For the last several weeks, the following photo of Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) and Sean Hannity has haunted me. During the current unhinged freakout surrounding immigration reform and, specifically, the Central American teens and children being held by the U.S. after having entered the country via the Mexican border, I can't help but to the think that the true threats to the U.S. aren't undocumented immigrants, be they adults or children, but rather these dinguses:
When I see this photo, taken at the Texas/Mexico border and tweeted out by Hannity, I see more than just a pair of brainless poseurs whom William F. Buckley would've laughed out of his movement 40 years ago, yet who are now two of the standard-bearers of what's left of that movement. When I see this photo, I see more than a slack-jawed Southern governor and a paint-by-numbers Fox News polemicist. I see two men who are illustrative of everything that is, in Jon Stewart's words, "hurting America."
Just look at the photo again.
Beginning with the obvious, they're white middle-aged men. That right there is enough to raise eyebrows. As a middle-aged white guy myself, I don't mind indicting my own: yes, middle-aged white men are trouble. The reasons are self-evident. Toss into the mix the availability of a growing variety of pharmaceuticals and Cromagnon tire-flipping workouts designed to amplify the pseudo-dementia that accompanies being a white male in the throes of mid-life, and the trouble [cough] grows. But, really, are middle-aged white men annoying and obnoxious? Oh, yes. Are they dangerous on a macro societal level? Not quite, no, at least no more so than white men in general. But stay with me, there's much more to this puzzle.
Hannity and Perry are men of significant means: wealthy and privileged. This gives them fuck-you power. So, now, we see middle-aged white men with fuck-you power. The danger begins to gurgle to the surface.
Peel the onion a little further, and we recall that both Hannity and Perry are far-right conservatives. But not just any far-right conservatives. These two far-right conservative middle-aged white men comport themselves as hard-line ideologues, pandering to the very worst, most ignorant and intolerant instincts of the Republican base. I write "comport themselves as ideologues" because it's unclear whether either is sincere in his worldview beyond what it can achieve in terms of personal wealth and prestige. I don't think I'm the only one to notice how both Perry and Hannity never seem entirely sincere or authentic -- neither seems to particularly care much beyond careerism, higher office and ratings, and so they'll say and do whatever is necessary to stir up the misplaced nationalism and, in the case of this photo, the anti-immigrant bigotry of their most rabid disciples. Now we're getting into dangerous territory.
Let's talk about the paramilitary regalia. Here's that tweet again.
There's the trying-too-hard sunglasses on an overcast day (none of the border patrolmen is wearing shades), the khaki, the denim and why the hell is Hannity wearing what appears to be a Kevlar flack-jacket? I kind of understand that there might be a security issue with the governor, but Hannity had to dress up in body armor, too? Really? Taken as a whole, it's a lot of military dress 'em up for a guy who never served. Perry, on the other hand, served in the Air Force, so he gets to dress up in whatever fatigues he sees fit for a governor. But as we witnessed most recently with the Bundy Ranch fiasco, too many guys in the Perry/Hannity demographic (far-right, conservative, middle-aged, white, male) fancy themselves to be militias of one, stockpiling weapons from Dick's Sporting Goods and posting falsely-attributed Thomas Jefferson quotes on Twitter.
And right here we have a perfect example of this silliness: a pair of doughy white guys auditioning for Stallone's next Expendables sequel:
This, of course, leads us to the 5.56 millimeter elephant in the room. It's almost disgusting to see them grappled onto that locked and loaded weapon like the cast photo of a really douchey remake of Apocalypse Now. If you look carefully, Perry has one knee perched under the gun as if he's about to or just finished humping the thing. Seriously, though, they appear to be issuing a clear warning: if you, Pedro, try to cross the river from Mexico, this American-made motherfucker will blast you into hundreds of indistinct hunks of meat. So... go ahead, make my day.
It's worth reiterating that this photo-op is in direct response to the current situation involving unaccompanied, undocumented kids entering the U.S. And these border patrol cosplayers decided to respond by posing with both heavily armed guards and a high-powered mounted rifle with action-hero scowls on their stupid faces (complete with TV makeup) -- you know, to intimidate Guatemalan children as if they're Vietcong guerrillas perched in the Shit along the banks of the Mekong Delta.
June 25, 2014: A group of immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally are stopped in Granjeno, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Talk about overcompensating.
Rather than projecting the rational idea of negotiating a reasonable immigration reform package, Hannity and Perry opted instead to suggest that a rifle loaded with rounds bigger than their penises is the only real way to deal with the border issue. That's not to say the border patrol should stand down, but wallowing in the militarism of it only makes matters worse, with the thumbs-up photos and the farcical notion that the president has to personally mime Hannity's hat-on-backwards rifle-boner pics or else it's his Katrina.
Given the choice between immigrants entering the U.S. with a path to citizenship or Hannity and Perry with their smirky, middle-aged white itchy trigger fingers, faux badassery and gun fetishes, I'll take the immigrants in a heartbeat. So should we all.