THE DIVINE RIGHT
The old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” has certainly seemed to be in operation for the first nearly decade and a half of this new millennium, especially in regard to the political landscape which, since the 2010 mid-term elections, has taken on the nightmarish distortions of a Dali painting.
Yes, it’s “politics,” of course, but by any standard available within the past three generations, the state of our nation has never been in a more precarious–in fact, pathological–position, with the country, not to mention the halls of government themselves, held hostage by a cast of characters more appropriate to the theater of the absurd. For instance, who would’ve ever cast a tiny knot of privileged, obscenely wealthy American business men accustomed to “quiet rooms” as the collective (and, in this case, literal) Daddy Warbucks for the rowdy, red-necked, hair-trigger, anti-everything domestic terrorists of the Tea Party?
Likely there are many “causes”: as always there’s greed and lust for power along with the all-too-familiar chronic disparities in wealth, social status, language, cultures, political philosophy and religion but, as the dust from the recent Tea Party-engineered government shut-down settles, none of these, taken separately or together, seem to adequately account for what now we can all clearly see: The wild-eyed rogue “elephant in the room” which, fueled by some kind of full-bore, self-destructive paranoia, is savagely trampling what remains of the venerable “Grand Old Party"--if harm is being done to the rest of the nation, it’s just tragic collateral damage. It seems so inexplicable, so irrational, unless, perhaps, we juxtapose these two simple facts: 1) In 2008, Barack Obama became the first black president of the United States of America. 2) According to the U.S.Census Bureau, by the middle of this century the percentage of white citizens in America will have dropped from 85% in 1960 to 43% and will continue to diminish as we approach 2100. In spite of the datum that suggests that the right wing may find “facts,” in general, to be anathema, it begs credulity to believe that over the past several decades, at least some powerful arch-conservatives have not noted, perhaps acknowledged and even been led to act upon the realities represented by those two very particular facts.
What might these new realities mean to certain older, white, ultra-conservative, multi-billionaire Americans who have likely lived their lives in the tradition of several generations of their wealthy families? In fact, those families themselves are probably rooted in the ancient histories of Europe wherein for centuries the white race–for reasons far more circumstantial than biological, as it turns out–has ruled by "Divine Right of Kings" for the better part of the last two millennia, exercising its undeniable, self-proclaimed-God-given dominion over western civilization and, eventually,the rest of the planet as well. The Elizabethan period’s Great Chain of Being may have placed the males of this race just a “little lower than the angels,” but for centuries since they have claimed the indisputable apex of the earthly hierarchy, by "virtue" of their power convincing themselves and everyone else that anything otherwise would be unnatural. The assumed superiority of the white race, in general, and white men specifically, has been bred into its bones as fact, one that has come to seem as obvious and irrefutable as the sun rising in the morning, reflecting not only the way things are but should be. Thus myth has been combined with misused power to craft a monumental lie, the one that, to one extent or another we all–white, red, black, brown, yellow–have believed and–in the dark recesses of our collective consciousness–still do, in spite of our ‘knowing better’: that being white is inherently superior. This lie is so ingrained that, though there are divisions–cruel ones–within the hierarchy of the white race itself–wealth, status, class, breeding, bloodlines and gender all serving to determine one’s position within it–even the least of the its members have always known that, however tawdry and sordid their lives may be, at least they are not black.
But now, especially in the light of their own ethnic diminution, with the rising tide of the “Brown” people coupled with the election of a Black man–not once but twice–to the most powerful position in the world, how do the ad hoc keepers of the legacy of white superiority adjust themselves to this new reality? Apparently they don’t. They behave as we have seen, obsessively funneling ‘good money after bad’ as if to buy off the inevitable and bankroll an answering juggernaut to challenge the evolutionary onslaught that confronts them. They are terrified, and fear has made them doubly dangerous–it seems they will stop at nothing, including misleading and manipulating their loyal, lunatic-fringe Tea Party base into a hemorrhage of ethnic high-anxiety in order that it be adequately motivated to the “dirty work” of obstruction, obfuscation and near-anarchy.
But for all the posturing and playacting in Washington and the epithets and burning effigies inflaming the backwaters of America, for all the strident cries for nullification and even secession, the facts in this case remain as implacable as the future they point to–the only question is how much pain, how much damage, will have been inflicted on this nation by the time we get there.
We are suffering crises on many levels in this country, politics being only the most voluble. The redoubtable Chinese provide us with an instructive perspective on the meaning of the word “crisis”. Their symbol for it represents both “danger” and “opportunity," which that pretty much sums up where we are. The “danger” seems clear, but the “opportunity”? It is as tantalizing as it is, presently, mysterious. Here’s my ironic hook for The Divine Right, Part II: In certain respects, the most disenfranchised group in America is the one comprised of white men.