May 4, 2014

Moral Outrage IS Exhausting

Moral outrage is exhausting. And dangerous. The whole country  has gotten a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome from the newest popular sport of Extreme Finger Wagging. Not to mention the neck strain from Olympic tryouts for Morally Superior Head Shaking.  All over the latest in a long line of rich white celebrities to come out of the racist closet. 
Those are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's words, from an op-ed published on Time magazine's website last week, in response to the Donald Sterling Incident.  Sterling, as we now know, is the likely soon-to-be former owner of the NBA's LA Clippers.  He's also someone the majority of Americans had never heard of before last week when a private conversation he had last fall with his 'archivist' was made public. The archivist's attorney maintains the recording was made with Sterling's knowledge, but that his client was not the one who released it to the media.

As is now the norm when rich white people are accused of being bigots of one ilk or another, the media goes nuts, sponsors go nuts, hands are wrung, and as Abdul-Jabbar notes, fingers wag and heads shake.  We have a long line of examples, right?

I mean, who can forget Mel Gibson's drunken anti-Semitic rants from a few years back? He's effectively been banned from the business since then, although one of the reporters who aggressively covered the story now thinks he's not the person in real life that he is when he's drunk and out of control, and that he deserves another chance, some eight years after his outburst.

Or Paula Deen, she of the N-word and the dream plantation wedding scheme? The hostile workplace case? No big deal.  She's now rehabilitated, just a year after her amazing fall from grace, and will be opening a new restaurant in Dollywood, and cooking at a handful of live shows this spring.

And of course, let's not forget the Duck Dude.  Phil Robertson's comments about gays were the ones that really got him into trouble, but he also made reference to the happy black people of his childhood, singing while working in the fields.? Robertson was, er, 'suspended' (while the show was on hiatus) but then allowed back to work a few weeks later.

Gibson. Deen. Robertson. Helen Thomas. Howard Cosell. There are loads of examples, Donald Sterling being only the latest, and undoubtedly not the last.  Someone else will say something stupid while someone's recording a private conversation (and for the life of me I will never understand why Sterling allowed this), or they'll find an old interview, or an old lawsuit or two, and we'll be back here again.

It'll be the N-word, another anti-Semitic outburst, a blatantly sexist or anti-gay comment, or an ageist marketing position, and we'll start the wringing and flailing and flopping around - SHOCKED, I tell you! -- at the behavior. We'll get all up in arms, and act swiftly and harshly and appropriately.

And then we'll go back to normal, freely discriminating against each other by writing and passing laws that make it harder for people to vote, limit health care options, and formalize discrimination against gays. We'll go back to enjoying our violent and misogynistic music videos and games. We'll go back to paying for entertainment - particularly college and pro sports - where we (sometimes quietly, sometimes not) mock the athletes for their lack of education.  We'll go back to our tomahawk chop.

And feel oh so much better about ourselves.