Honey, If Tucker's Looking Quizzical, I'm Worried

Throughout our history, we alternate between greatness and shamefulness. Slavery, and then the war to end it. Emancipation, and then Jim Crow. The Indian wars and, well casinos, I guess.

Honey, If Tucker's Looking Quizzical, I'm Worried

“Civilization’s going to pieces.  I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read ‘The Rise of the Colored Empires’ by this man Goddard? . . . Well, it’s a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be—will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved. . . . This fellow has worked out the whole thing.”

I know, this sounds like any random episode of the Tucker Carlson paranoia-palooza, but it is actually from the first chapter of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, written in 1925. Now, before you think I’m accusing Scott of these beliefs, the line is spoken by Tom Buchanan the boorish plutocrat husband of Daisy and pretty much the villain of the piece. And everyone in the room was appalled.

But it does show that there’s nothing new about the so-called Great Replacement Theory espoused by the shooters in Buffalo, El Paso, the church in Charleston or the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

In a nutshell, and I do mean nut, the theory is that there is a shadowy cabal of elites, mostly Jews, who want to flood the country with people with higher melanin content and dilute the culture and basic wonderfulness of a white-dominated society.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm an average white guy, and I love white people. Well, a lot of them, and having been raised by a couple of them, I have a real fondness. But I also spent the majority of my 72 years in a big, diverse and vibrant city. Of course I mean Houston, not Dallas. In my trade, I worked with folks from every demographic. I traveled to Europe and the Middle East multiple times for my job and found we are all more alike than not.

OK, Kumbaya aside, this theory is partially built on an age-old problem in the USA. White Americans periodically get up off the couch, or settee in colonial times, and mutter to themselves, " Gee, there seem to be a lot of different folks filtering into the neighborhood." After all, our founding was premised on a grand bit of hypocrisy, best exemplified by one of our founding fathers.

There are many men and women in our history I admire, in spite of their flaws. I'm a huge Hemingway fan though I know he was pretty much a walking Chernobyl of a human being. Lincoln, the two Roosevelts, Ike, JFK and so on also had flaws big enough to have their own zip codes. But no one represents our basic national contradiction more than Thomas Jefferson. How can a man write, single handily, one of the greatest documents of human liberty in world history and also be a slaveholder? How do those grand words square with taking a black mistress after his wife died and despite evidence that the feelings were somewhat mutual, never giving her the freedom to decide whose children she'd like to bear?

And on we go. Throughout our history, we alternate between greatness and shamefulness. Slavery, and then the war to end it. Emancipation, and then Jim Crow. The Indian wars and, well casinos, I guess. Frankly, we never really made it up to them. Winning World War II while interning decent Japanese-Americans.

And through it all, we become occasionally alarmed at our own neighbors from any place but Europe, and sometimes, even there. We passed laws against the Irish when they emigrated after the potato famine. Then there was the Yellow Peril and curbs on Asian immigration. Our willingness to use the labor of Hispanic emigres while decrying their influence on society, along with Jews, Italians and on and on. We have a deep-rooted suspicion of the "other." And heaven forfend we teach any of the negative stuff in history class. Our real history was written best by MGM and Warner Brothers.

So, add some partisan politics to our doubts about our fellow Yanks, and some shameless politicians and cable news hucksters, and voila. All this is just too convenient, too timely. It has to be organized. Watch the Donald's monthly fear-fests held around the land. I love the banners especially. "Take America Back" they say. From whom? Last time I checked, we run the joint. Government, big business, small business, media, even sports. The decision-makers all look like me, only much richer and with better cars.

But here's what makes me cry in my beer. It works with far too many of us out there in the great unwashed. A Yahoo/YouGov poll found recently that 61% of Trump voters agree with this proposition. "There is a group of people in this country trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants and people of color who share their political views." An AP Poll in May found that 1 in 3 of us believe "...an effort is underway to replace US-born Americans with immigrants for electoral gains."

Four out of every ten Americans is non-white and that scares the bejabbers out of some folks. The shameless and intellectually dishonest Swanson's fish stick heir, Tucker Carlson has devoted 400 shows since he hit the air in 2016 on Fox to this idea of replacement. Now, he's thrown in the gun law debate to contend, with a straight face, that Democrats know they are in power illegitimately and want your guns so you won't rise up once you realize you've been hoodwinked. I know, I know. There has to be some glitch with Suddenlink for me to have heard that, but sadly, for once, their signal was clear. That last bit, by the way, does beg the question of when free speech morphs into incitement to violence.

So, seriously, that's where we are. Witness a bunch of frat boys carrying Walmart tiki torches in Charlottesville a few years ago chanting "Jews will not replace us," like some Monty Python Druid ceremony. And they were marching in defense of a statue of Robert E. Lee, who I think might have said, "Hey, that's too wacky even for me."

Then, add the gazillion watt megaphone of the internet, and throw in some more Tucker, and you get guys who are, admittedly, the 20-watt bulbs in our national chandelier, who then grab the nearest AR and head out to hurt black, Jewish or Latino folks before they can take over, or something. Throw in some political invertebrates on the right who may or may not agree, but want the votes of the tiki torch guys, and you have this witches brew of paranoia. The essential truth here though is that it is nonsense and an age-old trope that has proven time and time again to be false. As a simplistic example, whatever the flaws in our border policy, these people can't vote, period.

I understand you may think I'm overreacting here, but for crying out loud, people are already dead. I take heart, though, in a small comment back in 1981 when I interviewed Louis Beam on television in Houston. At the time, Beam was the grand poobah or something with the local Ku Klux Klan coven, or whatever they're called. He was leading a crusade against Vietnamese immigrants granted asylum after the war who had begun their own shrimping businesses on the Gulf Coast.

They pooled their resources, lived in large family groups, fished longer hours than normal and were becoming quite successful. Beam, of course, claimed they had an unfair advantage over white fishermen. We eventually though, got to his disdain for black folks with him claiming their natural propensity for violence was evidenced by the fact that "they are blowing each other up on the streets of Kampala!" I pointed out that at that time, white folks were blowing each other up on the streets of Belfast as well.

But his predictable incoherent blather isn't what I remember most. We taped the interview in the evening, and our station manager, in an uncharacteristic fit of responsibility, thought we should have an off-duty cop for security. My producer called the Houston Police Department and they supplied a guy for us. When he walked in, he was a mountain of a man. At least 6'4", solid muscle and, black.

I introduced myself and said, "you must have drawn the short straw for this assignment."

He answered nope, he had volunteered for it. I asked him why.

He answered with a smile, "I wanted to be the first face he saw...as he looked up."

Roger Gray has toiled at the journalism trade since 1970 and his first radio news job at KTRH in Houston. Over those woefully misspent years, he has worked in radio, TV and written for magazines. He was twice elected President of the Texas Automobile Writers Association and was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He covered the first Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, Oslo Accords in Israel and peace talks in Ireland. He interviewed writers, actors, politicians and every President from Ford to George W, and none of them remember him.
Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.