The Dagwood Sandwich
When I was a kid I used to read “Blondie” in the rolled-up paper that'd get tossed on our porch every morning. Those were the days before virtual gizmos, when the comics were the only 'memes' we kids had other than the sports page which, like the comics, was meant to entertain. And we were.
In those good old comics, Blondie’s husband, Dagwood, would rise from his napping couch about once a week, sleepwalk to the refrigerator and pull out a dozen rich ingredients that every good old suburbanite was supposed to have in their refrigerator, too. He'd slather two slices of white bread with mustard and mayonnaise, layer cold-cuts, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes and olives until the sandwich was a foot-thick and absolutely inedible. Then he'd crack a joke.
Dagwood was a nice, white guy. He wore a tie to work, and he wanted us kids to know that this was what America looked like. Everyone should have a foot-thick Dagwood Sandwich that you couldn't possibly eat but that you should have nonetheless. Everything was as it should be, this cartoon-husband wanted us to know, and we believed him.
That Dagwood Sandwich should have hit us white folks like a ton of bricks when the Black Lives Matter protests took off a few month ago. It did me when the Mayor of Minnesota was quoted saying that his city was between "two crises that are sandwiched on top of one other.” The George Floyd uprisings occurring within the COVID pandemic. Two different coldcuts in a white man’s sandwich, in other words, squished in with lettuce, sliced tomatoes and tasty pickles. Edible, or at least something you can wrap your mouth around enough to take a bite out of, and maybe to have an effect on.
Well, I've had some time to think about it, and I think Mayor Frey's two-ingredient metaphor is the classic kind of understatement that comes from politicians who don't take cartoons seriously enough. I understand the rock and the hard place he's in between. George Floyd was lynched in Minneapolis, and Mayor Frey is a Democrat. Being a Democrat in Minnesota means he is actually a member of the Minnesota Democrat-Farm-Labor Party, which means he is the beneficiary of a legacy bequeathed him by 150 years of socialist uprising and organizing from the co-op infested plains of the 19th Century Dakota lands that, thanks to Hubert Humphrey in the 1940s, morphed into the Minnesota Democrat-Farm-Labor Party. It follows, then, that if you belong to a formally-socialist party that allowed a guy like Hubert Humphrey to crash it, then you have a serious case of political cognitive dissonance. Mayor Frey was wrong about the size of the sandwich.
There are, in fact, multiple crises “sandwiched” together into a huge, impossible sandwich. There's institutionalized bigotry and the COVID crises, of course. But the rise of fascism also comes to my mind, coupled by murderous COVID outcomes in countries run by them (Brazil, the U.S., Russia, Britain). Economic depression caused by the same scoundrels for the same reasons also shows up, worldwide environmental collapse and, (spoiler alert for us humans) a D.O.A. healthcare system. That’s not just two ingredients in a crisis sandwich that can be dealt with by taking it one bite at a time. That’s a Dagwood Sandwich, multi-layered, all the ingredients part of the whole while being nothing without all the ingredients, and completely inedible unless you're a white cartoon husband about to crack a joke.
The problem with us white people is that we think we’re white, which isn't the case. The COVID bombshell should have taught us that, but I guess learning comes hard which, by definition, means slow. COVID should have been an existential lesson in equality for all of us. Yes, we honkies opine from our comfortable Northern Rockies’ zones, it is hitting poor communities worse than ours, but it’s hitting ours, too. And, given how much time and energy we’ve put into isolating ourselves from the outside-world uglies, it’s hitting us very hard indeed. Furthermore, we honkies in the Northern Rockies may feel smug about getting “far from the madding crowd” and there’s a certain amount of self-satisfaction in accomplishing that. But then we insist on thinking there’s nothing we can really do. And that blows our cover.
I recall a conversation I had with a “fun-hog” friend of mine at a brewery after returning from Standing Rock in early-2017 (full disclosure: I'm a part-time fun-hog myself). He had been out skiing while I had chosen to face off against a militarized police force in a blizzard. During the debacle that took place on those same co-op infested plains from which the Minnesota Democrat-Farm-Labor Party sprang I thought about all my hedonistic Montana friends playing expensive, consumptive outdoor games in the face of an environmental/social collapse that would take down those very ecosystems we claim to cherish so. I think it was in the middle of helping to butcher a cow in sub-freezing weather at the Veteran's Camp that worked up something in my head to say to them when I got home, which, unfortunately for this truly-good-hearted friend of mine who was the first one to ask me anything close to what I thought about the whole mess of the world, I did.
I told him, listen, man. This kind of activism is right down your alley. You’re going down these wild rivers and skiing these insanely chilly mountaintops for the sake of excitement and the love of the outdoors when you could be having the exact same kind of excitement and outdoor experience in a North Dakota blizzard with armed soldiers to bump up your adrenaline rush even more. You want brave? Do it with a purpose. You got the chops, and you don’t have to sacrifice your outdoor time. Not anymore. Maybe not ever again.
Those of us in the Northern Rockies who care talk about "minority" communities and how “they” need more justice so the sandwich shrinks and becomes edible for us. Those of us who don’t care just talk about “those people”. But the end result is the same. We don’t acknowledge the giant-ness of the Big Problem, nor how much we, no matter how good our intentions, are part of it. This goes for people of all shades, by the way, because the sandwich is epic. But us pilgrims have had such a long run these last three or four hundred years, I think it's only fair to say, "hey, man."
So, for what it's worth, here's the punchline. The damning finger of "white privilege" is now pointing straight at a fixable target, the predatory for-profit healthcare systems currently crumbling against the rocks of the Pandemic Age. How can anyone deny the urgency or the opportunity. You can bet this won't be the last bug to come after us, and after the next couple-three hits, a 'white', privileged class will not exist as a functional fantasy, false identity or false flag for less-thoughtful folks to rally around when times get tough. There's only one race of humans, multi-shaded (duh), and to deny some of those shades adequate access to medical attention as a basic human right, everyone runs the risk of dying horrible deaths while the rich, who do so love to keep us divided, will just get richer.
Tax the bastards, then, and tax 'em hard, in favor of Medicare For All or it's bye-bye to our cherished Democracy.
Simple. Why's it taken so long?