Russell Brand recently remarked "We have more in common with the people we're bombing than the people we're bombing them for."
That quote has been rattling around in my head the last week or so, and I re-quoted it once more to my friends as we sat around the table after we had consumed our Thanksgiving feast, supplemented with a great deal of wine, yesterday. Talk had turned to the Tea Party, and for some reason it seemed apt to muse upon the ways we have more in common with the people we imagine are our enemies than we do with the powers that be who are really running the show.
I actually know a Tea Partier or two (although neither, thankfully, was present at the table yesterday). One is a childhood playmate who lives in a cabin in the Tetons. I haven't seen her since I was eleven years old, and doubt I ever will see her in the flesh again, but we reconnected via Facebook as people do these days, and have been reading each other's posts ever since. We even had a short, rather awkward chat late one night. I'm really surprised she hasn't un-friended me by now because I'm sure it has become painfully apparent that we are diametrically opposed on just about any social or political issue there is.
Lately she's been "sharing" a lot from a Facebook page called American White History Month, which has, as its banner, the slogan "Never apologize for being white!" For some reason that slogan strikes me as pretty hilarious. I've never felt I needed to apologize for being white even when, as I was on this particular Thanksgiving, I am surrounded by black and Latina women. I mean, isn't that part of white privilege? I hardly ever have to think about race at all! (At least as it affects me personally.)
The reason I don't un-friend her is because I rather fancy having a small window, via Facebook, on an entirely different way of perceiving the world. I rather relish being reminded that, if my mother hadn't fled her tiny Mormon hometown at the age of seventeen, I could be that woman myself: a woman who admonishes others to respect the flag and "put the Christ back into Christmas", who hates homosexuals and loves her grandchildren with equal passion, who posts recipes of rich desserts at least twice a day, and who recently shot an elk through her kitchen window while cleaning up after supper. In a way, she is living my heritage, that of a very devout, albeit very bigoted, modern day frontier woman.
I don't un-friend her because I need to remind myself where I come from -- my own personal white American history -- and how far from "other", in fact, the members of the radical right are to me.
After finishing Michael Kimmel's book, Angry White Men, I am feeling a resurgence of compassion and connection to this corner of humanity as well. Blame it on the holiday season, perhaps. These angry white men, with their sense of "aggrieved entitlement," and their woefully misdirected anger, and their nostalgia for a patriarchy that is dismantling under their very feet -- these men are part of my heritage too. And I'm beginning to feel guilty about making fun of them and shaming them and calling them morons.
Because making fun of these guys is beginning to feel like poking at caged bears. Or bull fighting. In other words, it doesn't seem like a fair fight because these guys can't win. They certainly can't win an intellectual argument, they're on the wrong side of history, and they aren't smart enough to figure out how they are being played. They are being encouraged (and encouraging one another) to believe "the problem" is immigration, feminism, or affirmative action, or just plain lack of nooky. The source of their troubles, in other words, is always the class one or two rungs down the ladder.
"Divide and conquer," one of my friends said, as we soberly picked at our pie, and imagined a day when the angry white guys would wake up and smell the coffee.