American Gangster Moderne

Gangsters look like you and me. They put their over-priced, ripped jean pants on one leg at a time, like the rest of us. And sometimes, their biggest act of aggression is making us believe that they don’t exist. Or worse, that we are the aggressors! I mean, really, isn’t that what the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement is all about? Staring into the faces of the gangsters and telling them to kiss our abused, marginalized, oppressed asses? Yes, power to the people! The people have a right to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. The people have a right to stomp into on-coming, already congested traffic, protesting the state of the U.S. economy, while endangering the lives of unsuspecting, innocent motorists, who might very well otherwise be confused for law abiding citizens. Yes, by golly, it’s the American way. We have a right to bear arms, fuck up traffic patterns and “EAT THE RICH!”

This is why I love America. Unabashedly, undeniably, unashamed and un whatever else terrorists want to scare us out of being. Every time I want to protest corporate greed, I look deeply into the eyes of a neighboring fellow American, longing to tell them that we should go sleep out in a park where homeless people live. This is protest. And since he, she, this person, is also an American, I KNOW they are trying to get their march on like it’s (August 28) 1963. And now, it’s confirmed. If I were to ask someone to go half on a march with me, he/she/this person would be down like Victor Ortiz after a Mayweather kiss.

No, really. This is why I love Americans. Because just when you think you can’t boycott an idea, the ‘real’ Americans break out their collective cape and do the impossible. They achieve what terrorists, extremists, jihadis, and insurgents couldn’t; they make us take a look around and ask ourselves, why do we think of ourselves as a ‘we’? And, is that thought rational?

Mind blowingly powerful, right? Downright gangster, no?

All jokes aside. My real answer to the rational question is no. Hell no! In all seriousness, how do you protest the idea of economic depression? Further, how do you protest the idea of economic depression by paying good American green backs to fly in from New Orleans to sleep in a park in Manhattan? How can this possibly be the back bone of a protest against greed, poverty and economic disparity? It doesn’t make sense. It completely solidifies my notion that the days of the effective American political protest are dead. It also completely solidifies my notion that it’s really Americans, every day Americans, people like you and me, two leg having, blue jean wearing Americans that are the true gangsters. Yes. We, us, you and me, we inadvertently destroy everything that’s sacred to us, down to the fabric of our morality, in a desperate attempt to fight an enemy that very much looks like our own reflection.

“I don’t know how much I believe in redemptive stories, even though people want them and strive for them. They’re satisfied with stories of triumph over evil, but then triumph is a dead end. Triumph never sits still. Life goes on. People forget and make mistakes. Heroes are not completely pure, and villains aren’t purely evil. I’m interested in the continuity of conflict, the creation of racist narratives, or nationalist narratives, or whatever narratives people use to construct a group identity and to keep themselves whole—such activity has a darker side to it, since it allows people to lash out at whoever’s not in the group. That’s a contact thread that flummoxes me.”

These are words from a great American gangster. Yes, so gangster, that I stood in her house many a time and she never once hinted that she was the great Kara Walker herself. (But, that’s a story for another time…) This is the story of the American gangster moderne.

We are our own best friends. We are our own worst enemies. Our right hands are kept downtrodden because our left, affectionately known as ‘greedy as all hell’, keeps using our maxed out credit card to pay our cable bill so we can keep watching Kim Kardashian and Evelyn Lozada go from hoes to desperate housewives.

Seven hundred arrested, privileged protesters with too much free time and no point surely take a fire hose and attack dogs to 30 Americans; gangsters, who are actually using their good sense to redefine, question, and confront the disparities of existence within the 50 states. So, there.

I would like to take the time to proverbially spit on the feet of people who want to defy government spending, by forcing New York City taxpayers to pay the NYPD over time to make unnecessary arrests. If, this weekend, one cop couldn’t make it to help a battered woman or to prevent a kidnapping, I won’t blame the cop. I won’t blame ‘the system.’ I’ll blame the brats who didn’t understand that corporate greed doesn’t have a Governor and that if their gripe is political, they should march their disgruntled arses right into their Senators’ and Congresspersons’ offices to give those constituency having gangsters a piece of their protest loving minds.

This is America people. Nobody owes you anything. This is a capitalist society. You have more than someone. You have less than someone else. Be real gangster, and directly redistribute the wealth by taking what you have and giving it to someone else. Don’t wait for a non-profit to do it. Don’t wait for tax reform. Don’t wait for social security to kick in. That addict that you walk past every day is also poor and he, she, this person was not born to beg outside of McDonald’s any more than you were.

There is no idyllic, innocent, we. Not even when you block traffic to defend the idea of an oppressed us that doesn’t really exist. Everybody is a victim and everybody is a perpetrator. Quit whining. Be gangster enough to look yourself in the mirror and tell your ego to move it’s high maintenance, obese ass out of the way, so you can actually see yourself for who you are. My fellow Americans, three things are true. There is no ‘we’ in empire. All empires fall. And, the United States of America is a card toting member of the empire club. So, what does that mean for us?

US is the G-Unit. So, you, my fellow American, are a gangster. Get prepared. Us all know that gangsters die young. No amount of Vitamin Water will wash away the reality that in the eyes of someone else – who lay outside of whatever ‘we’ you are part of today – you, my misguided compatriot, will get rich or die trying.

5 thoughts on “American Gangster Moderne

  1. Nafeesah, I think this may be the single greatest blog post you’ve ever written. I only have a few random statements to add.

    – Our country has not been this divided since April 12th,1861
    – I have a fear that the American dream is dying
    – Greed and Debt are destroying us

  2. Sr. Lucas, forgive me for taking so long to get back to you here. When you give me the interweb pat on the back, it means a lot. So thanks homie.
    I have a few questions regarding your statements. Do you think that the divide is just as deep now as it was then? I ask because if the divide is a wealth issue, isn’t the argument that 99% are united in marginalization (weird, eh?). Does that constitute divided for you? And what is the American dream for you and what indicates that it’s dying? …On the greed and debt issue, pprreeeeaaaccchhhhh!

    • I feel like I’ve probably given a lot of my answers over the phone but I’ll try my best to organize my thoughts and state my opinions on here. Btw, I’m answering your questions out of order.

      Q: And what is the American dream for you and what indicates that it’s dying? …On the greed and debt issue, pprreeeeaaaccchhhhh!

      A: “each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position” ~ James Truslow Adams (Epic of America)

      I think this portion of Mr. Adams book does a good job of defining the “American Dream”. My definition would be “If you work hard in school, go onto college and graduate with a degree, you will be able to get a competitive job and provide for your family”. With the recent unemployment numbers at 9.1% and college costs being so high. Many Americans are graduating with massive debt and few opportunities for employment.

      Q: Do you think that the divide is just as deep now as it was then?

      I ask because if the divide is a wealth issue, isn’t the argument that 99% are united in marginalization (weird, eh?).

      A: I think the 99% issue is different but related to the division issue. The 99% issue is based on people not believing they have a chance to attain the “American Dream” because of how the disparity between the rich and middle has shrunk in recent years. I think its the belief that politicians are abandoning the middle class and only worrying about the upper class.

      I think the division between us as Americans has to do with a lot of things. The wars that we are currently in, the recession (possibility of a double dip recession), the haves believing the have-nots should pay their own way, high unemployment rates, debt crisis, and electing a black president (lets just be real, some people are still salty).

      Does that constitute divided for you?

  3. Biba,

    I would ask you not to spit on the feet of the occupiers. When it comes down to it the NYPD literally has an army of officers and plenty of resources to helped the kidnapped, murdered and raped. And regardless, it is the responsibility of that government agency to defend the rights off all people in that municipality regardless of political motivations or disagreements. That is why they exist.

    All I really have to say is that there is no doubt a big problem facing the people of this country and this shit needs a major shake up/change/paradigm shift…however you want to term it. How the do you suppose we get to where we need to be? Where do we need to be? Where are we really coming from.

    You are right, America is young and I think metaphorically speaking it is existing somewhere in the age range of a 14 to 16 year old. We have been empowered by our new found strengths and understandings of the world while being unable to contextualize how we actually got to be where we are at in life and all the work that actually awaits us in the near future to attain our goals.

    Your assertion that America has been built on ideas and the hard work of Americans and our only way out of this is to operate under that guise is only partially true. That is the rhetoric that I think needs to be broken. This country has a broken foundation, built on the backs of others through catel slavery, opression, imperialism, and corporate greed. That is what permeates through the halls of Congressand through the board rooms of America. Sleeping on the steps of your Congressmen of Senetor will only have limited effectiveness.

    I like the occupiers not only because I believe in agitation but because I do think the change has to start with us…the common man and woman. Honestly speaking while I do not agree with their thoughts and ideas I was proud and excited that the many tea party groups were popping up all over the map before they became so politically aligned. Those were regular people expressing their views, ideas, and beliefs completly unabashed by what “society” has deemed right or wrong. Now of course they have just been used to push political platforms and agendas which are used be politicians and “the 1%” to repackage the root of the problem with some pseudo-patriotic veneer. I hope the roots of that movements are still there and see some way to align with the spirit of the Occupiers.

    We need the occupiers and we need them to stay and grow. This isn’t about a bill or act that needs to be passed. WE HAVE TO CHANGE OURSELVES! That is the way we reclaim the “American Dream” (which is some bullshit but that’s a whole other convo). We have to change the pace of our lives so that we are living to work and not working for the 1% to live. We have to change our eating habits in ways that make us healthier, give us more economic stability, and foster the idea of community. We can’t wait for the governement or expensive prestigious institutions to allowmore of us in, we have to educate ourselves. We need not depend on technology and chase the newest gadgets down but instead figure out what tools we need and utilize them to make our lives better not just cooler. We should use our power of demand to create jobs for our neighbors and friends to fill (jobs!) and not wait for the governementjobs act or a multi billion $ investment from a multinational conglomeration..

    Look I do not hate succesful business people. Heck, in fact, I want to be one myself and am working damn hard to do so! But greed is the root of our evils. No government hall is going to change that…that isn’t it’s job. It is our job as the citizenry to call attention to the cultural issues that plague us. It is the citezenry’s responsibility to mobilize. I wish and hope this idea grows beyond partisanship, economic rungs, locations, etc. We have to do better and the only way to do it is through real action. We don’t need governement top make schools. We don’t need governement to want and provide. We don’t need governement to create jobs. We also don’t need the 1% to do any of those things either. We need to work together with each other to put ideas out there, put plans together, and execute plans. We need many different plans, some which might diametrically oppose others. But THAT is what this country is based on and what makes it so GREAT. Different ideas (people) that are carried out in totally different environments (states) conjoined by one beacon ( The Constitution of the United States). We need each other and we need a lot of each other. That is why I support the Occupiers.

  4. I’ve thought things over… and over… and Braxton you asked me to give the occupiers time. It’s been about 2-3weeks since we spoke and my reservations remain the same. Why? Because their agenda remains unclear – still. Their impact is rhetorical and their contribution is to a dialogue, not a lived experience. I get frustrated, because they do have the eye, ear and attention of the majority of the American people – political, corporate, common man – and people all over the world. I believe they are squandering the opportunity, by continuing to have no agenda. I would love nothing more than for them to have a clear discourse and barometer for success.

    Please understand that when Republicans get upset with the system, they form the tea party and win elections. When liberals get upset they remove themselves from the system – allowing the tea party to win elections. The decision is theirs, but I won’t act as if I believe their actions valiant.

    These folks don’t need my support or my vote of confidence, but what would it take for me to show support? Personally, I would think it would be supremely more useful if these folks chose to lock their senators/ congresspeople/ majors/ governors – out of their offices. Make them step over you before they go into their oak rooms to decide where to make tax cuts. It would useful if they used their collective energies to harness self-sufficient communities that are contributing to the neediest among us. If they used their time to volunteer to offer classes, clean up neighborhoods, etc in these occupied areas or the most depraved neighborhoods, I would consider this capital/cash-less model of contributory society to be an example — which could prove to be quite successful and a useful model for the rest of us to base the rest of our political/social/economic acts upon. If their point is to create a model, it should not be sleeping in a park where homeless people live.

    As for Andy’s comment, I will say that I’m not sure if I believe in the division as being more today than any time before. I can’t say that the disparity of today is worse than that between Native Americans during the trail of tears and the European colonizers of their time. Who knows? What I can say though is that I take issue with the fact that this movement is based off of people who are upset that they are not able to be part of the 1%. They believe that they should be able to get closer to it; they worked hard for it; they studied at the best schools, did everything right, put one foot in front of the other, so they deserve it. It’s about being entitled to something… that I don’t buy. Equalizing, I understand. But, entitlement, I don’t and doubt I ever will.

    More power to ’em. I wish them success. I simply wonder what success – for them – is. Whatever their destination, I hope they arrive.

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