I graduated high school in 1988 and had no idea what to do. I was freaked out. But I did know one thing: I hated Ronald Reagan. Much more than I hate G W Bush, I hated Reagan. He and his policies, his administration, like a Legion of Doom, continue to screw the US. More than anything else in the 1980s, I remember slowly arriving at the notion that the Republican party, capitalism, organized religion, the US government all were orchestrating to shape me into a white power warrior for Jesus. I was firmly determined to fight the power. Indeed, I knew the principles I learned in school were certainly not the principles the government was pushing. By the early 90s, I began seeing that the Democrats were just as bad and I decided to teach and to organize labor was the only ethical way to go. I wanted to do everything I could to reject my privilege and transform society.
All the theocratic and plutocratic nonsense that is de rigueur bubbled to the surface and publicly organized as a part of GOP policy and popular culture throughout the 1980s. It wasn’t just anti-communism, anti-ERA, anti-homosexuality anymore. Thatcher and Reagan really did cement the notion of perennial Victorian values as something they called Family Values in popular culture. They talked about it all the time.
Orwell made a lot of sense to me. Ayn Rand sounded like an asshole. Capitalism quickly became something I was supposed to inherit and live, and that made it easier for me to reject. Rather than a fact of life, it was a part of my religion. When you think these things at 14, it comes as a surprise to your family. It’s not easy to reject traditional frameworks from within the comfort of your home. I didn’t know how to say what I thought; I didn’t have the language. My parents thought I was rejecting them. I think my father continues to think I reject him. It’s painful.
It was Reagan I rejected. Thatcher. The Catholic Church. Capitalism. Business Class. The values I learned at home, I always thought I was defending them: care for your family, try not to be selfish, take responsibility for your actions, love your neighbor, work for your keep.
You know, George W Bush was gathering the right-wing evangelical troops to work for his father back in 1988. We should have seen this coming.
If you watch Fox regularly, you understand why millions of Americans are comfortable watching it. You get the idea of what Christian conservatives think the US should look like: white men with their blonde female friends and a few of their Jewish and nonwhite friends talking in disbelief about the disorder in culture. Their bookshelves contain the Holy Bible and little books about Common Sense. The men are self-righteous and the women are shrill. That network is all about rehabilitating, in other words cultivating, the Middle-Class White Christian Family as the foundation of society.
It’s not that white power has become so popular that scares me—it’s always been popular. It’s that it’s become so popular to be public about those feelings: see the Tea Party. See capitalist libertarian leaders, like Ron Paul, who proudly proclaim they believe in The Creator. So much for Liberty. We excuse the theocratic and plutocratic elements in public discourse instead of wrangle them. When you can get an arch-capitalist, pro-corporatist libertarian to praise God on national TV, you’re doing something Right.
Fuck them all.
Why am I thinking about this? There’s a great post on We Are Respectable Negroes that includes great video of Frank Zappa & Kevin Phillips and an essay by Roger Ebert taking on the haters. Go check it out.