Warning bells: Is US shutdown a brewing African-American revolt?


October 6, 2013

WASHINGTON: The US government shutdown enters its fifth day, a week after the horrific carnage by a mentally ill African-American man in which he kills a dozen people before he is cut down by police.

October 6, 2013

WASHINGTON: The US government shutdown enters its fifth day, a week after the horrific carnage by a mentally ill African-American man in which he kills a dozen people before he is cut down by police.

An emotionally unstable African-American woman crashes a security fence near the White House and leads a hair-trigger alert cops on a high-speed car chase before she is mowed down by cops using overwhelming force.

On Friday, another man, also African-American, pours gasoline on himself in front of the Capitol sets fire to himself in a rare attempt at self-immolation in the United States. It is not clear if the effort, foiled by passers-by, is related to the shutdown, but a visitor from more turbulent parts of the globe may well think the US is going the way of the Third World, given the kind of unrest that is roiling Washington DC.

It is no coincidence that all three incidents, regardless of their connection to the shutdown, involve African-Americans. Decades after achieving civil rights and enjoying affirmative action, African-Americans in the US continue to be disadvantaged, suffering some of the highest unemployment and incarceration rates for minorities anywhere in the world.

In many ways, the current shutdown is part of a proxy fight between deeply conservative white lawmakers who see the Obama administration's agenda as favoring blacks and minorities versus liberal legislators trying to set right historical and contemporary imbalances. While it is commonly acknowledged that African-Americans are greatly dependent on government subsidies and dole (in the same way as India's minorities are), the small cabal of Tea Party lawmakers represent a mostly-white constituency in Middle America that resents against any government role — such as the mandatory enforcement of health insurance through Obamacare — in their life.

This is the broad background to the government shutdown that has now entered its fifth day and first weekend with no sign of resolution. The effects of the shutdown are now being felt gradually across the country. While administrative activities are starting to stall in some areas where government exercises a regulatory role, it was believed that private enterprise would not be particularly affected by the shutdown.

But stories of mishaps and hardships are now starting to trickle in from private domain. For instance, many weddings, anniversaries, and parties planned in and around national parks and monuments (which are run by the federal Department of Interior) have had to be cancelled or postponed. From Yellowstone to Yosemite, from Grand Canyon to Grand Coulee, tourism and hospitality business are taking a hit as towns whose local economies depend on it are feeling the heat of the shutdown. In fact, there are reports of some states and town defying the center to keep parks open so that the local economy is not hit.

Meantime, the wrangling in Washington continues with both parties seeking to extract political mileage out of the impasse. Polls show Republicans are taking a greater hit, but the deeply conservative lawmakers who are holding the more moderate wing of the party hostage are in safe, unshakeable seats — the last white redoubts in America where Democrats are seen as villains.

On Friday, the White House had to reel back comments attributed to an unnamed senior administration official in which he boasted, "We are winning … It doesn't really matter to us how long the shutdown lasts because what matters is the end result." White House spokesman Jay Carney's take: "It is categorically our position that the government should be reopened today, now, in half an hour."

But for the weekend at least, the metaphorical lights are still off in Washington DC. The man who tried to immolate himself near the air and space museum close to the Capitol is out of danger, thanks to joggers in the mall area who ripped off their t-shirts to put out the fire even as another person was reported to be filming him. It was still not clear what possessed him to try self-immolation. It was just another strange day at a strange time in the US capital.

Courtesy: TNN