Thaddeus Howze believes that Clint Eastwood’s empty chair imagery may have been an accurate representation of the way the power establishment in the US wants people of color to remain – passive, silent and invisible.
Clint Eastwood’s appearance at the RNC 2012 convention has been met with both cheers and derision. But I’d like to look at the deeper message inherent within.
Eastwood talking to the chair, to the “invisible” Obama makes a statement about the point of view of Whites toward people of color in this country since the 1880s.
Blacks should be invisible, inaudible and have no voice that is not given to them by the people who represent their interests; whether that representation is good, accurate or just is irrelevant.
Don’t get it twisted; I am not saying Clint Eastwood is a racist or that he meant to disrespect the office of the President or Barack Obama in any way. What I am saying is this is representative of the mindset of this nation, the Black Experience is invisible to the concerns of the people who want to run this nation.
Okay, let’s be honest, they already run this nation.
Are there megacorporations out there lobbying to keep your air clean? Are they battling against deforestation? How about ocean over-fishing or pollution? Are there megacorporations promoting the idea climate change may be the most pivotal discussion we as a species could be having right now?
Tell me the name of the megacorporation who is championing your causes, the things most important to your life, that you could not live without, air, water, food, and doing so with the expectation of modest profits over the lifetime of their corporation?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
The Old Man in this metaphor is the United States and its contemptuous view of the people who comprise this nation; yes, the invisible masses sitting in that chair. Telling us to sit down and shut up and be grateful we get to even get a chair.
Here they are reminding us of their exceptional nature, nurtured in their superior wombs, their lives of duty and hard work, where they build the log cabins they grew up in, their times of suffering eating rats by flashlight, and ultimately their meritorious promotion to seats of power, which they so righteously deserve due to their herculean efforts, unmatched by the poorer, unwashed masses, puts them in the unique position to run this nation into the ground without us having a voice as to where they put their toxic runoff from their factory farms, having cows who share their lethal madness with anyone who happens to eat them, simply because someone decides its cheaper to feed cows, cows!
Because their ability to make decisions is simply better than yours or mine.
Know what I say to such drivel? Show me.
So far all I can see is a nation where we waste the God-given potential of every mind housed in a body whose skin is brown. We fail to educate them properly, whether that be because their parents were poorly educated, or their schools are poorly funded, or because we have teachers who simply are too poorly paid to give an effective good-goddamn about those brown faces.
And if we find a brown face with the potential to exceed all of these issues and still rise to the top, they are not lauded by their peers, their teachers or their parents. Their peers have been acculturated to believe stupid is the best thing they can be. Their teachers are too overworked to give that real exceptional talent nurturing and parents are often so busy working their three low wage jobs to notice their burgeoning superhero.
So they are overlooked. Their potential wasted, perhaps its turned toward crime, perhaps its partially supported though grants and even harder work and manages to make something anyway. This person becomes educated, skilled, hard working, focused, dedicated, capable and a product capable of understanding they are an anomaly of a society which was designed to eliminate them before they could become of value to anyone.
These are the same people who are being overlooked right now. The best and the brightest, those who fought a system designed to eliminate them and they still found a place in it, until now.
The message of the Old Man and the Seat is this: You don’t matter in the overall scheme of things. We can denigrate you because we control everything of value in this system, because WE DECIDE WHAT IS VALUABLE. We can talk down to you and deny you a voice because we have decided through our actions we can afford to completely waste the bottom 10% of society and turn them into commodities in prisons, on chain-gangs, competing against other small businesses we don’t care about either.
The bottom 30% we keep in wage-slavery, bound up in debt, educational or credit debt grinding away the hours of their lives in labors that mean nothing, produce nothing and ultimately are just busywork so they are too tired to know what is really happening. The middle group, the hardest working, the most educated, the most useful, we have you toiling for our wealth. We promise you, if you work hard enough, get educated enough, labor long enough, you will be one of us.
We, the top 1 percent, don’t really mean it. You could never be one of us.
We are a unique 400,000 individuals in a nation of 300 million. We have 90% of the nation’s wealth and if we spent it at a breakneck pace would take us 10,000 years to return it to the people. We have more money than entire nations on the planet, more opportunity to do whatever we fancy, whenever we want, in whatever time-frame suits us. We could change the world, for the better.
But we won’t.
We inherited our money on the backs of the people, in the past, a few in the present and we are preparing the future to labor harder than ever in our name with fewer rewards and ever-increasing wealth for us.
Our message is simple. Things will never change for you. Why should it? You keep believing the lies; the lies about race, about reproduction, about climate change, about parity, about meritocracy, about what is really important.
We can keep lying and you will keep believing. That is why it won’t change. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway had a quote which I believe is appropriate: “Luck is a thing that comes in many forms and who can recognize her?”
It would appear those in power have forgotten their luck, their good fortune to be a member of the Lucky Sperm Club and have begun to believe their own hype. If that message does not appeal to you, I urge you to find another like you, who believes in the value of men and women working toward a greater good, working toward changing the world in a way that does not leave it a burning ball of toxic and radioactive sludge, and find a way to bring back dignity to everyone.
We are all made of the same stuff as Einstein, as Gandhi, as Mother Teresa, as Nelson Mandela, as Madame Curie, as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as Akhenaten. We all have the seeds of greatness within us. Though our systems may not nurture them, we can still believe in that greatness. We can find someone who believes with us and can help us see our visions of the future as something collective, something significant and something worth striving toward.
I repudiate anything or anyone who would tell me I don’t matter and that I can’t make a difference. I have. I will. And I will again tomorrow. Your money won’t stop me. Hasn’t yet. Wait till I get the people to understand their true power. Then watch out. This isn’t about the proletariat versus the rich. This is about finding our personal power amidst the lies told to keep us working for you and believing we have no alternatives.
The reason that chair is empty, sir? We aren’t sitting there waiting for you to tell us what to do. Your rhetoric, your way of life is old and toxic. We reject it.
We are off finding someplace better.
Image of the Glendale Clint Eastwood and the cutout chair courtesy of Reed Saxon/AP