Sep 03 2005

First Lady Explains American Caste System

Did you hear Laura Bush yesterday? I did, but I was so freaked out that it wasn’t until this morning that the horror of the remarks she made from the glistening town of Lafayette–where apparently all the refugees had just had steaming hot bubble baths and were currently enjoying tea and scones and croquet on the lawn–began to congeal in my mind.

She blew through the bulk of my attention span thanking and re-thanking the local nibs who flanked her in a semicircle, and praising and re-praising the local citizenry for "coming together." I had nearly dozed off by the time she was finally asked to bestow upon the nation her thoughts on the umpteenth circle of hell that is New Orleans, and why the feds have been so lackadaisical in turning up with the picnic baskets. In response, Bush, taking the tone of the magnanimous patrician explaining with infinite patience the facts of feudal life to the unwashed rabble, observed that the situation is, in fact, consistent with the natural order of things. In other words, it’s always gonna the poor black people who suffocate in squalid convention centers waiting for the National Guard to mosey along, and it’s tough teacakes, but that’s just "the way it is;" you can hardly expect the federal government to give poor people the priority.

Meanwhile I have just heard a woman on NPR, apparently some kind of disaster expert, espousing a philosphy of  segregation in the refugee shelters. People, she said, naturally want to be with people just "like themselves."  Apparently having survived a terrifying natural disaster is not a common enough denominator; preserving class and racial boundaries is always the best comfort.

She also said that shelter organizers (presumably because they have never seen a woman before) should remember that women (presumably because we are patently bizarre) have "different" needs.

Jesus Christ.


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  1. Sylvanite

    I just can’t even stand it anymore. The country is being run by people who fundamentally deny the idea of community. We live in a nation-state people. There are two things taht nation-states can be very good at (which are, in fact, fundamental to this level of political organization). 1) They are very good at linking disparate people under a single shared identity, to keep peace when the population is too large for everyone to be related to one another by kinship, and 2) they are very good at collecting and distributing resources for crises and communal needs. Gathering surplus grain to be distributed during times of famine goes all the way back to Sumeria, and every subsequent nation-state has doen similar things, if they are at all functional. Our current overlords don’t seem to appreciate how small the world has gotten. We’re all in this together, and if the world becomes unsustainable, there will be nowhere for anyone to run, no matter how much money they have. All they’ll have succeeded in doing is buying themselves the privilege of being the last to starve.

    Boy, I wish I hadn’t read “Collapse” by Jared Diamond this summer. Ignorance IS bliss.

  2. CafeSiren

    Regarding women’s “different” needs: Well, holy crap. How about these reports of people taking advantage of lawlessness, not only to loot, but also to form rape gangs?

    It seems to be a footnote in the coverage, but I find it alarming that a thin line of dubious government protection is all that keeps young men from behaving like cavemen.

  3. Mandos

    Yeah what’s up with that? I wonder if someone will collect stats on the rapists. But rape in war zones is common so why wouldn’t it be in disaster zones? Well, I guess they’re still somewhat different things. If so, doesn’t that make it more disturbing.

    And you know Twisty is really apoplectic when she finishes a post with “Jesus Christ.”

  4. StealthBadger

    Siren… What makes you think that the people who are raping, weren’t raping before Katrina? I strongly suspect that the surprising behavior that Katrina is bringing out, in everyone, no matter what gender or race, is the strength, compassion and co-operation that some of these sufferers are showing now that the statement that the government is there to protect you has proven to be a lie.

  5. StealthBadger

    I’m sorry for the tone of that.

    I’m trying not to rip out my own hair in frustration and anger, at the stories of DHS keeping the ARC and others out because people “will not want to leave” if food is brought in.

    The arrogance and presumption that the poor or brown people need to be coralled at gunpoint makes me furious.

    But the surprise that people are showing, that the very worst in our society is being revealed after years of the people on the lowest levels of our society being told that they’re on their own… I don’t have words.

  6. CafeSiren

    SB —

    I agree with your last statements. I want to clarify though: in no way did I mean to imply that there was a correlation between the purported rape gangs and ethnicity. I am of the opinion (completely unsubstantiated) that rapists are likely to be people who suffer, not from poverty, but from a sense of patriarchy-fueled entitlement, combined with the feeling of being denied their “due” by feminists and other equal (human)-rights advocates who insist that being white, male, het, and relatively wealthy does not mean that you get to do whatever you want. In other words, I would expect a hypothetical rape gang to be comprised of members of the disaffected white middle and upper-middle classes, who feel put-upon by the various (but too few) measures that have been implemented to try to protect and support the poor, the nonwhite, and, yes, women.

    And before someone takes me to task for an unintended implication of my rant: I also do not mean to imply that all middle- and upper-class white men are potential rapists.

  7. StealthBadger

    Not meaning to take you to task in any way. My own theory is a bit broader, believing that rape is an expression of the “shit rolls down-hill” school of power, which is why rape is a problem in women’s prisons *between* women, albeit rarely compared to how common a tool it is for men – it’s not a sexual statement at all, but a “I may be getting dumped on, but YOU’RE powerless before me.”

    I think what we’re saying has a lot of common ground. Apologies for sounding so edged.

  8. Tony Patti

    Personally, as a man who from birth was never capable of raping anyone, I still think that there is a distinct and omnipresent minority of men who will rape if they think they can get away with it, because they are evil and without souls. You will know them by their inability to understand that they have done anything wrong.

    I have always wondered why rapists aren’t fully castrated, since they are without the ability to understand their crime and can never repent doing what they think was a sex act. It’s not as if a man can’t have a happy – even much happier – life without the equipment we carry around strictly for reproductive purposes.

    Yet when I bring up this seemingly reasonable idea, most people think it is cruel beyond all bounds of decency. Yet it seems far kinder than rape to me.

    There are also those who will maintain that they will rape or kill anyway because “it’s all about power” – a vague and untenable theory that ignores the facts about hormones and documented cases of men who have actually been castrated becoming remarkably complacent and sedate.

    I guess I’m just a man who thinks of a penis as a useless appendage other than the reproductive thing – it is fun and capable of creating that instinctive sense of intimacy between two people in love, but not life-defining.

    If it defines a man to himself as a rapist, remove the stupid little flap of flesh, I say.

  9. Steph

    I’m not American so I’m taking an outsider perspective and all I have to say is “what the fuck is wrong down there??? It’s the richest country in the world and this is how it treats people??”

    Though it is making me wonder what my country would do for its citizens if this happened to us. Canada does not live in some classless/racismless society, but I keep thinking we would do better. If nothing else, we would freakin’ try harder than Bush and his cronies.

    God, I hope we would try harder.

  10. antelope

    I read somewhere that what the Russians do to rapists is some form of “chemical castration” that involves injections & no cutting whatsoever – the guy can no longer get a hard-on for the rest of his life but is otherwise very much the same. The article stated that most rapists were extremely grateful for this treatment. Especially the pedophiles, who felt the most out-of-control previously.

    Can’t see it happening in the U.S. of A. though – too many folks would insist that it was inhumane…

  11. CafeSiren

    Actually, Antelope, there *was* a movement for a while to make chemical castration a punishment option for convicted sex offenders. It became a federal court case (does someone out there know the case?) when a convict (a pedophile, I think) himself requested the procedure in exchange for a reduced sentence or early parole or something. And you’re right: I think it was rejected by the courts as constituting cruel and unusual punishment.

  12. CafeSiren

    OK, I take that back: a number of states have chemical castration statutes on the books, but they have always been legally controversial: http://www.law.fsu.edu/journals/lawreview/frames/252/spalfram.html

    (Note, the law review linke to above, while scholarly, is from 1998)

  13. Summer

    I wonder if needing to throttle Laura Bush qualifies as “different.”

  14. Twisty

    In Austin the shelter people “are separating single men from women and families.”

  15. masaccio

    New Orleans has always been a violent city. See Jason DeParle in today’s Times:

    “Anyone who knew New Orleans knew that danger lurked behind the festive front. Let the good times roll, the tourists on Bourbon Street were told. Yet in every season, someone who rolled a few blocks in the wrong direction wound up in the city morgue.

    Unusually poor ( 27.4 percent below the poverty line in 2000), disproportionately black (over two-thirds), the Big Easy is also disproportionately murderous – with a rate that was for years among the country’s highest.”
    And more elsewhere in the Times today.

    Government kept them under some kind of control, but when it disappeared, the thugs found themselves in their natural element, free to act as they wanted. What other possible outcome was there?

  16. StealthBadger

    In Austin the shelter people “are separating single men from women and families.”

    I won’t even wonder if a couple “living in sin” counts as single.

    I pity anyone who has trouble passing as straight, or who is in a committed relationship that isn’t “normal.”

  17. Mandos

    “In Austin the shelter people “are separating single men from women and families.””

    I’m not sure what to make of this.

  18. Fred

    Single men are not to be trusted, dear. That’s the unspoken message in our misandrist society.

  19. res publica

    I heard the “people go crazy if they’re not around their own kind” lady on NPR; I’m glad I’m not the only one who arched an eyebrow at that one. Nothing like a disaster to bring out the craven, stupid, raving idiocy of everyone.

  20. Twisty

    Single men are not to be trusted, dear. That’s the unspoken message in our misandrist society.

    I’m pretty sure that is the spoken message in this city shelter edict.

  21. Amanda Marcotte

    Uh, the notion that single men are not to be trusted is pretty much the message of anti-feminists everywhere you go. Criticize a rapist and his defenders will come out of the woodwork to point out that single men will fuck anything that moves by force if necessary and can no more be blamed than rain clouds for raining or earthquakes for shaking. Keep your stories straight, dipshit. Feminists are the ones saying men can control themselves and you don’t like this particular truth because it puts responsibility on men for rape, not women.

  22. Chrsitopher

    Yep, when you trust a guy and he ends up raping you, you should’ve been paranoid and looked at every man askance.

    When you look at every man askance and worry that they might attack you, you’re a crazy misandrist feminist bitch.

    They getcha both ways.

    Frankly, since men don’t have to deal with that kind of bullshit, I hesitate to call our society “misandrist”.

    Well, it’s less that I hesitate to do it then that I think it’s idiotic to do it.

  23. Christopher

    Incidentally, how do they know which kind of people are “like me”? I tend to identify more strongly with age and class then with race. I mean, even though we’re both white, I wouldn’t really feel comfortable hanging out with Laura Bush. I’d be afraid of offending her, and what are the chances we have common interests?

  24. WookieMonster

    A lack of a functioning penis will not stop a rapist if they are determined. Bottles, broom handles, fingers, dildos, etc. would still work. As rape isn’t really about sex, but about power.

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