When I was a kid growing up in South Carolina, I was racist. I used the ‘n” word. I was taught that word by those around me, men and women who I looked to for moral guidance. My late father was a horrible bigot and he truly believed black people were simply beneath him. My late grandmother didn’t really use that word around me but she made it clear by her actions that anyone who wasn’t white was simply “lesser.”
Yet, these were two people who had more influence over me than pretty much anyone else in my youth. I loved them both and even today their deaths affect me emotionally.
When I was finally able to admit and embrace being gay to my family, something in me changed. I was moved from a place of hate to a place of empathy. I began to see the world not through the eyes of a privileged white Southern kid but from the perspective of someone on the other side of the railroad tracks. It was, in a word, sobering.
When I hear white people talk about race, I get a little clammy. When I hear Cliven Bundy talk about race, I get really pissed off. This “tea party” favorite, an American grandfather who’s a rancher with a very loyal family, seems to have bared his soul for the press. He likes the bully pulpit that comes from being a “taker,” a freeloader, a tax evader. He’s a man who doesn’t recognize the U.S. government in any way shape fashion or form. He’s also a man who said this, as reported by the New York Times:
“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.
“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
The “negro?” Picking cotton? Seriously? Who the hell is this guy? Let me tell you who Cliven Bundy is. He’s a bigot who believes in “freedom.” In case it’s lost on you, Bundy is the ultimate government subsidy. He believes in feeding his cattle for free. He doesn’t believe he owes federal taxes. He doesn’t believe in the rule of federal law. Bundy is purely and simply a common criminal who deserves to go to jail.
He believes in using us in the press as his bully pulpit and we let him. Bundy believes in a land mass of 50 states, not one nation of 50 states. He’s a secessionist. He’s not a patriot as some have called him. George Washington was a patriot – who, not for nothing, used force to put down citizens who refused to pay the federal excise tax in the Whiskey Rebellion. Abraham Lincoln was a patriot, who by the way implemented the federal income tax. I’d love to hear Bundy’s wise opinion on Lincoln. No doubt he’ll tell us if we let him. No doubt we’ll give him that microphone. We should.
I guess the question we must ask is, does Cliven Bundy represent a thin and narrow sliver of American society or is he something bigger? With freedom fighters and birthers and tea partiers and their ilk rallying behind him and his right to steal from the American taxpayer, I’m convinced this man is no sliver of hate. Clearly, the freedom fighters hate what America has become and they’re convinced President Obama is leading us all down the path to Hell. Their new spokesman? Cliven Bundy.
This Bundy fellow isn’t a one-off. Conservative opinion columnist George Will seems to think so. He has opined that Democrats scream racism anytime we don’t like what we’re hearing. I’d probably agree if this were just Bundy but it’s not. Just Google Cliven Bundy and you’ll see his following, his supporters, his freedom followers. Even fools like Allen West support this racist.
I don’t know Mr. Bundy but I knew his type when I was a kid. There’s not much difference between my father and Bundy. That makes me sad. I always held my father on a pedestal even with his grotesque flaws. When I hear the Cliven Bundys of the world spew out their filth, their racism, I’m reminded of my ignorant childhood, of my grandmother’s and daddy’s view of the world and I’m horrified.