You’re Still Wrong
Mykel’s Post MRR column No ???
or A CRITIQUE OF PURE INTOLERANCE
or A CRITIQUE OF PURE INTOLERANCE
I write this sitting in a train traveling on a 15 hour ride from Agra India to Amritsan… I probably have the name spelled wrong. I’ve got an deafening headache from lack of coffee. I’m thirsty, having just finished the last of the water. The only available food is Chiwda, a nice mix of nuts, toasted rice and noodles… great any other time… but it’s salty… and there is no water.
Internet is spotty in Google… time to write is even spottier. So this month, I’m combining some facebook posts into a blog. Next month, I hope, I’ll be writing about India.
This month, with some repeat (Who me, repeat? Who me, repeat?) I want to talk about TOLERANCE:
Tolerance used to be a “liberal” principle. I remember all these teaching tolerance programs in school… kids’ books with different colored rabbits-- kidtalk for different racial groups. The moral was always: underneath it all, they’re all just plain rabbits. Get it?
Tolerance was a virtue. You should approach people without pre-conception. You talk with them... learn from them... maybe they learned from you. People who dressed differently, looked different, had different religions, different ideas. You might disagree with the ideas… and say so... but you should tolerate them because a free exchange of ideas is the way both sides learn. And a free exchange of cultures is the way both sides can have nice new eats!
No discrimination by race, creed or color, we used to say. Today the right has no tolerance for race and color and the left for creed. Every politician promises ZERO TOLERANCE for something or other… and that’s supposed to be a good thing.
Maybe the earlier tolerance was a product of the peace and love generation… or the burgeoning Civil Rights movement… where Martin Luther King learned non-violence from Mohandas K. Gandhi … His image is everywhere here in India. Like every podunk town in the US has its ML King Drive… every city in India has its MG Road. Non-violence is crucial to tolerance. Violence is the ultimate in intolerance.
I guess this began to change in the 90s… a reaction to the unlimited freedom and tolerance of the 60s and then the 80s. I think the first time I heard the words ZERO TOLERANCE was in the war on drugs. Any use of drugs… possession of drugs.. BANG you’re in jail. ZERO TOLERANCE. The WORDS became a hallmark of the Giuliani administration in New York. The Broken Windows policing policy, based on an idea similar to marijuana leads to heroin. The smallest “crime”-- pan-handing, pissing on the street, fare-jumping,… BANG! You’re in jail. ZERO TOLERANCE.
Of course this hit the poor hardest, if you’re not poor you don’t NEED to piss on the street or jump the turnstyle. The jails filled. The poor were in jail or forced out of the city… The rich, who no longer were forced to watch people piss on the street, moved in. ZERO TOLERANCE worked to reduce crime. But it made life worse for those not tolerated. And drove rents and other prices up… ethnic diversity down.
Like the swine flu, ZERO TOLERANCE, quickly caught on. ZERO TOLERANCE for prostitution. ZERO TOLERANCE for smoking in public places… and the list goes on. Then, like syphilis jumped species from sheep to human (I wonder how that happened), ZERO TOLERANCE jumped politics and moved to liberals… the so-called left.
ZERO TOLERANCE FOR HATE is a sign I saw in a store window on Lafayette Street. It made me laugh. What better definition of HATE than ZERO TOLERANCE? They are the same thing! That was funny… but it wasn’t a joke.
Just like all Muslims were branded TERRORISTS by the right… All nationalists, alt-rightists, libertarians suddenly were branded NAZIS, or FASCISTS by the the left. And, guess what, ZERO TOLERANCE for “Nazis” and “Fascists.”
In the 20th Century, the violently intolerant wore white hoods (and robes) and attacked violently in a wave of racial intolerance. In the 21st Century, the violently intolerant wear BLACK hoods (and scarves) and attack with clubs and fists in a wave of political intolerance.
Flash back about 20 years. An old Caribbean-American friend of mine lives in Raleigh North Carolina. Last time she came to New York she seemed slightly stand-offish. I don’t remember the exact details, so my reconstruction will be slightly off, but close enough. (I’ve changed the protagonist’s name.)
“Olga!” I shout when I see her. “Great to see you! It’s been a long time.”
“Oh hi, Mykel,” she says. “My life has changed a bit since you saw me last. I have a new boyfriend now.”
“That’s cool,” I say, “but not so weird. How has your life changed?”
“Well,” says Olga, “He’s told me about Doctor Farrakhan. And I’m learning the proper way to act. Dr. Farrakhan says…..”
“Dr. Farrakhan????” I don’t say, “This is the guy who said ‘I’m not anti-Semite… I’m anti-TERMITE! THAT Dr. Farrakhan”
But I listen… I listen to ideas about modesty... about Jews position in history… about how Islam is the religion of the underclasses, the poor, the displaced, the oppressed. I listen.
And I have been listening ever since… or making the effort. I’ve traveled to Muslim countries (Turkey, Morocco, Senegal, The Gambia), and listened… and met great people, and have friends among them. I don’t hide my Jewitude… they check for horns when they find out… then they laugh and don’t care. We talk.
Flash to early 21st Century, Laurens South Carolina: I’m with Sid Yiddish, who’s visiting from Chicago. Laurens is home to THE REBEL SHOP which my cousin tells me is run by “a real Grand Dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.” Sounds scary.
“Can we go, Uncle Mickey?” asks Sid.
It looks like it used to be a theater. The letters in the marquee say REBEL SHOP and there’s a confederate flag in front of it. Sid and I look at each other. I shrug. We walk in.
The owner of the shop, a chubby guy in his late 60s-early seventies wishes us welcome. Sid goes over to look at the t-shirts. I walk around to look at the posters, and Klan memorabilia. No lynching pictures… just guys on horses in robes with white hoods.
“This is the later Klan,” says one of the patrons-- a muscular guy, early 30s, I’d guess. “See the hoods… they don’t cover the faces like the early ones did. I guess they had more pride the second time around.”
Most of the pictures, in fact, are of the reformed Klan, where the hoods didn’t cover their whole faces… I wonder how long before Antifa is proud of what it’s doing. The story is scary, but fascinating.
The shop owner calls to us over the counter, “If you want to look at more pictures, you can check out my own room. I sleep in the back.”
He opens the door and shows us to the back room. There is indeed a bed there… along with what looked like several posters from BIRTH OF A NATION.
I look at the bed… nothing more than a couch with a few sheets and pillows... surprisingly coordinated, blue and an odd shade of beige. Then I walk out to talk with the guy.
“I’m surprised,” I tell him. “I thought you guys only used WHITE sheets.”
“You boys ain’t from around here, are ya?” he asks.
“Imagine your worst nightmare,” I tell him. “Imagine your vision of hell! The worst place you could ever be...”
“Ah,” he says,” You boys are from New York.”
The three of us laugh.
He motions to a younger man… 40s… muscular in an uncomfortable way-- like a grumpy version of the guy who told me about the hoods. The man is sitting by himself… arms folded… unsmiling.
“I want you to meet (I forgot his name). He’s the head of the county National Socialist Society,” says the Grand Dragon.
“Hi” I say, extending my hand, “I’m Mykel Board from New York. This is my friend Sid Yiddish.”
The guy doesn’t look at us and only tightens his arms across his chest. He does not take my out-stretched hand.
Sid and I look at each other. He shrugs. We go back to looking at the t-shirts. Before long, we both find t-shirts we like. Mine is a very homo-looking one with a picture of a topless cowboy smiling and the logo IT’S A SOUTHERN THING! Sid gets one of an astronaut planting a rebel flag, with the logo SOUTH SIDE OF THE MOON.
Sid, who looks even Jewer than me, pays for both shirts by credit card. The credit card has Sid’s real name on it. (Hint: think something-berg or something-stein.) The Klan guy looks at it, laughs, rings up the sale and hands us applications to join the Klan. Neither of us qualify… you have to be a “loyal white Christian American.”
We wave to him, and leave going back to my cousins.
“Wow!” says Sid, “That was quite an adventure. The Klan guy was funny.”
“I’m surprised the town allows a store like that,” I say. “Seems like it’d be bad for its reputation.”
“The great thing is,” he says, “that the landlord for the place is a black church… Southern gospel. He pays his money, and they’re friends.”
“Holy shit!” I say, “A black church and the KKK… now THAT’S tolerance.”
“It’s a Southern thing,” he answers.
Flash to 1998: The phone rings… I don’t answer… I never do… I hate the phone. In an hour or so I listen to my messages… I recognize George Tabb’s voice…
“Mykel,” says George’s voice, “I have some bad news. Tim died today. I thought you’d want to know.”
People die all the time. I lived through the 80s… the AIDS era… dropping like butt-fucked flies then. I lost some people very close to me. There was a lot of sadness, but I didn’t cry.
ASIDE: I’m one of the least macho people I know. No muscles to speak of… I hate team sports (except baseball… and that isn’t really a team sport). I even ask directions on the street… can anything be LESS macho?
But if there’s a speck of machotude in my body, it’s the crying thing. I used to be sooo sensitive… as a kid I cried when Lassie didn’t come home. Later in life, I saw the movie, Once Were Warriors. It was about the Maori in New Zealand. I don’t remember the details, but I do remember that I cried… at a fucking MOVIE... I cried. What the fuck?
I felt manipulated… used… by the director.. I decided to stop crying. (Of course, when my parents died, I allowed myself the luxury. Most people cry when their parents die.)
But when Tim died, I cried. I didn’t feel guilty or girlish about it. I loved Tim. He was funny, opinionated, stubborn, and a good friend. We disagreed about music. Tim said the first hardcore band was THE MIDDLE CLASS. I said it was THE BAD BRAINS... politics Tim was a Commie... I was-- and still am, a Libertarian Socialist... baseball teams (but not baseball as an institution). Tim was a Giants fan… I liked the Yankees.
I remember Tim taking me to Candlestick Park for a Giants game. When the Star Spangled Banner came on, I stood up and took off my hat. (This was just to get Tim’s goat. I am not a fan of America, or The Star Spangled Banner? Oy vey! Is there another national anthem with bombs and rockets in it?)
Tim asked me to write for Maximum Rock’n’Roll and kept me on through several purges (I LOVED Tim, but he was not a tolerant guy. Not only Politically Correct, but Musically correct, and business modely correct.) Tim only censored me once in my time at MRR. That was when I mentioned John Crawford… creator of the Baboon Dooley. Tim hated the guy.
But we got along so well. We both respected and made fun of each other. I would never miss hanging out with him on my frequent visits to San Francisco.
Bob Black once asked me why I continued writing for MRR despite the totalitarianism of Tim.
“Don’t you know?” He said, “Tim is using you to try to prove he’s open minded. You’re just a tool.”
“But, I LIKE the guy! He took me out for my first El Salvadorian burrito. He’s like a musical encyclopedia (Example: I once was talking about subjects for punk songs. I was a fan of the early Texas homocore of the time like THE BIG BOYS and THE DICKS.)
“It’s a shame there are no homo baseball-loving bands,” I say.
In a flash, Tim is gone only to return with a 7” from a band whose name I can’t remember, but who had a song “I fell in love with a guy on a baseball card.”
So, when Tim died, I cried.
Someone set up a memorial page for Tim… I contributed. A friend of mine sent me an email message:
“Did you see Gavin’s obituary for Tim? It’s really good.” And she sent me a link.
I thought she was talking about Gavin of Artless guitar fame. But it turns out to be a guy called Gavin Mcinnis… someone I never heard of. But I really liked the obituary. It was obviously written by someone else who loved Tim.
I find this Gavin on facebook and friend him. Turns out he knows who I am… and he played in a punk band himself. I check out his page and see he’s got his own TV show… on Fox. Who am I to judge? One of my best friends-- and fellow yippie at Beloit-- had an investigative reporter job on Fox. (He’s since worked for Bernie Sanders… and helped expose the Russian connection during the last election.)
I invite Gavin to go drinking with my roving group of drunks in New York… He promises to join but never does . Then I heard about THE PROUD BOYS.
Actually, that’s not quite true. It wasn’t that quick. Gavin and I had some brief exchanges about Drink Club in New York, and a bit more about punkrock. I had already been fired from MRR by the latest in a succession of post-Tim MRR editrixes. I was fired for complaining about MRR policy of censorship that I never had to suffer under Tim... but times were changing.
Then, I didn’t realize Gavin had a TV show until… and didn’t know that he had anything to do with VICE in NY or anything else. Now, I realize he’s kinda famous.
FLASH TO BERKELEY… the home of the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s. The movement sparked the naming of a square FREE SPEECH SQUARE.
Now we’re in the 21st century. Some group called AntiFa had stopped a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, a right-wing homosexual. It was the first I heard of the Antifa or Yiannopoulos, but I enjoyed the irony of a blocked speech in Free Speech Square.
As time passed, I heard more and more about the hooded AntiFa’s intolerance… and their violence used to suppress the speech of those they don’t agree with. Labeling their antagonists NAZIS, they feel it’s right to stop them BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY, including murder to judge by the cartoon.
I suggest to Jeff Bale, another former MRRer, that we start a counter group to AntiFa where we go to meetings of the totalitarian left and stop THEM from speaking BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. Jeff puts the kabosh on that idea.
“We need to maintain the high road,” he says. “Let them be the thugs.”
“But how about if we don’t stop them from speaking,” I offer, “but just get together to protect speakers from being attacked and censored by the hooded ones.”
He wasn’t up for that either.
“Mykel,” he says, “You’re nearly 70. I’m a year older. You think we can fight a bunch of macho 20 year olds with chips the size of a hammer and sickle on their shoulders? Besides, I thought you were non-violent.”
He’s right. I’m, letting a bit of 70 year old macho get in there. My mistake.
Shortly after that conversation, I heard about the Proud Boys. I didn’t hear much, but they sounded like my fantasy-- a version of it anyway. They are a group dedicated to fighting the censors… and ready to fight. They are not non-violent. They are macho brawlers willing to stand up for the right to speak. And willing to fight back when attacked. A kind of tolerance police… freedom defenders… At least that was my image when I first heard about them.
That they came from the right is logical. Free speech in America (this century) has been physically attacked by the left more than the right. If I had my druthers, I’d rather they came from the libertarian left. I’d like to see the war between freedom fighters vs the totalitarians… though with a different ending than in the Spanish Civil War.
But, as I’m learning here in India, you eat what’s on your plate… even if-- in two hours-- it’ll give you the shits.
What happened in New York with The Proud Boys vs Antifa? I don’t know. Gavin says THEY started it, with a physical attack-- a thrown bottle. The press… at least the non-Fox press… says The Proud Boys were just a gang out to commit hate crimes... toughies looking for trouble
My guess: the truth lies in the middle, as it usually does. But in any case, the war will continue. Because talking is over. Tolerance… discussion… learning… compassion… understanding… are values long gone. Those who disagree are NAZIS, if you’re Antifa… or ANTIFA if you’re on the other side.
Me, I’m on nobody’s side. I fear for the future though… Tolerance was a great value… as was non-violence. Both are gone now. It’s anyone’s guess what’s gonna happen. Being near 70… I’m lucky enough to have less of a future than the rest of you. It ain’t gonna be pretty.
1. I know about Carl Popper… He’s wrong.
2. I will be spotty on answering comments. I’m now in India and Internet access is not as available here as you’d expect… and I have other things to do.
3. If you want to read about my adventures in India and other places, check out my travel blog at: https://mykelsblog.blogspot.com