monthly column from author/activist
The Royal Treatment
Looking Homeward, And We're No Angels
America isn't the capitol of xenophobia -- right now, perhaps that would be Kandahar -- but we're a pretty notorious lot when it comes to sticking with our own, blaming outsiders, and demonizing other opinions. The Hatfields beat on the McCoys. The Yippies battle it out with Chicago's finest. People with Japanese surnames get shipped out to Tule Lake. You know the history.
I'm not talking about you and me, of course. When it comes to tolerance, the Bay Area clearly wins, at least in this great land. The generous and guilt-ridden Mr. Nobel should have endowed a prize for whatever it is we've got -- and of course we are joined in this by Libido readers everywhere.
So even amid my horror at images of a big piece of New York crumbling to ash and dust -- even feeling horrible and creepy that somebody somewhere might consider me nothing more or less than "an American" and have a holy vendetta against me, Robert, and our cats -- I started muttering early on that there had been a fair amount of terror in our own fair land, even before our boneheaded homegrown racists stared attacking the wrong people for what a bunch of completely different people had done. The power and the glory of being an American is being able to mutter this way, and then to publish your mutterings in a newspaper that sells ads for phone sex and fancy girls in their underwear. Isn't that right, Mr. Ashcroft?
Yes, even the president and the attorney general have been saying this lately, though I'm still far from convinced that they mean it. It's been weird, seeing not-very-openminded Republicans tell us the radical Islamic world hates us because we have a First Amendment. "Ladies and gentlemen, the Bill of Rights is what makes this country great!! Now we'll only have to trim it back a little to get all this nonsense cleared up." Remember, less than a year ago we were all worried that Ashcroft was like a homegrown, Christian Taliban guy. You read in my last column how little difference I see between those "Dad is mad" religions. Hey, in my cosmology, when Mother Kali is pissed, she wears your skull around her neck. At least you know right where you stand.
Yep, Oklahoma City looked to blame Islamic terrorists, too, until they tracked down that all-American boy McVeigh. The last time American media warned us all away from the mail, it was the Unabomber's work they were worried about. Hey, that dude lived a life as 'Mer'can as Dan'l Boone, didn't he? Our homegrown racists have been bombing and burning churches and setting crosses afire ever since the end of the Civil War. A couple of times they've destroyed whole towns. If that's not terrorism, I'll turn in my dictionary. The big fat idiot who opened fire on Jewish children. The Northern Idaho compound where disaffected skinhead kids were turned into boneheaded commandos -- tell me how that differs from a Taliban camp, except for skin color and ideology. (And the ideology's not all *that* different. They both hate Jews -- and I say, don't just look at people's friends, look at their enemies.)
Bombings. Assassinations. Secret camps. Come on, people. Why were we surprised? This shit doesn't just happen everywhere else -- it happens *here*.
(By now my editor really wants me to tie this in to sex, so I will.)
And then we have our own homegrown terrorist who lives in a cave, just like Osama bin Laden. The foreigners don't even have a market on *that*! Consider the case of Eric Rudolph, the good ole pretty boy who is wanted for the Olympic City and queer bar bombings in Atlanta, plus several nail bomb surprises at abortion clinics. Here's a kid who read *My Side of the Mountain* and *The Protocols of the Elders of Zion*, all in one long weekend, did some mayhem, and vanished into the woods off the Blue Ridge Parkway. I don't know what the Olympics have to do with this guy's sexual profile -- it's possible he was just trying to remind us of the *first* Black September, back in 1972. You know, clear message: "Hello, people, I am a Homegrown Terrorist." But the rest of this guy's shit is all about sexuality. And he's not the only one. Consider also the pretty-boy Northern California brothers who torched and defaced temples, then, overly excited, killed a pair of gay men a couple of summers ago. Shrinks are standing by.
America should have been ready for worse terror; the homegrown signs have always been there. Hate sites abound on the Web -- they sell xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, and a sexual Utopia right next door to the Paradise anticipated by the Taliban. It's like the fundy sex they tried to get our parents to buy into, jacked up on steroids. Women are in the kitchen, pregnant. Hetero only, of course. But only racially paired heterosexuality need apply -- if you're a white woman with a black man, watch out (vice versa too, of course). Don't mix those colors, especially if you're going to procreate.
And, of course, you *must* procreate. It's what god wants! And besides, we have to suppress all the inferior peoples who are gonna try and take our 'Mer'can way of life and ruin everything. (Gotta digress for a second: If only we could just send *those* folks to Afghanistan! Talk about a bunch of folks who deserve each other. And so evenly matched in the ideology department!)
Which brings us to the sex thing that's even bigger than their hate of homos (which is enormous) and their rabid fury over miscegenation: Abortion, and the notion that women might not be simple baby machines. Now, I'm not talking about the garden-variety "pro-Life" person, twisting the language to make everybody else seem "pro-death." Hey, if you haven't noticed, people, there are some *actual* pro-death people among us, inspired by you: They're pro-death of abortion clinic workers, for starters. They truck in sighted rifles and jars packed with nails and explosives, they know where every abortion clinic in the land is located, they slap up websites listing abortion providers' names and addresses -- and they check 'em off when they get murdered. They have several commonalities, sociologically speaking, with our airplane-flying guests from across the sea. They're terrorists. Sex terrorists.
Now, as I noted last time, the Taliban has a lot to say about sex, and there is an element of sex terrorism to what happened on September 11th. One element of Islamic fundamentalists' hatred of America has clearly to do with our sexual mores. If we'd put our women in *chadors* or *burkas*, cover 'em up so no one would be too tempted, that would be one thing. Instead, we give the world Cindy Margolis and Temptation Island. It's one of the things that makes us the Great Satan, people. But we forget how many Americans, right in the belly of the beast, pretty much see all this as satanic, too. Clean it all up in the name of god! Of course, around here, it helps if you're a nutball.
ANTHRAX AND ABORTION CLINICS
So then we start freaking out about anthrax. Is it a one-two punch from Al Qaeda? A lone, anthrax-toting wacko? As if it wasn't hard enough before to be from New Jersey.
A couple of weeks ago the *Village Voice* ran a piece on all the anthrax scares endured by family planning offices and abortion clinics. While the major media was going apeshit over threats to the major media, the alternative media was reminding the rest of us that anthrax threats were nothing new -- they've been going on all through the 1990s, as clinic after clinic opened the mail to find a hate letter and a cascade of white powder pouring out of the envelope. Not only are the relatively few remaining clinics now fortified, at home with the technologies we'll soon see in airplane cockpits, but clinic directors are used to taking the mail into a sealed room, just in case.
This seemed awfully damned relevant to the New America. Robert called NBC's headquarters in New York to ask why they hadn't mentioned it.
"Oh, that's just a rumor," they said. They implied it was a rumor floated by the clinics themselves.
Uh-huh. Isn't that what journalists do -- go out and investigate rumors? Several other journalists apparently thought so -- pieces on this subject appeared in the *Chronicle* and the *Washington Post*. Robert called NBC back.
"Those are hoaxes. We don't report on hoaxes," they said. Hmm, we see which side *they're* on. And in fact, scant days into the anthrax scare, *everyone* was reporting hoaxes -- including Attorney General Ashcroft, thundering that the government would make examples of any hoaxers and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. Well, maybe. Remember how proud the Republicans are of our First Amendment: The Supreme Court used it as an excuse to keep a hate website up that recommended abortion doctor assassinations. Just don't ask them for their opinion on peaceful pornography.
Though HazMat teams showed up at the Cleveland clinic profiled in the *Washington Post* after its most recent threat letter showed up (reading "Army of God, you've been exposed to anthrax, you're dead"), authorities didn't get right back to the clinic director with either reassuring *or* sobering news. "They told me testing it was not their highest priority," the *Post* quoted her as saying.
Subsequently -- just two days ago, in fact -- CNN aired a fairly in-depth report on domestic terror. Front and center were the sex terrorists -- the homophobic Mr. Rudolph, the clinic bombs, the anthrax hoaxes. Ephemeral as broadcast media can seem, at least they named names, not making it sound like these were the very situations for which the First Amendment was designed. It's cold comfort that homegrown terrorists are now on the radar (maybe for only a second), just as it's about time that anybody outside a Women's Studies department got het up about how the Taliban treats women.
You know what Pogo used to say. "We have met the enemy, and he is us." That's a hell of a way to break down American xenophobia. The real challenge: Can we as a culture look at imported terrorism and learn from it when we confront our own? 'Cause we have some dudes here who would be happy to head up an American Christian version of the Taliban -- and they'll have a *lot* to say about your sex life.