FLIP BURGERS OR DIE!

What's going on with these "Angry White Guys with Guns"

CAQ editorial from the Spring issue sheds some light on the forces that allow militias to thrive.

Angry white guys have been complaining a lot lately that they are an oppressed group. Until the Newt Congress, it was too easy to dismiss this rage, both as silly (after all, white guys rule the world), and as harmless (displays of political chest thumping and boy bonding around sports or guns.) No more. These guys are dangerous and armed, some literally, some with a hatred so acid it consumes the fabric of society. Although the media hype would have us believe that this vocal minority represents all white men, according to polls, most people in this country support social programs far more progressive and compassionate than those passed by the current Congress. But at the same time, politicians and the media are manipulating a very real and growing undercurrent of rage and alienation to justify their agenda. And it is not as if some white guys don't have reason to be mad. While it is certainly clear that those who dominate most of the industrialized world are white and male, still, most white guys are relatively poor, alienated, and powerless. And why not. They are part of a system that ensures inequity not only of circumstance but of opportunity. True, they are its most privileged part, but the world is changing. The advantages they saw as their God-given right are drying up at the same time as women and people of color are demanding their fairshare. It's quite a shock to these guys who wereschooled in the myth that their skin/gender/religion entitled them to grow upto be president -- or at least, to a stable upwardly mobile job, a house, an education for the kids, and a decent retirement. Now they have lost faith that they will be better off than their fathers and they fear their children will be worse off still. They are starting to see the world as those not privileged by gender and race have long seen it. It's a lousy, limited view; no wonder they are not smiling. And even as they look out on it, the paths leading up to the American dream are being constricted or closed off.

The U.S. is de-industrializing: High-pay low-skill jobs like those that brought ageneration of male industrial workers into the middle class are being automated or exported to the Third World for $3 a day. Higher education -- another road out paved by the GI bill and student loan programs -- is now priced beyond the range of all but the verycomfortable, and even then is no guarantee forthe future. The majority of new jobs are in the low-pay low-status service sector. These angry white guys fear their future will be: Flip burgers or die. This belief feeds a vast emptiness neither consumer goods, brain-deadening television, nor the bosom of the nuclear family can fill. So they are pissed, these white guys, and who can blame them. The problem is whom they can blame. With the new Congress piling on fuel, this white male anger is an engine aimed at people of color, immigrants, women, the disbled, gays and lesbians. Those who stand in its path are indanger of being mowed down. Those who don't, risk becoming "good Germans."

The pattern of scapegoating is all too familiar. The politicians and mainstream media have successfully diverted attention from the fundamental problems, the ones that disadvantage all races and genders (but least of all white men): This country has a political economy incapable of supporting full employment; the distribution of wealth is already one of the most disparate in the world, and it is increasingly concentrated ina few elite hands; the environment is a toxic shrine to corporate greed and government expedience; the legal system imprisons thepoor and rewards corporate thieves and killers; and the political system is run by elites for elites. The politicians and media, along with the Christian right, distract the victims from these systemic flaws with a well-honed technique: They assume a pose of self-righteous innocence and point atscapegoats. The current atmosphere is redolent of the misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia that the politicians, media, and Christian right have used to their advantage.So what else is new? Well, recently a whiff of fascism has begun to foul the air.

The rise of citizen militias willing to avenge perceived grievances with guns (p. 20); the passage of Prop 187 and attacks on affirmative action (p. 15); and links between neo-Nazi movements and anti-abortion fanatics (p. 26) speak of profound alienation and a search for someone to blame. The angry white guy lashes outagainst affirmative action (women and AfricanAmericans took his job, his prospects); he demands immigration and welfare reform (foreigners and welfare cheats stole his taxdollars, created the deficit); excoriates biggovernment (without its interference, he would be free to prosper); denounces abortion (women who make choices rob him of domination in the one arena in which he may be able to exercise control-- the family). These angry white men believe they can stay above water by standing on the backs of those even more victimized than they. Instead, they need to recognize who really benefits from thecurrent distribution of wealth and rights.Unless they do, and help pull the plug on a fundamentally unjust system, everyone may drown in the greed and hatred that serves the few.
 
 

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