Sister Night: Forgotten
The other day I heard that Trump was planning to make a speech and rally in Tulsa OK, aimed at black Americans. People were aghast, as they tend to be whenever Trump does anything. His awfulness never gets dull. My response was, Let It Be. It’s not as if nobody is capable of making a redeeming statement about the race riots of 1921. HBO’s recent miniseries ‘Watchmen’ began with that very story, and Watchmen was in my estimation, the finest story ever about a black female superhero. If my kids were still into Trick or Treating, I’m sure one of them would have chosen Sister Night.
As my father would say, “But y’all forget.” People are running around the streets pretending that the harshness of their lives is a cosmic injustice deserving of dramatic acts of outrage, chaos and destruction. Of course all of the smartphones are catching this symbolism. The grafitti, the flag burning, the toppling of statues, the rants, slogans and middle fingers of disrespect. Bret Weinstein called the most coherent of the madness the unbuilding of America, but his metaphor went even one better. He spoke of zombies fighting the boogieman. Nailed it. We are witnessing an anarchist skirmish, a leaderless revolt aimed at every possible symbol of institutional racism, income inequality, police misconduct, political corruption, amoral capitalism and media misrepresentation. For most, that level of detail, less than 50 words worth is best reduced to America. They don’t want to be Americans. They want to be something else, here in America that is not America. Aside from the fact that it is an unwinnable war, it is the reheating up of the Culture War that was never resolved.
On my end of things, I see this as an undoing that has been a long time coming. My associates in the IDW (Intellectual Dark Web, or Ineffectual Dork Web if you must) see it as a crisis of rationality in which the business of sense-making is limping along like a three legged dog in a race against time. For me, I saw the Closing of the American Mind as soon as I read that book. I also saw the appeal of Multicultural Literacy. I have also witnessed its perversion and the zero sum game that it has played against the Enlightenment and Western Civilization itself. It is perfectly understandable why people in the streets feel as if they cannot breathe in America. They’ve been living inside hermetic caves of identity and complaint. They’ve been stewing in their own juices of self-regard and projection and now that stew is boiling over.
Sister Night wears a badge. She takes on the authority and responsibility required for justice. She fights on the side of the law and assumes those powers necessary to combat evil and chaos. That such action is heroic and courageous goes without saying, but it also requires deep contemplation of the world to come. The world that would be brought into being by the work of the righteous might exist only in imaginations, nevertheless the work of the righteous must continue. Fulfillment of such ethics must be their own reward. It requires more than mere obsession, dedication and dogged determination. It must reckon with what business of ordinary life is sacrificed to the duties of keeping the peace and taking the fight to the enemy. Nobody brings their babies to the front lines.
In those caves, it is impossible to associate justice with the wearing of the badge of American law. They cannot believe that Bass Reeves could possibly exist. They cannot conceive of a black life that raises America to justice in any formal manner in large work or small. The black in such black lives must always be associated with loss, victimization, hopelessness and thus ultimately defiant justifiable rage. The black mind, according to this trope of complaint is psychologically incapable of dealing constructively or triumphing over all of the evil white minds have created. It’s a tragedy all swept under white suburban rugs according to this theory, until it’s too late. It’s difficult to imagine, in this view of America that the legacy of slavery has ever been, or will ever be overcome. Forget the lyrics to that old Negro spiritual. What people really mean is “We are overcome”, and this false premise justifies everything.
Injustice justifies a great deal, and remedies and solutions come with requirements, budgets, schedules and sponsorships. We might hope that our political parties, indeed our government and everyone in America would make that so, but we haven’t. Part of the reason is sheer blunt stupidity. Part of the reason is droopy drunk indifference. Part of the reason is deliberate enemy action. Part of it is confusion and frustration. Right now that confused and frustrated part is running around hand-waving with its hair on fire. It is overwhelmed by the suddenness and the enormity of the crises we are facing, unable to determine cause and effect, trying to do something that will get a million likes, or at the very least a sober and determined Amen. Such things are not forthcoming primarily because the adults have left the room and let the kids run the streets. This used to be the thing we could turn to someone like Warren Christopher or Thurgood Marshall with questions and expect calm well-reasoned answers. Nobody has time for that except for the writers who time forgot. Such writers wrote books like ‘Another Country’. Such writers wrote poems like ‘Revolutionary Dreams’. Such writers wrote plays like “Dutchman”. The closest I’ve seen to anything like that in a medium time has not forgotten is the HBO Dramatic Series of Watchmen. From that we have such women as Angela Abar the masked police officer Sister Night. From that we have such men as Will Reeves, the masked vigilante Hooded Justice. From that we have the intergenerational connection, the continuation of a call to action, to deliberate thought, to heroic sacrifice, to the complications in the weave of life.
Everyone who thinks they have an answer that comes in the form of a protest march has had their say. All the marching is done, and all the doing a march can do is done. There’s nothing left to do once the parade has left the avenue but clean up, or on the other hand, make more of a mess. Whose Streets? Our Streets. Yeah so long as the cameras are rolling and you have someone fetching you fresh water and trail mix. So long as law enforcement and crowd control are in abeyance. Then what?
It’s somewhat surprising to see how the lessons of my generation have been lost to the lost children out there, but not if you consider how many of us are on the bench, waiting for the arthritic grip of the Boomers to finally relent. It’s going to take some doing to move the central institutions of our nation into the future, and it is quite a shame that we in my generation have had to bypass it through digital means. It wasn’t what we intended. My father has always expected me to write books like Baldwin, Giovanni and Baraka, but here I am out on the internet having written thousands of essays for not one newspaper or publishing company. I am the independent outsider and possessed of a peace that appears to passeth all understanding. Why? Because all we seem to recall are the politicians and their promises. We forget those with the sound minds, competent skills, patriotic demeanor and worker’s ethic capable of righteous work. We forget that there are millions of such Americans stuck in the traffic behind chaotic and stagnant self-serving leadership. We forget that people actually sit down and think, go out and test their thoughts and then recycle to refine their thoughts. We forget. Or maybe we never knew.
Juneteenth is the day when people try to remember that other people long ago didn’t know. They say that the future is already here, just unevenly distributed. Yes it’s always the case. Progress is always at hand, and so is devolution. There might be progress in Texas and devolution in Minnesota. There might be righteous work being done in California, and chaotic destruction being carried out in Washington. Those who dwell in caves who have concocted their racial theories are totalizers. Such totalizers have but one solution and seek to be of one mind, a mind that will not see what is not projected on their cave walls. A mind prepared to punish apostates. A mind prepared to create martyrs. A mind that demands compliance. Today we face the fact that such minds want nothing to do with what America was, what America is, but only what stands in the way of the America they demand. I have heard it said that there are no hardcore racists on the arbitrary left. I know their future is already here, and they are trying to distribute it by any means necessary. My job is to make sense of that and to remind you that politics is only a fraction of the story of America. It doesn’t surprise me that these, the enemies of American ideals have no poetry, only slogans. They have no music, only chants. They have no art, only graffitti. Their desire is to tear down whatever isn’t their own. No police is what they are demanding now.
It’s strange to sit on this side of Afrocentrism. 30 years ago, Molefi Asante’s book convinced many young people that they could not be Americans. I watched my old organization, the National Society of Black Engineers stop inviting people like astronauts Mae Jemison and Guy Bluford to their campuses. Instead they invited afrocentrics like Legrand Clegg and Jawanza Kinjufu. I know such people still exist and I’m sure they would be happy to get Juneteenth to remind us of American slavery. I know there are plenty of racial theories that require black lives to be totalized into categories under their control. Afrocentrism is never cited as a solution, although I do recall seeing Nancy Pelosi take a knee in a freshly ironed Kinte scarf just last week. Afrocentric thought took over Temple University and moved academia that much closer to a butchery of intellectuality and reason that we old engineers crave and practice. It took me a long time to figure out what was going on in the Humanities, and boy did I wake up when Claremont and Evergreen whacked out. We knew that future, and now more Americans are coming to see it in their towns. That future wants Whitey on the hook forever, and they have ‘400 years’ of revised history to make their Jenga tower case.
A lot of Americans want a reckoning. They want a racial reckoning. They’re mad as hell and they’re looking to hunt down The Man. A lot of these people are Americans in name only because they equate what America is with what its worst elements used to be. Have you ever seen it spelled Amerikkka? Of course you have. Similarly, they equate black Americans with the most pathetic and helpless people they ever were. That is the sum total of their moral ammunition. For them, there are only a dozen dots to connect it all, the latest one being a man named George. Last week there was a statue of a man named George that stood in Seattle. It is now toppled and covered in shit, if it is still in one piece. I’m doing the work, what work I can, if I might dare to call it righteous in the expectation that the American future I see will be distributed, even as others forget that any black hero ever existed to work toward that patriotic end. I can only write so much, but I do recommend that you take the time to watch the new Watchmen. Try not to forget.
This is my society. It is a society of mind, of philosophy, of science and engineering, of cuisine, of music and poetry. It is of criticism and sensemaking and it is about resolving the crisis of rationality we face. It is dedicated to the long term. It is observant of history and tradition. It is aimed at the management of risk, the decentralization of power and the establishment of global standards. It is open source and not coercive, and it’s not particularly evangelical. It has no room for racial theories, in case you missed it. It aims to be responsive to the needs of the common man. You are welcome.
Originally published at https://cobb.typepad.com.