America’s Heartlessland

It Takes a Nation of Karens to Hold Us Back

It’s a video we’re familiar with by now: a presumptuous white woman lording it over someone who is black. Or, in some newer variations, brown.

“Lording” is the word we came up with when looking for a verb: Lord of the manor. I own this joint. I own this situation. I own you. Fact of life. Deal with it.

It’s the woman we were talking about the moment before we started talking about George Floyd, the woman in Central Park. It’s the woman we’ve seen many times since, so frequently that there are multiple “Karens Gone Wild” accounts on Twitter, collecting examples.

The guys we’ve seen, well, they’re usually police, fully dehumanized — and dehumanizing — in their riot gear. The women need no such protection. They’re capable of complete dehumanization in their street clothes.

“Is this your property?” asks Karen.

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The Fire This Time

It’s not like this is the first time.

We’re familiar with the murder of an unarmed black man — or woman, or child — by police, just as we’re familiar with the massacre of children — or churchgoers, or revelers — by someone with a high-capacity weapon.

These things happen. Frequently. It’s the country we live in.

Also familiar is the response: A wave of anger.

Anger, followed by frustration, followed by life, such as it is, moving on. The wave crashes on the unyielding shore, then dissipates. The moment passes.

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White People Will Be the Death of Us

Last we visited the subject, eighteen months ago, we made a startling discovery:

White people are stupid fucking idiots.

Okay, not that startling. It’s not a plot twist if you knew it all along.

But there it was, in every poll, not just recently, but going back generations: You want to find the trouble with America, how we keep ending up on the wrong side of history, it’s White Americans making the call, or at least being distressingly ambivalent about it.

And now they want us dead.

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We Blew It All Up

“The Sixties were an aberration,” he told me.

We were sitting in his office. He was a fortyish school-district superintendent. I was a 23-year-old reporter.

It was 1982. He knew what he was talking about. I didn’t.

The Sixties were an aberration.

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In Cold Blood

We were going to express our indignation over an American resident being executed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, but then we were reminded of our indignation over a newsroom being shot up, over massacres in schools and churches, over a woman being run down by a neo-Nazi.

We were reminded of our indignation over children being stolen from their parents by our government, and our indignation over our government’s deliberate carelessness in returning them.

We were reminded that our President once bragged he could shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue without losing supporters.

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White People Suck

You may have heard the news that following his outing as a — what’s that word? — hebephile, Roy Moore is now only polling even with his opponent for the special Senate election in Alabama next month.

But that’s not the full story. Among white voters, Moore leads by 17 points. Among black voters, he trails by 55 points.

This is not unusual. We only need look back as far as last Tuesday to see that opportunistic race-baiter Ed Gillespie won the Virginia white vote by 15 points. He’s not the state’s next governor because he lost the black vote by 75 points, and the hispanic vote by 35 points.

You may sense a pattern here. It’s not new.

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Heckuva Job, Donnie

Puerto Rico, we have learned this week, is a hundred miles long by thirty miles wide, which makes it roughly equivalent to the Willamette Valley, in Oregon, where we grew up. Its population numbers some 3.4 million American citizens, or a half-million more than our home turf. The distance to Miami is around a thousand miles, which will also get you from Eugene to Los Angeles. By air, that’s about two-and-half hours.

Of course, that’s via civilian flight. You can cut that time and distance in half from Guantanamo, in Cuba. We happen to have a naval base there. You may have heard of it.

Among the things our nation asks of its military is to lend a hand during natural disasters. A dozen years ago, Joint Task Force Katrina was created to coordinate efforts between soldiers and FEMA civilians. It was only formed after FEMA was shown to be tragically inadequate to the task, three days after the New Orleans levees failed.

Puerto Rico has been without power and water for nine days. There has been no all-hands relief effort.

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