Friday, March 25, 2022

When In Rome...

Czech tourists visiting the Roman Forum, May, 2000

On the evening of our first day in Rome almost twenty-two years ago, my wife and I went into a restaurant near the Spanish Steps. We were seated inches away from another American couple, a few decades older than us. Judging from their appearance, they were fairly well off and from their accent, were from Texas. 

I've traveled abroad a bit and from my first trip to a foreign country to this day, I've been very conscious of the image of the stereotypical American tourist and how not to act like one myself.

The couple seated next to us on the other hand, were the personification of "Ugly Americans" abroad: loud, rude, throwing their weight and money around, disrespectful of the local culture, the whole nine yards. 

At the beginning, the waiter was patient with them despite their endless inquiries about the items on the menu. After he brought their food, they immediately began to complain. I don't remember the specifics, only that the wife ordered a meat dish that tasted strange to her, maybe it didn't taste like the food she was used to at the local Italian restaurant back home in Lubbock. Then she did something unheard of in Europe, demanded the waiter bring the food back and exchange it for another dish.  

To be honest, this probably wasn't the best restaurant on the block, let alone in Rome. It catered primarily to tourists and for that reason, I'm sure it wasn't too unusual for the wait staff to hear that demand, especially from Americans. So the waiter obliged her.

Next she ordered the filet of sole. When she tasted dish number two, she summoned the waiter, who by this time was beginning to lose his patience, and told him the fish didn't have any taste. His snippy response was: "it's fresh fish, it's not supposed to have a taste." 

They weren't having any of it so back to the kitchen went the fish. She wasn't much happier with dish number three and after eating only a few bites, the two got up and left, which was as great a relief to us as it was to the bedraggled waiter. 

After they left, I apologized to him for the boorishness of our fellow countrymen. Brushing it off, he said something to the effect of "all in a day's work".

The one comical thing about the experience was the waiter's use of the English language. He spoke perfect English, but as the ordeal with these two went on, his English got worse and worse. By the end of their meal, he said to them: "beh, a... scusa miei signori, ma, I no speaka di good English."

I thought about this when I read an article on the web this morning listing things American tourists do that are confusing, aggravating and downright offensive to the natives. 

Some of the things on the list were not surprising: we tend to expect everyone, no matter the country, to speak English. We are loud, we wear unusual things like sandals with socks (actually more of a German thing I've noticed), and shorts, tee shirts and sneakers in places where they are not appropriate, (guilty as charged). Some other things listed were just plain weird such as the idea that Americans prefer to ride in the back of taxicabs. Now I'm no expert on the subject of taxicabs around the world but I have ridden in taxis in Rome, Athens, Istanbul, Berlin, St. Petersburg and Tokyo, and in none of those places was riding in front with the driver an option.

Going through the list of stupid things Americans do when traveling abroad, I came up with three general categories of offenses that thoughtful American tourists ought to avoid according to the article. Listing the three from the most grievous to the least are:

  • Disrespecting the culture of the place.
  • Looking like a doofus.
  • Looking like an American.

I'll begin with the least and work my way up. For starters, I'm American and while I don't agree with everything that goes on in this country, I have no problem being American. Even if I did, there's not much I could do about it anyway, so I'm not going to change my behavior simply because it makes me appear to be what I am. Besides, if I do all the things the article suggests that won't make me appear American such as refraining from the following: 

  • wearing sneakers,
  • being polite to strangers, or 
  • expressing excitement over seeing a building several hundred years old,

I could probably pass for a local in London 
I might pass for a local in places like London, Berlin or Prague, that is until I opened my mouth and started to speak. 

As for me ever passing as a local in places like Tokyo or Istanbul, dream on.   

On the other hand, I don't want to look like a fool and frankly, some of the things we Americans routinely do seem quite odd to people in the rest of the world. One of them is eating and drinking while walking around. In that respect, there is a good reason to do as the Romans do, as well as the Berliners and practically everybody else in the world does. Most cultures take their eating and drinking seriously and don't believe those activities should be multi-tasked.  

A Chilean among a group of Poles at a papal audience in the Vatican
Another real curiosity is Americans' (from both hemispheres) obsession with their country's flag. Unless you're at an international sporting event or the celebration of a national holiday, it's unusual to see non-Americans displaying their nation's flag, especially as a part of their attire. Americans from the United States anyway, should realize that this appropriation of the image of our flag goes against official flag etiquette. but they go ahead and do it anyway, even in foreign countries, making their doofus rating extremely high.

The article I read, dwells on things I would place in my bottom two categories of "mistakes" Americans make abroad, while mistakes of the first category, disrespecting the culture, the only one that really matters, are glossed over. Most of the actions mentioned in the article, are trivial cultural differences which may provoke humor or curiosity among people who are not from our culture, maybe at times even endearment, but hardly ever annoyance, anger or offense. 

More enlightening than the article were some of the comments that followed, which went like this: "who cares, when I'm a tourist, I'm contributing to the economy of the country which gives me the right to do as I please."

Therein lies much of the problem.

Sure our money helps the economy of the place we're visiting, but we're not exactly part of General Patton's army liberating Europe from the grip of oppression, so we shouldn't act like we are.

Horror stories abound about tourists (not always Americans) behaving atrociously. Many of them revolve around taking selfies with no regard to the place they find themselves. One of the worst stories I read was about a group of Americans posing for selfies inside Auschwitz, while chanting "U.S.A, U.S.A". Another involves tourists of an unknown nationality at a wildlife refuge in Australia, perhaps the one I visited outside of Melbourne, shaking a Eucalyptus tree, forcing a koala to fall out.
The best advice I can give anyone traveling to a foreign country is this: you are a guest of that country so act like one. At home you might throw your coat on the floor, walk around in your underwear and pick your teeth at the dinner table, but hopefully you wouldn't do that in someone else's home. These selfie taking, tree shaking morons probably would do those things in somebody else's home, so there is probably nothing that can cure cluelessness of that magnitude short of a permanent travel ban.

As for the rest of us, it may sound a bit corny, but I truly believe that when we travel abroad, we are in a small way, ambassadors for our country. The way we speak, behave, and present ourselves in public is a reflection of not only us as individuals, but of our culture as well. Now it's true that reasonable people understand not to judge an entire nation based on the actions of a small handful of individuals. But stereotypes are powerful mental images, not conceived out of thin air. Human nature being what it is, negative stereotypes can be reinforced by only the slightest provocation.

What's more, when you're a guest at someone's home, the host may have a particular set of customs and rules of behavior that any respectful guest should try to abide by, so long as they know them.

It's the same when visiting a foreign country.

Here are a some of the "house" rules and other tidbits of useful information I gleaned during my travels abroad:


During our visit to the Vatican, we noticed that women including my wife, were discreetly asked to cover their bare shoulders upon entering St. Peter's Basilica. What about the men you ask? Well we didn't encounter any sans sleeves, but I can tell you that a man clueless enough to walk into the most important building in the Roman Catholic Church wearing a tank top, deserves every bit of public humiliation meted out to him. 

In other words, when it comes to the way we dress in foreign countries, sometimes it comes down to plain common sense, and sometimes not. You wouldn't dress the same attending Carnival in Rio as you would the Hajj in Mecca, would you? But it's not always so cut and dried.

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul


Making it more complicated. whether we like it or not, accepted standards for dress are quite different for the genders in many cultures.

Everyone knows about the restrictive dress codes for women in some conservative Muslim countries that don't exist for men. But in the west, the reverse is true. It's perfectly acceptable for example, for women to go sleeveless just about anywhere except inside some places of worship and other solemn sites. Not so for men usually, outside of the gym or the beach.

Fortunately in the age of the internet, it only takes a few keystrokes to learn what flies where, and what doesn't. And if we miss a certain detail such as the case above, no worries, we will be reminded. 

Incidentally, Istanbul pictured here, is still a city in a secular country, although that may be slowly changing. The traditional clothing seen in the photo was optional when the picture was taken in 1995. Hagia Sophia, one of the great architectural wonders of the world, at the time was a museum, but has recently been converted into a mosque, and head covering and needless to say, modest dress is required for all women visiting the building today. The one thing that dates this photo, is that being a mosque, shoes would now be removed by everyone entering the sanctuary. See below. 


The old joke goes like this: 

What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Tri-lingual. What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bi-lingual. And what do you call someone who speaks one language? American.

It doesn't help that English is the most widely spoken language in the world meaning that native speakers of the language can "get by" in most foreign countries by not speaking a word of the local language. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Of course, unless one is linguistically gifted, it's very difficult for a well-traveled person to be conversant in every language of every country visited. 

So how much of the language of a country should one know before traveling there? My own experience is that a little knowledge of a language can be a dangerous thing. Confident with my 500 word German vocabulary, I discovered that when I started up a conversation in German in Berlin, if the person responded in kind, I would become lost, quickly. An even worse feeling, is proudly addressing someone in the local language only to have them automatically respond to you in English. 

Unless you already know the language, my advice in visiting a country whose language is not your own, would be to at least learn essential words and phrases such as "hello' and "goodbye", "excuse me", "please", "thank you", "do you speak (my language)" and the ever popular, "where's the bathroom" before you go, no pun intended. 

Funny story, before my first visit to Russia, as is my custom, I studied the language for a couple months. It turned out the most difficult word for me to pronounce was their word for "hello" which in its native Cyrillic spelling is Здравствуйте. See what I mean? When spelled phonetically in the Latin alphabet, it's not much easier : ZDRAVS-tvuy-tye. But I persisted, and to this day I can still say hello (but little else) in Russian, and sound quite convincing. So when I got there and greeted people with a hearty, Здравствуйте!, I discovered that like here, people either just abbreviated it (zdrastu) or used the much simpler, more informal, Привет (PRI-vet). What gives, I asked my new Russian friends who told me that Здравствуйте was much too cumbersome for Russians as well.

Numbers are helpful to know, especially involving money transactions. And if you're visiting a country whose language has a different (but not all that different) alphabet from ours such as Greek or Cyrillic, learn it; it's not all that difficult, it shouldn't take more than a week or two of casual study. Then at the very least, you'll be able to read street signs. 

And in the internet age, it wouldn't hurt spending a little time with Duolingo or an equivalent, just to get a feel for the language.  

While you won't be able to have a meaningful conversation with such a brief introduction to the language, you'll gain respect from the locals for making the effort, except perhaps in Paris.


I once walked into a bar in the Central Business District of Melbourne that boasted offering a vast array of international beers. Being somewhat knowledgeable on the subject, I wasn't particularly interested in any of the national brews, so I asked for a British Ale, to which the bartender responded: "We're in Australia mate, not England." 

So I asked him what the Aussies drank. He said: "Well we've got a good German Weissbier, a Belgian Trappist Ale, and an American IPA."


I never made the mistake of bringing up England Down Under again. 

Oh, and while we're on that subject, if you ever find yourself in Prague, don't refer to the Czech Republic as an "Eastern European" country unless you're prepared for a protracted lecture on European geography, history and politics. 


Second to language, food is perhaps the most integral part of most cultures. In Japan, the preparation and presentation of food, like so many other things we take for granted here, is raised to the level of high art. We all know of the great culinary traditions of India, China, Mexico and of course France, to name but a small handful. Always keep respect for the local food culture in mind when traveling abroad. 

In my book, the country that dials the cultural significance of its food up to an 11, that is to say, one level higher than all the rest, is Italy. 

Poultry Market in Florence
Even in an informal setting, you'll be set straight in no uncertain terms if you make a faux pas when ordering food in Italy, such as the time I asked a waiter at a glorified fast food joint in Florence for a little Parmigiano Reggiano on my plate of shrimp pasta. 

When in Rome, definitely order the Spaghetti Carbonara, the glorious signature dish of that city, but not Spaghetti Bolognese, especially don't order it in Bologna, nor anywhere else in the country. And never, I mean NEVER, order spaghetti and meatballs in Italy. 

When in Naples, (God willing I'll get there some day), the birthplace of modern pizza, order first and foremost the Pizza Margherita featuring only toppings that represent the tri-color flag of Italy, red tomatoes, white cheese and green basil. Order extra toppings if you must, but don't even think of asking for chicken or heaven forbid, pineapple on a pizza in Italy, unless you want to be thrown into the street and laughed out of the country.


I would say one of the biggest cultural differences between Americans and many parts of the world concerns shoes. I'm not talking about sandals with socks or sneakers instead of "proper" leather soled shoes, but something much more serious. I'm talking about wearing outside shoes indoors, especially in someone's home.  

When you travel abroad, especially in eastern Asia, be prepared to take off your shoes inside, as not doing so is considered unsanitary, uncouth and disrespectful in much (but not all) of the world. The American custom of wearing shoes inside one's home by the way, is deeply rooted in our own culture, and is deserving of a post of its own if not an entire thesis.

Here is perhaps the most practical advice of this entire post: in Japan you will be taking off and putting your shoes back on so often that you will want to bring shoes that slip on and off easily, not the tie-up boots that I foolishly chose to wear.


The best advice of all on how to behave in another country is to simply follow the golden rule: don't do anything over there that would piss you off if someone came to our country and did here. Tourists to the  States who particularly bug me, are the ones who incessantly compare the way we do things in our country to the way things are done in theirs. That is one of the most common criticisms of the Ugly American abroad, yet I've encountered many visitors to this country, Europeans especially, who feel entitled to do exactly that here. 

To those folks I would say this: 

We've heard it all before; we may even agree with you that some things are better in Europe. Trust me, you're not telling us anything we don't already know. So people, please stop it; just take in our culture for the better or worse of it, and relax. I promise to return the favor and not complain how much better things are in the good ol' USA when I am a guest in your country. Be it noted that I'll do my best to convince my fellow countrymen and women to follow suit.

To wit: my message to Americans traveling abroad is as follows, don't be an asshole.

So shall it be written, so shall it be done.

Traveling abroad is one of the great experiences of life. It opens our minds, our hearts and our souls to our fellow human beings. It connects us to other cultures and teaches us among so many other things, that despite all our differences, at the heart of it all, as my father always used to say, "people are people." 

By all means, do a little research before making your journey. In our day, with all the information we have at the tip of our fingers, there is no excuse to arrive at our destination completely unprepared. 

On the other hand, don't go overboard with the planning. I've found that one of the most rewarding parts of travel is encountering the unexpected. Those are the moments that stick in our heads and provide us the most powerful learning experiences. 

Like the time I was detained and nearly arrested in St. Petersburg. 

OK maybe that wasn't the most rewarding experience, but it did teach me a few things. And I certainly haven't forgotten it.

At the risk of invalidating everything I've written above, don't sweat making cultural errors in other countries as the mistakes we make are the keys to learning about a culture, as hopefully my little anecdotes in this post illustrated.

I'm truly wistful, writing this at a time when global travel has been curtailed for two long years and may be in doubt for the foreseeable future. Perhaps the single most powerful moment for me in all my travels was the time I had the great privilege to be able to sit in Red Square in Moscow and take in the vast array of emotions going through my head. Having lived through much of the Cold War, that place represented for half my life, a foreboding, distant, terrifying world in which I could never imagine setting foot. By the time I arrived in 1995, the world had changed, or so I thought. Being there in person, Moscow, despite its idiosyncracies, could not have been more beautiful or exhilarating, very much unlike what I expected. The same goes for the people of that great city. 

Ancient Orthodox cathedral in the shadow of the Soviet Era Rossiya Hotel, Moscow

Flash forward to today and my own city, to a restaurant called Russian Tea Time, steps from where I work. It has been besieged of late by hatred and threats of violence because of Putin's invasion of Ukraine. If that by itself is not outrageous enough, the ultimate irony, or more appropriately, stupidity, is the fact that the restaurant is owned by Ukrainians. 

If only all of humanity could be so fortunate as I was to have had the opportunity to be able to look at the world from the other side of a conflict and realize that the people there, cultural differences aside, are no different than us. 

Friday, March 4, 2022


I've mentioned before in this space my favorite entertainment venue on the internet, the site Radio Garden. From RG, you can click any location on a Google Map of the world and will be presented with a list streaming radio stations from that location.

It does take a bit of work finding something worth listening to, because SO many stations around the world play the same stuff, that is to say contemporary pop music usually sung in English. 

But when you do find a gem, it's well worth marking it as a favorite and return to it again and again.  

One of my favorites actually does play music mostly in English; it's one of the best sources of classic American Country music I've ever come across. The station is called Rattlesnake Radio and it originates in Munich. Even better, RR mixes up country with blues, Creole/Cajun and other genres of what could be called American roots music, with a little R&B and Rock and Roll influenced by all those genres thrown in for good measure. A work colleague from Belgium particularly likes RR and on occasion when we're the only ones in the office, she requests I put it on. 

So yesterday while working at my desk and RR playing in the background, something strange caught my ear. No, it couldn't be I thought to myself, did the singer really say that? He sure 'nuff did. Then he said it again, and again. I wasn't really tuned in to the lyrics but what knocked me out of my senses was the "N" word repeated over and over again.

Still incredulous, I picked up my cellphone, held it up to the computer and asked Siri to name the song.

Even my Siri's sexy British accent could not lessen the foul stench of that word, which is right there in the title.

I'm not going to mention the title nor the guy who wrote and sang the song, as I don't want to publicize them, but I will say that after mentioning the title, Siri told me that the song was performed by Johnny Horton. That is wrong. Horton was a country star until his untimely death in 1960. The song in question was recorded nearly a decade later and the singer doesn't sound remotely like Horton.

What the hell is going on I thought, and why on earth would they play this song? My first thought was that it was a parody of country music and the culture of the place where much of it comes from. I immediately thought of a National Lampoon send up of Joan Baez where in the refrain, the singer with her spot-on imitation of the activist folk singer warbles: "Pull the triggers N___s, we're with you all the way, across the bay."

John Lennon also got away with using the word, not without a kerfuffle, as the title to his 1972 feminist protest song, "Woman is the N___ of the World."

Obviously neither song would come close to being released today; times have changed. 

But the song I heard on RR was nothing like either of those songs. No irony there, it was a bona fide no-holds-barred white supremacist, racist song. 

One might say, how about giving the song a little benefit of the doubt? After all, it came out over fifty years ago in a much different time. Shouldn't we judge works from the past in the context of their time and not ours?

Since I already mentioned him, I'll use Johnny Horton as an example. Many of his songs are ballads about historic events. I'm sure they turn many people off today for their "political incorrectness." One of them is a song about the horse of the discredited Indian fighter, General George Armstrong Custer. Ironically, the horse's name was Comanche. In its time I'm sure the song, named after the horse, did not provoke much controversy if any. Today as most of us don't have much compassion for Custer, his fate, nor his cause, the song sounds at best, dated, and at worst, a paean to imperialism and the genocide of Native American people. 

Yet Comanche is a song that might be given a pass (if you wish) for reflecting the values of a different time.

But not the song in question. Having lived through the time it was recorded, I can assure you it was as vile then as it is now. Since I refuse to print any of the lyrics, you'll just have to take my word. Or you could go by the fact that the song was so offensive it never received airtime on a radio station in the States, not even in the Deep South. 

I know nothing about how the Rattlesnake playlist is generated in Munich. Perhaps the program director is a computer. My Belgian friend (without hearing it) speculated that whoever chose to play the song, assuming it wasn't a computer, probably didn't understand the nuances of American culture enough to realize how truly offensive it is. I assured her that there is absolutely nothing nuanced about the song. You would have to be completely ignorant of American culture, the English language, or both to let this one slide. I seriously doubt that anyone running a radio station devoted to American roots music, one that's heard around the world via the internet, could be that ignorant.

Maybe I'm wrong. Or perhaps it was a mean-spirited intern on his way out the door. One can only hope.

Anyway, it got me thinking this morning that when you take away all the things that got the song banned from the radio in the U.S., the racial invectives, the threats of brutal violence and the humiliating degradation of human beings, the theme of the song is no different from much of the rants we hear today from members of the far right.

That theme is this: white folks in America got it bad, and that ain't good. My apologies to Paul Francis Webster and Duke Ellington.

That theme is propagated throughout right wing media, most notably by the chief spokesman and poster child for white victimhood, Tucker "Putin Didn't Call Me a Racist" Carlson. Unlike the author of the racist song who grew up dirt poor in Louisiana, if you were writing a dictionary, you'd have to put Carlson, heir to the Swanson TV Dinner fortune, at the top of the list of candidates for the illustration accompanying the entry on white privilege.

"What's that guy got to complain about you might ask? You got me, but as the most watched talking head on Fox News, his message that white people are the real victims of racism in this country, is music to the ears of many white folks all over this land of ours who feel that life just hasn't been fair to them.

Playing the victim is never a good look, especially when you're the farthest thing from one AND you're living in a time where there is true suffering in the world, which is all the time.

Multiply that exponentially when you're living in a time of war, which we are now, and the lives of people as we speak, are being turned upside down by a megalomaniacal dictator without the slightest hint of a moral compass, bent on murder and mayhem.

Listening to the radio the other morning, a report on Chicago's Ukrainian community coming together to deal with and assist in the plight of their loved ones back home was followed by the story of an Illinois state legislator complaining that he still had to wear a mask inside the state capitol house chamber, despite mask mandates being lifted statewide. Life sure is unfair, isn't it? 

Well in my book, children getting cancer is unfair. People in the richest country in the world having to choose between buying food and medicine is unfair. Unarmed people getting shot and killed by the police is unfair. Ukrainian people going about their daily lives just a week ago having to dodge Putin's missiles aimed at their homes today, is unfair.

Having to wear a mask is a minuscule inconvenience when you consider that it helps protect the health and wellbeing of other people. We should willingly and gladly participate in this effort, not whine incessantly about it like two year olds.

Have we really become a nation of spoiled little children?

Serious discourse on how unfair life is for white people in this country is not just found on right wing media outlets like FOX.

Iowa governor Kim Reynolds delivered the Republican rebuttal to President Biden's State of the Union Address the other night. Sprinkled in between rants blaming the current administration for all our nation's problems from the current inflation rate to Putin's invasion of Ukraine, normal stuff in hyper-partisan speeches like this one, Reynolds threw in some nuggets that with the exception of the abusive language, reflect the overall theme of white victimhood heard in the racist song:

Talk to Americans about what's on their mind. Ask them: What are your concerns? What keeps you up at night?
They'll tell you, and I can tell you what's not on that list.

They won't tell you that we should be paying people not to work.

A dog whistle as old as the hills, "paying people not to work" to the ultra-right, evokes images of black welfare queens and drug dealers getting rich by doing nothing, off the backs of hard working white people. But honestly, I've never met anyone of any color who balked at getting a free handout from the government, whether it was the monthly $250 COVID relief check from the IRS, (damn I miss that extra cash in the bank, thank you Joe Manchin), farmers getting paid NOT to grow crops, or rich people not having to pay their fair share of taxes. 

Americans are tired of a political class trying to remake this country into a place where an elite few tell everyone else what they can and cannot say. What they can and cannot believe. 

I for one believe there is no right in a democracy more sacred than the right to freedom of speech. The lack of tolerance for other people's opinions is not the exclusive domain of the left or the right, it exists on both sides of the political divide. But like all freedoms, freedom of speech is not absolute. What is often missed on both sides are a few things. First, freedom does not mean we have the freedom to say or do whatever we please, we cannot cause serious harm to others for example in the name of exercising our rights. Second, rights go hand in hand with responsibility which ties directly into number three: while freedom of speech means that the government cannot imprison you for what you say, it does not mean that you can say whatever you feel like with the expectation that there will be no consequences such as public derision, termination of a social media account, or even losing your job.

I'm not exactly sure who Governor Reynolds is referring to as the political elite class, I can only guess it is the party to which she does not belong, the Democratic Party. What is elite about the Democrats I don't know, perhaps it's simply because they are currently in power, and her party is not. The extreme right in this country does not hide its disdain for what they call the "mainstream media" which they claim is biased against them. While that may be true, there is certainly no lack of media outlets that are more than willing to espouse their ideology, FOX being a prime example. So I seriously question her assertion that anyone in this country is stifling her words or her beliefs. 

Save perhaps for one exception.

Consider the "N word". I often come across commentaries from the extreme right that claim how unfair it is that it's acceptable for black people to use the degrading word, but not for whites. 

You can't see it but I'm currently making that stupid, quizzical look on my face that Tucker Carlson is famous for. You know the look, the one someone once described as the look on the face of an eight year old who's just learned about sex.

In case you don't get it. let me explain in the simplest of terms. I have a family whom I love dearly. But like everyone else, once in a while, when someone in my family gets on my nerves. I reserve the right to use choice language to express my feelings of frustration. But don't think for a minute that you can talk the same way about my family unless you want a punch in the nose.

Is that unfair? If you think it is, then deal with it.

In other words, if you're white, you're perfectly free to use the "N" word, but understand that there can and will be consequences. That's not unfair, it's just the way it is, sorry.

They're tired of people pretending the way to end racism is by categorizing everybody by their race.

This is a new dog-whistle for the ultra-right, their claim to desire a "color blind" society. 

I find that particularly ironic since on the one hand, Republicans preach that we should not take into account a person's race, while on the other hand they are gerrymandering congressional districts to gain political advantage based upon race and creating voting restrictions that pointedly target and disenfranchise people of color.

I guess they figure if we don't take race into account, no one will notice what they're doing.

Now for the piece de resistance, a doozy that combines dog whistles both old and new, with a healthy dose of bullshit thrown in for good measure:

The Department of Justice treats parents like domestic terrorists but looters and shoplifters roam free. 
The first part is referring to the Justice Department investigating in the words of Attorney General Merrick Garland, a "disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators" on the part of parents. The AG adds that: "While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views."

The parents in question are protesting issues near and dear to the hearts of the ultra-right, mask mandates and the supposed teaching of "Critical Race Theory." The latter is one of the latest contributors to the idea of white victimhood and another dog whistle to the white-right, because teaching the truth about American history in regard to race, might make their children upset. And according to them, parents obviously should have the final say on what they want and don't want their children to be upset about. 

Then comes one of the oldest racist dog whistles in the book. If you can't explicitly mention the "N" word, "looters and shoplifters roaming free" conveys the idea just fine to a particular audience.

Look, I don't believe that most Republicans are virulent racists. Many of their concerns such as the rapid increase of violent crime are legitimate concerns to all Americans, especially nonwhite Americans who are disproportionately the victims of it. 

But it's obvious that the M.O. of the Republican Party for a good number of years has been to react to the very real fact that at some point in the near future, the majority of Americans will no longer be white. Lots of white folks are scared shitless of that. So rather than trying to make their base more inclusive, a good number of Republicans, the ones currently in control of the party, have chosen the other route and have all but declared themselves to be the party of white people, then promote fear among their base that if something is not done immediately, democracy be damned if it has to be, the other folks will take over.

If you don't believe me, just ask our friend Tucker Carlson. 

Carlson may be the single most powerful voice today in the MAGA world. He is not an idiot; he just plays one on TV. I have serious doubts that he believes much of the stuff he puts out there, but he knows his audience and exactly what to say that will get them to coming back day after day. That's good for FOX's bottom line and for his own pocketbook which is already stuffed to the gills. 

Publicly anyway, Carlson is a staunch supporter of "White Replacement Theory", the idea that Democrats are actively importing immigrants from south of the border and other predominantly nonwhite countries in order to offset or in his words, "replace" white voters in this country, If you recall: "we will not be replaced" was the chant of the tiki torch carrying white supremacist mob in Chorlottesville in 2017. One of Carlson's most idiotic comments is this:
Every time they import a new voter, I become disenfranchised as a current voter.

What could possibly be more unfair than that? Poor undeserving Tucks.

Beyond the utter nonsense of the idea of Democrats importing voters, the premise of that statement outlines the belief of the MAGA crowd that white people have a completely different agenda than nonwhite people, and that there is essentially nothing in common between us. How will we ever unite as a country with that attitude?


Sadly, there is still a big audience for the racist song mentioned above. I just googled it and the site listed over one hundred thousand results pointing to pages that feature the song and others like it. Reading the comments on those pages is really taking a dive into the darkest recesses of the American psyche. 

As we've seen, Carlson and Governor Reynolds to name just two, may not be card carrying white supremacists themselves, but they speak their language, and see no problem garnering their support.

These two and many others like them only worse, are the face of today's Republican Party.

If you are a Republican AND reject racism, this should deeply trouble you. There may come a time, and that time may be now, when you have to chose one or the other.