By Manifesto Joe
He works behind the counter in a thousand towns -- a convenience store's most sullen face. I walk into this one to buy beer, and there he is in his smock, same as always. Only today, he's got Rush on the radio. And that sullen look is replaced by a smirk and nods of approval.
As he listens to the latest whacked-out rant about "femi-Nazis," reverse racists and our liberal victim culture, I study this guy. He's fortysomething, with a big gut, and I can tell from his complexion that he didn't get that belly from drinking milk. He smirks at me knowingly as Rush rants on, assuming that as a fellow white male, I agree.
Yet I see something sad in his eyes, and I think maybe I know this guy. He's behind the counter for 10 bucks an hour, risking his life in a bad 'hood, making the stockholders and CEOs richer, because he lost his union-wage job when they moved the plant to Mexico. He's been through a messy divorce. His wife got custody of the kid. He got custody of the dog, and lives with him in a one-bedroom dump.
His wife, no great gift to the male gender herself, decided he was too much of a sick, drunken loser to live with. And now he pays child support on a $10 an hour job, and drinks himself to sleep with 12 beers a night. Blames those "bitches, niggers, wetbacks and queers" for his lot in life.
I can understand his animosity, but it's misdirected. I've been a pissed-off, beer-guzzling, working-class white guy, too. The prime gig my dad had was in the Air Force. After he got out, the best he could do was run a gas station, until he got too sick to work, and then slowly died. My mother was a teacher's aide, because she couldn't afford college.
But I was luckier than this convenience-store stooge. We had books. And one thing I learned was that demagogues like Hitler can get a lot of mileage out of misdirected rage like this guy's. It was no accident that Hitler's first bid for power started in a Munich beer hall. Or that Mao forged a pissed-off peasant army, angry in part because round-eyed foreigners had gotten so many of their brothers, sisters and cousins hooked on opium. I learned that communists are usually just a different, more sober kind of bigot. (Well, they solved China's drug problem, alright.)
Anyway, I got a nice scholarship, but ... college was also loans, grants, work-study, shitty dorms, spoiled roommates, delivering pizzas to all manner of assholes, bad food, no money, snotty bourgeois professors ... A radical feminist from a well-off family dumped me. It was lucky for me that I was too poor to marry her first. I saw a teaching assistantship go to a good-looking but not-that-bright woman. But somehow I got two degrees, went into a profession, and waited for my luck to change.
For the most part, it didn't. I spent years and years working for bullies, and still do. I also spent years and years working for women who were younger and less experienced, and I still do. I got passed over for promotions, saw less-able people get plum jobs.
But I kept going. One day, I woke up, and I was no longer a pissed-off, beer-guzzling, working-class white guy. I was a pissed-off, beer-guzzling, lower-middle-class white guy.
And though I'm still a bit angry that I've not gone further in life, here's another thing I've learned: The original affirmative-action quota program was the one for rich white guys.
I noticed something about my women bosses -- go up the ladder far enough, and they all worked for rich white guys. Come to think of it, one U.S. president barely had a C average at Yale, but he got into Harvard Business. Of course, it couldn't have anything to do with his dad being a rich white guy, or with privileges passed down by his granddad, who made some of his money dealing with IG Farben in Nazi Germany before the war. It took JFK Jr. three times to pass the bar, then he went straight to the Manhattan DA's office. Conservative or liberal, these people never give up one whit of privilege, nor will they ever, unless forced to make room for someone else at the table.
So, who is it that has to stand down and make room?
YOU, convenience-store stooge. And ME.
Hence the modern phenom -- "The Angry White Male."
He's getting fucked; I'm getting fucked. And not in the right way. But at least I know something he doesn't -- who's really on the other end of the dick.
And before I'm accused of class warfare, let me repeat that a communist is usually just another, more sober, kind of bigot. And although government programs did change my life somewhat, they can't change the human condition. People are as evil as they are good, as unjust as they are fair, as hateful as they are loving. All you need to do is turn on the radio to hear evidence of all that.
We all swim in the same water. It's too bad that some folks feel the need to just keep pissing in it.
And there's one more thing I've learned. You can't fight evil with more evil. You don't solve injustice with more injustice. You won't cure hate with more hate.
So, consider this tonight, angry white male, while finishing that 12th beer: There are a couple of billion people on this planet who'd be grateful to have that shit job of yours. I can remember when black men could get little else but shit jobs, and when white women couldn't do certain kinds of business without having a man co-sign.
You have a kid. There are parents all over the world who have lost theirs to mudslides, starvation, disease and smart bombs. And every day, there are thousands of people who violate borders and risk their lives to get jobs shittier than yours.
And before you say something totally unoriginal, like calling me a bleeding heart, let me say something trite to you: Charity begins at home.
So, tomorrow night, why don't you try drinking just 11 beers?
Maybe that kid who visits on weekends could use some of that money.
-- December 2003
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.