Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Chose the Wrong Picture

For bleeding hearts like me Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor Rally on the Mall on Saturday seemed both significant and disturbing. I've found it hard to get my thoughts together.

First of all this picture doesn't fit the topic at all. I thought to use this photograph from a KKK march and rally in Washington D.C. in August of 1925. That photo is from a really cool Web site about American history, The Authentic History Center which is a broad collection of primary sources from American popular culture. The problem is a photograph of the KKK is unnecessarily inflammatory and sheds more heat than light.

The only pictures I have on my new computer are ones I've downloaded just to have something to play around with the graphics applications. I got the photo posted here from an email from a Yahoo Group. There wasn't any comment or credit with the photo, but I copied it because I've got a soft spot for blaxploitation films. Back as a freshman at university in the 1970's I didn't have much to do on Friday and Saturday nights and little money too. The Black Student Association showed blaxplotation films for free. These weren't first-run screenings and I don't remember many white students in attendance. A big part of the the fun was audience interaction with the movies. It's incredible looking back that I never chatted anyone up at these screenings, still they were very much fun.

Going from vague memories of the blaxplotation genre I think the picture is of Richard Roundtree who starred in Shaft. I'm not sure though as I searched images and didn't see any of him with the same hair. I'm lost as far as who the woman in the photo might be. I looked around a bit and thought that it might be Camille Yarbrough who was also in the movie Shaft. But the photo certainly isn't from Shaft, and I don't think it is Camille Yarbrough in the photo, nevertheless Camille Yarbrough is very cool.

Meanwhile I've been playing around with the music player in Ubuntu which is called Rhythm Box. Curious about the features for buying music, and probably with the photo in mind, I downloaded Just a Band's albulm 82 without a hitch. I first heard of Just a Band from mention by Kenyan blogger Njorge Matathia. I really liked the songs and the whole DIY aesthetic of the band. So when early this spring their video Makmende Amerudi! became a huge Internet meme I was delighted. If you missed it the video really is worth watching.

All of this is quite far afield from Beck's “Restoring Honor” rally, except that it made me think of various online conversations I've had with African friends where religion comes up. I'm not religious and some of these conversations involve encouraging me to “repent” of my irreligion. Some of my interlocutors are “progressive” politically, so when they speak glowingly of people on the far-right of the political spectrum here in the USA creates cognitive dissonance in me.

I'm not clear on The 27th Comrade's politics. I've been puzzling about that since reading his old blog, Communist Socks And Boots. What is clear is that intellectual rigor matters to Comrade 27. It's also fair to say that Comrade 27 doesn't hesitate to point out injustice, inconsistency and stupidity, even when doing so is annoying. I somewhat suspect he likes being annoying. Some of the links he's posted at the confluence of religion and far-right politics have succeed in annoying me. Still, I value his engaging me online very much.

The alignment of some Africans I've met online with an interpretation of Christianity, the attendant celebrities of it and the hard-right politics that seems to follow gives me pause. It's given me a different lens to look at the Tea Party and Glenn Beck's rally through. From my ordinary frame the politics of the Tea Party screams racism, and the religious rhetoric sounds pretense. The irony is that from African friends I'm able to take a second look at the mindset of some of my fellow Americans.

I choose the wrong picture to illustrate anything about Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally. The rally seems quite important still and I'll try to get some thoughts together about it for future posts.

I think at Christmas time I got a DVD of Shaft in the dollar bin and gave it to a friend as a present. I'm going to try to watch it as thinking about it now makes me think it a much more subtle film than I'd remembered.

1 comment:

The 27th Comrade said...

I am on the far left of the far right (from where you stand). This is because, though I am a lefty from the viewpoint of my society, your society is so far progressed to the left—an extreme that I fear as much as I hate it (and it is indeed an extreme)—that lefties from here will look like far right fanatics (from where you stand). So you will certainly find some things we espouse—say, the general rejection of homosexuality and abortion—to be far right to you, when for us they are cutting-edge left (at the very least the discussion of them is).

I know that the American Right is still dealing with a hangover of racism, and it feels compelled to identify with that sorry tribe of idiots that came before it, compelled to be wrong with them in order to be right with them also. But if you manage to peel off such dangerous debts, the American Right looks like the only sane thing in town. After all, these TEA Partyists—even ignoring that they have explicitly (as far as I know) refused to let race be an issue—are the only ones who are marching against your sovereign debt. That is a bigger problem—the debt—than most other things Americans can think of now. (Their inconsistency is in not marching against Bush—but the lefties did that, and they were right.)
Anyway … :o) Long live the far right of the far left.