AMERICAN BLACKOUT

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“You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen, and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT & T and Dupont, Dow, Union Carbide and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.” — Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty), Network

Martin Luther King, Jr. died for absolutely nothing. Medgar Evers, that forgotten warrior for justice, was slaughtered in front of his children for a dream that is now dead. The thousands upon thousands of brave, selfless champions of liberty and freedom, from Selma to the streets of Detroit, Montgomery to Atlanta; those who suffered threats, beatings, fire hoses, attack dogs, bullets, and harassing calls in the night; those who walked, bled, shouted, and gave everything they had — risked all — for the fundamental right of a human being to vote and determine the future course of his country, have been once again spat upon, tormented, ignored, and defamed. For all the work; the sleepless nights and the unending days, the Civil Rights Era, one of those periods amidst war, venality, and greed that actually held the capacity to inspire and make one proud to be a part of the very nation that witnessed its transformative power, is now rendered moot; a quaint anachronism that, for all its continued relevance, might as well have taken place a thousand years ago. It is with this abdication, this white flag of surrender, that I announce the release of the latest kick to the groin, Ian Inaba’s American Blackout, a depressing, wrist-slitting documentary that isn’t revolutionary in its revelations, but powerful for its consolidation of so much that plagues American elections. So as I grit my teeth, seethed with rage, and held a massive stroke at bay only out of sheer will, the only surprise that crossed my lap was the laughable idea that anyone, anywhere believes the American empire in any way resembles a true republic. Democracy is dead, my fellow saps, though it’s unlikely that it ever existed at all. After all, how does one account for Warren Harding?

Inaba’s film is a three-part tale, the first involving the familiar, but always infuriating 2000 election debacle, heightened by the massive fraud of Jeb Bush’s Florida. There is little need to tell this tale yet again, but let us never forget — and the only people who “get over it” are those who are quite comfortable with democracy’s death — that 57,000 people were systematically and deliberately purged from the voting records because they were black. To prove that assertion, 97% of the so-called “felons” were in fact innocent of any charges, and were assumed to be guilty of something because their names resembled those of actual criminals. I know, I know — it’s a “post-9/11” world, and this was six years ago, but what have we become if we declare that there is a statute of limitations for upholding the Constitution? I would hope that each and every American would go to their graves disgusted by the elevation of an unelected leader, but soccer practice for Seth does sound compelling. As much as Katherine Harris deserves an on-camera hysterectomy sans anesthesia, and retired Jews need to be reminded that the Buchanan guy wants to bring back the ovens, it is our collective apathy that sent America’s most heinous symbol of mediocrity to the White House. Most of all, though, as the film reminds us, the key to all of this — thanks to the good folks at Choicepoint (paid $4 million to magically turn all blacks into convicted felons) — was the overturning of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in full view of the courts, the media, and the public at large.

Standing tall at the time — and virtually alone — was Georgia Representative Cynthia McKinney, one of the few black women in Congress, who was even more unique for her tough stands against the Bush administration. It is her story that dominates the second half of the film, as we follow her 2002 loss to Republican plant Denise Majette and eventual comeback in 2004. Then, she was defeated for speaking out in favor of a 9/11 investigation and hinting at Bush’s complicity, though incompetence would be more accurate, as she never claimed that “Bush knew.” She only wondered why he was so vehemently opposed to Congressional hearings, and why warnings in the weeks and months before the attack went unheeded. She had the audacity to ask questions with the rubble still smoldering, and as we know, tragedies are the times during which Americans look for vengeance and mindless escapes into God, flag, and country, rather than responsibility and oversight. The film makes no bones about its belief that the Republican party deliberately targeted her seat, and because Georgia holds open primaries, Republicans were able to switch over and throw out the brash McKinney. This was accomplished in several ways, the most glaring of which was the successful effort to make people believe she had accepted terrorist money during her campaign. The proof? The existence of “Muslim groups” on her donor list. For as we know, all Muslims spend every waking hour devising new ways to bring down America. The slur worked, and McKinney was out of a job.

McKinney, as stated, came back in 2004, largely because the woman who defeated her in 2002 dropped out to run for the Senate, and the field was large enough to give the advantage to a familiar name. Of course, McKinney lost once again this past summer, ostensibly because she punched a Capitol policeman, but in fact, her opponent was another Majette-type who secured crucial Republican support. Interestingly, McKinney is shown in early 2005 being questioned about her identity by a guard, which is what prompted her to eventually throw down in the House. Yes, McKinney overreacted, but by the same token, I think it is reasonable to suggest that the Capitol cop was more apt to have suspicions about a black person in the Capitol who wasn’t holding a mop. Regardless, McKinney is my kind of broad: tough, no-nonsense, and not averse to kicking ass when the crackers pull their usual shit. She’s everything a member of Congress should be, but isn’t, because the voters seem to prefer bland milquetoasts with middle class haircuts, freshly scrubbed children, and mindless wives who chant Bible verses. On a side note, after visiting a few black churches with Cynthia, it can be stated without fear of contradiction that no more entertaining place exists on planet Earth. I’m as full-tilt an atheist as they come, but even I’d drop to my knees if I could hear that singing for an hour every week. McKinney’s that type of woman, and I’d follow her anywhere. Let’s hope she’s not finished in the political game.

To add a cherry to the whole shit sundae, American Blackout spins us through 2004’s Ohio madhouse, yet another case for a revolution, hasty show trials, and a national self-immolation once it’s recognized that no one could ever do any better. The facts speak for themselves: largely black districts were denied access and the required voting machines to correspond with expected turnout, and then there were the endless — almost comically long — lines. Despite the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (I’d add an “Orwellian” comment here, but we’ve long passed that shit and can use “Bushian” from here on out), provisional ballots were either denied or dismissed, and untold thousands had their votes discounted, even when they had been voting in the same polling place for decades. “Hmmm….can’t find your name on the sheet, here….take this provisional ballot, give it back to me, and I’ll run it through this handy shredder to expedite your vote…Good day!” How did this happen yet again?

Look no further than Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio’s Secretary of State, and a so-called black man who brings so much shame to his race that he’s almost enough to make us forget Clarence Thomas. I said almost. What, am I saying that no self-respecting black person can be a Republican? Well, yes, but more than that, he’s a black man who is working diligently to deny blacks the vote. On purpose! He’s a cocksucker, defiler of the Constitution, and an Uncle Tom, though not necessarily in that order. But as he wanted to curry favor with the Bush crowd in the same way that Ms. Harris used her 2000 election experience to gain a House seat (as well as spend every cent of her fortune losing a Senate race), he bleached his skin, shucked and jived, and worked the machines to ensure a Kerry loss. And so he did. Fraud was there, it was obvious, and like 2000, I’ll never move on. It makes me sick to this very day. And it always will. Even if I’ve stopped believing the dream.

About Matt

Matt is the site’s Longest Serving Critic and chief misanthrope. He divides his time between classics of cinema and the most ridiculous movies he can find on Redbox.
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