Property Values and Peaceable Lane

[Zorg puts an empty water glass on his desk]

Zorg: Life, which you so nobly serve, comes from destruction, disorder and chaos. Now take this empty glass. Here it is: peaceful, serene, boring. But if it is destroyed…

[Pushes the glass off the table. It shatters on the floor, and several small machines come out to clean it up]

Zorg: Look at all these little things! So busy now! Notice how each one is useful. A lovely ballet ensues, so full of form and color. Now, think about all those people that created them. Technicians, engineers, hundreds of people, who will be able to feed their children tonight, so those children can grow up big and strong and have little teeny children of their own, and so on and so forth. Thus, adding to the great chain of life. You see, father, by causing a little destruction, I am in fact encouraging life. In reality, you and I are in the same business.

Peaceable Lane was published in 1960 so that would make me about fourteen when I read it. I hated the ending. Why did he have to die?

Milton Hindus published a review of it and another novel, First Family, in 1961… Negroes in Suburbia.

The initial situation in both books is about the same. A colored family has bought a house (or is trying to buy a house) in a white suburb. In Keith Wheeler’s book (the more hopeful of the two), the community is in Westchester and the homes cost somewhat more than $30,000 each. In Christopher Davis’s book (the more sensitive study), the community is a few hundred miles from Chicago and the homes are valued at somewhat less than $20,000.

I mention these cash figures first of all because both writers stress the fact that economics is perhaps the most important part of the situation they are depicting. In Northern suburbs, though a residue of racial prejudice against the Negro remains (mostly on the part of neurotic or hysterical women), the major source of resentment among nearly all whites — Gentile and Jew, immigrants and native-born — is the immediate threat posed to the property values of the neighborhood. One gathers that if some enormous public fund existed to stabilize property values, objections to the Negro as neighbor in the suburb might largely disintegrate; but this thought contributes to one’s depression instead of dispelling it.

Economics… destruction, disorder and chaos.

We’re through the looking glass now. As women all over the world come forward to talk about their experiences of sexual violence, all our old certainties about what was and was not normal are peeling away like dead skin.

It’s not just Hollywood and it’s not just Silicon Valley. It’s not just the White House or Fox News.

It’s everywhere.

Surburbicon is out, based on a 30-year-old script by the Coen brothers, rewritten and directed by George Clooney. The reviews are not good; reviewers are missing the point when they say a major failing of the film is that Clooney “quite forgets to be interested in them.”


Clooney’s racial attitudes are still ironically stuck in the fifties, his black characters are (mostly) silent and oh-so-noble sufferers — tokens of Clooney’s woken enlightenment, limousine drivers of his pious liberalism, and, therefore, anything that might make them living, breathing people is pushed to the back of the bus.


Black people are not living, breathing people.

Get it?

They ain’t got no soul.

Get it?

If black people got no soul, if black people are not living, breathing people, then Clooney’s decision to portray them that way is the message in the media.

Breitbart News, neo-Nazis, The Daily Caller, white supremacists, assholes like Richard Spencer, today’s White Lives Matter bullshit in Tennessee… they all share the same misguided, no, let’s call it despicable, idea that black people are not living, breathing people with interior lives and exterior wants and needs, just like all human beings.

Race hatred. Sexual violence. Mass shootings, Trump, Clinton, a profoundly sick society… economics…

Get it?

But, hey! Maybe we’ll manage to muddle through somehow.



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