Wednesday, January 18, 2012


It amazes me that I can still be amazed.

I count myself as a pretty hard-core political junkie, clocking a couple of hours a day watching cable news, checking Politico and DailyKos throughout the morning and reading the Times and the Guardian online.

So I think I've built up an immunity to the distortions, innuendos and outright lies that pass for political speech in this campaign season.  Most of it rolls off in a cynical sheen, you shrug and mutter "Well, of course, he has to say that, that's where the votes are... "

And then Newt Gingrich opens his mouth.

And the Pillsbury Doughboy from Hell begins to pontificate and sneer and lecture.

What is still angering me, the thing that I can't dismiss or defuse or let pass is his mulish, mean-spirited contention that poor (black) kids should do the work of school janitors.

This is no longer just another idea in the long line of inane, incoherent thoughts that stream unbidden from Newt's ever-working pie-hole.  This ain't mining on the moon.  At the last debate, the rotund ex-Speaker doubled down on this insidious, ignorant idea, claiming that he couldn't understand why some found his suggestion objectionable.

Let me see if I can illuminate you there, Newt.

The core of steaming contempt that this idea springs from, you see, is that poor (black) people don't have a "work ethic" and giving these kids a job in the school cafeteria will awaken their inner Bill Gates and their lives will blossom and transform and in one generation we won't have all of these goddamned poor (black) people sucking the Great Teat of Government dry.

"Not having a work ethic" is rich white guy code for "lazy, stupid and semi-criminal", by the way.  I'm not rich, but I do have an old copy of the codebook here, so you can trust me on this one.  Just like "inner-city youth" means one of those scary black kids and "states rights" means Klansmen, Welcome!

Sorry.  I'll try to stick to the point.

The point, which is glaringly, painfully obvious to anyone who has ever actually been a part of the workforce, the bottom part, where work is manual and hourly, is that no one works harder than the poor.

Newt.  Lean in and listen, you bloated, bleating fool:

No one works harder than the poor.

I remember those school janitors.  And you know what I remember most?  They were always working.  Wheeling trash cans around and mopping floors.  I can't remember a single instance of one of those guys leaning back and cackling evilly at the thought of the massive pension he was going to enjoy.

And here's the other thing, Newton:

In St. Louis, where I grew up, most of those janitors were older black men.  And we can all take the leap here together and assume that their lives were, statistically, harder than the lives of their white counterparts.  These were guys who were born in the thirties, right?  These were guys who were grown men when the Civil Rights Act was passed.  So, institutionally and actually, the road they walked down had a few more obstacles than mine or Newt's or Mitt's or Rick's or Ron's.

But they had a union, thank god, and maybe their work was hard and dirty and there wasn't a lot of joy or sense of great achievement in their weekly grind, but the money was solid and steady and you could raise a family off it.

And so, the snide suggestion that you could fire one of these guys and replace him with a couple of thirteen year olds at half the cost is so, so wrong on so, so many levels that I'm beginning to stutter here in my head.

And not just the suggestion that you could do it, but the larger thought process that you should, that it would be a good thing, a brilliant idea, get the kids working and further weaken that damned union.

This tells me, clearly and once again, that beneath so much of the "pro-business", "right-to-work", "individualistic" horseshit that we all nod along with is a barely disguised contempt and distaste for the poor (black) people that all of us hard-working, ambitious (white) people have to deal with in this country.

And I'm sorry to have to keep beating this drum, but my good Republican friends, you have to start to deal with this.  Look at your guys.  Mitt's church didn't consider black people fully human until about thirty years ago.  Ron doesn't believe in the Civil Rights Act or that a store-owner has to serve people of color.  Rick Perry has a family ranch with a rather colorful local name.

You always wade into a swamp when you talk about racism in this country.  I don't know what goes on in the hearts of these guys.  But I know what comes out of their mouths.  And it's racist.  It supports and sustains the status quo of racial inequality that others are trying to dismantle.  That's objective, if uncomfortable, fact.

We have so much work to do.  All of us.  And, like the janitors of my youth, the work we're looking at is dirty and back-breaking and a lot of it won't even be noticed by the kids running around us.  But we're doing it for those kids.  Our job is to leave them a cleaner, safer place to grow up in.  We have to scrub away the ugly, angry filth that other generations scrawled on the walls of our public corridors and tote away the stinking, festering piles of trash and hate we carelessly let grow in our midst.  And like all manual, actual labor, that job will never be done.

But we'll get up tomorrow and do it again.  And again.   Because somebody has to do it.

And if I have to watch one more privileged, out-of-touch politician sneer at our effort and question the purpose of the work...

Well.  I'll probably just shut up and keep mopping.

You can't blame a hungry dog for barking.


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