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CPAC and SXSW: an American Stew

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It was spring break all over America.  It was SXSW in Austin. It was CPAC time in Washington, D.C.

While I was listening in Austin to Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, CPAC attendees were complaining about life as beleaguered white people. Oh the prejudice they most overcome, and they will one day.

The cultures of SXSW and CPAC are so radically different that it’s a stretch to remember they are taking place in the same country or even on the same planet. Imagine the face of horror on the CPAC secret agent who gets a glimpse in his Victorian-era telescope of the revelers in Austin. “Run away, run away!” he would shout.

Now, I realize that the events are staged with wildly different purposes. SXSW is a music, film and intertubes festival that celebrates today’s stars and showcases tomorrow’s. CPAC is a cuckoo’s nest all the card-carrying cuckoos must attend.

Here was Sarah Palin speaking of Ted Cruz: “He chews barbed wire, he spits out rust.”

And here’s Cruz on Palin: “I’m not remotely cool enough to be Sarah Palin.” It’s hard to be cool with a mouth full of rust, Ted.

Now, I’ll tell you who’s cool, Ted. Robert Randolph, a genius on the pedal steel who combines the blues, soul, funk, southern rock and Hendrix to create a musical wonderland. I saw him yesterday on the massive outdoor stage at Auditorium Shore here.

Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris are cool to. So was the Midnight Ramble Band, the late Levon Helm’s gift to the world. I could go on and on about all the cool at SXSW.

On the dark side of the universe at CPAC, we return to the white-people-are-victims-of-racism party. Please, I’m not making this up. Benjy Sarlin tells us about CPAC’s breakout session from hell:

The session, entitled “Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?” was led by K. Carl Smith, a black conservative who mostly urged attendees to deflect racism charges by calling themselves “Frederick Douglass Republicans.”

Look out Washington. There’s trouble on the hill. Sarlin continues:

Scott Terry of North Carolina, accompanied by a Confederate-flag-clad attendee, Matthew Heimbach, rose to say he took offense to the event’s take on slavery. (Heimbach founded the White Students Union at Towson University and is described as a “white nationalist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

“It seems to be that you’re reaching out to voters at the expense of young white Southern males,” Terry said, adding he “came to love my people and culture” who were “being systematically disenfranchised.”

Smith responded that Douglass forgave his slavemaster.

“For giving him shelter? And food?” Terry said.


At this point the event devolved into a mess of shouting. Organizers calmed things down by asking everyone to “take the debate outside after the presentation.”

Those young white Southern males just can’t get a break. I dunno. Whenever American conservatives start talking about race weird shit happens. I think they are deeply puzzled by people who don’t look like them.

Anyway, I was just thinking of what a great country this is that we can have spring break, SXSW and CPAC all at the same time and there’s no end-times earthquake or giant squid attacks on Des Moines. God bless us, every one.

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Glenn W. Smith

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