Congress voted a couple of days ago to cut off federal payments to a private anti-poverty agency, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known more commonly by its acronym, ACORN. Concentrated in urban areas across the country, ACORN is a membership organization of about 400,000 people, whose principal object is to empower residents of poor neighborhoods. ACORN registers voters, lobbies public officials for improved services, assists those in need of housing, and generally helps people who are disadvantaged by insufficient income.
Lately, right-wing news-mongers have been airing bits of video showing a handful of ACORN employees engaged in corrupt practices, prompting Congress to act. ACORN gets several million dollars each year in grants from the federal government to administer various social programs, and Congress wants to cut off those payments. No hearings have been held, and there’s been no reliable fact-finding, but the conduct of the employees in the video clips, all of whom have since been fired, was so shocking to our esteemed legislators that the situation was deemed an emergency.
This is the same Congress that can’t or won’t rein in corrupt bankers, the omnipotent prescription drug cartel, war profiteers, or insurance swindlers. The initiative to debar this poor people’s lobby originated with right-wingers, but it attracted enough self-described Democrats to pass both houses. That’s your Democrat majority in action, tolerating just enough dissent to ensure that the right-wing, hypercapitalist agenda always prevails.
Nobody knows what Obama will do with this legislative atrocity, but odds are that he’ll sign it. He doesn’t want to be accused of favoring blacks, and he no longer sees government as a protector of the underprivileged from hunger and want. He”ll probably accommodate the bigots, as he’s done repeatedly since he launched his campaign for the presidency. His election was apparently sufficient to fulfill all the dreams of King, Dubois, and Douglass; nothing more will be required of anyone, and the residues of bigotry are expected to evaporate with the passage of time.
Obama doesn’t understand that bigotry is self-indulgence. Ungenerous, unvirtuous people use bigotry to create delusions of superiority by disparaging others. Bigots are mean people who see life as a zero-sum game, in which more for you means less for me. With bigotry these folks can conveniently identify groups and individuals who are worthy of denial, leaving more for them. Bigotry is not going away.
Don’t confuse bigotry with hate, which is an emotional state. Bigotry is cold. Hate is hot. The modern bigot doesn’t hate his targets; he resents their accomplishments and covets their possessions. You can’t hate somebody you don’t know. The bigot’s hatred is mostly directed inward, and it’s masked by a feigned hatred of others. And don’t confuse bigotry with racism, which may be an outdated concept. No sentient 21st-century adult actually believes that skin color confers superiority or inferiority, any more than anyone really thinks the position of the stars determines the personality of a newborn. Some of us pretend to believe that light skinned people are superior, but the truth is that racism is a cover for general meanness and self-loathing. It’s a heck of a lot easier to deny Mexicans and Haitians a decent living if you can pretend to believe they deserve less than you.
The media are all on board for the repudiation of ACORN, and the rest of us are under pressure to follow suit. Don’t do it. Powerlessness is always compounded by foolishness, and this is foolishness. If we’re going to start holding people accountable for corruption, the wise move would be to start with Congress, a racketeering outfit of the first water. And let’s not give Democrats a pass. They’re every bit as bigoted as Republicans, and their sins are multiplied by their dodges and deceptions. Give your member a call and let him know—even if he voted against this hypocritical measure—that you’re holding him accountable for a Congress gone nuts.