Thursday, December 4, 2014

Fake-Prayer and Guns: Racism the Descendents of Harper Lee's Bob Ewell - Edited and Expanded

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I'm ashamed of white people, and I'm one of them. Sitting in a place of privilege for 300 years in this land we now call the United States, we have taken our place in society for granted. I'm a southerner, but my ancestors never owned slaves - too poor, and merely subsistance farmers who never saw a cotton bale. When people talk about black food, that's what my ancestors grew up eating too - pinto beans with bacon, collards, cornbread, and sweet potato pie.

The reality is that most white southerners had nothing to do with elite plantation owners, but unfortunately the idiots calling for secession and romanticizing the Confederacy believe they ARE the elite now. They are the elite white-trash Middle Class who are better than the rest, especially people of color.

Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, had it right when she made Bob Ewell the villain of her southern gothic story. Bob Ewell is the guy who blamed a black man for everything and expected his white peers to believe him, much like Bob McCulloch, the prosecutor in St. Louis who basically defended white cop Darren Wilson instead of the black victim, Mike Brown.

Bob Ewell is the face of the white southern Tea Party. He's poor white trash but maybe with a college degree. He grew up watching Mod Squad and Room 222 and probably cried during the movie Brian's Song, but he can't recall that black people ever made a dent in his consciousness. All he remembers is the Golden Age of the Whites, when Mom made apple pie, and cities lit up at Christmas Time because white people loved Jesus more. (You know, black people don't celebrate Christmas because they're all Muslims. We don't need no Kwanzaa.)If you make an Archie Bunker joke to him, he will not laugh, but might say Archie actually made some good points, and isn't it a shame everyone is so PC these days?

He's the ancestor of farmers, mill workers, or mechanics, but his family rose to middle class status in the 60s-70s, ironically with color TVs on which to see integrated sports. He drives brand new jeeps and trucks, and thinks he's top of the heap, as good as any millionaire/billionaire. He could be a millionaire if he tried hard enough or went on a game show - Donald Trump has got nothing on him - but as long as he has a riding lawnmower, some happy kids, his church and a gun cabinet full of weapons, he is one badass mofo, and don't you forget it. But please remember to pray with him against the Gay, the Abortion, and the Scary Black Man in the White House.

He and his wife/sisters/cousins may work in fast food or construction and can barely pay their rent, but have been taught for over 50 years that the whites are the elites, while immigrants and blacks have come here to take whatever they have. They are nobody's equal - the blacks, hispanics, asians, etc... are jealous of what they have. Who cares about other cultures? Who cares about other religions? The descendent of Bob Ewell has the correct white culture and the right religion - Christianity because there is no other religion - and he preaches to the choir every day on Facebook. Wherever he lives, that is God's Country, and it will stay white if he and his gun have anything to say about it. If he ever got close to the Imperial President, he would shoot that foreign bastard right between the eyes - and he has a Constitutional Right according to the white Christian Founding Fathers to say that on Facebook.

The gun nuts among the Bob Ewell crowd - and who isn't one these days? - watch the movie of To Kill a Mockingbird and probably love the scene in which Atticus Finch shoots the rabid dog down in the street. Hell yeah! That's what a Southern Man does! Protect the home and hearth and God's Country with his trusty gun. Since none of these yahoos would ever read a book, they don't realize that Atticus is anti-gun and the only smidgen of that left in the movie is when he won't allow his son Jem to have a gun, but of course we do see Jem suddenly adoring his Daddy when the rabid dog comes down the street. Bang! Hell Yeah, say the Bob Ewells. Teach that boy to shoot! And later when the black rape suspect Tom Robinson is shot down, they probably say "Hell Yeah," and think that's the message - a black thug is like a rabid dog. Or perhaps, if they are more subtle, they connect the mentally ill Boo Radley to the rabid dog, since he ain't right in the head, and he was in jail once - or below the jail. And he's kinda creepy, walking around at night and scaring children.

Atticus is not a Cop - he's Justice
The Police are Behind Him
The Rabid Dog is NOT Boo Radley or Tom Robinson

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So to the Bob Ewells of America, the rabid dog represents kids like Trayvon Martin or Mike Brown or Tamir Rice; black grown-ups who seem to be troublemakers like Eric Garner; mentally ill people no one understands, such as Kajieme Powell, shot down because he had a knife - just like Boo Radley. Yes, all of these people were on public property and were shot or killed somehow by vigilantes like George Zimmerman or the police. But once again the Ewell Klan has missed the point.

Harper Lee did not have a racist bone in her body, but she certainly understood the town, the state, and the country in which she lived. She knew how the white trash Ewells viewed anyone "different" whether by color or mental health. She knew that the Ku Klux Klan viewed black people have less than human/ Heck, rabies seems tame to what they believe in. She knew she was writing something that would drive them out of their minds, and it worked for about 40 years, but they've forgotten now.

Let's white-splain to the Ewell descendents right now and be clear - the rabid dog is not about killing blacks or anyone different. Who takes care of the Finch children? A black woman. She's certainly not the rabid dog. In the courthouse, the kids stand up in the segregated balcony and Atticus doesn't seem to mind. They even go to a black church now and then. We know what Bob Ewell says about Atticus Finch - that he's a N*****-Lover.

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So what does the rabid dog mean? After all the name of the book isn't "To Kill the Rabid Dog." Right - the main symbol in To Kill a Mockingbird is, of course, the Mockingbird. It's the innocent creature who sings all day and does no harm, like Tom Robinson helping Mayella Ewell because he felt sorry for her, or Boo Radley leaving gifts for the Finch children. It's very much like the innocent kids - Scout, Jem and Dill - and even Atticus himself, who just wants to get along with everyone.

So who, pray tell, is the rabid dog? It may come as a shock, but it's Bob Ewell, of course. Atticus faces the dog to save his children and everybody else in town. Then after the trial, Bob Ewell gets drunk and comes after Jem in the car outside Tom Robinson's house, and Atticus faces him in the road - pretty strong parallel symbolism. It's important that Tom Robinson is also a father, and his now-fatherless chidlren are there too - living next door to Bob Ewell, who is a father's nightmare, abusing his own children and anyone else's.

Atticus stands between Bob Ewell and the Robinson family - as the police and courts are supposed to stand up for justice, but often do the opposite, as we have daily proof in Ferguson, Cleveland, and New York.

At the end of the story, Bob Ewell comes after Jem and Scout on Halloween - much like Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, probably by design - J.K. Rowling knows her literature. And as he tries to kill the kids, who steps in to protect the kids? Boo Radley. Boo protects the children against danger, then takes the children home to their father. It is just like Atticus killing the rabid dog in the street - Bob Ewell is the rabid dog, not Boo.

Hey, Boo.

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But the descendents of Bob Ewell don't get it.

When the recent protests grew heated in Ferguson, Missouri, over the death of Mike Brown, the white people on my Facebook - those I grew up with in our integrated high school - suddenly became sociologists, blaming bad parenting, the high divorce rate, lack of respect for authority, the terrible public schools where they don't pray enough, or merely the color of their skin. They want to justify shooting someone down like a dog in the street based on their upbringing. They want to impose the death penalty on anyone selling cigarellos in the street, or merely walking around eating candy and talking on the phone.

All of this made something finally snap in me. I'm ashamed of white people and what they write on the internet. I despise my own race, even though I was born this way and have no control over my race, like everyone else. But it's really sad I cannot stand how white I am.

I have spent the last two weeks blocking or muting racists, even those mostly closet racists I grew up with, on Facebook. Of course, those same people on Facebook hate President Obama. I've been blocking anyone who posts something about the "Imperial President" too, and it has been a pleasure. I put up with all this much too long, and enough is enough.

What makes it even worse is that these same Ewell-ish people judging Mike Brown and his protestors in the streets of Ferguson may have had a rough upbringing themselves, suffered through public schools, may be divorced themselves, may have mentally ill relatives or a family member in jail, and may have never respected authority in their lives - hello, Libertarians - but none of that stops them from spouting off when the shooter is a white cop and the victim is black. Hypocrisy is no barrier when white folks start blaming black folks. No matter what, the white Bob Ewells close ranks and get all self-righteous. They never pause and reflect, even while asking for prayer every single day on Facebook.

Harper Lee had something else right - "There's only one kind of folks - folks." Yet the latter-day Ewells think democracy is only for the whites, and the rule of law is only to protect them. They could not care less about the rights of Mike Brown or Eric Garner or the rest.

I thought my white peers learned the same lessons I did growing up in the civil rights era, but they missed their history lessons along with literature and empathy lessons. My family was poor white trash too - we lived in a hand-built concrete house - but we didn't think we were better than anyone. Sadly, some white people do feel they are still the "elite" even if they live in a trailer park and work at Chick-Fil-A for minimum wage - at least they aren't on welfare, right? Except often they are. In fact, white people are the majority on welfare in most states, but no one on Facebook ever admits that.

People who take up for the white police even in the face of video evidence, as with Tamir Rice or Eric Garner, would say they are not racists at all, merely realists because crime is worse in the black community, and why shouldn't people be scared of "thugs?" They believe in the rule of law - even white libertarians who don't want any laws at all. One guy I know, who usually peppers his Facebook posts with prayer requests and anti-tax screeds, suddenly started posting picture after picture of his gun collection on the night of the Ferguson decision. If that is how he views a black protest against injustice, I never want to see his smiling white mayonnaise face again. Just another well-dressed, well-educated, fake-praying Bob Ewell.

White people always blame gangs who live "over there" in some other community or the "wrong side" of town. Yes, I know that gangs exist, and there are shootings in my own city. I see that. But there are white people who also shoot both white and black people. I have had lily-white neighbors shooting their rifles right behind my house, and hunting in the woods 100 yards from my neighborhood. But like most of my neighbors, I can't call the police or he might shoot my dog or one of my kids. That's the reality I live with every day in white-trash post-Bob Ewell 'merica. Eventually these gun-hoarding ammo-sexuals are going to justify killing other whites too, because we have different views or we don't like guns. They certainly talk about it on Twitter often enough. Then it really will be another Civil War.

Atticus was right that "courage isn't a man with a gun in his hand," but that's the conventional white wisdom now. And if they believe that Mike Brown tried to take a gun from a cop, well, by God, he got what he deserved. Like Bob Ewell and the all-white Jury in To Kill a Mockingbird, modern white-trash folks count on their Facebook peers to give them a high five on their racist views.

When GOP operative Elizabeth Lauten recently slammed the Obama family on Thanksgiving, slut-shaming the Obama girls while pompously pretending to give them advice on "being classy," she counted on the echo chamber to back her up. Instead, she forgot that her account was public, that not everyone who followed her account as a racist. After black twitter lambasted her, along with hundreds of tweets from non-racist whites like me, she had to resign from her job. We found out that she was a modern version of Mayella Ewell, daughter of Bob Ewell: blaming anyone black for "disrespect" in order to suit her purposes.

Luckily for all of us, her racist screed backfired on her, and really it always does. Karma bites. If you're Chris McDaniel in Mississippi, you slam black voters and lose elections. If you're Bob McCulloch, the Justice Department is going to investigate your ass. Someday, my gun-crazy neighbor will shoot himself in the foot and not mind at all if a black cop shows up at his door to help him.

Ferguson and the Blame Obama meme have changed many people forever - including me. I will probably end up with no friends on Facebook, and no more wedding invitations from my Ewell-ish relatives. But at least my soul, dignity, and empathy will be intact. Bob Ewell may have been my ancestor too, but I don't have to carry on his hateful tradition.

The white people I've blocked are still living in the Fox News bubble, reading Right-Wing blogs, praying away the blacks and gays, and blaming the black Imperial President for everything! This afternoon they will stop on the way home from work to buy more guns on their way to church where they will pray for the death of Barack Obama. Unfortunately, Bob Ewell has a gene-pool that just keeps on giving.

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