Chris Hayes’s Book for the Times- The Progressive- 6/1/17

In the early years of this Viagracene Epoch, the first 100 Days of the Trump Misrule seemed to last as long as the 100 Years War.

But it is a known fact of time and physics that once that last western Fourth of July firework ember hisses into the Pacific, it’s pretty much a greased-lightning, downhill slide into the Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa holidays. (Take that multi-cultural holiday reference, Bill O’Reilly!)

Seems like one day it’s burgers on the grill, potato salad, and hide-and-seek games out in the yard. Next day, it’s chestnuts roasting on an open fire, potato latkes, and trying to find the holiday gifts you hid somewhere in the house.
It is therefore perfect that I get a jump on my holiday book recommendations. This Independence Day, give the gift of Chris Hayes’s book, A Colony in a Nation. It’s a great flip-flop stuffer.

I can’t imagine when Hayes had time or energy to write it. He’s hosted his nightly MSNBC show, All In with Chris Hayes, logging almost as many hours as CNN’s Blitzer-bot during the endless presidential campaign. His post-election town hall meetings with Trump voters, with Chicago residents living in high crime neighborhoods, and with a West Virginia community suffering through the opiate crisis were informative, compassionate, and even-handed.

Hayes’s title, A Colony in a Nation, comes from a convention speech by Richard Nixon in 1968. Then-candidate Nixon attempted to appeal to African Americans while also railing against government programs: “They don’t want to be a colony in a nation.”
By 2016, that appeal to white audiences sounded like this: “Hey, my African Americans. Vote for me. What the hell do you have to lose?” From their long and quotidian experience of injustice within the Nation-Colony, they knew exactly what they had to lose.

Hayes writes, “In the Nation, there is law; in the Colony, there is only a concern with order. In the Nation, citizens call the police to protect them. In the Colony, subjects flee the police, who offer the opposite of protection. In the Nation, you have rights; in the Colony, you have commands. In the Nation, you are innocent until proven guilty; in the Colony you are born guilty.”

Hayes’s experience as an MSNBC journalist covering the police killing of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri, the subsequent people’s protests, and the police response were the impetus for the book. He uses Ferguson as a flashpoint opportunity to examine law and order in the colony/nation frame. It is something he has clearly been thinking about for a while.

Hayes shows that grievances in the Ferguson Colony are the same as those of the early colonists. He argues that, contrary to what those red, white, and blue Fourth of July Patriotic tea-dumping re-enactors would have you believe, it was not the actual tax that put the early colonists over the edge, but the way it was enforced. It was the policing.

Just as policing long prepared the tinderbox of Ferguson, it was the random search and seizures, the breaking and entering of private homes, the interception of communications, the corruption of officials, that fueled the colonists’ insurgency. These grievances were the reasons the colonies declared their independence from Britain. Those facts became the basis of the Bill of Rights.

I often found myself reading the book’s sections on the history of the early colonies with the same speedy gallop that Hayes uses on his nightly show. On air, his voice goes up and down with his eyebrows, expressing sheer incredulity, delight, cocky impatience, or barely concealed scorn. He is one of the fastest talkers in the news biz; like Paul Harvey on speed. Google it.

But the book slows down considerably when Hayes argues that the “American history is the story of white fear,” beginning with the treatment of indigenous people, through slavery and its consequences. Hayes says it is the white fear of losing privilege that always fuels the Nation/Colony and frequently gives examples of his own complicity.

This Independence Day, as real bombs ordered up by President Warhead burst in the air over randomly chosen dots on Google Maps, they give proof to the fear in the hearts of white men. The Commander-in-Cheetoh tweets his orders from Mar-a-Loco, land stolen from the Seminoles. After your barbecue, unfurl your hammock and read A Colony in a Nation. Then get up and get your two-cornered pink insurgency hat on and march with your affinity group in your town’s parade.