The American Right: Its Deep Story

by Arlie Russell Hochschild, University of California, Berkeley, USA

As in much of Europe, India, China and Russia, the American political right is on the move. In some ways, America’s leftward cultural shift – a first black president, a potential female one, gay marriage – may obscure this rise. But it’s there. Over the last few decades, conservative voices have grown louder: the most popular cable TV channel and the most popular daily talk radio show lean strongly right. Both houses of the federal Congress in Washington D.C. are in Republican hands. Republicans also control far more state legislative chambers than do Democrats, and more state governorships. In 23 of the nation’s 50 states, Republicans control both houses of the state legislature and the governorship; the corresponding number for Democrats is seven. Some twenty percent of Americans – 45 million people – now support the avidly anti-tax Tea Party movement, and in recent months the populist nativist Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump won the most Republican primary votes in history.

What distinguishes the American right from its counterparts elsewhere is hatred of the federal government. The right calls for cuts in government benefits: unemployment insurance, Medicaid, college financial aid, school lunch and far more. Prominent Republican leaders have called for elimination of entire departments of federal government – Education, Energy, Commerce and Interior. In 2015, 58 House Republicans voted to abolish the Internal Revenue Service. Some have even called for abolishing all public schools.

Grassroots supporters of these leaders feel frustrated and angry at the government. The big question which prompted me to begin a five-year ethnographic study in Louisiana – part of the heartland of the American Right – was, why? As I began interviews for my book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right[1], the puzzle only grew. The country’s second-poorest state, Louisiana has proportionately more failing schools, more sick and obese residents, than nearly any state in the nation. So it needed – and received – federal help; 44 percent of its state budget came from the federal government. So why, I wondered, were so many Tea Party supporters angry? And how does anger – or any emotion – underlie politics?

While many analysts address these questions from outside the personal experience of right-wing individuals, I wanted to understand that experience from inside. So I attended meetings of Republican Women of Southwest Louisiana, church services, and political campaign rallies. I asked people to show me where they’d grown up, gone to school, where their parents were buried. I perused high school yearbooks of my new Louisiana friends, played cards and went fishing with them. Overall I interviewed 60 people – 40 of them white, older, Christian supporters of the Tea Party. I gathered over 4,600 pages of transcribed interviews and field notes.

I also struck upon a method. First I listened. Then I drew up a metaphorical representation of their experience, stripped of judgment and of facts, a feels-as-if account which I call a “deep story.” Underlying all our political beliefs, I believe, lies such a story. In this case, it goes like this:

You are patiently standing in a middle of a long line leading up a hill, as in a pilgrimage. Others beside you seem like you – white, older, Christian, predominantly male. Just over the brow of the hill is the American Dream, the goal of everyone in line. Then, look! Suddenly you see people cutting in line ahead of you! As they cut in, you seem to be being moved back. How can they just do that? Who are they?

Many are black. Through federal affirmative action plans, they are given preference for places in colleges and universities, apprenticeships, jobs, welfare payments, and free lunch programs. Others are cutting ahead too – uppity women seeking formerly all-male jobs, immigrants, refugees, and an expanding number of high-earning public sector workers, paid with your tax dollars. Where will it end?

As you wait in this unmoving line, you’re asked to feel sorry for them all. People complain: Racism, Discrimination, Sexism. You hear stories of oppressed blacks, dominated women, weary immigrants, closeted gays, desperate refugees. But at some point, you say to yourself, you have to close the borders to human sympathy – especially if there are some among them who might bring harm.

You’re a compassionate person. But now you’ve been asked to extend your sympathy to all the people who have cut in front of you. You’ve suffered a good deal yourself, but you aren’t complaining about it or asking for help, you’re proud to say. You believe in equal rights. But how about your own rights? Don’t they count too? It’s unfair.

Then you see a black president with the middle name Hussein, waving to the line cutters. He’s on their side, not yours. He’s their president, not yours. And isn’t he a line-cutter too? How could the son of a struggling single mother pay for Columbia and Harvard? Maybe something has gone on in secret. And aren’t the president and his liberal backers using your money to help themselves? You want to turn off the machine – the federal government – which he and liberals are using to push you back in line.

I returned to my respondents to ask if this deep story described their feelings. While some altered the story here or there (“so we get in another line…” or “that’s our money he’s giving out…”), they all claimed the story as their own. One told me “I live your metaphor.” Another said, “You read my mind.”

What has happened to make this story ring true? In a word, a loss of honor. Tea Party supporters I met were generally not poor, but many had grown up in poverty, and had seen family and friends sink back into it. But wealth was not the only source of wellbeing and honor. As white, heterosexual Christians, many also described their fears of a demographic decline (“There are fewer people like us,” one woman told me), or of becoming a religious minority (“People aren’t churched anymore,” “You can’t say Merry Christmas; you have to say Happy Holidays”). Some felt like a cultural minority (“We’re the clean-living people, people who go by the rules, but we’re seen as sexist, homophobic, racist, ignorant – all the labels the liberals have for us”). If they turned for honor to their beloved home, often in the rural mid-west or South, some felt disparaged as “rednecks.” Behind the deep story, then, was their loss of honor from many quarters – an honor squeeze.

A deep story describes pain (others cut ahead of you). It describes blame (an ill-intentioned government). And it points to rescue (Tea Party politics). It also provides an emotional accounting system, establishing how much sympathy is due those waiting or cutting in line, how much distrust is owed the government, or how much government beneficiaries should be shamed. This system becomes a foundation for feeling rules[2] – which establish what we believe we “should and shouldn’t” feel – now a key target of heated political battle. Explicitly or implicitly, most service jobs require workers to abide by feeling rules (“It’s wrong to get mad at the customer; he’s always right”). Workers learn how to manage their feelings in training, and supervisors monitor how well they do it. Similarly, political ideologies carry feeling rules. Leaders guide sympathy, suspicion, blame, shame, and talk radio hosts and newscasters spread the word, which local and electronic communities monitor through commentary.

Left and right abide by ever-more divergent sets of feeling rules. In general, the left calls for sympathy for underprivileged groups, who are seen as deserving government help; the right does not. The left calls for trust in this part of government, the right suspects and reviles it. The left attaches dignity and entitlement to the receipt of government help, the right attaches great shame to it.

In the cultural battle between these two codes, the Tea Party supporters I studied felt dominated by the feeling rules of the left and resented it bitterly. “We’ve had enough P.C. [Political Correctness]” Donald Trump has often yelled, echoing a sentiment adamantly held on the right. One man told me, “Liberals want us to feel sorry for immigrants and refugees. But mostly I see a bunch of people saying poor me, poor me, poor me…” Another said, “Liberals get something from the government and we don’t – and I’m glad not to take if I’m not in need. But they want us to feel grateful for what they’re getting.” And many attached great shame to getting government help, and felt utter contempt for cheaters. “I know guys who put in for unemployment during hunting season.” Or, “A lot of people in that trailer park got on disability by claiming to have seizures. I don’t know how they hold their heads high. But they do, and the government encourages it.” Most Tea Party supporters strongly resisted the idea that anyone should feel sympathy with line cutters, gratitude toward government, or release from the shame of getting a “government hand-out.”

But not everyone I spoke to agreed. Indeed, it was as if two factions of those I interviewed heard different endings to the deep story. Traditional Tea Party supporters wanted to cut both the practice of cutting in line, and government rewards for doing so. Followers of Donald Trump, on the other hand, wanted to keep government benefits and remove shame from the act of receiving them – but restrict those benefits, implicitly, to native-born Americans, preferably white.

Trump’s pronouncements have been vague and shifting, but pundits have noted that he has not called for cuts to Medicaid. Rather he plans, he says, to replace Obamacare, which extends medical coverage to the uninsured, with a new program that will be “terrific.” Significant, too, is Trump’s distribution of shame. Though he has disparaged ex-POW hero John McCain, a disabled journalist, a female Fox News commentator, undocumented Mexicans, an American-born judge of Mexican heritage, all Muslims, and all his Republican adversaries, he has never shamed recipients of Medicaid or food stamps.

But in order to legitimize welfare for white men, Trump had to masculinize the act of receiving it. This may be a secret and potent source of Trump’s appeal. He applauds men who brawl, own guns, stand tough, act macho. Most welfare recipients are women, children and men of color. But there are many poor, or almost poor or afraid-of-becoming poor white men. If such a man needs it, Trump intimates, getting a government benefit can be a guy’s thing to do. You can slap a gun decal on your pick-up, start brawls, be macho, Trump implies, and also apply for unemployment or food stamps – stigma-free.

Importantly, many of Trump’s blue-collar white male followers face the same grim economic fate earlier visited on blacks: disappearing jobs, low wages, evidence of despair. Among such men, there are proportionately more single dads than among their richer white male counterparts, more split marriages, more children, and harder times. If they aren’t on Medicaid now, they might be in the future – and so they face the contradiction of needing the very government help which the right, and they themselves, have long disparaged. Detachment from welfare was a key status marker, distinguishing “real men” from the “real bottom.” In my interviews with Louisiana Trump supporters, talk of his support for government benefits did not arise, at least at first. But, asked about his view of a safety net for “regular people,” one auto mechanic noted, “Trump’s not against that. If you use food stamps because you’re working a low-wage job, you don’t want someone looking down their nose at you.”

Trump tacitly absolves blue-collar white men from shame, but not non-native or non-white men. Indeed, responding to the deep story, Trump has created a movement much like the anti-immigrant but pro-welfare state right-wing populism on the rise in Great Britain, Germany, France, Austria and much of Eastern Europe. All these right-wing movements are, I believe, based on variations of the deep story, the feelings it evokes, and the strong beliefs that protect it.

Direct all correspondence to Arlie Hochschild <>

[1] Arlie Hochschild (2016) Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. New York: New Press.

[2] See Arlie Hochschild (1983) The Managed Heart: the Commercialization of Human Feeling. Berkeley and Los Angeles: The University of California Press.


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Media Hide Facts, Call Everyone Else a Liar

Ann Coulter Letter

Ann Coulter  | Wednesday Jul 1, 2015 4:59 PM

Media Hide Facts, Call Everyone Else a Liar

When Donald Trump said something not exuberantly enthusiastic about Mexican immigrants, the media’s response was to boycott him. One thing they didn’t do was produce any facts showing he was wrong.

Trump said: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

The first thing a news fact-checker would have noticed is: THE GOVERNMENT WON’T TELL US HOW MANY IMMIGRANTS ARE COMMITTING CRIMES IN AMERICA.

Wouldn’t that make any person of average intelligence suspicious? Not our media. They’re in on the cover-up.

A curious media might also wonder why any immigrants are committing crimes in America. A nation’s immigration policy, like any other government policy, ought to be used to help the people already here — including the immigrants, incidentally.

It’s bad enough that immigrants, both legal and illegal, are accessing government benefits at far above the native rate, but why would any country be taking another country’s criminals? We have our own criminals! No one asked for more.

Instead of counting the immigrant stock filling up our prisons, the government issues a series of comical reports claiming to tally immigrant crime. The Department of Justice relies on immigrants’ self-reports of their citizenship. The U.S. census simply guesses the immigration status of inmates. The Government Accounting Office conducts its own analysis of Bureau of Prisons data.

In other words, the government hasn’t the first idea how many prisoners are legal immigrants, illegal immigrants or anchor babies.

But there are clues! Only about a quarter of California inmates are white, according to a major investigative piece in The Atlantic last year — and that includes criminals convicted in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, when the vast majority of California’s population was either black or white.

Do immigration enthusiasts imagine that more than 75 percent of the recent convicts are African-American? Blacks have high crime rates, but they make up only about 6 percent of California’s entire population.

A casual perusal of the “Most Wanted” lists also suggests that the government may not have our best interests in mind when deciding who gets to live in America.

Here is the Los Angeles Police Department’s list of “Most Wanted” criminal suspects:

– Jesse Enrique Monarrez (murder),

– Cesar Augusto Nistal (child molestation),

– Jose A. Padilla (murder),

– Demecio Carlos Perez (murder),

– Ramon Reyes (robbery and murder),

– Victor Vargas (murder),

– Ruben Villa (murder)

The full “Most Wanted” list doesn’t get any better.

There aren’t a lot of Mexicans in New York state — half of all Mexican immigrants in the U.S. live in either Texas or California — and yet there are more Mexican prisoners in New York than there are inmates from all of Western Europe.

As for the crime of rape specifically, different groups have different criminal proclivities, and no one takes a backseat to Hispanics in terms of sex crimes.

The rate of rape in Mexico is even higher than in India, according to Professor Carlos Javier Echarri Canovas of El Colegio de Mexico. A report from the Inter-American Children’s Institute explains that in Latin America, women and children are “seen as objects instead of human beings with rights and freedoms.”

All peasant cultures have non-progressive views on women, but Latin America happens to have the peasant culture that’s closest to the United States.

The only reason our newspapers aren’t chockablock with reports of Latino sexual predators is that they are too busy broadcasting hoax news stories about non-existent gang-rapes by white men: the Duke lacrosse team (Crystal Gail Mangum), University of Virginia fraternity members (Jackie Coakley) and military contractors in Iraq (Jamie Leigh Jones).

In fact, the main way we find out about Hispanic rapists is when the media report on dead or missing girls — hoping against hope that the case will never be solved or the perp will turn out to look like the rapists on “Law and Order.” When it turns out to be another Latino rapist, that fact is aggressively suppressed by the media.

New Yorkers were horrified by the case of “Baby Hope,” a 4-year-old girl whose raped and murdered body turned up in an Igloo cooler off of the Henry Hudson Parkway in 1991. After a 20-year investigation, the police finally captured her rapist/murderer in 2003. It was Conrado Juarez, an illegal alien from Mexico, who disposed of the girl’s body with the help of his illegal alien sister.

New York City is the nation’s media capital. But only The New York Post reported that the child rapist was a Mexican.

In 2001, the media were fixated on the case of Chandra Levy, a congressional intern who had gone missing. All eyes were on her boss and romantic partner, Democratic congressman Gary Condit. Then it turned out she was assaulted and murdered while jogging in Rock Creek Park by Ingmar Guandique — an illegal alien from El Salvador.

There was a lot of press when three Cleveland women went missing a decade ago. By the time they escaped in 2013 from the sick sexual pervert who’d been holding them captive, it was too late for the media to ignore the story. The girls hadn’t been kidnapped by the Duke lacrosse team, but by Ariel Castro.

Now, get this: While investigating Castro, the police discovered that he wasn’t the only Hispanic raping young girls on his block. (All in all, it wasn’t a great street for trick-or-treating.)

Castro’s erstwhile neighbor, Elias Acevedo, had spent years raping, among many others, his own daughters when they were little girls. The New York Times’ entire coverage of that case consisted of a tiny item on page A-18: “Ohio: Life Sentence in Murders and Rapes.”

The media knew from the beginning that the monstrous gang-rape and murder of Jennifer Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pena, 16, in Houston in 1993 was instigated by Jose Ernesto Medellin, an illegal immigrant from Mexico. But over the next decade, with more than a thousand news stories on that case, the fact that the lead rapist was a Mexican was not mentioned once, according to the Nexus archives.

Only when Medellin’s Mexican-ness was used to try to overturn his death sentence did American news consumers finally find out he was an illegal alien from Mexico. (After years of wasted judicial resources and taxpayer money being spent on Medellin’s appeals, he will now be spending eternity way, way south of the border.)

Who is this media cover-up helping? Not the American girls getting raped. But also not the Latina immigrants who came to the U.S., thinking they were escaping the Latin American rape culture. So as not to hurt the feelings of immigrant rapists, the media are willing to put all girls living here at risk.

No wonder the media is sputtering at Trump. He broke the embargo on unpleasant facts about what our brilliant immigration policies are doing to the country.

 Steve Benson for 7/1/2015

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Michelle Obama speaks of emotional toll of being first black first lady

May 09, 2015, 06:25 pm

By Elise Viebeck

Michelle Obama gave a candid view Saturday of the challenges and emotional toll of being the country’s first black first lady.

Obama, speaking to graduates at Tuskegee University in Alabama, described insensitive media questions and derogatory remarks from political pundits that she said have kept her up at night.

“You might remember the on-stage celebratory fist bump between me and my husband after a primary win that was referred to as a ‘terrorist fist jab,’ ” she said.

“And over the years, folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me. One said I exhibited ‘a little bit of uppity-ism.’ Another noted that I was one of my husband’s ‘cronies of color.’ Cable news once charmingly referred to me as ‘Obama’s Baby Mama.’ ” 

Obama said she was subjected to a different set of expectations on the campaign trail in 2008 compared with other candidates’ wives.

“‘What kind of First Lady would I be? What kinds of issues would I take on?’ … The truth is, those same questions would have been posed to any candidate’s spouse,” she said.

“But, as potentially the first African-American First Lady, I was also the focus of another set of questions and speculations; conversations sometimes rooted in the fears and misperceptions of others. Was I too loud, or too angry, or too emasculating? Or was I too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?”

In the end, she said, she realized all the negativity was just “noise.”

Obama encouraged the graduates of Tuskegee, a historically black university, to overcome adversity and discrimination by staying “true to the most real, most sincere, most authentic parts of yourselves.”  

People “will make assumptions about who they think you are based on their limited notion of the world,” she said. “My husband and I know how frustrating that experience can be.  We’ve both felt the sting of those daily slights throughout our entire lives. … And all of that is going to be a heavy burden to carry.”

“But,” she said, “those feelings are not an excuse to just throw up our hands and give up. They are not an excuse to lose hope.  To succumb to feelings of despair and anger only means that in the end, we lose.”

Notes from the Noosphere:

I am constantly amazed at what Blacks in America think is bias against them. I can honestly say that I do not care one way or another about even putting down a person for their color, gender or sexual preference. But it is an easy and thus the shortest path to take to say that every one is out to get you because you are colored, female or LGBT and blame it on the other people.

So people take the easiest path and blame others for their shortcomings and failings. When Hillary was First Wife she blamed the media for portraying her as an evil woman that did not care about her or the Right-Wing Conservative for constantly placing blame on the Clintons and their failing in the White House. Now that she is running for President she is attempting to recreate her image as a worldly stateswomen that accomplished so much during her time as Secretary of State. Now we have “What does it matter?” as a n0rmal background for the upcoming presidential race until the Democrats come up with a candidate that will outshine Hillary as happened in the last election Hillary was chosen as the early favorite for the Democrats.

I admire those of the above mentioned minority communities that do not want to be victims and conduct themselves as contributing members of society. Dignity is more difficult task to take on but the work results in earning respect from members of society.

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The Tire Pressure Revolution, by Jan Heine

The Tire Pressure Revolution – By Jan Heine

In recent years, there has been a trend toward wider tires and lower tire pressures. We now hear from many sources that wider tires can roll faster than narrower ones, which contradicts what most of us used to believe. In the past, cyclists thought that higher tire pressures decreased the tires’ rolling resistance.


What has changed?

At Bicycle Quarterly, we’ve been researching tire performance for the last eight years, and the most revolutionary finding is this: Tire pressure has almost no effect on a tire’s speed. We did not believe it at first, either, so we’ve tested it numerous times. It’s been confirmed time and again, with different methodologies. Below is only one dataset, click here for more data…


If it all looks confusing, that’s because it’s not as simple as we thought. Rolling resistance does vary slightly with tire pressure, but it’s not linear, and it depends on the surface. On smooth surfaces like the one used in the tests shown above, moderately high tire pressure – say 100-110 psi for a 25 mm tire – actually rolls slower than either a lower pressure (80 psi) or a higher pressure (130 psi). On rough surfaces, higher pressures roll significantly slower.

Tire Pressure Doesn’t Matter for Performance

The variations are much smaller and hard to predict – they depend on the tire as much as on the road surface – so the take-home message is that tire pressure doesn’t matter enough to worry about it. Inflate your tires enough that they don’t collapse when you corner at speed, and you have found the optimum pressure for your tires. It’s that simple.

A detailed explanation of why this happens is beyond the scope of this article, but basically, on a bike, the resistance of tires consists of two types of energy losses. One is from deformation of the tire, and higher pressures reduce that deformation. The second loss occurs from the vibrations of the bike, and those increase with higher pressures. The two effects roughly cancel each other, which is why tire pressure doesn’t have a big effect on rolling resistance. In the past, researchers focused only on the tire deformation and overlooked the losses due to vibrations, hence the belief that higher pressures rolled faster.

New Tire Design

The real revolution brought about by this new research is not how you use your pump, but rather how tires are constructed. It’s not an overstatement that it has revolutionized our understanding of tires.

Again, in the past, we all believed that higher tire pressures made tires roll faster. We also knew that supple casings made tires faster. However, supple casings don’t handle high pressure well, so the only way to combine high pressures and supple casings is to make the tire narrow. For wider tires, you had two choices, and neither was good:

1)  Beef up the casing, which makes the tire less supple and slower.

2)  Lower the pressure, which we thought made the tire slower.

No matter which route you took, the science of the day predicted that your wider tire would be slower. It was a Catch-22, and for the best performance, you stuck with narrow tires, where you could have a supple casing and high pressure at the same time.

You can see where this is heading. If lower pressures don’t make tires slower, then you can create wide tires with supple casings. You run them at lower pressures, and you don’t give up any performance on smooth roads. On rough roads, you actually gain speed, because the tire (and you) bounce less. And on all roads, you are more comfortable. Instead of a Catch-22, you have a win-win-win situation.

It took a while for this research to become accepted, but once the professional cycling teams started testing tires with power meters on the road, they found that the wider tires, run at lower pressures, were as fast, or faster, than the narrower tires they had been running. Add to that the better cornering grip – more rubber on the road, less bouncing that can break traction – and it didn’t take long for the pros to go from 23 to 25 mm tires.

23 to 25 mm may not sound like much – less than 10% wider. But when you look at the air volume – the area of a circle goes up with the square of the radius – you get 18% more air volume. That is significant.

On smooth roads, 25s are about as fast you get – our research indicates that 28s and 32s aren’t slower, but neither are they any faster (that includes air resistance at speeds of about 18 mph). That means that if your bike can handle wider tires, you can get more comfort and better cornering with wider tires, without losing any speed.

On the average backroad, wider tires make your cycling much more enjoyable: the significant additional air volume they allow makes for a more comfortable ride, and they better handle the bumps and related vibrations, in effect smoothing out the ride. Additional good news is that when they are made right, these wider tires aren’t any slower than narrower ones.


Supple Casings

To get the most benefit out of these lower pressures, you need supple tires. A stiff sidewall takes more energy to flex, so the tire will be slower. It also will vibrate more, so you lose more energy that way, too. You could call it a “lose-lose” situation.

The second most important thing our research found was that tires can make a larger difference in your bike’s performance than any other component. At moderately high speeds of 18-20 mph, a supple tire can make you 8-10% faster than a stiffer, but otherwise similar tire. That is far more than the difference a set of aero wheels makes (1-2%).

Professional racers have known this all along: As much as their equipment has changed over time, they’ve always ridden supple tires. They usually ride hand-made tubulars. There also are very fast-rolling racing clincher tires, but if you rode on rougher backroads and needed wider tires, you were out of luck: Most wide tires were either intended for city bikes and have stiff casings and puncture-proof belts, or they were designed for high pressures, which also requires stiff casings. Either way, these tires were slow and uncomfortable.

When we saw the results of our studies on tire performance, we realized that wide tires could be as fast as narrow ones, while offering more comfort and the ability to tackle rougher surfaces and even gravel.


We decided to take matters into our own hands to create wide tires that roll as fast as narrow ones. We worked with Panaracer and developed tires that use the same casings as high-end tubulars, but in much wider widths, and as clincher tires. We started Compass Bicycles, a sister company to Bicycle Quarterly, to develop components based on the findings of our research, including Compass tires, which are available in widths between 26 and 42 mm, and in several wheel sizes. RBR’s Coach Fred Matheny has reviewed both our Stampede Pass 700 x 32 Tires and our Barlow Pass Extralight 700 x 38 Tires.


Tire pressure does not significantly affect your bike’s rolling resistance, but the casing construction of your tires does. This means that you can ride lower pressures without going slower, and that wide tires are no slower than narrow ones – as long as they have similar casings. The fastest tires have supple casings that consume less energy when they flex, and transmit fewer vibrations, creating a win-win situation. These tires roll super-fast no matter at what pressure you run them.

Jan Heine is the editor of Bicycle Quarterly, a magazine about the culture, technology and history of cycling. After racing for a decade, he now enjoys randonneuring and cycling off the beaten path. His blog is at

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Barack Obama: A man for the ages!



clip_image001Ann Coulter Follow @AnnCoulter | Wednesday Mar 11, 2015 10:44 PM


Everyone says President Obama is a feckless commander, weak in statecraft, especially compared to the great leaders of the Western world, such as Reagan and Churchill.

I believe this does Obama a great injustice. It’s so easy to react the way a great leader would. Sure, Obama could have left a small contingent of American troops in Iraq, preserved America’s victory, and prevented the entire region from collapsing into chaos and terror. He could have refrained from issuing empty “red line” threats to Syria. He could call ISIS “Islamic.” But anybody could do that — even ISIS calls itself “Islamic.” (Note for scholars: That’s what the first “I” stands for.)

These are the obvious answers. Obama could do it, too. But let me hasten to add: Those guys — unlike Obama — never won a Nobel Peace Prize. The genius of Obama is that he takes a much more nuanced view of the world.

Rather than lament that Reagan, Churchill and other great men aren’t our leaders in this increasingly dangerous world, we should really be lamenting that Obama wasn’t in charge in their day.

Take Paul Revere. He warned the Minutemen: “The British are coming!”

True, that worked out OK. It got the job done. Revere conveyed the essential information, albeit in a bumper-sticker phrase, susceptible to ugly stereotypes. But what if it had been Barack Revere! Prepare to be dazzled.

If Obama had been able to apply his intricate, coruscating mind to the situation, he might have cried out, as he galloped through the streets that fateful night:

Good evening, everybody! I want to say a few words on a number of topics and take a few questions! First, beginning with the No. 1 thing most Americans care about — the British are — well, it would tempting to say they’re “coming,” but that would be painting with too broad a brush. Is the entire British Empire coming? Is Bombay coming? Bengal? The Turks & Caicos? This is something I just recently heard about on the evening news! The truth is, “We found out that certain forces are marshaling.”

We are not at war with the British Empire. We are at war with people who have perverted the British Empire! Our military action has to be part of a broader, comprehensive strategy to protect America’s working families and strengthen the middle class! And that starts with the Minutemen building on the progress that they’ve made so far and forming an inclusive force that will unite their towns and strengthen their security forces! And I’ve asked Secretary Kerry to continue to build the coalition that’s needed to meet this threat. Which, by the way, is COMING!

See? One could say, “The British are coming,” but Obama’s way is so much better!

Now let’s take Churchill’s much-slobbered-over “fight them on the beaches” peroration, the nub of which was: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

How would Prime Minister Obama rally the nation?

I put forward in the past an all-of-the-above war strategy, but our war strategy must be about more than just winning one war. And, by the way, it’s certainly got to be about more than just taking one beach. Now, I know there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the proposal to fight on the beaches because any number of natural habitats would be disturbed and permanently endangered if beaches are to be used as a venue for armed conflict. There are, for example, 19 different nesting birds on South Coast beach alone. And the EPA, at my direction, is going through the final stages of evaluating the proposal. That’s how it’s always been done.

But I do want to be clear: Allowing troops to land on beaches and fields and streams requires a finding that doing so would be in the long-term interests of our nation. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of a beach landing’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant. And we will not surrender.

Again, we have a choice: A reductive, blood-and-soil harangue, or Obama’s more nuanced appreciation — of the Nazis, yes — but also the costs to a coastal habitat.

Finally, let’s consider Reagan’s exhortation at the Berlin Wall: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Right off the bat you notice there’s nothing at all collaborative in Reagan’s speech, no “join with us in working together to achieve a compromise we can all live with by studying the possibility of removing this wall.”

Obama might have said:

Mr. Gorbachev, this wall has come to assume a certain kind of symbolic significance which should not obscure the fact that it is a much more complicated problem than putting up a fence. Whether these walls and fences are effective is questionable. Our own experience with fences has hardly been a resounding success. Walls are costly to build and costly to maintain. Our country has decided against building a fence on the Mexican border after government reports showed that it would cost $200 trillion to maintain.

What is the long-term impact of these expensive and ineffective border walls? As one of our American poets, Robert Frost, wrote:

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offence.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.

Again, Reagan got the job done — if by “job,” you mean “contribute to the collapse of communism, thereby destroying the greatest genocidal killing machine in human history.” But we’re talking buzzwords — primitive, Cro-Magnon, base-pleasing, declarative, bumper-sticker nonsense.

Reagan has achieved far too much glory in history for that speech. Sure, Reagan was against the wall. But what was he for?

How much more could have been accomplished if Obama had been there!

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Under Obama, U.S. personal freedom ranking slips below France

Beltway Confidential: Law

Under Obama, U.S. personal freedom ranking slips below France

By Jason Russell | November 18, 2014 | 12:48 pm

Topics: Beltway Confidential Barack Obama Video France Law Freedom

A new study shows that citizens of France now feel that they enjoy more personal freedom…

Americans’ assessments of their personal freedom have significantly declined under President Obama, according to a new study from the Legatum Institute in London, and the United States now ranks below 20 other countries on this measure.

The research shows that citizens of countries including France, Uruguay, and Costa Rica now feel that they enjoy more personal freedom than Americans.

As the Washington Examiner reported this morning, representatives of the Legatum Institute are in the U.S. this week to promote the sixth edition of their Prosperity Index. The index aims to measure aspects of prosperity that typical gross domestic product measurements don’t include, such as entrepreneurship and opportunity, education, and social capital.

RELATED: Measure of prosperity aims to go beyond GDP

The freedom scores are based on polling data from 2013 indicating citizens’ satisfaction with their nation’s handling of civil liberties, freedom of choice, tolerance of ethnic minorities, and tolerance of immigrants. Polling data were provided by Gallup World Poll Service. The index is notable for the way it measures how free people feel, unlike other freedom indices that measure freedom by comparing government policies.

“This is not a good report for Obama,” Legatum Institute spokeswoman Cristina Odone told the Washington Examiner.

In the 2010 report (which relied on data gathered in 2009), the U.S. was ranked ninth in personal freedom, but that ranking has since fallen to 21st, with several countries, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom passing the U.S.

MORE: Pro-immigration reform right oppose Obama acting unilaterally

The nation’s overall personal freedom score has declined by 17 percent since 2009, with a 22 percent drop in combined civil liberty and free choice contributing to that decline.

Of the eight categories in the index, personal freedom was America’s second lowest performance relative to other countries. The U.S. had its lowest ranking when it came to safety and security (a broad measure of how threatened citizens feel in instances such as walking late at night, or expressing their opinions) — ranking 31st out of 142 countries.

The cross-country comparisons in the index should be taken with a grain of salt. The perception of what freedom means in New Zealand, which has the highest personal freedom ranking, may vary from how Americans measure their own personal freedom. But regardless of how the U.S. compares to other countries, there is no denying that Americans felt less free in 2013 after four more years of Obama’s presidency. And so now he faces the embarrassment of being the president that made Americans feel less free than the French.

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Redefining the word

Examining a racial slur entrenched in American vernacular that is more prevalent than ever.

Written by Dave Sheinin, Krissah Thompson

Contributed Lonnae O’Neal Parker

Published on November 9, 2014

This season, the National Football League is attempting the impossible, a reasoned but dubious mission that has already tripped up an institution as venerable as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, municipalities as large as New York City and countless parents of teenagers across the land. The goal: banning the n-word within the chalk-lined borders of its purview.

As with the previous attempts, the NFL’s “zero tolerance” policy — which gives referees leeway to issue a 15-yard penalty for a first offense and ejection for a second — comes with good intentions: to establish a field of play free of the most racially charged word in American history.

ABOUT THE N-WORD PROJECT: Following several incidents involving players using the n-word, the National Football League this year instructed game officials to penalize players who used the word on the field of play. The policy, though, was widely criticized as being heavy-handed and out of touch. As the league wrestled with the issue, a team of Washington Post journalists examined the history of this singular American word, its spread through popular culture and its place in the vernacular today.

But like the others, it is almost certainly doomed to fail; to be ignored, at best — or mocked and flouted, at worst.

If there is one thing certain about the modern n-word — a shifty organism that has managed to survive on these shores for hundreds of years by lurking in dark corners, altering its form, splitting off into a second specimen and constantly seeking out new hosts, all the while retaining its basic and vile DNA — it is that it defies black-and-white interpretations and hard-and-fast rules.

The word is too essential as an urban slang term to be placed in a casket and buried, as NAACP delegates attempted to do in a 2007 mock “funeral” for the word. It is too ingrained in youth culture to be eliminated from city streets, as the New York City Council attempted with a symbolic resolution banning the word the same year. And more than likely, it will prove too complex and nuanced to be policed by football referees wielding yellow flags and penalties. Never mind the troublesome optics of a group of mostly white NFL executives dictating the language rules of a majority-black player pool.

If anything, in 2014, it is the very notion of banning the n-word that appears dead and fit for burial. It was a long and noble fight waged largely — but not exclusively — by an older generation for which the word is inseparable from the brutality into which it was born. If there is still a meaningful n-word debate left to have, it is over context, ownership and the degree to which it should be tethered to its awful history — or set free from it.

A diverse set of Americans discuss the nuance of a word that is seen as both hateful and colloquial.

View Interactive Project

A word that is used 500,000 times a day on Twitter — as “nigga” is, according to search data on the social media analytics Web site — is almost by definition beyond banning. By comparison, “bro” and “dude” — two of the terms with which the n-word is synonymous to many people younger than 35 — are used 300,000 and 200,000 times, respectively. For many of this generation, the word is tossed around unthinkingly, no more impactful than a comma.

“It’s such a regular part of my vernacular. It’s a word I use every day,” said comedian/actor Tehran Von Ghasri, a 34-year-old D.C. native of African American and Iranian American heritage. “I’m a ‘nigga’ addict.”

Though the word has long been entrenched in American vernacular, by all accounts it is more prevalent than ever — expanding into new corners of the culture, showing up in places (college debate, Christian rap, video-game culture) where it would have been almost unimaginable a generation ago and no longer following any clear rules about who can say it and who can’t.

“People are integrating on a faster level today than ever before in history, [so] it’s unfathomable to me to think that with everything that we have crossing over, the language would not have crossed over as well,” Von Ghasri said. “I’m still uncomfortable with [a] white guy saying, ‘You’re a cool nigga.’ But in 25 years, I would hope that my kid’s not uncomfortable — because that white guy wouldn’t mean it in a demeaning, degrading way. He would mean it as a positive thing.”

The NFL’s move to ban the n-word — technically, a directive from the league to game officials to aggressively enforce an existing rule barring racial slurs on the playing field, with a particular emphasis on this specific one — came in the wake of a series of high-profile incidents involving the n-word and the league.

In July 2013, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper was recorded on video yelling the word menacingly at a country music concert.

Four months later, details began to emerge in the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal, in which a white lineman, Richie Incognito, at one point called Jonathan Martin, a black teammate, a “half-nigger” in a voice mail. The NFL suspended Incognito for three months.

That same month, Washington Redskins tackle Trent Williams, who is black, was accused of directing the word at an African American official who was attempting to intervene in a dispute between opposing players that included similar abusive language. Williams denied using the slur to the official, and the official, umpire Roy Ellison, was suspended for one game for using derogatory language toward Williams.

Taken together, the incidents might have signaled to some an n-word problem in the NFL. The Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group that advises the league on diversity issues, certainly thought so, pushing the NFL to adopt its “zero tolerance” stance toward racial slurs — a policy that was met by a firestorm of criticism, with many players and pundits blasting the rule as unfair, or even inherently racist.

This season, several players — including the San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick, a mixed-race quarterback who is one of the game’s top young stars — have been penalized and fined by the league for saying the word to an opponent.

But any larger exploration of this subject leads to the inevitable conclusion that it isn’t just the NFL that has an n-word problem. It’s all of America.

An enduring toxicity

One of the biggest problems in confronting the n-word is that, for decades now, there have existed two n-words, one that ends in “er” and one that ends in “a.” For many, they have distinctly different meanings — the “er” version linked to the word’s hateful, racist origins, the other more a term of endearment.

But it isn’t quite that simple. There are those who argue that the versions are not so much distinct words as they are different pronunciations of the same word, with the same vile underpinnings. “You change a vowel or two. It doesn’t change the meaning,” said Dineytra Lee, a dancer and youth advocate in Los Angeles who is of African American and Puerto Rican heritage.

At its essence, the word — in either form — remains inseparable from its basic, historic meaning. Even if you believe the form that ends in “er” and the one that ends in “a” are two distinct words, the latter would not exist were it not for the former. And the former would not exist were it not for the scourge of racism.

There is no better proof of its enduring toxicity than the fact that, in polite society, it is spoken and written only in its euphemistic shorthand — “the n-word” — than its full, spelled-out form.

“It’s impossible to separate the word from various manifestations of white supremacy,” said Jabari Asim, an Emerson College literature professor and author of “The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why.” “Racist violence against black people has seldom been implemented without the recitation of the n-word at the same time.”

At its core, the word has always been about power: the power whites held over blacks for centuries, and the power that some in the black community once sought to regain by “reclaiming” the word for itself in hopes of lessening, or eliminating, its sting — an argument others never fully bought.

“The n-word was created to divest people of their humanity,” the poet Maya Angelou once said on the Sundance TV show “Iconoclasts.” “When I see a bottle — [and] it says ‘P-O-I-S-O-N,’ then I know [what it is]. The bottle is nothing, but the content is poison. If I pour that content into Bavarian crystal, it is still poison.”

Banning the word, in a sense, is an attempt to exert another degree of power over it. It is a laudable thought in theory, but one that in practice is seemingly impossible, given the word’s vast reach. Even worse, it raises the question of who, exactly, has the right to ban it.

“Y’all birthed the word,” said D.C.-based educator Gabriel Benn, rhetorically addressing white America. “You can’t kill it.”

But many would argue the word doesn’t need to be banned as much as it needs to be policed. A straight ban affords no room for the nuances and contextual variations of the word — for example, the way the word might be used as a neutral term of familiarity or community between two competing football players in the heat of battle.
“If I ran a double move on [an opposing defensive back] and he grabbed me, I would say something like, ‘Nigga, quit holding me,’” said former NFL wide receiver Donté Stallworth. “He wouldn’t care about that. He’d be upset about me saying he’s holding. It’s nothing negative. It doesn’t hurt my feelings. It doesn’t hurt his feelings. It’s not meant to incite. [But] now, that [word] would get me a [penalty] flag.”

Unlike a strict ban on the word, policing it allows a community to set its own ground rules and check those who stray outside the lines.

The problem is, policing the word has become more difficult in an America where the lines between white and black have become grayer, where the use of the word is expanding all the time, and where the bar for what is outrageous and provocative continues to rise.

“One should have a lot of responsibility when using the word,” said Patricia Wilson, a Los Angeles-based television producer who is African American. “When [non-black] people say, ‘Well, you hear it in rap music. . . . Is it okay for others to use?’ And the answer is hell no. It’s not okay, and I don’t think it will ever be okay. Because when others use it, it’s more dehumanizing, and they don’t take on the historical responsibility. Anybody can be checked at any time, [and told], ‘Look, that’s not cool. You can’t use it like that. I don’t give a damn what you hear on the radio.’ ”

The word still possesses its power to rend. Wielded indelicately, it can destroy careers and reputations. It still divides the country, even within African American communities, on the question of whether it should be banished to the dark corners of history or embraced as a term of endearment. None of that is new.

But what is new is the growing acceptance and use of the word in different settings and among different groups. That growth has been fueled by the generation — more multicultural and tolerant than any before it — that came of age during the 1980s and 1990s, as the n-word exploded anew in popular culture.

But this generation has almost no personal connection to the civil rights struggle and doesn’t equate the word, at least not exclusively, with racism. Perhaps these Americans had parents or grandparents who felt strongly about the inappropriateness of the n-word, but they grew up themselves with a level of comfort with it, and wouldn’t be as stringent in raising their own children.

“I’m empathetic to the older generation because they lived it — [but] why are we still attaching ourselves to that word?” said Stallworth, the former NFL wide receiver. “Let it go. I’m not saying let the emotions go or let what happened [in the past] go, but that word – let it go. To me it’s a word of the past. I’m not downplaying the significance of it. But today, in 2014, it’s time for us to let go of the baggage that word comes with and just start looking at ourselves as a different type of people.

“Let evolution happen. Let pop culture take that word away to the ocean, and let anyone use it. . . . That word’s not meant for us anymore. ‘Nigga’ is a part of pop culture. It’s just a word, but it shouldn’t be chained to us, for lack of a better word. It shouldn’t be a part of who we are.”

Re-appropriating a slur

Removed from its loaded context, and viewed only through the lens of linguistics, the n-word is a marvel of modern language — springing from the Latin word for black (“niger”), obtaining its awful power during the era of slavery, retaining that power through a century of lynchings and Jim Crow segregation, then splitting off into a second, distinct word that means pretty much the exact opposite of the original.

There is no other word like it in the English language, encompassing both the ugliest sort of hate and a communal, if subversive, sense of love and affection, depending upon who is saying it and in what context. It can be wielded as a tool of both white racism and black empowerment. Its most accomplished practitioners can drop it into conversation as a noun, adjective, verb or interjection.

Linguistically, the phenomenon of a community taking a word meant as a slur and re-appropriating it as a term of endearment is called semantic inversion or semantic looping. The word’s use by African Americans, wrote linguist Andrew T. Jacobs in 2002, “is a strategy for asserting the humanity of black people in the face of continuing racism, a strategy that celebrates an anti-assimilationist vision of African-American identity.”

Other oppressed communities have similarly re-appropriated slurs, seen perhaps most vividly in the gay community’s adoption of terms such as “dyke” and “queer.” But the comparisons between those words and the n-word are imprecise; “dyke” and “queer” have never moved outside the gay community to become universal.

Perhaps more than any other word, the n-word is dependent upon context. Other words may be influenced by context, but this one is totally inseparable from it. It scarcely exists outside of context. Its meaning is never fixed. Was it said by a black man to other black men? By a white person in a multi-racial group? Were they in a locker room? At a rap concert? A change in setting alters the entire dynamic.

“To me, it’s just a word, a word whose power is owned by the user and his or her intention. People give words power, so banning a word is futile, really,” rapper Jay Z wrote in his memoir, “Decoded.” “ ‘Nigga’ becomes ‘porch monkey’ becomes ‘coon’ and so on if that’s what in a person’s heart. The key is to change the person. And we change people through conversation, not through censorship.”

A Jay Z concert is like a social experiment on the reach of the word in modern culture. At his show at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium in July — where he shared the spotlight and the stage with his wife, Beyoncé, on their “On the Run” tour — the sold-out crowd was a healthy mix of black, white, Asian and Hispanic fans. The rapper invited everyone to sing along to “Jigga My Nigga,” and the lyrics, which helped take the song to the top of the rap charts in 1999, echoed throughout the crowd in melodious unison. Beyoncé joined in on a later track, mouthing the words “I’m the nigga” as her husband performed.

Janeace Slifka, a 27-year-old white woman who self-identifies as a feminist and works as a digital strategist in the District, stood in the upper deck with her husband, swaying side to side as Beyoncé and Jay Z performed. She sang along at times, but when “nigga” appeared in the lyrics she let her voice drop out, while thousands of others kept singing.

“I didn’t find myself uncomfortable at all, but I can’t imagine signing along, either,” she said. “I wouldn’t even do it in my car, let alone in a crowd of 50,000 people — even if I was being encouraged.”

Some artists, including superstar Kanye West, have been known to grant white concertgoers permission to keep singing along even when the lyrics contain the word — an offer that is frequently accepted wholeheartedly.

“He said, ‘Okay, white people — this is your only opportunity. So I want you to sing at the top of your lungs,’ ” Benn, the D.C. educator, recounted about a recent West concert. “And they did it.”

For decades, a debate has raged within the hip-hop community about the extent to which the prevalence of the n-word among youth of all races is connected to its rise in hip-hop — and the debate has perhaps never been more relevant. When N.W.A. — short for Niggaz with Attitude — first appeared on the scene in the late 1980s, its use of the word felt revolutionary. Now, to achieve the same effect, it requires more effort — and more n-words. The 2013 hit song “My Nigga” by YG used the word a whopping 128 times.

“The word has staying power because we keep saying it, period,” said acclaimed African American opera singer Denyce Graves, a Washington native. “The issue of reclaiming the word and taking ownership — I reject that entire idea. My mother used to tell us when we were kids, ‘The shackles had been taken off the ankles and wrapped around the mind.’ And she would say that we were continuing the oppressors’ work. . .

“I know we will never be rid of this word, [but] I would love to see it just vanish.”

But as hip-hop has aged and evolved as an art form, so, too, have its practitioners. They don’t necessarily hold the same views in their 30s and 40s that they did in their teens.

“We have indirectly given a pass to a lot of people — to just say it and sing along,” said Benn, a rapper who, under the stage name Asheru, released a song called “Niggas.” “We let that happen on our watch. . . . The problem is, white people want to be able to say it, and they want somebody to give them that permission.”

It isn’t difficult to imagine how a white teenager, perhaps lacking a deep understanding of the United States’ racial history, could be left wondering whether it is okay to use the word — when it is a constant presence in his generation’s music and in the hallways of his school, and when African American peers sometimes give him a “pass” to use it.

Nathan Brandli, a white University of Maryland senior majoring in African American studies, said he wrestled with those “gray areas” during high school. His three best friends, all African Americans, gave him permission to use the word with them, he recalled, but he never did so. However, he did use the word occasionally, and always privately, with a white friend.

“We kind of used the word to each other as a friendly sort of word, like, ‘That’s my nigga,’ ” Brandli said. “But eventually I became more and more uncomfortable with that . . . just because I was aware that, as a white person, maybe you shouldn’t use that word, [since] that would make people get the wrong idea.”

‘We’re fighting a losing battle’

At the University of Oklahoma this year, a pair of African American debaters won eight rounds in the prestigious National Debate Tournament, before losing in the semifinals, by employing an argument that made liberal use of the n-word — a strategy intentionally tailored to challenge existing norms in debate.

In Atlanta, Christian rapper Sho Baraka reached the top of the U.S. gospel music charts (and peaked at 12th on the rap charts) with an album, “Talented 10th,” that makes judicious use of the n-word — a development that roiled the world of Christian pop music.

The Web site Gamers Against Bigotry, launched in 2012 as a movement to combat widespread racist and sexist language and behavior in the video-gaming community, was attacked by hackers within a week and defaced with, among other things, slogans containing the n-word.

In Orlando; Forsyth County, Ga., Killeen, Tex.; and King County, Wash., graduating high school students — some of them white — hung banners last summer featuring the phrase “nigga we made it,” made popular by the anthemic song “We Made It,” by the Canadian-born hip-hop star Drake.

Spend some time in the hallways of a high school and you are likely to hear not only African Americans using the word among themselves, but also Asians, Latinos and whites. They probably don’t mean any harm, but it is jarring to anyone with the perspective of an older generation.

“Kids today lack the historical perspective,” said Michael Nesmith, head football coach at Paint Branch High School in the Maryland suburbs of Washington. “That, plus its use in hip-hop, is why it’s so prevalent. They’re desensitized to it. I hear kids using it all the time — whites to other whites, Latinos to other Latinos.” Nesmith said he doesn’t allow his players (roughly 90 percent of whom are black) to use the word, but he added, “We’re fighting a losing battle.”

These days, it might make more sense to ask which groups aren’t using the word than which groups are.

John McWhorter, a Columbia University linguistics professor and contributing editor at the New Republic, peers into the future and envisions a day when the word is omnipresent and universal. “Frankly, we’re just going to have to get used to it,” he said. “It’s a generational shift, and it’s permanent. There will be potbellied middle-aged white men calling each other ‘nigga’ in 30 years.”

Others would question whether such a universal acceptance could ever occur. Despite its expansion, the n-word hasn’t really joined mainstream American culture — just mainstream American youth culture. That it is growing in volume doesn’t necessarily mean it is growing in influence. As has happened throughout history, young people grow up, they take jobs, they have kids and their viewpoints change.

The sheer number of prominent artists who went from using the n-word frequently to disavowing it — a group that includes comedians Richard Pryor, Paul Mooney and Chris Rock — suggests a coming of age or an awakening to the word’s powers to harm.

Indeed, the most effective form of policing the word may be self-policing. When Ayana Evans, a 24-year-old Howard University student, gave up the word for Lent this year, she said it was almost like an epiphany.

“I was motivated because I was listening to someone speak, and they said, ‘What you say, you become,’ ” she said. “And I thought, ‘Wow, I say this [word] to my friends all the time — and then tell them to get their lives together. It’s a contradictory statement. So [in using the word] I’m perpetuating this state of ignorance.”

The story of the n-word, in many ways, parallels the overall story of race in America — from the bloody circumstances of its birth to the messy state of its present. The word is visible almost anywhere there is racial conflict: the lawless realm of social media, the vast landscape of pop culture or the streets of Ferguson, Mo.

There are some who would say that debating the merits of the n-word is missing the bigger picture. The problem isn’t the n-word. The problem is racism. But it’s easier to fight a word than a complex, institutionalized system of oppression.

If life were as simple as the National Football League would like us to believe, the United States could simply police the word with yellow penalty flags, as if everyone were referees. A yellow flag on the hip-hop artist with the egregious lyrics. Another flag on the white kids at the mall, dropping the word on one another with no thought to its history. Another, if you wish, on the NFL for trying to ban in the first place a word used largely by African American players to other African American players.

A United States where everyone is using the n-word at will — where it contains no deeper, outside meaning at all — is difficult to imagine. But no more unimaginable than a country where the word is completely gone. What is far more likely is that the word continues to exist for generations to come — and continues to vex us with the same issues of history, context and ownership that it does now.

Comments from the Noosphere:

Recently I listened as an American with a Hispanic background used the “N word” frequently around a mixed racial group without anyone questioning his use. Apparently the use of this word has become Popular to use by other races than the Negro.  It seems to me that I could not be offended if I was called a Honky.  But that term has no meaning to me and was never used against me by anyone. Now we can all use the N word like it is just a piece of candy and the generation coming of age holds no negative images of a simple word. Perhaps we all need to remember that use of a language is always dynamic and words that were common when i was coming of age in the 60s is no longer defined as a cigarette but as a negative term for a male homosexual: fag.

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