Monday, January 18, 2021

Solving All the World's Problems With a Single Blogpost

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!

Happy Martin Luther King Day, everybody! 

So...this is awkward.  Nazis and white supremacists in the capitol.  Not exactly a banner month for the civil rights movement.

I don't know what to say, kids.  I don't know how to make it better.  The promise of the information age was that granting everyone instantaneous access to all the knowledge in the world would make humanity better.  How could anyone be fooled by the Blood Libel anymore or the Lost Cause of the Confederacy when you could just look that shit up and see it all debunked?  Bigotry and sexism and all that garbage was supposed to have been burnt away by the light of knowledge.

But something weird and unpleasant happened with the democratization of information.  Somewhere along the way we, as a society, became convinced that Uncle Fred's opinions on nuclear proliferation were just as valid as Henry Kissinger's because they both had access to similar platforms.  And then, as if it weren't bad enough that stupid opinions could spread unchecked, custom-generated misinformation, bespoke to whatever lie you wanted to make seem true, could also travel from Toronto to Tuvalu in the blink of an eye.

And so we found ourselves here, with a homegrown army of domestic terrorists with opinions ranging from "the choice is literally between Trump and communism" and "lulz, civil war would totes pwn" and I'm not even sure which of those outlooks is scarier, frankly.

So, yeah.  In some ways we seem further than ever from Dr. King's vision of racial equality under the law in America.  But, then again, perhaps we're doing better now than in the past.  I know, that sounds really bizarre to say.  But let me tell you a little about what I remember about the '90s.

The '90s was a strange decade.  When the Berlin Wall fell, and then the Soviet Union, we, as a society, decided that our worldview had pretty much won.  And, as a corollary, America had to be perfect in every way.  Therefore racism was dead.  They told us the biggest concern the average suburban white kid had to have about race was to remember to say "African American" and "Native American" instead of "black" or "Indian."  And even that little sop to human feeling was the target of much ridicule in the media.  We were told that, sure, there might still be some racists down there in backwoods Alabama or somewhere, but that whole mess had basically petered out.

There's something ugly about that pretending.  There was a certain capacity to sweep everything under the rug at that time that turned into an aggressive desire to do so.  "Oh, no, you weren't a victim of racism.  Don't you know racism is over?"



I guess that shit doesn't fly anymore.  It's pretty much impossible to deny that racism is a problem in America anymore, particularly when it's been the driving force in our politics for the past four years.  And if there was any real question about that, seeing the guys in the Camp Auschwitz t-shirts storm the capitol building made it pretty crystal clear.

There's a saying in AA that you can't get better until you hit rock bottom.  I'm not an expert, but it surely feels like we're hitting rock bottom in America these days.  At least our problems are all laid bare.  At least we can identify and try to fix them.  Not the greatest possible outcome, but it's something better than sweeping everything under the rug, I guess.

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