The American people also learned from the report that Mueller declined to prosecute Donald Trump Jr. because, in plain English, he was too dumb to know that he was likely committing crimes.Of course, poor and working-class people are not allowed such latitude, or given the benefit of the doubt regarding how their emotions or intelligence may have impacted their decision-making and other behavior. This is true more generally for nonwhites, Muslims, immigrants and all those viewed as the un-American “other.”
The former slave imagined a better America than this. Too many white people want to go backward: But there’s hope
OUR COMMON GROUND Voice, CHAUNCEY DEVEGA
JULY 4, 2018 10:00AM (UTC)
Frederick Douglass knew that America has a white democracy problem. That rot was never corrected. The result? Donald Trump and his human deplorables. Racism is destroying American democracy. But then again racism is the real foundation of this country.
“Every year, on America’s birthday, I read Frederick Douglass’s essay “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”
I was first introduced to Frederick Douglass while in elementary school. My sixth grade teacher, a stern but kind black woman, knew that I, the only black boy in her class, would benefit greatly from his wisdom and example. She was right.
The book “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” was wondrous.
It was the amazing adventure of a man who fights to free his people by first liberating his mind and then his body from the evils of white-on-black slavery.
Douglass tricks gullible white children to teach him how to read . . . ”
ABOUT CHAUNCEY DEVEGA
Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.
MORE FROM CHAUNCEY DEVEGA • FOLLOW CHAUNCEYDEVEGA • LIKE CHAUNCEY DEVEGA
‘Police are Heroes’: The Cultural Mythologies that Enable Police Brutality Against Black and Brown Americans φ
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2013
A Theory of Obama Cinema? “Killing Them Softly” is the Defining Movie for the Age of Obama
Last year in The New York Review of Books the critic J. Hoberman wondered when we would see an “Obama-inflected Hollywood cinema.” “The longing for Obama (or an Obama),” he wrote, “can be found in two prescient 2008 movies,” citing “Wall-E” and “Milk” as releases about creative community organizers, with Harvey Milk also a political symbol of hope. It may be too soon to identify an Obama Cinema, but the president’s second inauguration seems like an appropriate time to try.
Film is one of the sites where societies negotiate meaning, develop and challenge their own mythologies, and express the hopes, anxieties, and feelings of the collective subconscious. Films talk to us, talk to each other, all the while revealing the “spirit of the age.” In total, popular culture is an informal type of public opinion, a barometer for the attitudes of a given society.
Obama’s election in 2004 was supposed to usher in postracial America. It did not. Hope and change was met by the twin realities of a coordinated assault on the legitimacy of the country’s first black President, as well as how practical governance is an exercise in realpolitik. As such, hope and change had to be surrendered to practical realities–here Obama’s right-leaning centrism was greeted by upset on the part of Progressives, and recast as treason and Socialist-Communist-anti-white tyranny by Conservatives.
How do the films in the Age of Obama reflect these dynamics?
Films can be considered political in a number of ways. They can deal with explicitly political matters of public policy or public concern as plot devices. Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty fit this mold.
[Question: Am I the only person who thought both movies were exercises in tedium? Am I the only person who thought that Cloud Atlas was one of the year’s best movies and should have been nominated for an Oscar?]
Films can also be implicitly political as they reflect changing attitudes, beliefs, anxieties, or social relationships in society without offering explicit commentary on “politics” per se. Likewise, films can tell us something about politics and society by how they reflect unstated cultural values and tropes–the lies and stories we tell to make sense of ourselves as a nation and community:
Some of the connections between politics and movies are obvious, but we wanted to go beyond the topical resonance of films like “Zero Dark Thirty” and enter into the realms of allegory and national mythology.
What these period pictures have in common is a sense that righting our wrongs is a shared burden. Or, as Nick Fury, in describing another battle between good and evil, puts it: “There came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth’s mightiest heroes found themselves united against a common threat.”
“Marvel’s The Avengers” might have been called “Team of Rivals” — the title of the book, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, that was one of the sources for “Lincoln.” And Joss Whedon’s Marvel costume party is, like Mr. Spielberg’s historical costume drama, largely about an urgent response to a political crisis. It is also about community organizing, as Fury mobilizes a fractious group of individuals whom he must persuade to pursue a set of common interests.
As such, “The Avengers” may be the exemplary Obama Era superhero movie, replacing the figure of the solitary, shadowy paladin with a motley assortment of oddballs and, despite the title, focusing less on vengeance than on interplanetary peacekeeping. A similar ethic informs “X-Men: First Class,” which takes place around the time of Mr. Obama’s birth (at the height of the cold war and the civil rights movement) and which shows how the idealistic pursuit of justice and tolerance can end up tragically divided between radical and conciliatory impulses…
A.O. Scott omitted the movie Killing Them Softly from his theory of Obama Cinema. This is unfortunate. I would suggest that no other movie has captured the cynicism, anxiety, fear, and liminal moment between the end of Bush’s tenure and Obama’s election in 2008 with such clarity and insight.
The Great Recession is in almost every frame of Killing Them Softly. The disappointments of how easily Hope and Change became more of the same–where the banksters win, and the drones keep killing innocent people, while the 1% laughs all the way to the bank–lingers over the final scene of the movie as an ending note on what is a 90 minutes or so meditation on life in the Bush era and how it did (or did not) transition into “Obama’s America.”
Watching the hope embodied by 2008 election of Barack Obama in 2012, four years after we have seen the realities of his tenure, in a film about how even hitmen and gangsters are impacted by a failed economy is a profound comment on the American dream, and the realities of “austerity” and neoliberalism/hyper-conservatism.
Killing Them Softly came and went in the theater during the course of a few weeks. Maybe it spoke too much truth to power to be popular among the masses.
What do you make of A.O. Scott’s list? Are there any movies which you think speak to the Age of Obama with a particularly sharp amount of clarity and insight, and which should have been included in his theory of Obama Cinema?
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 2, 2013
A Conversation with Professor Ann Little About the Newtown Massacre, Adam Lanza, America’s Gun Culture, and the Puzzle of White Masculinity
I hope that the New Year was restful and celebratory. Before Christmas, there was a momentary “national conversation” about gun violence in the aftermath of the Newtown Massacre. Curiously, but not surprising, said moment of introspection about how America’s gun culture eats it youth has fallen off of the national radar as the pundit classes have moved on to other matters. There will be other mass shootings; we will have said “national conversation” again; nothing will be done given the NRA’s murder hold on the American people.
As I explored in a series of posts, the central question regarding the Gun Right is how these mass shootings do not lead to any serious exploration of the intersection(s) of Whiteness, White Masculinity, and mass gun violence. White men commit an overwhelming amount of the mass shootings in the United States. Yet, except for a few outliers, there is no sustained effortto engage the obvious puzzle: if white men are killing people, often by the dozens–in murders where they are the offenders at twice their rate in the general population–why are so many in the news media afraid and hostile to basic questions about “white crime?”
In my effort to explore this question, I reached out to two great scholars of American history and culture. Both kindly agreed to participate in WARN’s podcast series.
Our first guest is Professor Ann Little, author of the bookAbraham in Arms: War and Gender in Colonial New England,who writes over at the great website Historiann. In our podcast, she does a wonderful job of setting up our conversation by offering a wonderful, rich, and insightful perspective on the Newtown Massacre and the colonial era roots of the United States (near pathological) love of guns in the present
Dr. Little was so very generous with her time. We covered a great amount of material in this conversation and offered up a necessary, and to this point, very much lacking historical context for the Newtown Massacre, and the fear by many in the pundit classes to even discuss white masculinity and gun violence.
This was a real treat. I was so glad to be able to bring this dialogue to the readers of We Are Respectable Negroes and those who follow our podcast series.
I do hope you enjoy the conversation.
2:59 As a historian and scholar of America and gun culture, what were your first thoughts about the Newtown Massacre?
6:18 How do we begin to think broadly about masculinity and gun culture in the United States, and how it helps us to understand Adam Lanza’s murder spree?
11:22 The gun and white male citizenship in colonial America and the Founding
15:00 Is the magical thinking of Conservatives typified by the gun control debate? What are some of the regional differences in regards to gun culture in the United States? How is this surprising (or not)?
23:55 An open letter to white men. Beginning to think about White masculinity, Whiteness and gun violence
29:25 How do people respond to conversations where whiteness and masculinity are interrogated and challenged?
34:40 Is White Masculinity a story of historical continuity or change? Is White Heterosexual Masculinity static?
48:27 More context for avoiding a critical interrogation of Whiteness and gun violence: White Mediocrity and the subsidization of Whiteness vs. the myth of American Meritocracy
56:14 Historical myopia, the luxury of being white and historical memory, and the allure of believing the “White Lies” of American history
62:14 What is your “blogging story?” How does blogging fit into your academic career?
64:03 The failure of academics to be able to effectively communicate with “regular” folks who are also smart like them
69:20 Academic writing’s impact vs the audience and impact of blogging