During the first day of Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearings, before he brought out high school kids to back him like dancers in a Robert Palmer video, his former law clerk Zina Bash sparked controversy when it appeared like she'd flashed the "white power" symbol. (Yes, the "white power" symbol -- also known as the okay sign -- was made up by idiots "trolling" the libs. Then Actual Nazis started using it, also to "troll." So, consider everyone trolled, we guess!)

Conservatives, as expected, rejected this as absurd liberal "hysteria." It wasn't like Bash made a "terrorist fist jab" or anything. What was annoying, though, was how quickly white dudes rushed in to defend Bash and mock the minorities legitimately concerned that unabashed white nationalists are running the government (why, yes, Bash did work with Stephen Miller on immigration policy for the White House!). Why can't we just relax and act rational like people who have nothing to fear from "Daily Stormer" subscribers? It shouldn't have surprised me: Bash is an attractive young white woman who is not Chelsea Clinton, so your Chris Hayeses and Voxes would reflexively gaslight folks on her behalf.

Bash however chose to fan the flames further Thursday night when she overtly gave the symbol again, while smirking like Rick Santorum if he woke up one morning in a dress and high heels.

Bash isn't a sitcom character, by the way. She knows there's a camera right there. Conservatives and probably many "bros" will applaud Bash for poking her finger in the eyes of paranoid liberals. Vox ran a piece Wednesday about how the "white power" symbol isn't even really a thing. It's just a gesture that white people came up with to torment minorities by making them think they were flashing a white power symbol. A similar excuse from students in an inner city school -- "My homies and I aren't in a violent gang; we're just wearing these gang colors to scare people into thinking we are" -- probably wouldn't prevent them from getting expelled.

Comedian Andy Richter, who has emerged of late as hella woke, pointed out that this explanation is arguably even more sinister and empathy free.

In a new twist on the "you're the true racist!" trope, we were made to feel like garbage for even suggesting that a woman who voluntarily works for and breathes the same air as Stephen Miller could possibly support white nationalism. It was quickly trotted out like a near-death show horse that Bash is Mexican "on her mother's side," and we all know Latino heritage immunizes someone from racist beliefs (just ask George Zimmerman). Why, she's even the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors! That's also an interesting dodge. We're frequently told not to judge someone because of who their ancestors were. If your grandparents threw tomatoes at black kids integrating a school, that doesn't mean you support segregation or tomato abuse. It's certainly possible to have grandparents who endured Hitler's horrors while you yourself would prefer to limit the horror to folks who aren't like you.

"Whiteness" in America has long been defined by what you are not (i.e. "black"). There are also lots of white supremacists with brown skin (e.g. Dinesh D'Souza). It's also telling that it's usually "solidly" white people who are quick to exclude Hispanics and Jews from their own definitions of "whiteness."

It's interesting to watch the Kavanaugh hearings and repeatedly see simple acts of common decency deliberately avoided. Kavanaugh can't be bothered to shake the hand of a school shooting victim's father or even express human emotion over his loss. Bash can't resist making the "okay" sign just for the few days she's on live television. Maybe I've watched too much "West Wing" but this all used to be basic Politics 101. Even if you're not spontaneously decent, you put in the effort. But this is the post-Trump era, when hurting your opponent is the purest form of victory. It's like the Party in "1984": If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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