Rick Perry and the Politics of Resentment

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Andrew correctly calls out the bigotry of Rick Perry who evidently thinks frowning upon lynching and beatings of gays qualifies as a "special right."


Perry is a nasty bigot on this. The United States has long opposed the persecution of minorities in other countries; and the appalling threats against gay people across the planet must surely count among them. We are talking here about jailing people for being gay, executing them, burying them under walls and lynching. Maybe the man who hunted at Niggerhead is untroubled by these events. Few others will be.
It's worth checking out the video Andrew links to. What strikes me is the sense of being under siege, a constant theme in conservative politics. It is as if time itself is against them. And they know it. The line "I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian" stands out. Who is ashamed of this? This is a predominantly Christian country, and one of the most religious in the West. People don't "admit" their Christianity here. They proclaim it -- as the president has done repeatedly.

But what if there's something else? What if the conservatives are more perceptive and honest than the moderate liberals? I love Grant and Lincoln, but they were dead wrong in claiming that emancipation did not promote "social equality." Meanwhile the bigots who asserted that emancipation meant that Sambo would be "marryin yer daughters" were right. I wouldn't be shocked if Grant and Lincoln knew this, but also knew that to admit as much would be suicidal.

Andrew, himself, has talked about the rigorous challenge atheism presents to Christianity. Are Christians in this country actually under-siege? Will Barack Obama's grandchildren, for instance, be as Christian as he is? 

Beyond that, there's a question of privilege. It's simply true that white Christian men don't enjoy the kind of luxuries that their grandfathers did, particularly the luxury of knowing, outright, that there is some class of people that -- no matter what -- will always be under you. That must have given people some amount of psychological comfort. Whatever your fights, you knew that you and people like you, always had a place in America. Not so much anymore.

I think back to the great John C. Calhoun:

With us the two great divisions of society are not rich and poor, but white and black; and all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class, and are respected and treated as equals.

What you had, before, was a weird kind of socialism -- exclusive rights for a mass aristocracy. Better neighborhoods, better schools, better water fountains, better rest-rooms, better pools, better everything. 

And now you don't. And look -- There are the Muslims in Congress. And there are the Latinos in the Unions. And there are gays shooting guns in Iraq. And there are women dying in Iraq. And there are black ladies marrying white men. And there are black men marrying white ladies. And their children are Muslims. And their children are in the White House. 

And for the first time in American history, it appears that you will have to fight to not end up on the bottom.

Damn. Things just ain't the same for gangsters.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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