Tidying up a landfill

Imagine for a moment that your house is built on a garbage dump. Your home constantly reeks of not only the discarded foodstuffs and general refuse of our disposable society, but of the general human neglect that accompanies those places we prefer not to think about. All around you is the funk of abandonment, to the point that it permeates your pores.

In other words, you stink.

Now, imagine someone from outside your home notices your living conditions and clucks disapprovingly. You are not invited to social engagements, and are generally ostracized from polite company. Everywhere you go people turn up their noses and avoid you. Noticing this, you say “I know what the problem is! This garbage dump I live in is untidy!” So you pile all of the rotting compost into an organized heap, rake the dirty diapers into a mound, and arrange the biohazardous waste in an aesthetically-pleasing way that really showcases your savvy as a decorator and landscaper. “There,” you say “that should take care of the problem!”

National Front of France bans skinheads

The new leader of France’s National Front, Marine Le Pen, has barred skinheads from the far right’s annual May Day march in Paris. She confirmed for French radio she was banning “trouble-makers” from the first march to be held since she took over from her father Jean-Marie in January. “They draw cameras like flies and naturally we would protect ourselves from such provocations,” she said.

Marine Le Pen has decided that the real problem with her ultra-right wing racial supremacist party is that there’s just too many skinheads around! They’re making all of the bigots in suits look bad! The depressing part of this story is, of course, that her plan appears to be working. As though people don’t really mind racism so much as they don’t like being associated with the ugly parts of it. Your heart almost goes out to those poor bastards – too racist for the ultra right-wing of the political spectrum, and now too ugly to even be seen.

But then I remember that given the chance they’d kick my teeth in and leave me on the side of the road for dead, so my sympathy doesn’t really extend that far.

Orange Country Republicans censures member

A California Republican group censured one of its own Thursday, saying her words and actions since sending an e-mail last month depicting President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee have been potentially offensive, damaging and insincere. Capping a meeting Thursday, the Orange County Republican Party’s executive committee voted 12-2 Thursday to issue an ethics censure against Marilyn Davenport.

Do you want to know how you can tell that you’ve gone way over the line? Like, not just said something questionable or that could be potentially misconstrued, but have left tact and appropriateness deep in the distant past as you bravely rocket forward strapped to a jetpack fueled by pure racism? When you get disowned by The Republican Party for being too racist. That’s like having Mel Gibson take you aside and warn you that you might have a bit of a drinking problem. It’s like Glenn Beck calling you a conspiracy theorist. It’s like Michael Vick leaving you a note of concern about the way you treat your pets.

The Republican party is not necessarily racist, and I think I’ve pointed out this distinction before. There’s nothing egregious in the Republican platform that says “black people are inferior”, but their constant harping on “personal responsibility” as the primary explanatory factor for differences between the haves and the have-nots certainly dovetails nicely with racism. It’s not an accident that every time someone in the news says something ridiculously racist, it’s always a Republican. Republican political philosophy isn’t overtly racist, but it does ‘provide aid and comfort’ to racists. Conservatives hate hearing this – nobody likes being called racist. Most conservatives wouldn’t consider themselves to be racist, and under particular definitions of the concept they aren’t. However, there seems to be a great reluctance among conservatives to try and parse out why the racists always seem to come from their camp, and so much more rarely from ours.

It is a rhetorically unfortunate fact that both of the people mentioned in this post are female, because the phrase “putting lipstick on a pig” takes on a sexist connotation. My intent is merely to point out that no matter how much you try and ‘beautify’ something, it is still as fundamentally ugly as it was before you started (although I don’t personally find pigs that ugly). Trying to gloss over – I intentionally avoid the word ‘whitewash’ – the problem by tidying up the landfill that is your political position isn’t going to fix the underlying issues. If you think racism is a problem, if you think that your spotlight is too often taken up having to apologize for and distance yourself from those who are your allies but who say bigoted things, then you have to really look hard at why they feel at home in your house.

People aren’t shunning you because your dump is unkempt; it’s because you stink.

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  1. Daniel Schealler says

    As an alternative to ‘putting lipstick on a pig’ consider either ‘putting a gorilla in a suit’ or, my personal favorite, ‘you can’t polish a turd’.

  2. Daniel Schealler says


    I’m totally stealing that line and pretending I thought it up on my own.

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