Monday, August 14, 2006


For the past few days, VH1 has been playing "Tupac Shakur: Resurrection," which I just watched for the first time. His account of being stopped for jaywalking in the Bay Area differed, oh, just slightly from my own. (He questioned the officer, put up a fight, got his face smashed against the sidewalk, got arrested, et al. I, on the other hand, back when I was in grad school in San Fran in the mid-'90s, also got stopped for the same "violation," but just nodded and took the ticket. I didn't pay it, 'cause it was utterly stupid, but did, nonetheless, just accept the ticket at the time.)

Now, which is the better response? I kind of admire the overt "this is utter bullshit" physical response of Tupac, yet also see it as unnecessarily confrontational over a minor detail. It's a given that the police are going to act like assholes on occasion---the profession, by its very nature, attracts some control-freaks and sadists. Yet, behind their assholish behavior is an incredibly vast power-structure that will back them up and cause YOU, the even-minor offender, much more trouble than it's ultimately worth. Is it playing Uncle Tom to simply take a ticket quietly?

It also cracked me up that Tupac was shocked, just SHOCKED, when, for a completely different offense, he was later in prison and a guard called him "nigger." Tupac complained loudly about the racial slur and---SURPRISE!---nobody cared! (He laughed at himself and his own response in a later interview.) Made me think what a little political flower he'd been raised as to not have grasped the idea much earlier that guys in prison---inmates and guards both---were rough, non-PC, customers. And wonder if that's why he was killed---he'd been used to mouthing off with no consequences, other than verbal; and finally perhaps found himself in over his head with actual sociopathic people who reacted physically to being "disrespected."

Also made me think of the constant barrage of stereotypical bullshit that both gay people and women have to put up with on a nearly daily basis---and we, for the most part, put up with it, assimilationists that most of us are or want to be. It's MUCH easier that way. Women who are murdered are most often killed by their husbands or boyfriends, for instance. I don't know the stats on gay people killed by straight people; but there's constantly some story in the news about a gay or trans person beaten or killed by a straight guy (or team of straight guys) who was usually, the poor dear, "uncomfortable with his sexuality."

I'm torn. At what point is the bullshit and prejudice too much to take? (At what point, for instance, do we gay people realize that our society's not allowing gay marriage is exactly the same as our society of 50 years ago not allowing "marriage between the races" in some states? At what point do we stand up and say "don't ask, don't tell" in the military is ludicrous and horribly prejudicial? I always remember: The people who don't want to accept gays in the military today are the same people who didn't want to accept women in the military and who didn't want to accept blacks in the military. And before that, what was the problem? The poor whites who didn't own property and couldn't pay their poll tax?)

The sadistic, paranoid assholes will always think of SOMETHING to be terribly fearful of. And their preferred fear-state lasts just as long as the masochists (we) are willing to put up with it for the sake of a polite co-existence. At what point, though, does merely "accepting the ticket" become unacceptable?



David said...

I know nothing about Tupac. I just see the people wearing t-shirts with his image as if he were some sort of saint. Police. So many of them are assholes. It's slowly cahnging but I don't think it will ever be right.

Beth Austin said...

I don't know much about Tupac, except on the surface, but my impression was that he was a mouthy, obnoxious, crude jerk on the one hand, while being a sexy, incredibly well-spoken, philosophical and political thinker on the other. Not to mention his talent. I can see why people still wear his image today, though I'm guessing many are just into the "street martyr" thang.