"And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton..." - Cliven Bundy
"Slavery is such an ugly word..." - Stuart Best
, Murphy Brown
, from his special interest position paper
Perhaps, when he was growing up in the Nevada desert back in the 50's,
Cliven Bundy had always dreamed about being a cowboy. And, to look at
him now, with his Bushian pretensions and personal fortune he's made in
the cattle business, it would seem as if he'd succeeded in realizing his
boyhood dream. But between then and now, something very wrong happened
and Cliven Bundy became not so much a cowboy but a pirate.
It would seem
that Bundy doesn't have a legal leg to stand on. By an Executive Order, the right wing's patron saint, Ronald Reagan, indefinitely extended grazing fees
that would include Bundy. The Nevada state constitution by which Bundy swears in defiance of the US Constitutions explicitly states
that federal law trumps all others, including the Nevada state
constitution. Cliven Bundy is a moocher, plain and simple. That's hardly
up for debate.
And you would think the government, which is
owed $1.2 million in grazing fees going back to 1993, would do more than
make a half-assed, half-hearted attempt to confiscate a small
percentage of his cattle only to forget that possession is eight tenths
of the law and to allow right wing militias to literally steal back
Bundy's cattle right from under their noses.
But this byline
today isn't concerned about Bundy being a tax-dodging moocher but about
his attitude toward those whom he claims are
moochers: African Americans. And at the heart of this byline is a question that's always plagued me: Why are we so shocked, shocked
to find racism in our midst
when it rears its white, pointy head?
It wasn't too long ago when, to our enduring horror, we'd heard the FAMiLY LEADER preamble
had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child
born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother
and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby
born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.
You may remember that was signed in 2011 by Michele Bachmann and Rick
Santorum. This would be the same Republican Party that had refused, in
20 instances, to co-sign statements of support for a 2005 bill
that formally apologized to lynching victims and their families and
initially refused to assemble for a roll call vote so a quorum couldn't
This is the same party, incidentally, that (save for Tom Tancredo) refused to field their candidates
for a debate hosted by the NAACP at their annual convention in 2007.
There were eight no-shows out of nine. The Democrats, on the other hand,
fielded all theirs.
Long before Cliven Bundy rode out of
the digital sunset into our living rooms, racists and other assorted
bigots have been crawling out of the woodwork like termites from a
freshly fumigated house. We were horrified beyond measure when we
learned that Paula Deen and her brother Bubba used the "N" word and
pulled off a plantation-themed wedding. We were horrified beyond measure
when John Rocker inveighed against people of color in the New York
subway in the 90's. We were horrified beyond measure when Michael
Richards, in an inexplicable racist tirade, screamed the "N" word over
and over again during a night club routine.
So why are we so
shocked beyond measure when Cliven Bundy says that "negroes" ought to be
enslaved again picking cotton so they can stop sponging off the tax
paid by guys like Bundy and fellow Mormon tax dodger Mitt Romney?
"Don't blame me. I've been dead since 1968."
The backlash from Bundy's astoundingly racist invective, extreme even
by establishment Republican standards, was predictable. It goes without
saying the distancing from the right is rooted not so much as actual,
legitimate outrage as it is concerns over incumbency and ratings. It
certainly didn't get any better when Bundy doddered into CNN's trap yesterday afternoon alternately holding a boot and a dead calf and blaming the dead Rev. King
and KKK-splainin' the slain civil rights leader did not do a good
enough job in stopping people from gittin' all riled up an' uppity-like
when privileged white racists like Bundy call for the return of cotton
But, as we've
seen time and again when one or another strays like a Bundy cow, when
the right wing withers and shrinks from someone who made a particularly
toxic statement, it's rarely if ever because the message was so
offensive: It's because they made it so damned obvious and, so close to a midterm...
...the GOP can't afford that
, considering how swimmingly their women
outreach campaign is going (let's not forget that one of Bundy's fine
"patriots" in his Mouse That Roared army, a former Arizona sheriff,
proudly admitted on national TV as having considered using women as human shields
But this strain of selfish racism is far from rare, existing only in sparse pockets here and there in Appalachia and the Midwest.
It's always been infesting our country, presenting symptoms to the body
politic and social that are allowed to remain invisible because, like
the SCOTUS, we'd like to pretend racism no longer exists. Many liberals,
ordinarily more enlightened and educated people, actually thought we'd
ushered in a golden (or less white) new age of post-racism just because
we elected our first African American Chief Executive.
We blithely ignored the fact that gun sales skyrocketed after both
elections and the paranoid right wing is still hysterical about Obama
taking their tax dollars to feed his fellow "negroes" and their precious
guns that 2nd Amendment gun-clutchers love more than the GOP does
children or veterans. We were shocked beyond measure when Republicans
began exchanging emails showing watermelon patches in front of the White
House and Tea Bagger signs at rallies depicting the President as a
monkey or an African witch doctor.
What happened? We were supposed to be post-racial!
Blithely, we chose to forget that 55,000,000 still voted against Barack
Obama in 2008 and even more in 2012. I'm not saying every McCain or
Romney voter was a racist but you can bet they were in full force at the
polls during those two nights.
Let's hope Bundy doesn't parlay this into a Duck Dynasty spin-off
or that a literary agent will fling his body on his doorstep hoping to sign him
to a Christine O'Donnell ghost-written book destined to sell in the
hundreds. But let's stop pretending racism doesn't exist and, like Charlie Brown, always being astonished when the football of equality is snatched from under our foot.