The Great White North

“These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty. These type of guys. They come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we’ve got to deal with down the road.”

So avers Paul LePage, the sitting governor of Maine. But it’s the media’s fault he made these comments, and of course they aren’t about race.

Glad we cleared that up. Over the summer I heard the same sort of weaselly self-absolution from little racist shits on the blueberry harvest crew, although these were usually presented not post hoc but as prefaces: “I’m not racist, but [OMG I’m super fucking racist].” They actually put it that way. These comments from LePage are much more entertaining. They’re the most entertaining comments by a US governor that I can think of offhand. They’re the kind of thing one would expect to hear from one of the token whiteys on Sanford and Son, although a fair bit edgier than “spirit food.” D-Money, Smoothie, and Shifty are, of course, the sort of men known on the streets of Sacramento as niggas who don’t have anything to do with their kids, a constituency whose size and intractable deadbeat nature are routinely overestimated in the course of the ongoing moral panic about absent minority fathers and out-of-wedlock minority births. Paul LePage is obviously far too white to have the political capital to say that sort of thing without making a racist ass of himself, and the fact that he’s clutching his pearls over the specter of miscegenation alone is an embarrassing throwback.

At least when he says facepalmably racist shit, he doesn’t get as abrasive about it as former Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson did. It’s like a lynching? Damn, white boy, you have a two-thirds black constituency, and your white officers have been violently tax-farming it. Cracker please. (By the way, one of my Oregon colleagues presented as a given that no one in Ferguson had a legitimate grievance against the police. Dumbass bootlicking honkies FML.)

Here’s the thing: LePage’s racism is, dare we say, colorful, but it’s actually pretty benign. He’s a prejudiced old coot, but his heart is probably in the right place, more or less. This is as good a time as any for my occasional reiteration that prejudice is not the same thing as bigotry. The old fucker is just worried about the kids these days, since they appear to be under the sway of–how else can I put this?–shifty city slickers.

The worst racism is rarely expressed so openly. To wit, Michigan, where Governor Rick Snyder has spent most of his tenure colluding with privateers to loot Detroit (over four fifths black) and apparently dragged his heels for months before finally declaring a state of emergency on account of lead contamination in the municipal water supply in Flint (over half black).

The rust belt parts of the state are now deep into a positive-feedback socioeconomic collapse that is widely construed as proof of black ineptitude and corruption. In point of fact, these troubled cities have suffered not only catastrophic white flight but also catastrophic black flight. They’ve gotten to the point at which further depopulation will almost certainly make things worse. Pittsburgh depopulated and ended up with a leaner, cleaner metallurgy industry and world-class medical and university systems. Cincinnati depopulated and retained Proctor & Gamble. St. Louis depopulated and ended up, formally and informally, as one of the most family-friendly midsized to large cities in the country. Detroit depopulated into a citywide ghetto surrounding a dystopian, postmodern rump of a downtown business district. The middle and lower-middle classes that might otherwise have kept the social and civic fabric together in the black neighborhoods dispersed to points north of Eight Mile Road and south of the Tennessee River. Those left behind, in roughly the sense favored by the LaHayes, are either too marginal or too stubborn to leave, and Detroit is in bad enough shape to wear down most people’s stubbornness.

Flint now has the unfortunate distinction of having a worse water system than Detroit. The city managers appointed by Snyder during the state takeover of Flint’s municipal government determined that the Detroit Water Works, which had historically served Flint as well, were too expensive, and opted last year to start drawing water directly from the Flint River. High salt levels in the river water leached lead out of the metal pipes. Then the water started to smell foul, and managers responded by bombarding it with repulsive, nearly dangerous levels of chlorine. Residents started to suffer from nausea and skin problems. Officials falsely insisted that the water was safe while ordering physicians not to test patients’ blood for metals.

The whole affair has shades of Mengele and Tuskeegee. A responsible federal government would have put a stop to this dereliction and depravity within the quarter. A responsible president would have issued an executive order federalizing the Michigan Army National Guard for the purpose of delivering wholesome, potable water by the trainload to Flint customers until the permanent water infrastructure could be brought back to proper standards of cleanliness. This, however, is our idea of states’ rights: to allow callous, even deliberately vicious state governments carte blanche authority to endanger their constituents in politically and racially motivated pissing matches with dysfunctional municipal governments. It’s federalism straight out of hell. Rick Snyder’s good faith towards struggling majority-black cities and their governments has been questionable for the duration of his governorship, but Whitey (or maybe Bougie) must have had the majoritarian clout to elect him on behalf of the entire state over the minoritarian objections of any local losers whose children’s skin was being acutely poisoned by the town water supply, so it’s all cool.

Michigan is also host to this mass wankery, famously chronicled in song by its native son, Kid Rock. The expenditure of so much treasure on pleasure boats and gluttonous drinking while poor cities back home in Southern Michigan, where the lion’s share of these partying fuckheads originate, is far more obscene than any dirty dancing or bi-curious exhibitionism they may undertake on some boat deck. It all fits together with a grotesque, evil coherence. If the state government appropriated the resources needed to reverse life-threatening failures of government services immediately upon their becoming apparent, the extra tax burden on the upper middle-class might mean that daddy wouldn’t be able to afford a suitably bitchin’ yacht to lend out to his little princess or bro-brat in celebration of Independence Day.

So it goes. The just solution is to unite these callow, entitled lushes and the entire Republican contingent of the Michigan state government, elected and appointed, on Torch Lake three days early under the jurisdiction of Antrim County Sheriff Kwesi Millington (Const., RCMP, Ret.) and whatever other dishonorably discharged perjurers and Pollack-killers he can muster up, but the least I can do as a Catholic is pray for mercy, not justice. Don’t worry, though: Michigan isn’t about to be blessed with either of these virtues. It shall always and forever remain so close to Canada and so far from God.


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