If you live in Chicago, New York or Los Angeles, you know that it's only a matter of time until an incident between a law enforcement officer, or more rarely a civilian defending himself, and a member of a minority group flares up into citywide grievance theater complete with angry reverends on the steps of City Hall, women with stony faces holding up banners calling for justice and a media driven debate about police tactics and racism.
The grievance theater is never really about the specific case, the
specific shooting, it's about the links between the social problems of
the black community, the compromises of civil liberties necessary to
keep entire cities from turning into Detroit and the inability of the
media to address the sources of crime as anything but the phantoms of
white racism. It's about a black leadership that is more interested in
posturing as angry activists and shaking loose some money than in
healing the problems of their own communities.
Grievance theater has been going national. It's no longer just
extraordinary cases like Bernie Goetz's Death Wish moment on the number 2
train that briefly catch hold of the national conversation. The
obsessive coverage of the so-called Jena 6 case, an incident of so
little internal meaning, signaled that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton
would no longer just be able to drive a local controversy, they now had
the freedom to drive national controversies any time they wanted to.
Trayvon Martin was their big moment with grievance
theater being used as
part of a presidential campaign on a national level.
The fortunes of too many black politicians have been tied to white guilt
and black rage. The worst sort of black politician channels black rage
to score points with black supporters while playing on the guilt of
white voters promising to heal the social conditions that bring out that rage and protect them from its ravages. But never before has that
game been played out of the White House.
current occupant of the White House is a veteran of the corrupt urban political machine
where there are only two games in town and when the money runs out, this
is the one you play. The money is running out and accordingly we have been treated to an episode of grievance
theater, with the man in the White House playing the familiar Sharptonesque role of healer and inciter.
What does it say about America that what was once a form of political
theater rising out of the grimy urban blocks of failed cities is now a
national art form? A local dysfunction has become a
national dysfunction, not because every city has become New York and
Chicago, but because the people at the center of power know urban politics, community organizing and racial consciousness theories and little else. Like some Third World communist backwater, we are being governed by men and women with no understanding of anything practical, but a thorough grounding in Marxism-Leninism.
Detroit is dangling at the edge of bankruptcy. Chicago nearly went bankrupt in 1930. New York nearly went bankrupt in
1975. States have bailed out cities and the federal government has
bailed out states. When there isn't enough money to keep the
dysfunctional political machine built on corruption and subsidies going,
there's always some larger entity to foot the bill.
The problem with this current government is that it's operating at the
federal level and there is no longer any larger entity to foot the bill.
All the shopworn radicalism, the cries about making the rich pay their
fair share, are old hat. The rich and the upper middle-class can pay
more, but there's no amount of money that will cover a government that
spends money as if there is no tomorrow.
That is the lesson that has yet to be learned from the cities whose
dysfunctional politics have been transplanted to the national
government. Along with the politics has come the grievance mob, the
outrage machine, the outpourings of self-righteousness, the class
warfare fought by corrupt pols and the rest of the bread and circuses
show that has blighted the American city.
Grievance theater isn't about race, it's not about slavery, police
brutality or separate lunch counters, it's about power and money. Black
politicians are not fundamentally different from white ones. They have
more in common with their white colleagues than they do with their own
communities. The only difference is that they are playing with the race
cards they have been dealt.
The ghetto didn't evolve naturally, it was created through a web of
national and local government regulations that played with real estate,
social welfare, voting districts and the manufacturing sector to achieve
the desired results. We don't have to have ghettos, we have them
because at one point they were convenient for a number of political
interests and because they were the unintended side-effect of a number
of government policies.
The ghetto farms black communities for votes and more importantly for
subsidies. For every dollar that is taken to help minorities, a penny
goes to the problem and ninety-nine cents goes to the hucksters, the
administrators, the bureaucrats, the wives of influential pols hired on
massive salaries to oversee some aspect of the program, the experts who
monitor compliance, the affirmative action contractors who charge four
times as much to build a school or provide meals, the unions who have
the exclusive right to service the program, the slumlords who administer
affordable housing and finally the politicians who have the money
kicked back to them by all of the above.
When you look closely at where the school property tax money goes, why
health care is so expensive and why so much money has to be spent on
housing, a big chunk of it goes here. It's the hole in our budget ozone
layer and it can never be filled, because it is designed never to be
filled. For a sizable number of influential people, both black and
white, the black community's social problems are a cash cow. The
grievance theater is their way of collecting protection money and making
sure that no one pays too much attention to what's really wrong.
The problem isn't limited to the black community. The same phenomenon
crosses over different minority communities and some white ones as well,
but the race card is still the best card in the deck. It carries too
many emotional triggers, too much guilt and too much hope not to use it
over and over again. The moral power of the civil rights movement still
isn't exhausted as long as hopeful white people smile at the sight of a
black man in the White House as if his political power testified to
The local productions of grievance theater have gone national and we are
all compelled to watch them play out. The country has been
turned into unwilling participants in a national drama that places a
distorted idea of race at the center of our identity for the benefit of
the same hucksters and politicians who have destroyed the city and are
hard at work destroying the country.