Commentary rant

D.A.H.O.F. Nominees: Sarah Braasch & The Merritt Lake Oakland Charcoal Nazi

Thank all gods–the tall ones and the small ones the jiggly ones and firm ones–for dumb asses, because without dumb asses I’d have slipped completely from this blog altogether. Fortunately, just like Michael Corleone, “Every time I think I’m out, they pull me back in!” The dumb asses, I mean. They do the pulling.

sarah-braasch-11We’re singling out a particular sub-grouping of racist dumb-asses today, with our improbably similar nominees, Yale career student Sarah Brasch, who brought down the clenched fist of justice on her dormitory neighbor for the insidious crime of…napping while black. (I know what you’re thinking: how dare they! These black people and their fatigue, the nerve of them!) On the other side of the continent, her doppleganger, the as-yet-unidentified Merritt Lake Charcoal Nazi a.k.a. The Barbie Nazi, who saved the entire city of Oakland, and neighboring Bay Area communities, from those who dared to “barbecue while black.”


I’ve had a realization while processing the nominations, and I don’t mean the one where I drop to my knees and thank fate that I was born a white man in America. I’m not proud. I don’t feel good about that, but it is a whole hell of a lot safer for me and my children. Among the comments for a youtube video of the charcoal incident, the question was posited: do white people think 911 is there for them to call any time they feel uncomfortable or scared?

Well sure we do! We’ve got TV. We’ve got the internet. When was the last time a redneckScreenshot(2).png with a license to kill wrapped his sweaty palm around my esophagus–or yours?–and squeezed, then threw me to the ground like a rag doll and charged me with resisting arrest when I squirmed and struggled for a breath?  We are pretty used to the cops coming when we call and strangling, bashing, kicking, and shooting holes in all the people who make us scared. It’s a better benefit than anything the AARP offers–and The White Club is pretty much free. Hell, they pay you!

The discussion for these nominations is: are these people just evil, or just stupid? Evil can’t be grounds for a DAHOF nomination, but stupidity can. And as much as I want to think otherwise, these women probably aren’t evil, but they do make it easier to understand how great minds as far back as Plato have considered the merits of a philosophy so barbarous as eugenics. To paraphrase Sarah Palin, “Cull baby, cull.”

Too far? Yes. Yes I know it was. And I’m sorry.

What we’re looking at here is traditional fear-rooted ignorance. Recall that the KKK was formed as a self-defense brotherhood by ex-confederates (like all the male heroes in Gone With the Wind–when they rush out in the middle of the night, and dear sweet Ashley is gravely wounded, they were out doing Night Rides, lashing out violently against the threat they believed was posed by freed slaves and carpetbaggers. Poor sweet beautiful Ashley wasn’t evil–just terrified of the new realities of the the Reconstruction.

Our nominees have no karma (that we know of) to fear, but they fear none-the-less, a fear that is wrapped–like one of those little crescent rolls around a cocktail wienie–by ignorance. The Charcoal Nazi, like many martinets, clings to her interpretation of rules in a sadly futile attempt to bring order to a chaotic reality she’s unequipped to navigate. Ms. Braasch is no different. Both women’s’ smug and self-righteous facades belie defective creatures fumblingly struggling to impose control over whatever happens to scare them. Ms. Braasch, who has spent most of her 43 years accumulating a trophy case full of doctoral degrees, is clearly incapable of functioning in a community setting. We don’t have a lot of information on the Charcoal Nazi, but dollars to doughnuts she exhibits some similar traits: unreasonable anger at a world that defies her expectations–one of which we can assume was racial primacy.

It could be a difficult to sort this out, but in the end, Dumbassedness® is not necessarily a function of stupidity or racism, though are three are often symptoms of the same malady. The accomplished dumb ass exhibits selective ignorance, blinding cruelty, intellectual laziness/lack of curiosity, and the paralyzing paucity of imagination. Given such criteria, both women’s nominations are approved.



I Hate This Fucking Thing

imapsusa_2269_10880736Symbols. I should respond to them with a clearer head. I’m a smart guy, I know some things, like the way symbols work to galvanize allies and adversaries in their causes. Especially flags.  Especially in this country. A few days ago I posted about the inanity of both flag-burning and opposing flag burning, and I stand by those arguments–but I have to admit that, this morning, I could burn confederate flag. I could set its polyester weave on fire and stomp on it while it burned. And smile. I’d savor it.


I have a bunch of relatives who live in the south–their parents, my wife’s sisters, are carpetbaggers in the parlance of the culture, not deeply ingrained in the redneck ethos, but some of my nephews feel the pull. We had a discussion around Christmas about the controversial giant rebel flag along I95 south of Fredericksburg, Virginia–my take being that it was a highly offensive symbol of oppression and sedition. They countered with the “aw, unclc Chuck–you just don’t understand, it’s a southern thing.”

It is not a southern thing.  It is an ignorant hayseed thing that, while it may be embraced by a small army of lazy-minded Buttheads who think it is cool because it’s, “you know, dude, rebellious” it is historically the battle flag of domestic enemy, the goal of which was to destroy the United States of America and maintain an economic system based on the violent subjugation of human beings. Southerners can singsong all they want about gentility and mint juleps. but the glorious past they wistfully celebrate was a feudal nightmare of petty, tyrannical lords and ladies presiding over enslaved Africans and a largely uneducated, poverty-struck underclass of white tenants and laborers.  And that’s the irony of it: most of the yahoos who idealize the glorious confederate past are descended from folks whose conditions were no better than the black folks they hated so much.

A few words pop into my mind when I see that rebel flag: IDIOT, IGNORANT, STUPID, and TRAITOR. And today, I’m done looking the other way and shaking my head at people whom I have, for the most part, given a free pass on this shit because of their mental and social defects. Maybe it will get my ass kicked, maybe it will get me shot, but I’m ready to do some finger pointing and calling out, and I urge you to do the same: when you see a rebel flag, look the owner in the eye and call ’em a racist Un-American piece of shit.


Theme Thursday: Coal Country

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m fond of having themes among the posts on this blog–the continuity is nice, and it’s somewhat inspiring when faced with a blank page to have a theme to fall back on.  The idea of the setting on Coal sneaked up on me from two directions: last week, the student-operated TV station from my alma mater and hometown university, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, ran an excellent documentary made Dr. Jim Dougherty, called The Struggle For Our American Way of Life, that I was fortunate enough to stumble into.  Produced and researched locally, I learned a lot that I should have known, such as the level of hostility local political leaders and media had for the miners of the time–our ancestors treated the predominantly Italian and Eastern European immigrant workers just as badly as we treat our immigrant laborers today, even as so much of our wealth is harvested almost directly from their sweat and blood, as it was then.

kkk1I learned that my hometown, a clean and thriving University community that was, at the time, the headquarters of the Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal Company, was also a bastion of economically and socio-politically motivated ethnic bigotry, and a bastion of the Ku Klux Klan which, in these parts, was not closd to content with terrorizing black black people–they were equally at war with Italians and Eastern Europeans, particularly Catholics–often murderously so.

That’s a hard pill to swallow.  I’m a guy who still regards the American South with suspicion, 150 years after the civil war, which makes it pretty shocking to see headlines on the local paper–the same paper I read daily today and often link to on this site–crowing about rallies of 35,000 Klansmen being held on a farm two miles south of town.  This isn’t particularly shocking news–a few years back some yahoos burned a cross in the front yard of one of my wife’s students, and a few years before that some other friends of ours found a swastika spray painted on their Obama campaign sign outside their farm.  Of course, it’s easy to take a deep breath and consider the likelihood that those sorts of things are the acts of a few marauding idiots.

35,000 hooded, hateful cretins is a whole different ballgame.

You don’t grow up here without connections to coal. My wife’s family all arrived here in the early 20th century–Italians, Slovaks, and Czechs–and most of the men worked in the mines, lived in company-owned towns, shopped at company-owned stores. My father-in-law, whose career took him to the natural gas fields, is an articulate, quietly dignified man, who didn’t begin to speak English until he was six years old–not that you could tell from meeting him.  My father was raised at the end of a red dog road in the small mining town of Hollsopple, PA, though that side of our family was less intertwined in the mines–my grandfather was a steelworker for Bethlehem Works. Most of my fraternal kin were farmers. Some still are. Others are professionals, musicians, college professors–all of us owing back to the hardscrabble backbreaking labors of past generations.

1-2-C7D-25-ExplorePAHistory-a0j8b6-a_349It’s on my mother’s side where things get interesting.  It was very different over there, where several different ancestors made their way here in the 17th century, and just about all of them had crossed over by the French and Indian War.  That side of my family settled in Cambria and Bedford counties, particularly Windber, PA, where my great-grandfather (with whom I share a middle name), was “Burgess”–or Mayor–for a string of years in the 1930s, and was well-respected as a local leader.  I was raised to worship this fellow who died before I was born.  He “got the streets paved” in Windber, among other accomplishments, and was rather infamous in refusing to accept a nomination to run for Governor, but what shook me was the discovery that my Great Grandfather’s lofty accomplishments had been born primarily from his position as a manager in the Berwind-White Coal Company (Berwind = Windber, get it?), as was that of all the town government, and the Burgesses who both proceeded and followed him–yep, the great Patriarch got his power from being a dutiful lackey.  Worse still, in his capacities as both a mayor and a company manager, he had been instrumental in the brutal–and successful, sadly–efforts to prevent the immigrant miners in town from unionizing.  The historic campaign, the second of two infamous and historically important pro-Union strikes in Windber, was steeped in conflict and violence.

It’s a strange thing, to grow up hearing tales of a great ancestor, only to learn that the man you were raised to admire was on the wrong side of history, and a villain to those who have my sympathies.  Union-busting is, in my mind, a heinous row to hoe–but that was the guy, or at least one of them, for whom I was named.

*Opps!  This was a draft that I accidentally posted when I’d meant to save it, but since it’s been up for several hours I’ll leave it.  The errors will, eventually, disappear, but the abrupt ending will remain.  I’ll continue it at a later date–maybe next Thursday. 









Balled of Cliven Bundy by Stephen Colbert




Belated Congratulations: Hawaii, Illinois and….

Hawaii and Illinois recently moved on legislation that will make them the 15th and 16th states to end discrimination against same-sex couples who wish to marry.  To them I say, “congratulations–it’s about damn time.”

I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t wish politics to intrude too heavily on this blog–not that I’m shy about my views, which pretty much amount to conservatives thinking I’m a godless liberal, and liberals thinking I’m some sort of–well, they don’t know–like a Kraken or something, a beast from the deep eager to eat up (sacred) cows and the village children whole and raw.  The thing is, marriage shouldn’t be a political topic. It’s a human thing.  We live in times of war, violence, and hatred across so many lines–social, ethnic, religious, political–who are we to deny the full measure of whatever love others might squeeze from our shriveled husk of a society?

For half of my life I didn’t give much thought to homophobia beyond a sort of smug, thoughtless disdain, but a series of acquaintances with gay folks gave me pause to consider their lives beyond the general.  I don’t know what I expected, but I quickly realized that most of their lives were exactly like mine, except for the part where a small but loud segment of the population despised them for no other reason than who they happened to love.

And that made a lot of sense?

One day I asked a friend of mine what she thought about the whole “homosexuality is a lifestyle choice” argument that was then the rant du jour of conservatives, particularly Christians.  She laughed bitterly, “the last time I went home, my parents prayed for me to find my way back from sin. At the dinner table. In high school I was Most Likely To Succeed and Valedictorian, now I’m the lesbian.  People point at me in the grocery store.  If I took someone I loved back there, it might not be safe to walk down the street holding hands.  She surely wouldn’t be welcome in my parents’ home.  I’m not ashamed about who I am, but there are times when I feel like I was seeded at the back of the pack, you know?  That’s nature–but would I choose it?  Are you kidding? I envy straight people, you put your arm around your girlfriend and walk down the street and everyone smiles and thinks: ah, young love!  How sweet!  I get obscene and demeaning catcalls and McDonald’s milkshakes thrown at me.”

phyllis-lyon-and-del-martin-in-2004This shot of the wedding of  Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin is one of my favorite pictures, not only because deep beneath my scaly, misanthropic crust I’m a romantic who cries at the end of Miracle on 34th Street and Love, Actually every god-damned Christmas, but because–hell, I don’t even need to say it.  Look at the way they look at each other!

And yet, by conservative ideology, these two are a grave threat to “traditional” marriage–like the three sacred, holy matrimonies Newt Gingrich has enjoyed.  Now, I can’t speak for those conservatives, but my wife and I aren’t afraid our marriage will be undermined by a GAY MARRIAGE OPPONENT HOLDS SIGN IN PROTEST OUTSIDE STATEHOUSEcouple of old women with matching rings.  I’m not even afraid of those leather people at the Folsom Street Fair.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I live in rural Pennsylvania and had to look that up on google–but doesn’t the reference make me sound, I dunno, uh, worldly?) I am, however afraid of this guy to the right, mostly because he reminds me a lot of what I’ve heard from these guys:


They thought God was on their side, too.  In fact, here are some quotes for you:

“Nature’s law, which is a creation of YAHWEH, dictates that kind reproduce after kind. The different people of the world were never supposed to mix. Even the different animals and species of our world practice natures law of reproduction “Kind after Kind”…

(Our) belief on homosexuality is not homophobic, but like all subjects, it’s based on our biblical beliefs. So what does the bible teach us about these perverted lifestyles. In Leviticus 18:22 we read “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind it is abomination.” Also in Leviticus 20:13 “If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination, they shall surely be put to death, their blood shall be upon them.” In Deuteronomy 23:17 we read “There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.”.

Its extremely clear what our Father in heaven has to say about homosexuals. Other Old Testament verses on the subject can be found in 1 Kings 14:24 and 15:12, II Kings 23:7, Isaiah 3:9 and Jeremiah 23:14. There are more verses in the Bible on this subject, but I think I have made my point. Some say the New Testament does not address homosexuality at all. So, let us read 1 Corinthians 6:9 “No ye not that the unrightous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind.” Also in Jude 7, Romans 1:22-32 and 1 Timothy 1:10. By the way, for those that don’t know the meaning of the word effeminate it means a man that takes on the characteristics of a woman.

So, as you can see, if any Judeo-Christian minister does not preach against homosexuality, he is a liar and a deceiver. Homosexuality, like a cancer, must be cut out of our society or it will grow until it kills the body, like a cancer. This is not the words of (this essay), this is the word of Yahweh.”

Sound familiar?  I hope not, because it is lifted directly from a KKK propaganda tract–though I just read some very similar words from a Baptist minister whose church is 10 minutes from my doorstep.

So, with that in mind, to the remaining states, I say:  Who’s Got Next?