makes it clear what isn’t  what isn’t expected to change: reform to create universal health care and education, a new, just, criminal justice system, investment in our crumbling infrastructure, or a reversal of the U.S.’s heretofore imperialist foreign policy.

Instead, its a hope that things have already changed, and in a specific way; Obama, as his supporters contend, “embodies” change. His mixed-race status, his “articulate” personae, his personal history that simultaneously embodies blackness but avoids a connection to the history of Black slavery in the U.S.– it all represents transcendence of DuBois’ famous “color-line.” A new post-race era of American life, and a confirmation of the progressive power of waiting around for things to improve.

Meanwhile, for conservatives, Obama manages to embody a holy trinity of enemies-under-the-bed; secret socialism, underground “Islamism” and overt (is there any other kind?) Blackness. They can use his Blackness while avoiding it–drawing (more-or-less) implicitly on anti-Black racism by attacking him for his secret political radicalism and covert association with Islam.

But Obama is neither what liberals hope for, nor what conservatives fear. He’s certainly no socialist. He’s a fairly secular Christian with an absentee dad who was a secular Muslim. At the same time, his Blackness does nothing to ameliorate the increasing social inequalities faced by working class Black people in America, even as it reflects the changing configuration of race and class politics in the U.S.

I worry that this deadly confluence of color-blindness will leave liberals unprepared to mount a response to racist right-wing attacks on an general election campaign for Obama. I worry that we’re about to find out how deep race and racism really runs in America. I worry I’m right.

I don’t wanna watch.

Hope in Days of Silence

April 30, 2008

On this day in 1939, the New York’s World Fair opened with the theme “The World of Tomorrow.” The fair was attended by tens of millions, and was seen as a beacon of hope for internationalism, peace, prosperity and progress.

On this day in history, six years later, Adolf Hitler shot himself in the head in a Berlin bunker, pushing one of the most violent, nastily nationalist periods of history towards closure.

Which might seem like a depressing start to our morning in blog land, yes. But to me its not; its a reminder that history and social life can change very fast and that “the world of tomorrow “can be a very different one than the world of today, in ways that seem totally improbable and unlikely.

Today, I’m specifically holding out hope that our world of tomorrow will be one in which Black American men have no reason to fear random death-by-firing-squad at the hands of “peace” officers, and for a world in which eighth-graders have no reason to fear violent asassinations delivered by their homophobic classmates.

I find it encouraging that I am not the only one who hopes for these things. It appears that 5,000 schools had participation in this years Day of Silence aimed at drawing attention to the harassment and abuse of LGBTQQ students and in honor of Lawrence King.

And while the rally I recently attended in protest of the legal whitewash of Sean Bell’s murder (incidentally, not at all far from the site of the 1939 fair), was disappointingly small, I find it encouraging that this injustice isn’t going unnoticed–not in New York City classrooms, not in discussions at work, not in activist circles and, despite what NPR thinks, not in communities affected by police brutality.

Two reactions to the trial made me hopeful, each for different reasons:

1) Cynthia McKinney’s statement on the verdict does a great job putting Sean Bell’s murder in context, but also linked it to a call for all of us to imagine something different, and better.

2) I heard an announcement from the Queer Justice League of New York City on the radio yesterday, making connections between police harassment of queer people and police violence in communities of color. I looked up their website, and while I really know nothing about this organization, except that they have an awesome name, that also gave me hope.

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Really, its mostly the name that gives me hope. Like this postcard of the 1939 Fair’s Lagoon of Nations, the fantastical super-hero ring of “Queer Justice League” reminds me of the sometimes secret, sometimes shame-faced connections between a hopeful left-wing politics and the realm of utopia, imagination, and fantasy.

Because, of course, behind all my emphasis on hope this morning lies the stark reality that the present moment gives us little to hang our hope hats on. The movements for Black Liberation, Queer Liberation, Women’s Liberations and Workers’ Liberation are at low tide, to put it mildly. The US economy is in a world of shit, and empty rhetorical cover for a right-wing neoliberal agenda is what passes for a politics of “change” around here these days.

That’s why hope requires a different, more imaginative, engagement with the fourth dimension. I’ve previously alluded to the significance of reflection on the past and past hopes. But maintaining–building–hope, much less any communities or movements rooted in it, requires imagining, often detailed imagining of not only the past and the present, but the future as well.

This is what left-wing activists, queer communities and sci-fi geeks sometimes share–imagining a wholly different kind of economy, and/or new and liberating configurations of ‘family’, and sometimes all of the above on a yet-undiscovered planet.

Doing that can make you unpopular, yes. Perhaps it is slightly insane. And uncool. But, I am compelled to argue, its nowhere near as insane and uncool as accepting a total lack of alternatives.