Magnum Opus Personal


This Magnum Opus has turned out to be less a matter of stitching together the elements of the exchange among five people than a personal reflection on how people, including myself, get to be the way we are. I have written on my blog about my change in attitude that I find disturbing and this effort has brought forth all dimensions of my attitude, not always a pleasant matter. Both external and internal factors have impacted this effort. The external first:

Shortly before we began this exchange around June of last year, our grandson moved in with us and provided me with insights into a world I had little knowledge of. What I found was that he elucidated for me those behaviors of people I talk about in my blog category Basics and which played such a large part in the ensuing discussion with the grouplet, as I call the five gentlemen participating with me. I will clarify later.

Then we have the computer breakdowns accompanying a change in providers, as well as a dying printer. I will be mentioning that in the coming section on my method of putting this Magnum Opus together.

But a stunning turn of events occurred just as we got the computer complex up and running: our son was stricken with a life-threatening condition that came out of the blue. Fortunately, he lives just a few doors down and we were able to get him to emergency where they did two operations in twelve hours, taking out a significant amount of intestine and colon. While frightened, I could not help but note the anesthesiologist’s comment: “It’s so nice to work on someone who is in such good health and good condition.” Yes. No deleterious habits, not even a beer now and then; lots of exercise; no history of any digestive or bowel problems – in fact, just the opposite (must be genetic); and a powerful mental discipline that made recovery swift.

Today the doctor said he is good to go for his final surgery the first of June and he starts a promising new job this fall. He stops by in the mornings and with this event, we wax a bit philosophical, looking back over the scary early phase of his life that set the stage for those life-changing decisions that direct us one way or the other. Talking about his cousins reminded me of the book, The Other Wes Moore. My wife was so impressed by it she bought several copies to give out. Moore is a successful Black man who had an identity mix-up with a man of the same name who was in prison. In straightening the mess out, Moore became intrigued by the difference paths they had each taken…. and why. I have not read the book but I read Carl Hart’s book , High Price, which shows how he escaped the worst ghetto of Miami and became a research psychologist in addiction. Who makes it and who does not? Isn’t that the question? That is the question that arose as we discussed poverty.

And the answers we give often say more about ourselves than the people we talk about. That is what I find myself exploring in this grouplet. I admire my son for getting out of the hole he was in and not looking down on others who have not yet made it out, who may never make it out, or for whom it is too late. My own heart of darkness has grown rather than shrunk. It is so bad I must reserve my deepest feelings for a separate segment of this final response to the grouplet called the Parvum Opus, one in which I will respond unreservedly to comments like Bill O’Reilly’s as he described going through Harlem and seeing people with tattoos on their foreheads and asking Donald Trump how he could possibly find jobs for such people. No, I will not characterize all of Fox News as linking Black people to the hopelessly unemployable but I will respond in some detail to O’Reilly (he has a couple of other gems). The Black Lives Matter movement has been vilified but I will not only recall for younger people the very same vilification of MLK as a dangerous radical and a reckless militant but call out those people my age who act as if they know nothing about that.

Which brings me back to the personal. I do take O’Reilly’s comments personally because I know just how he would characterize some of the members of my family, not only my wife’s family but my birth family. My mother and aunt had origins in West Virginia, what we called Hillbillies and but for the grace of the economic boom of the 1950s might have wound up among those statistics we have been reading about recently, those White rural women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s whose mortality rate is climbing faster than anyone’s and we will ask about their values and their lifestyle and their bad choices, and we will condemn them for their obesity and substance abuse and ask why they did not stay in school, IOW all the things Moynihan said about “the Negro family”. Even more personal, I will ask one of our grouplet members to look at the things Moynihan, who he thinks had it spot on in diagnosing the essence of the failure to progress of many African-Americans, did state in his writings and ask him to apply those same judgments to White people. While that might seem too personal, I believe it will be fruitful because it will highlight the way any group under assault can be brought low and recent data from a monstrous research project shows that working class Whites are suffering many of the same pathologies so long attributed to Blacks and their culture. And I invite anyone reading this on my blog to respond.

Francis Fukuyama, whom I will quote here and there, lists accountability as a primary feature of good government. What I ask of people in this intellectual discussion is to remain intellectual and to be accountable. In the final analysis, even though we started out talking about the role of poverty in education and of race in poverty, we took a leap up to reaching for an understanding of what a world view is and how one’s world view determines, if it does, one’s perceptions. My first segment of the M.O. will define terms, a foray which itself may draw fire. That uncovers a bit of how I pulled all this together (how together is yet to be seen) and I will discuss my method next.

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