I’m Definitely Not Being Watched

Remember when we were younger? There was a spring in our step, a twinkle in our eyes, a dream in our heart, and a suspicion that the Patriot Act was overstepping by checking on our library records to get at our reading habits. Those were the halcyon days.

Of course, now we accept such intrusions with all the grace and spine of calamari. It’s a sign of poor taste to object to being investigated. I mean, if you’re innocent why not welcome the chance to prove so? Never mind the expense of a legal defense. The process is definitely not the punishment (See Flynn, Michael) and objecting to the process makes you look a teensie bit… well, guilty.

I’m being a good citizen. I just bought two books that I’d be glad to have on the spreadsheet of a mid-level bureaucrat’s desk. The first was picked up at a new – kinda new, they opened during the year that no one went out in – bookstore in the area. It’s lefty. Big time. The poetry section was a tribute to righteous anger, each title being a variation of the phrase “I am an angry negro.” Seriously. I don’t think I’ve ever been confronted with the word “negro” in so many varied and colorful fonts before.

I got myself a copy of Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (I should add “He writes so well” here, but wait for it.) I had to clarify that this was the book, as opposed to other titles he’s written, that made the big splash. The woman I believe to be the owner turned to gushing. “I re-read it every year.”

Well, I had heard differently. “Every review I’ve read says that he’s whiney and looking for slights.” Cue angry owner face. “Lowry wrote that for all the perceived horrors he offers up one incident, something about a sidelong look on an escalator on page 93.” I’m holding the book at this point and thumbing through it. “Okay, maybe not page 93, but,”

“The escalator incident was shocking.” She piped in, so maybe not page 93, but it’s in there. She added that he writes about a murder that apparently flies anecdotally in the face of FBI evidence.

But I bought it and will soon be educated. I mentioned to the simmering owner, and really, she was visibly angry at me but doing a valiant job of suppressing it so kudos, that I’ve read a few of his articles and was familiar with the “He writes so well,” meme that follows him around as if he were a surprisingly talented puppy. It might as well be an addendum to his name. “Do you know Ta-Nahisi Coates? He writes so well.” I will grant the aggrieved that this is paternalism. Embarrassing paternalism. I don’t think he’s that great a writer. At least not from his articles. Who knows. Maybe he’ll impress me in the book.

To buoy my left leaning book purchase bona fides, I just ordered that crappy Howard Zinn rag. Has anybody who didn’t write The Protocols of the Elders of Zion ever spread misinformation so maliciously and so widely? He may have outdone the anti-semites. He’s got his rubbish on syllabus after syllabus. Outside of Gaza and the West Bank (and Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Leban…. The whole Middle East) The Protocols barely outsell Mein Kampf.

But I bought it. I grabbed the Kindle edition of Mary Graber’s latest, Debunking Howard Zinn. I figured that despite the lengthy excerpts and summaries I owed it to my spleen to read the whole Zinn screed, warts and all. I am looking forward to finding out what a recipient of bastardy and the spoils of bastardy I am. Maybe the Graber book will temper the spread sheet reading bureaucrat’s reaction to my insurrectional (there’s a word that is having a revival for no reason) purchases.

Anyway, I’m diving into the world of the perpetually angry. I might as well read that copy of Rules for Radicals that keeps getting shuffled down the to-read list in favor of something cool with boats and guns.

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