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Thursday, August 11, 2016



                In one of his finest Hebraic moments, the Jewish American writer Norman Mailer produced a sexy Freudian "reading " of the United States of America under the title "The White Negro."  That was 1957 when the seductiveness of the black/white binary was seldom challenged.  Mailer's essay transcends its overt topicality under the influence of our current Trump/Clinton obsessions, our suspending disbelief that a paragon or a paradox might be elected President.  The image of the White Negro is an undistorted mirroring of the Black Caucasian, albeit one that troubles sleep.

                Despite the absence of genuine proof, one suspects Mailer had an epiphany regarding the future that is now.  What he saw as he pondered the "psychopathic brilliance" of American democracy was the inevitability of people's being incarcerated in the fate of living "with death from adolescence to premature senescence" as they tremble "with the knowledge that new kinds of victories increase one's power for new kinds of perception; and defeats, the wrong kind of defeats, attack the body and imprison one's energy until one is jailed in the prison air of other people's habits, other people's defeats, boredom, quiet desperation, and muted icy self-destroying rage." At present, rage is unmuzzled.

                One has no real proof that Mailer ever analyzed The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. DuBois.  Nevertheless, it is fair to suspect that he echoed DuBois in his function as a rhetor, truly absorbing DuBois' idea of what measures the ways of the world.  In the heterotopia  (Foucault's daemonic notion) of the prison, Mailer's essay endures as a valuable pre-future lesson.  In panoptical 2016, one empowers oneself by learning what Mailer insisted on teaching.

                From the imperfect hindsight of 2016, one can read "The White Negro" as a fine example of how engaged American writers indict themselves in the act of writing and sentence themselves to infamy.  If this point is too miniscule to be detected by the naked ear, one hears it loud and clear in the 24/7  palaver of mediated  infotainment, in excessive contemplation of what lurks in Swamp Clinton-Trump.  Something is slithering to be born on November 8, 2016.  Even incarcerated children  have the smarts to grasp that probability.

                In the ears of American memory, Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock" has come home to roost, and all the inmates in American cells (spaces of totalitarian freedom) do know now what Mailer as the epitome of the Black Caucasian knew in 1957: "a stench of fear has come out of every pore of American life, and we suffer from a collective failure of nerve."  Sixty years after Mailer wrote, the phrase "failure of nerve" is less than apt, for the American people are  robustly exercising their nerves with alacrity and glee.  After re-reading what a Black Caucasian lectured on in 1957, all the prisoners might do well to say "Ashe" in solidarity with my African American ancestors who never confused Moses with Christ, who never taken in by facile hipsters political and non-political  who disguised themselves as women and men of integrity.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.                            August 11, 2016

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