Thursday, June 9th, 2005

Quick thing:  did anyone else catch Colin Powell on the Daily Show
last night?  Is it me, or was he the one who brought up the Downing Street Memo
– you know, the minutes from a meeting in which it was discussed that
our government was seeing to it that evidence was “fixed” to make the
case for war against Iraq?  Stewart (bless him, he’s so afraid to
make powerful people angry to their faces) sure didn’t bring it
up.  It was Powell all on his own with that one.  If you have
access to a TiVo with the episode from last night on it, watch
it.  If you’re unfamiliar with the Downing Street Memo, check it – and efforts to get it more time in the spotlight – out. (more…)

Oh, I said it, alright.

So Jesse Helms is out, on record, as saying he feels bad for having
spent a large part of his career specifically trying to block, mock and
all-around clock people with AIDS.  Now, he says, Franklin Graham
and Bono (one’s the intolerant, fundamentalist, coat-tail-riding son of
a well-known evangelist, the other is a leftist rocker with big
sunglasses – together they fight crime) convinced him he was wrong and
he’s sorry.  He’s just so, so sorry.

Here’s the tiniest golf-clap in the world, Jesse.

For years I reveled in knowing he lived right down the street from the only theatre in the Triangle that shows Rocky Horror Picture Show every Friday.

Of course, the big issue for Jesse – race – is still a non-starter as mea culpas go.  There’s this zinger, apparently, from his upcoming memoirs:

We will never know how integration might have been achieved in
neighborhoods across our land, because the opportunity was snatched
away by outside agitators who had their own agendas to advance. We
certainly do know the price paid by the stirring of hatred, the
encouragement of violence, the suspicion and distrust. We do know that
too many lives were lost, businesses were destroyed, millions of
dollars were diverted from books and teachers to support the cost of
buses and gasoline. We do know that turning our public schools into
social laboratories almost destroyed them.

Here’s the thing:  that’s bullshit.  Say it loud, say it proud, my friends:  it’s B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T bullshit.  You know what the subtext of that statement is:  we shouldn’t have been made to integrate because we and the black people liked it better the old way.

Seriously.  Tell me how that statement doesn’t carry that
implication.  I’ll give you a couple of minutes.  I’m gonna
go downstairs and have a smoke while you work on that one, should you
care to do so.

OK, I’m back.  As an aside, I just broke up a MAC vs. WINDOWS
argument amongst co-workers.  Jesus H., people, how many flavors
of OS do there need to be in the world before we can all just choose
the one we like and shut up?  OS choices carry remarkably few moral imperatives, last I checked.  OK.  I’m better now.

So anyway, yeah.  What Helms is implying is that it all would have
worked itself out anyway – an argument strangely like those frequently
used by people who claim the South should have simply been allowed to
secede since everyone knew abolition was coming on its own and thus the
Civil War was a hugely unnecessary endeavor.  Claiming that
equality could just be left to happen of its own accord is both
historically inaccurate (see Plessy v. Ferguson for more on the sort of “equality” that came about of its own accord after emancipation) and purposefully misleading. 

The lack of a need to “hurry” integration suggests the lack of a
problem in the first place.  When Helms points the finger at
“outside agitators” he’s making it sound like equality was some foreign
concept imported solely by voting rights activisits bussed in from some
nebulous Other Place.  He conveniently ignores that luminaries
such as Dr. King came from the very heart of the South itself and that
heroes such as The Greensboro Four were pure locals – students from NC
A&T, a college right there in town.  These were not people
breezing in on a bus to make a demand and then breezing back out again
before they could suffer any real heat for it (you know, like
Called2Action when they showed up in Chapel Hill a few months back),
they were people who cared, who took action, because the issue was
something they faced in their everyday life.  These people risked everything they had to protect everything they had and work toward everything they deserved.

To say that integration was some outsider imposition and that “communities” (to abuse the shit out of that word by his simple use of
it) were going to sort things out on their own ignores that huge
segments of those “communities” were routinely being denied work,
denied voting rights, denied marriage rights, intimidated, beaten and
killed for being a part of those “communities.”  It makes
it sound as though change was already under way and that progress was
already being made during the very time of the same oppressions that led to the Civil Rights movement.  It’s not just doublespeak or misdirection, it’s a lie.  L-I-E lie
Helms is trying to make it sound as if being treated like less than a
human being wasn’t so bad, that it could be sorted out over some
glasses of sweet tea and a game of football.  It’s right next door
to the stupid BS the occasional fundamentalist white supremacists (such
as a school in Cary, NC) try to push:  namely, that slavery wasn’t so bad after all and, hey, some slaves even enjoyed it! 

Yes, the Cary Christian School really used that booklet in class.  I’ll give everyone a moment to barf over that one.

We all back now?

So anyway, there you have it.  There’s Jesse Helms’ position in
what will likely be his last opportunity to apologize for building his
career on bigotry and hate.  There’s what he has to say in his
(hopefully) last turn on the soapbox:  sorry about the AIDS thing, and by the way, what’s with all these uppity black people, anyway? 
His gift to history is a complete lack of understanding of the issue
and a complete unwillingness to admit that he himself – in his turn as
Raleigh’s very own Ur-Limbaugh in his WRAL days – was surely at least a
part of the motivations for violence against African-Americans as they
struggled for simple equality.  No apologies for that one, oh no,
no apologies at all for the easy-reach political levers of hate and
fear that propelled him into office over and over and over again.

I have two Jesse Helms stories for you.

First, when I was a student at UNC I was part of a performance troupe
that partnered with an off-campus troupe (acting, dancing, singing –
the works) that consisted entirely of people past retirement age. 
My partner in that performance group had worked in television
production and had ample opportunity to get to know Helms.  “That
man is a puppet,” he told me.  “He always has been.  He’s
never had a sincere conviction in his life.  He just said what he
was told to say and got paid for it, sucking up the whole time, always
gravitating to someone that could give him another lift to greater
power.”  Weighing that against what I heard about him so many
times as I grew up in Helms’ North Carolina (that people voted for him
because at least they knew what he believed), I found it
shocking.  Now, a few years and a little more experience later, I
have no idea why it surprised me to hear that Helms’ whole persona
might be a sham.

Second, when we ran for co-student body presidents, KJ and
I had as part of our platform that if Jesse died while we were in
office we would throw a huge party in the middle of the campus quad.

We didn’t win.  But KJ reminded me a while back that the offer
still stands.  And when Jesse dies, and with him any future
opportunities for him to get up and say things like this, things that
boil down to if the Yankees had just left us alone we’d still be
, things that continue to spread his agenda of hate and fear and
the supremacy and obedience of a white, Christian class, then I will
dance.  I will drink and dance and have gay sex and throw my hat
into the air.

That’s a bad thing to say, I know.  But fuck him. 
Fuck him for not being able to say he’s sorry for having propagated and
perhaps even inspired more than his fair share of hate and
inequality.  Fuck him for thinking he was never in the wrong to
start with.  Fuck him for pretending the problem was blown all out
of proportion by “outside agitators,” or that it wasn’t a real problem
to begin with, or that things would have just worked themselves out if
everyone clapped their hands together and really believed.  He deserves whatever bad things I can think of to say about him.  I am reminded, again, of my drunken statement to Mr. Pink Eyes that we liberals are too willing to forgive.  I can’t forgive Jesse Helms, and I’m not sure anyone should. (more…)

So last night The Boyf and I are couched and TVing, and as we’re scrolling around the listings we see Bram Stoker’s Burial of the Rats.  I cry out that we must watch this, whatever it is.  I’ve seen (the regrettable) Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula and I’ve seen Lair of the White Wyrm (also regrettable), but I’d never even heard of Burial of the Rats.  So we pull up the description and it’s, uh… well, the Rotten Tomatoes listing for it
doesn’t even do it justice.  If I remember the TiVo listing
properly, it read something like:  “The young Bram Stoker is first
kidnapped, then sheltered, by a cult of women with power over
rats.”  That’s all it said, and all I needed to hear.

The movie is enjoyably dreadful.  Apparently Bram Stoker is an
American.  Also, his captors are Americans, as are the
authorities, despite the film appearing to be set in Olde Generic Town,
the world-famous capitol of EasternEuropeanstan.  Also, black
bikinis make great armor, and the rat-women gain their power over rats by a combination of flute-playing and badly done topless dancing.  Gods, but the dancing was awful.

At first we were enthusiastically MST3King it, and then as it became
more and more awful we wound down to simple giggles and groans. 
At one point it cut rather abruptly to a soft-core scene, and we
whisked ourselves back to watching Air America on Sundance lest I be
unable to keep down my dinner. 

All through it we kept commenting on the cough actor who played Bram Stoker (pronounced like gram or tram, or like bomb, depending on which cough actress
was addressing Our Semi-Hero) and how familiar he looked.  Today I
ended up IMDBing him and, given most of his work appears to be in
movies with titles like Virtual Seduction and Showgirl Murders, a genre
IMDB generously terms Drama, I had absolutely no idea where I’d have
seen him previously.  Then it hit me.  He’s the spitting
image of Brian O’Halloran from Clerks
– kind of.  Specifically, he looks like Brian O’Halloran minus the
facial hair but plus one bad weave.  Close enough for government
work, anyway, so that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  It’s
always possible that I saw him featured in one of the soft-core flicks
Morgan would always pretend to be surprised to find on in his room
despite being the one who’d turned them on. 


At any rate, we watched it on Showtime Beyond.  If you get that
channel, and you have 85 minutes to watch drain away, I wouldn’t veto
it.  Watching a bunch of z-grade buffoons try to swordfight beats
eating glass to see how much you can down before the internal bleeding
gets to you.

At one point, The Boyf said, “Does this at all resemble anything that Bram Stoker wrote?” 

LORD no,” I told him.  “Lord no.” (more…)