The Police States of America: Poster Child

You know what? Fuck tha police.

Police trainer Sunil Dutta says "I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me."

Police trainer Sunil Dutta says “I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me.”

Fuck all the post-911 fawning over authority figures and deference to the security state. This isn’t fucking 19th century Germany or some Eastern European state with a polity that hankers for the strongman with the strong hand and shiny boots to tell everyone where to line up. For fucksake.

Okay, sure. In the wake of the most current set of police outages (another police killing of an unarmed black youth, typical strategic misuse of information about apparent police misconduct, and draconian police response to public protest), this time in Ferguson, MO, media attention has quite properly focused on a number of broader social defects involved in the Ferguson fiasco-tragedy-outrage: racial profiling, the plight of young black men in America, militarization of police weapons and tactics, and so forth. All serious concerns worthy of the attention and commentary (even if it seems like it’s all just a little past due—exactly how many black kids being murdered by police does it take to make a pattern?)


The recent focus on questions about “militarized” police in general and specifically on Ferguson police use of military vehicles and gear seems to me to be somewhat off the mark. Gear isn’t the problem. IT’S THE SYMPTOM. Clever social research notwithstanding, the equipment isn’t turning police into storm troopers, storm trooper mentality among the people who police us is the issue.

Focusing on whether or not the Pentagon should supply battlefield gear to the Mayberry PD or whether Andy ought to order a Bearcat for him and Barney to patrol the town in (thus to protect themselves from the substantive threat posed by an unstable Otis or Goober) merely masks a deeper, broader, and more crucial phenomenon: We’ve learned to cringingly accept authoritarian nonsense and thuggery from our police and they like it that way.

As I ranted in an August 19 Facebook posting, policing in America is no longer about community service, it’s about making civilians obey fucking orders (Goddammit!). It’s about control and social discipline and not putting up with “nonsense” anymore. It’s about the impulse to power (So said I) Think that overstates things? Fine, then hear it straight from the mouth of a police trainer writing on August 20:

“Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?”

(Not a parody. Verbatim quote from a police trainer. Sunil Dutta by name.)

See it for yourself. Here. Go on, go read it. I’ll wait.

Hey! Thanks for making the case so unambiguously clear, Officer Dutta, you sorry piece of shit.

Yours is the precise mentality behind all the theater-of-authority posturing that now goes on during routine policing functions from traffic stops to event parking management that has become the norm everywhere. It is this Dutta complex that results in over-geared and uncivil policing. And remember, This fucker trains recruits. And what a surprise: he’s LAPD![i]

We all see it. Police in towns and counties across the country now act like ill-trained, rhoid raging, urban adventuring powermonkeys with too many self esteem issues, too much humiliating toilet training, and far too little kindergarten instruction in how to get along with others.

And I reject all references to the “majority” of police officers who conduct themselves professionally, blah blah. Right. Big deal. We know that every job has its good and bad apples.

With police, however, it isn’t about “a few bad apples” because the bullshit thin-blue-line “code of honor” (otherwise known as Omerta in one of the other American ongoing criminal enterprises) instigates and perpetuates the immediate closing of ranks around any officer who gets carried away by the drama of his or her own imagination. That means the bad apples are protected members of an elite caste with a shared fate. Hey policeman! You want your solidarity with those that wear the shield and stick up for one another against IAD investigators and civilian review boards? Great. Then you own the bad apples, otherwise blow the whistle yourself on the fuckups amongst you. Or quit whining about civilians who lump the good in with the bad. Profiling is a two-way street, porkchop.

We need to face it, the policing job is no longer about community service, it’s about making civilians obey fucking orders (Goddammit!) It’s about control and social discipline and not putting up with “nonsense” anymore. It’s about the impulse to power. Policing in America is a badly broken profession and we should understand the Ferguson protest to be a call to ALL of us to stop taking shit from pork in blue.

And by the way, we all know policing is arduous work.  As Officer Dutta reminds us civilians who just can’t understand, officers must deal with dangerous situations and often with dangerous people while making life and death decisions with only moments to assess possible threats to their own or the public’s safety, and so on and so forth (how many times have we all heard this little ditty).

Look, Arnold, we get it.

Nice wraparounds officer. Must be a tactical necessity when working the afterschool crossing guard detail. You're not on TV, dumass.  Try acting like you're at work.

Nice wraparounds officer. Must be a tactical necessity when working the afterschool crossing guard detail. You’re not on TV, dumass. Try acting like you’re at work.

In fact, this is precisely why it is not a job for morons that can’t even exhibit good judgment about work-appropriate eyewear for sun protection .

And by the way hams on the cloven hoof, this is America. So you can do just like everyone else in The Land of the Free gets told: Can’t handle the working conditions? Get another gig.

So anyway, why do we accept this shit from uniformed public servants? It wasn’t always this way. Not this sniveling deference and grudging acceptance of discourtesy and threat. Why do we allow police to take ownership of public spaces and define the zone of our rights? Really. Why? (Imagine the March on Washington or the Vietnam Moratorium Marches carried out within chain link free speech zones…WTF?)

Okay.  I’m done.

By the way, in case you missed it, I think it may be time for the young people to bring back pig references.

[i] As I said in my Facebook post yesterday, “It’s as if police departments in every village and city with bored cops to deal with took a look at LAPD’s notoriously fascist practices in the 80s and 90s and thought that looks like a cool way to approach police work.”

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Another Irresponsible Rantle Against Well Intended, Gentle-Spirited Liberalism

"Famous liberal whose theory of justice entailed a thought experiment involving a 'veil of ignorance' with which to establish a disinterested (neutral) standard by which to assess justice" - OR - "Two hundred years after the fact, Fulbright Fellow delivers 500 page tome restating the Enlightenment, rewarming Kant, and explaining why statues show justice as blindfolded and holding scales; academia goes wild."

“Famous liberal whose theory of justice entailed a thought experiment involving a ‘veil of ignorance’ with which to establish a disinterested (neutral) standard by which to assess justice” – OR – “Two hundred years after the fact, Fulbright Fellow delivers 500 page tome restating the Enlightenment, rewarming Kant, and explaining why statues show justice as blindfolded and holding scales; academia goes wild.”

SO, after my second FB snarkpost about squishy academic silliness in the ‘dialogue and deliberation community’(rehashed here and here for anyone interested), a gentlemanly and uncommonly thoughtful old friend of mine responded with a comment in the form of a velvet gloved (and well deserved) flathand smack to the back of my head. In part, here’s what he had to say:

[While] I’m not above ridiculing naiveté or lame professionals…MLK and other members of Civil Rights Movement believed human relations work, as it was then called, was useful complement to political change. Freedom Summer in Mississippi ’64 included political mobilization MFDP (voter reg and education), Freedom Schools, health clinics and white clergy to discuss the impact of social and political change on white leaders.

My uncle the radical rabbi was in Jackson for a week. The mother of the head of the White Citizen’s Council hosted him and made introductions. He wrote about the anxiety of white leaders, their sense of isolation without anyone to talk about the changes with.

Smarty pants do-gooder.

Beyond being bitterly envious of anyone who can begin a sentence of any kind with “My uncle the radical rabbi”, I was outraged that these examples of uses of consciousness-raising dialogue and the “human relations work” of Civil Rights Era activists were a potent retort to my generalized mockery of deliberation as a professional gig and the notion of applying deliberative models of democratic engagement during social crises involving justice and human rights. That bastard!

Indeed as I (reluctantly) admitted to him in my reply, his well-chosen and very concrete examples from the Civil Rights Movement are extremely helpful reminders of what I’ve been researching and thinking and preparing to write about for several months now: the complementary relationship between formalistic, agonistic, and deliberative modes of healthful participatory democracy under real conditions of plurality and radical inequality (injustice). (See what I did there? I co-opted his stunning retort by repurposing it as a variant of my own thinking.)

See, my beef right now is with my ideological kin who are increasingly wed to deliberative processes as the fix-what-ails-you answer to what they see (understandably) as an increasingly toxic environment of politics. (For my part, I always look forward to the part of the ‘process’ where people are beating on shit and chanting ‘This is what democracy looks like’.  I also think it smells like wafting blowback from the teargas canister some kid in a black bandanna picked up and heaved back at the cops…)

My friend’s examples — especially if coupled with the activist-mobilization practices of the ‘mainstream’ Civil Rights movement AND the more radicalized rhetorical and direct-action practices of such players as SNCC, Malcolm X, and the Oakland chapter of the Black Panther Party (to name a few) along with the ‘insider game’ exemplified by Thurgood Marshall, the Kennedy Justice Department, and the elected main players in moving Civil Rights legislation — provide, I think, a valuable reminder of how healthy democracy can proceed  to address conditions of radical inequality (aka injustice) and plural interests and values (which are inevitably contesting/conflicting even sometimes incommensurate) while at the same time struggling under those very conditions .

Now before anyone breaks out a copy of Putnam’s Bowling Alone and starts doling out the trail mix and patchouli as tokens of increased social capital or some shit, a couple of things are worth noting here:

1. Critique of Totalized Deliberationism: Though this matrix of complementary modes (or ‘moments’) of democratic action may seem obvious, I find that unfortunately many in the expert dialogue and deliberation ‘community’ have increasingly (unconsciously?) turned toward what looks like a totalized critique of the constituent elements of what we have heretofore thought of generally as the American Political System ( you know, stuff like political contestation, formal/constitutional institutions of the state, adversarial advocacy, and so on…) – or perhaps it’s a totalized ideology of deliberation as democracy – which, in my view, both woefully beggars the intellectual resources of participatory democracy and seemingly ignores the glaring absence of the very conditions which are presupposed by the rules of deliberative engagement.[i] Conditions which, by the way, many inside-the-family critics of Habermas point out are never actually met and rarely even approximated. These well-meaning folks would certainly deny any accusation that they believe that deliberation is practically possible in every circumstance (though they would sheepishly demure on whether it is always to be preferred) but, like free market realists who claim to accept some role for regulatory constraints, given any actual or hypothetical condition, they never fail to prescribe their same patent medicine.

2. Critique of False Equivalence: Note that in the tiny set of examples I have used for my abbreviated illustration of the idea of complementary modes of democracy I emphasized the claims, practices, and actions of members of the oppressed group and in no way suggested that we should take seriously the idea of putting all the ‘stakeholders’ in the civil rights agenda “at the table” to deliberate a course of action or have a dialogue about each ‘side’s’ (really ‘sides’? in a struggle to end white supremacy?) grievances or concerns; such would be absurd and vulgar under the conditions. Absurd and vulgar even though no one can deny that racist goons in small towns throughout the South were (are) stakeholders in the outcomes of civil rights discourse and decisions—indeed they were arguably at least the second greatest stakeholders—yet without question, their values/interests vis-a-vis the Civil Rights agenda hold precisely zero meaning in such a ‘deliberation’ other than as an obstacle to study so as to be overcome. In other words they are objects of an intersubjective analysis of systematic/structural racial injustice and the means to overcome it, not subjects whose perspective is to be actually or virtually considered in that analysis of problem, solution, means. (My landlord, a lawncare company and I are discussing the means, expectations, and distribution of responsibilities for removing rocks from the anticipated path of the lawn mowing machine—the rocks do not get a seat at the table nor do we undertake to virtually represent their interests or concerns as part of our deliberation. “Let’s each take  a moment now to consider what a rock might have to say at this point were she to be here for this discussion…Thoughts?” We might, however, do something to gather information about them that would be helpful to our intention to overcome them as obstacles to our lawncare plans. And if they could speak it might be wise to ask them a few questions).[ii] I know that viewed holistically or from the transcendent perspective of the democratic ideal, the actual interests of redneck racists are in reality also concretely ill-served by the very institutions their white-supremacist ideology uphold, but the pragmatic political reality of that time and place made them objects not subjects of that history.

Their agency was simply not equivalent to the agency of those they and their socially, culturally empowered and privileged ideology would continue to oppress. Full stop.[iii]

3. Critique of Crypto-Kantian Universal Transcendental-Idealist Assumptions: I do not mock efforts of stakeholders to seek intersubjective understanding through dialogue, I mock the notion that there exists some privileged place above (so to speak) the fray or outside the complex of partial interests from which to assess and ‘moderate’ the discussion or enforce some supposed objective norms of discourse.[iv] Norms that are themselves socially constructed and so arguably merely mask or reproduce the very power relations and privileging that facilitators claim to be able to help us overcome as inexpert would-be deliberators. The fateful point here is the toxic (or laughable) notion that some priesthood of deliberation annointees can (or should) be called into action to use their trained purity to, in some practical (practicable) manner, conduct/host/lead/facilitate real and actionable deliberation among stakeholders in issues where justice or human rights are at stake for some party or group.

The fact that so many of the ardent adherents of dialogue and deliberation (adorably referred to as “D&D” among the enlightened when they’re kickin it with a few carefully crafted artisan brewskis)  evince a belief that routine public issues are rarely freighted with such matters of justice or freedoms is a form of blindness occasioned either by ideology or privilege or both.

The fact that so often D&Dists fret over the rarefied demographics of their ‘profession’ or ‘community’ yet end up treating that reality as a troubling but otherwise incidental problem that can be dealt with through careful application of expert technique is an ironic blindness (not to mention blindness to irony) born of the hubris (if not arrogance) of professional privilege.

Mock, mock, mock…

Mocking to continue at irregular intervals.


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More Outrageous Big Government Overreach!

If the FBI’s job is now all about enticing innocent citizens who would otherwise pose no threat of terrorism, don’t we need some agency that will actually protect us from real domestic terror plots?

Plots like the ones that claimed the lives of Dr. David Gunn, James Barrett, Dr. John Britton, Shannon Lowney, Lee Ann Nichols, Robert Sanderson, Dr. Barnett Slepian, and Dr. George Tiller, for instance?

Plots that have unleashed a wave of bombings, arsons, assaults, and attempted assassinations in a systematic, organized terror campaign that has been going on for decades under the nose of Homeland Security, the FBI and other local, state, and federal police and security agencies who all seem powerless to end?

Hello? FBI? Isn’t there a real domestic terror campaign to investigate?

About the Recent Facebook Public Sociology and Anthropology Symposium: An Unapologetically Hate-filled Response

Inspired by the recent report “What Else I Know About The Negro” issued by rancher and eminent socio-anthropologist, Dr. Cliven Bundy, Facebook hosted the first annual Facebook Scholars Symposium whose theme “The Modern Negro and Its Sufferings: Of Subsidies and Slavery,” elicited spirited and often thought provoking commentary and original research from a wide array of the nation’s most expert scholars and academics working in Facebook’s rich intellectual milieu.

Dr. Bruce Childs weighed in early on to clarify some of Dr. Bundy’s more challenging concepts: “He was comparing the present status of the Negro being enslaved through government entitlements that removed their desire to work for a living simply because the government made NOT working a reasonable expectation…That is a comparison of the way the government treated the American Indian when they forced them onto reservations then took away their Guns so they could not Hunt for Food. The government destroyed the INDIANS’ WILL and Clive was just saying that the government (THROUGH WELFARE and Food Stamps has created another form of SLAVERY ) – – – that destroys the will of the lower class , rather they are White , Green , Red , Yellow or Black ….” Thus having unpacked some of Bundy’s more complex reasoning, Bundy added an observation of his own: “When the GOVERNMENT controls your supply line, be it FOOD STAMPS , Electronic Fund Deposits of Welfare … Then they CONTROL YOU…”

The Heathcliff Huxtable Professor of Negro and Colored Texts at Bob Jones University, Michele Whitehead-Wilt, quickly offered further exegesis of the Bundy Report: “…he was saying that we are slaves to the government, and may as well be picking cotton as the slaves did, many many years ago. He didn’t say anything about black people in general.” So far, however, black people do not generally seem convinced by this argument.

Esteemed researcher Mike McGraw issued a strong warning based on his own exhaustive seconds-long metaresearch of the relevant reportage: “Black America had better start looking at this issue with honest, open eyes, because they are being slowly placed back into slavery, by the left. All a black American has to do to prove this to themselves is stand aginst the Democrats just one time and see how quick they turn on you… Just because Obama is black, does not make him your friend and just because Bundy is white does not make him your enemy.” Black America has not yet issued a public acknowledgement of the McGraw warning.

Scoring seven likes from the FB academic peer review community, Dr. James Wiggins, hailing from Augusta Tech, boldly summarized his surprising findings from his own longitudinal study of the cumulative impact of various federal Negro subsidy programs: “Any person who willing becomes dependent on the government for any reason is a slave in all respects…it doesn’t matter if you are Black, White, Hispanic or anything other group…”

Left unanswered by the seeming consensus view of the symposium that federal subsidies have reenslaved the Negro id whether this means that Bundy and his fellow western ranchers have become Negroid by taking massive federal subsidies over the past six decades[1] or if they are simply slaves with cowboy hats.

It’s worth noting that while the bulk of Bundy’s research for the “What Else I Know About The Negro” report was done from a car speeding car passing an alleged subsidized housing project between his ranch and Las Vegas, the federal government spends just $9 billion a year on public housing.[2] Compare that to federal program subsidies for rural areas for which Congress authorized $300 billion[3] ( that’s about $60 billion per year for five years on redneck welfare, or about nine times the amount spent on what Mr. Bundy imagines the federal government spends on enslaving the Negroes in subsidized housing (without even any chickens in the yard or cotton to pick!).

subsidy map

States: Makers vs Takers… SURPRISE!

Hooray for red state redneck independence.

[1]Under administrative rules put in place during the pro-rancher Reagan Administration an unchanged due to heavy lobbying by the powerful ranching lobbies ever since, BLM only levies a scant $1.35 monthly fee for each cow and calf that a rancher grazes on western public land; this applies across 258 million acres of western public land administered by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management — 81 percent of all the land administered by the two agencies in the 11 western states. There are approximately 23,600 public-lands ranchers, representing just 6 percent of all livestock producers west of the Mississippi River. HERE”S WHERE THE COWBOY WELFARE SYSTEM COMES IN: Market rates for grazing comparable western private land exceed $10 per animal unit month. In its 2005 report, the Government Accountability Office found that BLM and Forest Service grazing receipts fail to recover even 15 percent of administrative costs and are much lower than fees charged by the other federal agencies, states and private ranchers. The GAO found that the BLM and Forest Service grazing fee decreased by 40 percent from 1980 to 2004, while grazing fees charged by private ranchers increased by 78 percent for the same period.



A Report from a Recent Colloquy from the Facebook School of History, Anthropology, and Society

burning klansmanWell, I checked in late to a recent symposium hosted on Facebook regarding the history and evolution of race relations in America 1960-2014.  I was too late to offer much, but I was taken by the reasoning and rhetoric of one brilliant visiting scholar who wished to illuminate the thinking of younger colleagues. This elder academic wanted the younger participants to be aware that their thinking about the history and contemporary state of American race relations had been hopelessly distorted by “liberal apologist” rhetoric dominating the discourse of the last several decades.

Since his argument was so terribly novel and fresh, I’d like to share it here, verbatim (except for some lengthy segments that were beyond my untrained mind to interpret:

I personally saw [acts of kindness and cooperation among] diverse groups here in Fredericksburg 5 (almost 6) decades ago. Do not believe all of the liberal gibberish you see and hear today. Some folks of different races actually “managed” to co-exist “way back then”…

I [am] not claiming there were no wrongs. I grew up through that period and saw the good and at least some of the bad. My point [is] the “standard” approach today, promoted to a great deal by the liberal apologists, that ALL interracial activities from that period were harsh, wrong, discriminatory, are often misleading. My point is that then, as now, there were good people and bad; there were good interactions and bad. We need to…spend more time focusing on the good and positive and building on that rather than re-chewing all that should have been better…

I think anyone who deliberately wrongs someone else should apologize.
In fact, I think we should start vilifying Abraham Lincoln, and condemnatory letters should immediately be sent to all of his descendants because of his failures. You do realize, I hope, that Mr. Lincoln only emancipated slaves south of the Mason Dixon Line, and, in fact at one point proposed that all persons of African descent should be returned to Africa. Now, while you are leaping to your ivory tower demanding apologies, do you also condemn Africans (I’m not talking white, South Africans here) for their part in slavery?

You see, it was not usually a while man that went into the jungles to capture blacks to be brought here as slaves. Usually, it was other tribesmen; these were the spoils of tribal war. The losers were often sold to black slavers who in turn sold them to ship captains for transport to the colonies/states… most of my relatives came over on a “potato boat”, and I can assure you neither I nor any of my known ancestors were slave owners, so I guess I am absolved as you rant.

Statistics are wonderful. Could it be that some small part of that disproportionate incarceration number is due to a disproportionate percentage of crimes committed? How about your indignation (let me hear you now) about the roving gangs of blacks attacking persons with lighter skin (whites, Asians, Hispanics) all over our nation? How about Knockout or Polar Bear Hunting?* Can you name a single instance in the last 10 years where a group of whites singled out an elderly black person and beat them to death for no apparent reason? Is it really true that over 90% of crimes against blacks are committed by blacks? Oh, and where is your righteous indignation about slavery occurring TODAY (sex-related right here in America and openly enslaving others in Muslim cultures in the world)?

…I grew up in segregated Fredericksburg, but had traveled with family through deep South…My first year at James Monroe High was first year of Freedom of Choice in F’burg schools,. I was at Woolworth (now antique store downtown for the sit-ins at the segregated lunch counter. The two in-town walk-in theatres were segregated; blacks in balcony. My granddaddy ran a store on William St that served primarily a black clientele and I played in the black pool hall next door with my black playmates. Two of my favorite adult mentors as a child were black men. Damn…that proves it…I MUST be a damn, racist redneck.

[Followed here by a long litany of long since debunked misappropriated and amateurishly malinterpreted ‘statistics’ drawn from”research” funded by the odious Pioneer Fund and spread all over the place through internet hatesites]

Yes… many things done in our past were wrong. Slavery is right up there at the top. How about what was done to the South during reconstruction? Can I demand reparations from residents of today’s northern states for what their ancestors did to my ancestors then? Oh, and while you are on this, please tell me a SINGLE nation in this world that has done more throughout history overall to promote, improve, lift, enhance current and future opportunities for blacks.

[Followed here by a long incoherent, largely unhinged defense for using mislabeled sources along with a laughably misfiring defense of his major source, Jared Taylor…yes THAT Jared Taylor]

I stand by my premise that much of the so-called racial inequality today is trumped up by the media, by certain liberals with an agenda, by individuals trying to increase their personal situation, and by racial profiteers such as Jackson and Sharpton who prey on their own people and generate CAUSES for personal gain. I also believe that much of what is laid on blacks (explanations, excuses, reasons why blacks have not, can not, (will not???) succeed in our culture) by liberals, whether sincerely trying to help them or merely trying to use them… I believe much of this is incorrect, limiting in itself, demeaning and insulting. Very complicated subject, but the blame for much of the failings within black culture, families, neighborhoods, MUST be shared by whites AND blacks, especially successful black leaders and business people. That too is a long discussion for “tomorrow”.

Is there racial division still? Of course, and it will exist so long as humans walk this earth. Is it as bad today as it was pre-1960? Yes and no, but that is far too much to get into tonight.  Am I a racist? …I do not think I am, nor do my friends of color. Suppose I’ll just have to settle for that in this forum.

And there the case was put to rest…

I was able to offer only the following small objection to this spectacularly lucid account and argument from an obvious scholar seeking to stake out a moderate position on matters of race:

Thanks..for your post [of this]long litany of the recounted views of a bevy (klan?) of well-known racially and socially toxic “conservatives” –all spewed by a guy who started out trying to diminish the significance of [recent improvements in the state of race relations] by asserting that during his youth in Fredericksburg, VA he witnessed diversity and routine acts of interracial cooperation. (Except of course for the segregated lunch counters, theater, and other public accommodations he himself claims to have witnessed!] PRICELESS. Most comical is the list of authorities he cites in defense of a man who in HIS OWN defense this goof quotes as asserting: “‘I think Asians are objectively superior to Whites by just about any measure that you can come up with in terms of what are the ingredients for a successful society.” Then this boob quotes his source verbatim characterizing Taylor’s self-assessment: “Taylor himself rejects any accusation of racism”; that should settle that question.

Somehow, I find reason to doubt the gentleman’s recollection (which, because he remembers it. he tells us is “not an anecdote”, tee hee). He reveals himself as an unreliable reporter on matters of race–despite having grown up with black playmates. I’m sure the coloreds and negroes of mid 1960s Fredericksburg deeply appreciated his benevolent efforts to befriend people who his chosen authority, Jared Taylor, would remind us are objectively inferior and given to criminal misbehavior. I’m curious why Mr. ______ senior would have allowed his son to cavort with a population given to higher propensities for criminal behavior–though, now that I think about it, I know for certain that towns like Fredericksburg did not put up with a lot of liberal softhead ideas about how to deal with the darker criminal element…

* For those of you who don’t follow the rightwig hate and paranoia media, the so-called “Knockout Game” has been labelled a myth by no less a radical left news organization than USA Today. Our FB scholar apparently does his research on filthmongering WorldNetDaily where this sort of white paranoia shit is reported.

Comments from a recently orphaned son…

Surrounded by her best audience and her most willing court jesters, 1976

Surrounded by her best audience and her most willing jesters, 1976

Rome, NY circa 1969—Accidentally tipping over a display rack of women’s blouses, Betty Burneko quickly turned to her 12-year-old son and, with a mischievous gleam in her eye signaling her intent to make as much hubbub as possible, loudly shouted, “Aren’t you going to pick that up you little creep? Who are you and why are you following me around the store? Get away from me before I call the store manager!” Mother and son departed the store as quickly as two people laughing hard enough to spray snot possibly can–the display rack remaining fallen and disheveled, a problem for someone else not involved in that joyous escape.

* * *

But here’s the thing, this shopping trip, like most others with my mom, had been full of tension, drama, anger, recriminations, apologies, gritted-teeth threats and oaths (my mom), and histrionic promises to run away forever (me), followed by sarcastic pleas to finally let it be so (my mom)–all of which storming and bitterness came to an immediate end in that instant of shared rule-annihilating silliness simply because my mother saw an opportunity to do something entirely unexpected and guaranteed to make us both laugh.

That there were many, many shopping trips, Sunday rides in the family car, entire vacations wherein no sunbreak of irony or unexpected sillitude appeared in time to disperse the heavy clouds of family terror that hung over most of our attempts at normal recreation (or dinners for that matter) is beside the point. My mom was a constant possibility, an unpredictable source of mayhem for good or ill. And more often than not laughter was involved–real, lung-squeezing, eye-watering laughter of the sort usually reserved for brilliant comedic performance and typically associated with epiphanic insight into the absurdity of the world.

For me, this was Betty’s greatest gift. The lightning shift from tragedy to comedy, the Marxian (Groucho not Karl) impulse to anarchy in the midst of distress; the smart remark that must be spoken even at the height of rage–especially at the height of rage; the whip-quick rejoinder too funny to silence even in those settings most inappropriate for mirth.

Thus my training into our family’s shared imperative to never let a thoroughly dysfunctional situation fuck up the possibility to laugh in the face of it all.

I recall being yelled at by her in words, volume, and tone that would have shocked a drill sergeant only to be brought down in a gale of laughter–both hers and mine–by some mid-rant bit of mocking or sarcasm she could not resist tossing at me with perfect pitch and timing.

Was this some sort of intuitively wise skill for parenting? Absolutely not. The woman was an actual demon. Life with Betty was like life in a basket with a hooded cobra: intriguing and exciting but…tricky–in a really really dangerous sort of way.

But that instinct to make joyous, ridiculous fun of and out of the madness of life was her own survival skill, her very own way of defeating tedium, pain, anger, sadness, obstacles and barriers real, imagined, or self-deployed. It was a major source of  that “strength of will, perseverance, and general inability to give up in the face of ridiculous odds” of which my little brother has spoken so sincerely and so accurately.

My mom wasn’t just a diva, she was an opera.

She was the prima donna di tutte le prime donne.

And she made it look great.

And no one took more ironic joy at poking fun at The Baroness than la Baronessa herself. As quick as she was to come up with the line to make us laugh, quicker still was she to laugh at the jibes and showoff antics of her children. NO ONE has ever been as good an audience as Mary Elizabith Lis Elisabetta LoFaro-Burneko-Fisher. (Betty to those who loved her most and wouldn’t let her get entirely away with her various fabulist personas.)

Elegant, vulgar, dynamic, lazy, shrewd, tender, wise, demanding, bewitching, terrifying, vital and vivacious, duplicitous and secretive, brilliant and earthy, phony as a Chinese Rolex, real as a category 5 hurricane…there will never be another like you, Betty.

And so, because your faith is more important to me than my doubt, I offer a prayer for you mom:

Therefore my heart hath been glad, and my tongue hath rejoiced: moreover my flesh also shall rest in hope…Thou hast made known to me the ways of life, thou shalt fill me with joy with thy countenance: at thy right hand are delights even to the end.

Psalm 16:9 and 11 mashup