For conservatives, vigilantism is the only logical response to living with different kinds of people
The man who died, Jordan Neely, was homeless and had been screaming at passengers when the other rider wrapped his arms around Mr. Neely’s neck and head and held him for several minutes until he went limp. Mr. Neely died from compression to his neck as a result of the chokehold, according to Julie Bolcer, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner.
The examiner has ruled this a homicide. We’ll see what Mayor Showboat and his flunkies do about it. Given the statement Adams made (“There’s a lot we don’t know about what happened here… However, we do know that there were serious mental health issues in play here…”) and that the killer was released without charges, I expect nothing good.
You’ve probably already seen New Yorkers past and present talking about what an absurd overreaction this was, and perhaps you’ve also seen the sick rah-rah from suburban gomers juiced about the killing — like this guy who asked (probably from an Eastern European troll farm) “Have you ever been threatened or attacked on a nyc subway?” and then delivered this:
Looked at you, eh?
I assume he’s just a disnfo troll. But who knows, maybe he was on a subway once, and maybe someone looked at him with something less than the admiration he thought was his due, and his brain started going bloop, bloop, bloop…
When you’ve been living in cities awhile — especially cities that rightwing shit-stirrers like to use as scapegoats — you’re more apt to notice and resent this kind of attitude, because you recognize it from countless encounters with outlanders. Sometimes it’s innocent and meant to be flattering: The “I could never live like that” thing. Yeah, maybe in some cases there’s a tinge of condescension, or genuine confusion as to how anyone could prefer museums to malls and density to wide open spaces, but that’s cool — as the old song goes, you’ve got your good things and I’ve got mine.
But more often, and I’d say increasingly — as conservatives, desperate to ignite any hatred that might inflame their base, rage at cities and at the homeless people who wind up there because they have nowhere else to go — that attitude has curdled into something worse.
You’ve seen how Republicans, fully in death cult mode, have been pushing harder for ever less restrictive gun laws — like Florida’s insane permitless concealed carry law — even as gun massacres have accelerated across the country. We usually explain this depravity as part and parcel of conservative gun worship — a combination of hunger for NRA cash and pandering to Republicans’ enthusiasm for penile substitutes that go boom. And that certainly figures in.
But in a wider sense, it has to do with the endless drumbeat of fear and hate that is the motive force of modern conservatism.
Look at the things that really animate them — they’re certainly not deficit spending or judicial “originalism” or any of that other shit only the pencil-necks and pundits care about.
They’re scared of trans people — even claiming, absurdly, to fear trans women will rape their daughters in bathrooms (when they’re not sneering at what sissies they are).
They’re scared of drag queens, whom they think are trying to corrupt their children by reading to them (which is so dumb they keep throwing Libs of TikTok videos at you to suggest drag queens are like strippers because they sometimes dance, which in their view makes them sexual predators).
They’re scared of school libraries, because they think that, like drag queens, the libraries are going to turn their kids gay or trans or into drag queens or something else (maybe literate?) that would alienate their kids from them. They’re so scared of this that they’re also attacking and defunding libraries for adults, because they believe anywhere books are freely available is a threat.
And they’re scared of young voters and the “cancel culture” they frequently attribute to them — with a little more justification, perhaps, because the kids really don’t share their twisted values, and if the heel of Republican voter suppression is ever removed from their necks they’ll never allow the GOP as much power as they have again.
All this is in addition to conservatives’ more traditional fear of black people, immigrants, colleges, feminists, unions, etc. etc. And with all these fears, the inevitable accompaniment is rage — rage because those fears are so formless and stupid and not actually any kind of real threat to them. In fact, often they never even see the people they’re shit-scared of, so they can’t even attack them physically in the way they obviously yearn to do — which makes them even angrier, especially with conservative propagandists stoking them with rage-bait every day.
Cities make good avatars for everything that conservatives hate. Cities are full of black people, gay people, liberals, people behaving and believing in ways of which conservatives disapprove and which they fear will be exported to their cozy little hamlets. (You’ve seen their ravings about how Biden is going to “abolish the suburbs” — that is, import urban values to Range Roverland? It’s all part of this paranoid fantasy.)
They seethe with hatred for cities and fantasize about fighting back — about taking care of those skels, those scumbags, if they could only be unleashed to do justice with their .45 magnums. (That’s also why conservative legal goon squads like the Federalist Society push to have gun restrictions stripped from big cities that have and want to keep them — to stoke their constituents’ dreams of retributive violence.)
So when conservatives hear about a black guy at the end of his rope screaming and acting out in the subway, they don’t think about it the way a New Yorker does. New Yorkers are masters at conflict resolution; they defuse or deflect or just plain split. They’ve seen hundreds of potential incidents avoided this way. Because city life is a contact improvisation with millions of people, and you have to learn how to live with all kinds.
(One of my many such memories from the subway: A small black guy in a suit hassling with a bigger black guy in casual clothes during a crowded morning rush hour. The conversation was low and guttural until the little guy said in a loud voice, “’Throw’? You want me to ‘throw’? Shit, I’m goin’ to work!” The car busted up and that was the end of that.)
But conservatives are incapable of even imaging such a thing. Where’s the justice in it? Instead they dream of showing that guy who’s boss.
Maybe some of them even know and rehearse the speeches of their prototype: Listen you fuckers, you screwheads, here is a man who would not take it anymore…
They wouldn’t live in the city; they certainly wouldn’t live poor there (I could never live like that!), nor allow themselves to get really close, in any sense except that of the firing range, to the people they hate before blowing them away. But they want that Travis Bickle payoff. And if they haven’t got the guts to do it themselves — and they don’t — they’re happy when someone else does it. So they cheer this murder, and add it to their spank bank of hatred, violence, and vengeance.
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