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October, 2007



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Summer of Hate?
By Frank Scott

We enter the Fall having experienced many celebrations of what advertisers dubbed the 1967 Summer of Love, hardly matched by any such seasonal spirit in the present. Anger and bigotry combined for a recent epidemic of judgmental righteousness that threatened a national lynch mob at the slightest provocation. Outbursts of public distemper are normal in America, but growing frustration at a government held in contempt, an opposition judged even worse, and an economy that is an enormous credit bubble close to bursting, has created an atmosphere of often seething rage, but rarely directed at real problems.
Public displays of animosity towards a ball player alleged to have used steroids to break an historic home run record could be understood at least partly due to his being black. But the athlete broke a record held by another black, though the difference in their treatment may find its origins in our history of slavery and the division created between house and field negroes. When owners took sexual pleasures with their slaves, they always brought the resulting offspring into the home as house servants, because of their lighter skin. The descendants of those slaves became the black middle class, more successful politically and economically than their darker kin, and polite and deferential to whites as well. Whatever his class background, the old home run hero was deemed humbly acceptable to the white power structure and baseball fans, who generally came to his defense at the time of his record breaking performance and the attacks he suffered from racists because the older record was held by a white.

The new hero, despite overwhelming credentials as the best player of his generation, was labeled an ungrateful and arrogant upstart who showed no respect for anyone, especially reporters. The reaction to his historic achievement was often despicable, with insistence that his record was meaningless because he took drugs, though no such proof existed. This in a culture in which millions cannot survive without pharmaceutical products enabling them to stay awake or go to sleep, escape reality or face it, prevent or induce procreation, and remember or forget anything. In this context, steroid use among athletes is not only common and silently accepted by the corporate sports establishment, but also rather low on the American drug-taking spectrum.

Another black sports hero received worse treatment. A football star accused of sponsoring vicious dog fights on his property was held to public scorn as a monster, legally prosecuted and vilified in the court of public opinion. His judgment was terrible in gambling away his lucrative career on an ugly sport that still thrives in many American communities. But the reaction from a nation that not only tolerates hunting and eating animals but worse, the slaughter of humans in wars, boggles the mind. Frustration and anger about real social problems was once again directed at a celebrity scapegoat. Cruelty to animals is deemed worse than cruelty to humans, by some who often hold their fellow beings in much lower esteem than their pets, as evidenced by our multi billion dollar industry in the care and feeding of our domestic animals, while millions of us lack housing or health care.

But not only race played a role in the recent epidemic. All those deemed politically incorrect, whether morally or racially, were fair game.

Sex crimes against children are easily among the most fearsome and frightening, but an atmosphere of righteous indignation at such criminals has lent itself to a spirit of injustice that permits any excess directed at such criminals. Those who have served jail terms and paid a debt to society for their crimes find it impossible to live anywhere when they are free, with entire communities coming out in force to deny them housing. Laws have been passed - by the same politicians who are helpless to confront problems of poverty, war or health care - to protect children by not allowing these ex convicts to live within 2,000 feet of any place where children might congregate. Death Valley or the Great Plains may be the only places deemed habitable for such offenders.

Possibly worse, the frenzy over such crimes has created a media market for attracting alleged perverts and setting them up on dates with minors. A major TV show specializes in entrapment of men lured to supposed meetings for sex with under aged boys or girls, with these meetings set up by that TV show, often having to overcome resistance by the alleged sexual predator. Though women are also serving jail sentences in our frenzy to protect children from sex but hardly anything else that threatens them, the show has thus far dealt only with men. When the man finally responds to the bait, he finds a TV crew and the police waiting to confront him and broadcast his shame all over the network. After one man killed himself upon being disgraced this way, there was only righteous clucking over having removed a monster from our midst. There is a lawsuit for entrapment against the psycho perverts behind this program, but in the fanatic atmosphere created it will be difficult to find any justice.

The most recent indication of a national witchcraft trial atmosphere was the arrest of a U.S. senator alleged to have engaged in suggestive actions with a commode cop who spends his workday hanging around public toilets waiting to find such behavior. If the sordid waste of taxpayer money wasn't bad enough, the homophobic sentiments were worse, especially coming from members of the accused senator's own party. His behavior was labeled disgusting and unforgivable, by people who appropriate billions of dollars to wage wars of mass murder. The hypocrisy is staggering, as is the zealous hatred masquerading as righteous justice.

But while the number of these outbreaks may indicate another moment of near breakdown in the American facade of rationality, they may also show that public anger is ready to be directed at the source of our problems, if only leadership were provided.

As the government prolongs an insane war in Iraq and threatens to start a newer, crazier one with Iran, frustration may hopefully soon be directed at real issues and not those manufactured by media. At that point, it may be necessary to impeach not only the executive but much of the legislative branch as well. A revolutionary democratic movement to create a world of real social justice would bring us closer to material and mental well-being. That is a bigger social undertaking than allowing misguided anger to be directed at scapegoats, but it would make much more sense. We never really had a summer of love, but we would do well to create a real season of peace.

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