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A New Year’s Resolution: No MTV

Way back when the Music Television network first started coming through the cables we watched 24 straight hours of its fare, drinking coffee and keeping notes along the way for a rather snarky feature story in the local newspaper, and since then we’ve rarely tuned in. MTV does occasionally come up in our daily news reading, though, mostly recently when it offered its New Years “resolutions for white guys.”
Being white guys ourselves, we couldn’t help wondering what the network was suggesting. We hoped MTV was urging its youthful white male audience to shave those ugly beards and stop getting tattoos and start taking an occasional glance up from those newfangled telephones they’re always looking at, but of course it was just the usual white guilt-mongering and man-shaming.
The video begins with a head-and-shoulders shot of a clean-cut and pasty young white guy addressing his “fellow white guys,” with the usual quick cut to the same shot of a chubby Latino-looking fellow noting that it’s about to be a new year, with another quick cut to the head and shoulders of a non-threatening young black man who explains that “here’s a few things we think you can do a little better in 2017.”
Another quick cut the to head-and-shoulders of an attractive young woman of fashionably indeterminate ethnicity, who advises that first of we should “try to recognize that America was never ‘great'” — with the disdainful internal quotation marks emphasized by that two-fingered gesture the kids use — “for anyone who wasn’t a white guy.” After another quick cut to a bookish-looking young black woman saying “Can’t we just all agree that Black Lives Matter isn’t the opposite of all lives matter?” That clean-cut and pasty young white is quick cut to again to say that “Blue Lives Matter isn’t a thing,” and there’s an even quicker cut to that non-threatening young black again who laughs at the very idea, noting that “cops aren’t born with blue skin, right?”
With the cuts coming in dizzying quickness, a white guy with one of those ugly beards urges white men to stop bragging about being “Wook,” or at least we think that’s how it’s spelled, and the aforementioned chubby Latino says to stop saying “Wook” altogether. A bookish-looking young white woman says to “learn what ‘mansplaining’ is,” or at least we think that’s how it’s spelled, and to stop doing it. Then there’s that clean-cut and pasty white guy telling us to believe any woman who alleges she has been assaulted by an Ivy League athlete. There’s something about someone named Beyonce and a dig at Fox News, some inside joke about Kanye West that we take to be a dig against his friendship with president-elect Donald Trump, the bearded white guy’s advice to not mention one’s black friends, and the non-threatening young black man’s brief rant that having black friends doesn’t mean you’re not racist.
They throw in a brief admission toward the end that not all white guys are bad, we think it was the bookish looking young white woman who said so, but it’s all in the same cheerfully hectoring tone. Pretty much every word of it is astonishingly stupid, too.
Countless non-white-guys have found America great enough to sacrifice their lives for it, and at the moment it’s probably better for that attractive young woman of fashionably indeterminate ethnicity than it is for those coal-mining white guys who voted for Trump. We agree that Black Lives Matter isn’t the opposite of all lives matter, and don’t know anyone who doesn’t, but that doesn’t mean the Black Lives Matter movement isn’t going to wind up costing a whole lot of young black lives. No, cops aren’t born blue, but that doesn’t mean their lives don’t also matter, even if that isn’t “a thing.”
We’ll go along with the ban on saying “Wook,” whatever that is, but so far as we can tell “mansplaining” is when a man explains something to a woman, and we often find ourselves in dealings with women when we have to explain things to them. Usually we’re explaining our tardiness and temporary penury, but at other times such things as quantitative easing or the infield fly rule, and try as we might we can’t avoid it. That bookish-looking young white woman should also know that we more often find ourselves having women explain things to us, oftentimes with a certain vehemence that we rarely muster, but we suppose she would consider that properly assertive feminine behavior. We’d ask one of our black friends how they deal with the inevitable need for the occasional explanation of something or another to a woman, as “mansplaining” is apparently a behavior unique to white guys, but we’re also told it would be racist of us to acknowledge that we have black friends.
We’re not sure why that clean-cut and pasty white guy singled out Ivy League athletes as sexual predators, rather than the Southeastern Conference or the Big XII or some and blacker and more big-time association, but we suspect it’s because he thought it would sound less racist, which strikes us as a rather racist assumption. There are black athletes in the Ivy League, of course, and even those white guys on the non-Ivy but still pretty highfalutin Duke University lacrosse team turned out to be innocent. We’ll consider these occasional college rape allegations on a case by case basis, thank you, and be glad that it’s ultimately left to the judicial system.
We’ll also happily refrain from any mention of Beyonce or Kanye West, unless it allows us to take a dig at Trump from an old-fashioned Republican perspective, and try to be at least less obnoxious a white guy than the old white guys running MTV and the young white guys they keep sending out through the cables. Although we can’t stop being white guys altogether, not without expensive surgery and a whole lot of explaning to some of the women we know, it’s the best we can do.

— Bud Norman

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Meanwhile, at the Democratic Race War

As we avert our grimace from the Republican Party’s reality show of a presidential nomination contest to the Democratic race, we find that things there are no more comforting. The front-runner is still former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was just godawful in each capacity and is just about as dishonest and corrupt and law-flouting and dislikable a person as you’re likely to find this side of the front-running Republican candidate, and the only still-in-the-running alternative is self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
This brief description of the race is disheartening enough, but a closer look makes it scarier yet. The race thus far has been run along racial lines, with Sanders doing well in mostly white states but Clinton winning in all the southern states where most of the whites have long since fled to the Republican party and the remaining Democratic electorate is mostly black, as well as Nevada where the party is mostly Latino, and if that’s the state of racial relations within the oh-so-sensitively-inclusive Democratic Party it does not bode well for the even more ethnically fissiparous nation at large. If all those well-meaning white folks in the Democratic party with their very sincere white guilt can’t come to some agreement with their righteously indignant black brothers and sisters, what chance does the country have when you add all us allegedly racist Republican rednecks into the general election conversation? Not to mention all those Asians, who tend to vote Democrat even though only we allegedly racist Republican rednecks bother to protest the quotas that keep so many of them out of the Ivy League universities, or the Latinos, whose preferences regarding legal and illegal immigration policy run counter to both the economic interests and base prejudices of so many of those righteously indignant black brothers and sisters, not to the mention the exponential intersectionality of all the sexual orientations and gender identities that are involved.
It’s hard enough understanding the relatively simple black-white thing going on in the Democratic party. Clinton lost more than 90 percent of the black vote in the Democratic primaries eight years ago, when she was running against the First Black President, but this time around she’s running as the First Black President’s Secretary of State and the First Lady of the first First Black President, even though the economic statistics for black America have been dire under the First Black President and her service as his Secretary of State was one national security disaster after another and all her first First Black President husband’s policies on crime and welfare and other racially-tinged issues are now anathema to the “Black Lives Matter” movement that claims to speak for all black Americans. Sanders is still in the race because all the most well-meaning white hipsters and their aging antecedents in the party are hot for his socialist brand of everything’s free and we’ll work out the payments later, and we share those well-meaning white hipsters’ surprise, if not their dismay, than their black brothers and sisters aren’t on board for the revolution. If you can recall the ’60s, and were reading Ramparts and The Village Voice and Rolling Stone and The New Yorker and all the right rags, you’d know that the black brothers and sisters were supposed to be the vanguard of the revolution, not the stooges of reactionary resistance of the Wall Street-funded, Wal-Mart corporate-board-serving, Donald Trump’s-third-wedding-attending establishment.
While we have no affection for Sanders, who is after all a self-described socialist, and one who literally honeymooned in the Soviet Union, at that, we’re surprised that so many black Democrats haven’t warmed to him. Some of the celebrity and intellectual black people have, possibly because they’re more worried about losing their status as celebrities and intellectual than they are about their status as black, but the votes are in and the vast majority have so far been for Clinton. That’s mostly been in southern states any Democrat is unlikely to win in the general election no matter who the Republican or increasingly likely third-party nominees are, but there’s been the same trend even in those mostly white states that Sanders won, and as the Democratic Party is currently constituted across all the states the minority vote will likely deliver a majority by convention time, especially when you add in all those “super-delegates” the very diverse party bosses are imposing. The black and Latino factions don’t seem particularly interested in a revolution, especially one led by a Jewish guy from a lily-white state, which seems to matter in that oh-so-sensitively-inclusive Democratic Party, and are perfectly content with the establishment, no matter how much Wall Street funds it or what bargains on Chinese-made goods Wal-Mart is offering, and if their economics interests clash on the immigration issue they figure they’ll pay for that later.
We can almost muster some pity for those poor white hipster socialist revolutionaries, abandoned by the black brothers and sisters they had so assiduously apologized to, beset by a hated “establishment” that turns out to be the party they had always sen as salvation from some other more hated Republican “establishment,” and stuck with voting for Clinton, whose entire career repudiates all their high ideals. Worse yet, they find that a majority of their party turns out not to have ever believed in any coherent philosophy of liberalism, but was only interested in sticking it to the other guys, and for reasons that had something uncomfortably to do with the darkest impulses of an ethnically fissiparous nation, and was striking whatever deal it could for itself.
The poor bastards. Over here on the Republican side a lot of us are finding out that a lot of our political coalition never believed in any coherent philosophy of conservatism, and is more interested in sticking it to the other guy than conserving such freedoms as press and property, and that there’s also a sudden hesitance to denounce even those darkest impulse of an ethnically fissiparous nation, and that the whole sales pitch is that it’s going to be a great deal for those get on board, but at least we won’t have to vote for it.

— Bud Norman

Java Jive

Last week entailed our annual three night run on the local amateur stage, and it was so exhausting that we’ve decided to forgo our usual trenchant analysis and simply run the satirical skit we composed and starred in. It’s premised on a few-weeks old story about the Starbucks coffee shops making it a policy to discuss race relations with its customers, and we already groused about it a few weeks ago in a columned headlined “Black Coffee, White Guilt,” but we’re still annoyed by the company’s self-righteous racial hectoring, even though we’ve never patronized any of its zillions of shops, and it got some laughs on each of our three nights, and we’re plumb puckered, so we’ll go ahead and once again present the script, which was dubbed “Java Jive” in the program.
The scene opens on any old Starbucks, where a CUSTOMER is yawning as he finally takes his place at the counter where a pretty young smiling and chirpy BARISTA greets him:
BARISTA: Good morning and Welcome to Starbucks. I’m Julie, you’re barista.
CUSTOMER:”Barista,” you say? I’m afraid I might not be speaking to the right person, then. I just wanted a cup of coffee.
BARISTA: I’d be glad to help you, sir. What would you like?
CUSTOMER: Just a cup of coffee, please. You know, a cuppa joe, a mugga java, a jolt of the ol’ caffeine.
BARISTA: We have a wide variety, sir. Would you like a tiramisu latte, our signature espresso with hints of cream mascarpone, finished with our whipped cream and a dusting of rich chocolate powder? Or perhaps a caramel flan latte, an espresso with steamed milk and caramel flavors of creamy flan, topped with caramel-infused whipped cream and flan drizzle?
CUSTOMER: I’m not much for flan.
BARISTA: Then how about a tiramisu Frappuccino blended beverage, a coffee blended with creamy mascarpone flavor, milk and ice, topped with whipped cream and a dusting of rich cocoa powder? We also have caffe Americano, caffe latte, caffe mocha …
CUSTOMER: I was really hoping for just a cup of coffee. You know, a plain old hot-water-run-through-coffee-grounds cup of coffee. Do you having anything like that?
BARISTA: But of course, sir. We are a coffee shop, after all. Would you like that blonde roast, caffe mist, our featured dark roast, or our clover-brewed coffee?
CUSTOMER: I’m sorry, but I grew up in an age when we only had three channels on TV and two kinds of blue jeans, and I’m afraid I’m a bit overwhelmed by all these choices. Could you please just sell me a cup of coffee? Just black coffee, no cream or sugar or flan or any of that stuff.
BARISTA: I understand, sir. What size would you like?
CUSTOMER: At this point, I’m going to need the biggest you’ve got.
BARISTA: Very well, sir. that would be our “venti.” And would you care to engage me in a meaningful discussion about the state of race relations in America?
CUSTOMER: Uh, no, not really. Thank you, though.
BARISTA: Are you sure, sir? It comes with the price of the coffee, and it will finally give me a chance to put my multi-cultural studies degree to use. It was very expensive, you know.
CUSTOMER: I’m sure it was. Still, I’ll be quite content with just the cup of coffee, thank you.
BARISTA: It’s our company policy to engage customers in conversation about racial issues. You don’t object to that, do you?
CUSTOMER: Oh, no, not at all. I mean, I’m all for racial equality and social justice and all that jazz, but really, I just wanted a cup of coffee.
BARISTA: Don’t you think it’s time America had a serious conversation about race?
CUSTOMER: America has been having a conversation about race for more than 200 years, not to mention a Civil War and a civil rights movement and all those miniseries and Academy Award acceptance speeches.
BARISTA: But we haven’t had the conversation where whitey agrees to pay reparations.
CUSTOMER: But you’re white, and your whole multi-national corporation, and your one-percenter CEO with this annoying policy, and almost all of your customers, they’re all white.
BARISTA: At least we’re remorseful. I think you need to check your white privilege.
CUSTOMER: White privilege? Lady, I haven’t been laid in months. Find me one brother who will say that. And what the hell good is white privilege if you can’t get a cup of black coffee without two lumps of white guilt?
BARISTA: Sir, your micro-agressions are not appreciated here. Starbucks is a micro-aggression-free space, and if you persist, I’m afraid I’ll be forced to ask the security guards to beat you to a bloody pulp.
CUSTOMER: I’m sorry, I just wanted a cup of coffee, and I’m afraid that a thorough discussion of the past 400 years of American history will make me late for the racial sensitivity training seminar at my office. Besides, I’m not even white.
BARISTA: Really?
CUSTOMER: Yes, I self-identify as a Uygher-American, and as I understand the new rules you’re supposed to regard me however I self-identify.
BARISTA: A Uygher? The Turkish ethnic group of eastern and central Asia?
CUSTOMER: That’s right, but we pronounce it “Uyg-ah,” and you don’t get to stay that.
BARISTA: Please forgive me, sir. Here’s your coffee, and that’ll be six dollars. You know, we don’t get a lot of Uyger-Americans in here.
CUSTOMER: And at these prices, you won’t get a lot more.
(Lights fade.)

— Bud Norman