Magnum Opus 2018update April 7, 2016 The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. – Marcel Proust
This all started in 2012* in response to discussions on a listserv for foreign language teachers regarding the connection between poverty and school performance. That series of posts was titled Weiher Question # – . In June of this past year, the discussion started up again. Here is what Jim Weiher wrote:
I have continued this conversation because I really want to understand your world view, how you came to it and what it means. I do not want to be adversarial. If I am forgive me and try to understand what I should have said.
You may remember that after our discussions a year or more ago, I started to think about the concept of differing world views to explain how intelligent, educated and experienced individuals can have such different points of view on some subjects. A world view develops over time based on our experience and how we interpret it. our personal world view is a window through which we view the world around us and is rather resistant to change, e.g. Einstein had a world view in which the indeterminism of Quantum Mechanics could not be real and in spite of all evidence firmly maintained, Gott würfelt nicht = God does not throw dice.”
That struck me as getting to the bottom of so many looping discussions on not only listservs for teachers (grammar or no grammar or a little grammar? good kids vs bad kids, etc.) but on the many other blogs I am on and in newspaper columns. So several of us on the listserv moretprs began discussing the role of poverty in our education system and, as all things seem to go in our society, the role of race in poverty. After a bit, a number of people asked us to take the discussion off the list (they have a non-functioning delete button), so five of us did. One dropped out due to the demands of teaching but I am sending him this Magnum Opus of mine anyway.
And let me be clear: I don’t expect anyone to read this whole thing. Again, I felt Jim’s comments provoked some real thinking on my part and it fit right in with two categories on my own blog (Pat’s Worldview and Basics) that I’ve been wanting to flesh out more. While some view talk of racial issues as dominating the scene, many of us believe race is not talked about in any useful way, so Jim’s willingness to expose himself to the most divisive issue of our society intrigued me. I am so exercised by the experiences of my last 55 years that containing my outrage is not easy and I hope to excise it from the main body here but will devote a separate section to the bile and vitriol I feel.
And by the way, if anyone wants to throw brickbats at Jim in the name of holy Liberalism, refrain; Jim’s views are extremely common in our society and the nicest people hold these views. That is the purpose, for me, of writing this: to explore how it is that what many of us see, the 800 pound gorilla of race, is invisible to many of our fellow citizens. Throughout the commentariat education gets short shrift sometimes but clearly it is another major issue of our times and for me, race is the factor that accounts for what many see as a decline in education in our country. It must be explored if we are to understand the underpinnings of our educational system, public and private, religious and secular.
My thanks to the five of us who have contributed, especially to Jim for having braved the slings and arrows of a pack of liberals. My thanks also to my wife and to Jim’s wife for both women have put up with our fussing over our e-mail messages for months now. Here’s a clue as to how fraught with change this whole discussion will be, complexifying everything: Jim and I, both elderly, remember a time when “wife” would mean female; now we must declare: my wife is female and I assume Jim’s is, too. And thereby hangs a tale.
*Important note: an asterisk throughout both the Magnum and Parvum Opera refers to specific e-mails in the exchange that I can pass on if the reader would like to see just what was said.
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.
This has turned out to be disjointed, repetitive and prolix. This results not from my ineptitude, though uncharitable persons might say that, but from the way I approached the task, excerpting passages from the e-mails and pasting them into another document and then reading through and annotating them. Thus I tended to read along and write as I read, responding to what I was reading. So, a bit wandering but very responsive to what we were discussing.
In order to pull all this exchange together I first went through all the e-mails that had been exchanged and cut and pasted them onto almost 200 sheets of paper. I then read through them, made a bit difficult by my desire to save paper so I reduced many of them to 8 point font. Believe it or not, in reading on the monitor screen, I have had trouble seeing through my trifocals. Just today, after several months of reading these things, I discovered I can adjust the screen height to be able to see better.
After printing the sheets out took Sharpies of various colors and after a bit came up with about 15 topic categories which I marked and annotated in the appropriate color. Since my M.O. will not follow my original topics too closely I won’t discuss them. It is simply a way I have always used to absorb and synthesize a mass of data and information so as to be able to compose a readable version of my findings. I have already identified the major themes: education as it is impacted by poverty and poverty as it is impacted by race. The first segment of the M.O. will be definitions and it will be important to refer back to these often.
The most intriguing and difficult part of this M.O. ( as opposed to the P.O. which will just be a core dump of my outrage over all that has transpired the last couple of decades) consists of Jim’s challenge to the other members of the grouplet to reflect on our world view and how it may determine the way we perceive and interpret incoming data, how we select according to our world view, and how we reach conclusions consonant with our world view, thus distorting our sense of reality.
One thing I will avoid is deep discussions of epistemology. We have seen over the last half century major revisions in how we perceive the world, how we read, how we talk, how we create, and so forth. While I do not reject such in-depth musings, neither do I have the talent or interest at this time to explore those matters. More to the point, this discussion is, to me, a microcosm of the rift in our country and exploring it will perhaps show us what makes for this divide, for Jim’s views and mine are without a doubt extremely divided. Maybe some insights will be produced out of this.
One other format issue: in order to keep this under a thousand pages, I will asterisk items which may be fleshed out should anyone want to by my going to the original document i.e. e-mail or other source and putting it up for all to see. No doubt I will repeat myself here and there, sometimes accidently, sometimes on purpose. I will leave it to you to guess which.
Regarding tone, I am going to keep this at a fairly academic level. I discovered that my frequent bursts of humor, sarcasm, and satire are not always well received. It would be easy for the tone of this to take on a battle between Jim and the rest of us, but I will show here and there that I did not always agree with David either. As a template for this discussion, I think Jim will vote for the GOP presidential candidate, I will vote for Clinton and David will vote for Sanders. Yes, I noticed I did not specify which GOP candidate (down to three with a possible fourth – Ryan – at the time of this writing) I think Jim will vote for and I cannot guess, but I am sure he would not vote for either Democratic candidate. So the exchange has been lively and even though Jim and I have written the most posts, Brian and David have chimed in as well. Only Dick-Richard dropped out early and I will send him this and hope he responds……. after school is out.
I will ship this out in small print; I would advise switching to a larger print for easier reading, even printing it out, if you have that much ink.
World view – this is the essence of this essay. I deliberately looked up world view neither in my reference books nor on line; I wanted to approach this with as fresh a view as possible. Rather than define it here I will discuss my own world view as asked to do by Jim*, but I will try to differentiate it from several related faculties. We all have discussed our world view in college bull sessions but labeled it Weltanschaung, in German, so as to appear more sophisticated.
Perspective – more often, when we talk about issues and differ in our views, the starting point is our perspective on things. Our perspective derives from our experience. An example of perspective, the most obvious one in this discussion, is the fact that David, a White man, has a Black daughter and I, a White man, have a Black wife and family. Those facts affect my perspective but I do not agree that they effect or create my world view.
Narrative – as a counselor I was aware of the narratives individuals create for themselves or, as we used to say, the tapes that play in their heads. However, in this discussion I have in mind cultural narratives, the way we explain ourselves to ourselves, most importantly, and also how we explain matters outside our purview such as other cultures, other countries, the physical world, the world we suppose lies beyond this one, and so forth. Those are narratives and they occur in religion, in art, in popular lore, and are often invented for special purposes as when a politician sells us on a particular policy by invoking a narrative, a story.
Paradigm – these tell us how to do things in routines and patterns, like red means stop and green means go. Should those be reversed, we must change our paradigm. Our paradigms may blind us to change that must be adapted to.
Culture – this includes everything human and differentiates us from everything else; only humans have culture. This word has changed meaning recently, as recently as in my early lifetime and therefore some holdovers from earlier meanings or the use of other words to designate what we now call cultural practices lead to confusion. As a youngster, I heard culture used to refer to what we now call High Culture and the habits and customs of non-Western peoples were called customs and mores. This latter meaning was early on distinguished as “anthropological culture” and caught on so quickly that now we even talk of “the culture of the organization or of the school”, meaning the tenor and tone found there.
Ethnicity – one thing I learned in exploring some of Moynihan’s ideas was that he and Nathan Glazer introduced this term to distinguish European immigrants from each other, so we had the Italian ethnic group and the Serbian and the Swedish and the Greek and so on. I recall a rather dramatic event I initiated one year at a human relations camp where “culture night” was comprised of only Asians, Blacks, Jews, Hispanics, and Native Americans while “the White kids” looked on. I balked at that and asked if I could gin up some interest in European ethnic pride among the amorphous and more numerous “White kids”. A flowering of ethnic pride shot up, with kids singing songs in Greek, dancing to Serbian folk music, telling stories in Swedish, and on and on. One girl’s presentation, a girl who had denied any ethnic identity at all, was on how she hated the way her Croatian and German sides of the family fought bitterly at every gathering and she loved America because she could drop all of that. We also had the Heinz 57 group who had no idea of their ethnic heritage and their cultural presentation was to crawl under a huge blanket and pretend to procreate a mixed-up breed of people to be known as Americans (these kids were all 16 so that was their favorite part). The whole thing was a great success.
Racism – the term that will require the most nuanced definition and even a history of its use going far beyond what I’ve given for culture. Subsumed under it will be terms properly combined with it, such as segregation, prejudice, discrimination, pride, power, identity politics, and so on.
Liberals – an approach to governance that emphasizes pragmatism and a willingness to overturn tradition and authority when they interfere with the practical matters of commerce, governance, and military necessity. The word meant “generous” in its Latin incarnation and is still used in a benign sense of open and free and focused on progress. The last half century has seen the word associated with a political orientation going back to the New Deal and sealed with the turn of the Democratic Party to support of civil rights for African-Americans.
Conservative/conservative – the capitalized word will designate the broadest use of the word while the small c word will refer to the so-called Movement Conservatism of Buckley, Rossiter, Kirk, and others who began modern conservatism in the reaction to the New Deal. The champion of small c conservatism was Barry Goldwater, succeeded by Ronald Reagan. The trajectory of that movement into what we see today and the fruits of that movement in the Trump phenomenon will be traced with special emphasis on the movement’s use of coded racial appeals to win votes. Opinions will be offered, you can be assured, as to who bears the responsibility for the hatred and resentment given full-throated endorsement by Donald Trump – and he is not alone in voicing vile sentiments designed to pull in suffering and despairing Americans. The mention made in the Personal segment of the rising mortality rate of White Americans in certain demographic categories is salient in this discussion, because if we lose sight of the pool of anger, fear, and resentment fed by a growing opportunity gap for all Americans except those at the top, we will descend into hatred ourselves, a feeling I know all too well.
Some space will be given over to a Conservative world view because as the Liberal pundit E.J. Dionne said recently, a healthy Conservatism is valued for its curb on Liberal excesses, its nourishment of tradition, and its skepticism as to our ability to mold human nature. This last strand of Conservatism will pop up in my own world view.
Opinion – what we come up with when we reflect on matters, usually guided by our world view and perspective but based as much as possible on fact.
Fact – the elusive elementary particle we hope to have in our arsenal as we sally forth to express our opinions. We hope our perspective is based on facts and that our world view is consonant with the facts. But the screaming debates over the role of religious doctrine in our classrooms and patriotism in our foreign policy reveal a massive divide, one that has grown so that even something as simple as whether Barack Obama was born in the U.S. has become a litmus test not only for a true conservative but for a true American.
Note on “Progressive” – to me, Progressive refers to the movement at the turn of the last century. Anyone who took a course in American history knows that the movement was fractured and many shards were quite ugly. The only thing I might say my self-label, Liberal, has in common with Progressivism is the assertion that at times, when appropriate, government can be of great assistance in “providing for the general welfare” as the Constitution has it. Otherwise, I reject for myself the label Progressive. Moreover, I qualify my Liberalism by the label Liberal Democrat, i.e. the platform of the Democratic Party, so as to distinguish myself from that extinct animal, the liberal Republican.
For issues less central to our discussion, definitions and nuances will be introduced at the most apt place.
– World View
a terrific example of how policies that create problems for minority communities come about and how not only their sequelae continue but such policies continue to be made in the present. Some excellent examples are given showing how true grit and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and making your family constellation conform to someone’s ideal pattern may not be the solutions we would like them to be and that it may require those of us not living in these zones of destroyed communities to do something to correct the situation.
There are alternatives to us taking action and I am taking those up in my Magnum Opus.
This above statement contains assumptions that may be considered constituents of a world view. One of the interlocutors in this exchange, Jim, considers one’s world view to be determinative to one’s perspective and even perceptions. “What we accept or are willing to ignore depends on the world view.”* That is, what one takes in and what is intake is determined by the way we view the world. Jim wrote, “Thanks, Pat, I look forward to it” in response to my saying I was formulating a longish response. He said he wanted to hear my world view and learn how I came to it and what it means. * He wants us to account for our world views and those of others, if possible.* Jim thinks that in trying to understand my world view he may have misunderstood and represented me in a way that does not really reflect my world view.
An example: he states he sees more good and less evil in our society than I do. Jim may have expected me to deny I see more evil but instead I would say that I do not even look at society in terms of good and evil but only in what people do and what the results are. I would cite FDR and the intense criticism he encounters yet today as an example of the futility of labeling societal movements good or bad because I think the results of the New Deal have been good while Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater attempted to turn back the New Deal. They did not like the results of it. Labeling such things good and evil do not work (IMHO) and “evil” in particular has theological overtones.
The New Deal brings up a couple of side issues. One is unintended consequences, a familiar and powerful trope of Conservatism. Certain dynamics were unleashed by New Deal Liberalism that Conservatives do not like and were not intended by the advocates of the New Deal. Also the difference between big C Conservatism and small c conservatism arises here because few conservatives want to see an end to Medicare, an outgrowth of New Deal Liberalism.
How much of one’s world view comes from one’s culture? A case in point was a young lady I chatted with at a get-together every year of Catholic school teachers. She was a music teacher from Japan and told me how she picked up spare change playing organ at a Lutheran church (Jim is Lutheran and so will appreciate this). Several times she stayed to listen to the sermon and exclaimed, “Wow, I never knew how Buddhist-Shintoist I was until I heard that!” How much of Buddhist and Shintoist belief went into forming her world view? Or do we consider that a separate issue – one’s religion. A hilarious and similar story was heard on NPR told by a man who recorded family stories. In one instance, he told of recording his aged grandmother who had been raised her whole life in Nebraska, a classic sod-buster American of the type I call “Norwegian”. He asked her what she thought happens to one after death and she replied she thought we become one with everything. That’s Buddhist!! or Hindu!! not Christian. There went 80 plus years of Sunday school classes, down the drain. What happens after death would be considered part of one’s world view by most people, I would think, so how did such a dissonant view slip into this Midwestern Christian’s world view?
A good example of world views rises when we look at Christianity and any of the desert religions and compare them to Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism or Taoism. In the former, the view is teleological as Christian eschatology views the end point, the goal of the development of life, to be the return of Christ. The latter see the world as traveling in cycles. The simplification here will offend some because I am really out of my depth; I just bring it up because it is a good example of world view: either you see life and the world as having a direction and a goal, an end point, or you see them as going in cycles over and over. One man told me either you see man as basically good or basically evil and all flows from that.
It is apparent from that last paragraph that my version of what a world view is, is abstract and not pragmatic. As we go along, we will see that the thrust of this essay is toward distinguishing among the terms world view, point of view, perspective, perception, opinion, and fact. If we want to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement, all of those terms will come into play and need definition. Jim offered this definition: “The world view is the basic underpinnings and assumptions that determine attitudes and analysis.”*
I saw a film once whose contention was that our world view is formed by the way the world we lived in was at our age ten. At my age ten, the U.S. had won WW II, the economy was booming, many people were moving West, and technology, under the appellation “automation”, was the coming thing that would transform our lives. Very exciting. Did that form my world view? We’ll see. I invite others to delve into the origins of their world view as well as telling us their world view.
But Jim also believes one’s world view is not fixed and can change over time.* Under what conditions, I would ask. Jim has stated that disagreement occurs not due to obliviousness to some absolute truth but to seeing things differently. While the word absolute is, well, absolute, I do think his follow up statement, “……bias and misleading reports, of which I find widespread fault on both sides” reveals a willingness to concede that world view, an absolute truth, may not play so big part as being selective in what we attend to. Jim sees one’s world view as channeling our attention whereas I see our perspective as more likely to do that and therefore make a point of distinguishing world view from perspective. This, in fact, is the origin of the Magnum Opus.
To directly address Jim’s request for my world view, let me make as simple a declaration as I can and I would refer you to my blog and the category Pat’s World View for broader discussion. But here it is as succinct as I can render it:
My world view is that the past makes up the present and past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. William Faulkner said the past is not yet dead, in fact it is not even past. A propos of later discussion in this essay, he was referring to the American Civil War and its aftermath. That human beings are biological and that our organization of our world in terms of how we feed and shelter ourselves, raise our young, and nurture our psyches derives from this biological nature. Your puppy tearing up an old sock is preparing to tear small, cute mammals to shreds, including your cat. At one time, our – meaning Western European (a sop to the Conservatives) – philosophers built up a system of political and social thought based on man as an individual, a conceit that proved useful in defining citizenship. But now we have studied our primate ancestors and done archaeological work to find we have always lived in groups, what Conservatives call collectivism. My perspective, rather than world view, on America then is formed by my view of its past and what made us what we are. Other perspectives stress our political ideals, others our religious heritage, others our economic vitality, others our pragmatism, others our predation against other peoples, others on technological advances, some on what they call race, and some on a heritage based in Western civilization. All of these, or most, have something to offer our understanding; my focus is always to delve into how we got to be the way we are. Even race, understood as a social construct, would play a part.
Just an example of race as a social construct: my wife’s doctor is Nigerian. She is a beautiful woman and yet she says she encounters aloofness, even hostility from White people………. until she opens her mouth. She is African, not African-American, so the relationship to her is as a foreigner, an immigrant. Which is exactly my point: it is not the color, it is the relationship. And what is that relationship? Former slave-owners to former slaves, pure and simple. Melville Herskovits, the outstanding anthropologist whose Myth of the Negro Past opened up the study of African and Afro-American cultures, described seeing a man in Dahomey (modern day Benin) ride up to some people on a horse and the people took a submissive posture toward him. Curious, Herskovits asked what the relationship was: they are former slaves and he belongs to the slave-owning class. So even long after slavery had been abolished in West African colonies, the relationship persisted.
Much of what I write about in this essay contains graphic violence, made necessary by the continuing denial of the on-going effects of slavery. The name Francis Fukuyama will come up a lot simply because I have been using the framework his Origins of Political Order has given me to frame the social and political order we find in every society. Recently I have been in intimate contact with a person who spent eight years in prison and have avidly heard his account of prison society. It demonstrates man’s insatiable desire for order, social order, even among people who violated the order of their birth society.
Why does violence occur, why can’t change occur without it? Here is an example of what leads to violence. This is a statement by Chief Justice Rehnquist of SCOTUS, a man whom I shall write more about further on: “I realize that it is an unpopular and unhumanitarian position, for which I have been excoriated by “liberal” colleagues, but I think Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed. To the argument that a majority may not deprive a minority of its constitutional rights, the answer must be made that while this is sound in theory, in the long run it is the majority who will determine what the constitutional rights of the minority are.” He wrote this as a law clerk and a young man. He did not change his mind as he led the highest court in the land. Given this position, and finding yourself in the minority, what would you see as the remedy? Don’t kid yourself: at the start of the Civil Rights Movement, most White Americans did not believe in rights for the Negro. If you are of a certain age and you are White, you might remind yourself of where you stood at the time. Most of us did little to promote the rights of our fellow citizens and even if we spoke out, we allowed the deprivation of rights to continue. So what would you have done as a minority? Now that Whites find themselves moving toward minority status, they are getting upset and fearful. We will explore the origins of that fear in other segments. But I will leave this topic with a quote from an 18 year old kid standing in my kitchen a few weeks ago, a White boy, who said, “Most White people are afraid the Blacks are going to do to them what they’ve done to Blacks.” This boy represents the working class and is not well educated, so he is reporting what he hears and not parroting some Liberal conceit designed to make a point. He was speaking honestly.
We cannot doubt that the world view common to Americans fifty years ago has changed. Recently one of the members of the grouplet, Brian, sent me one of those nostalgia pieces that drive us nuts, the Leave It To Beaver world of the fifties that I had to disaggregate for a man who appealed to listserv members with his invocation of an idealistic past of the 1950s. I listed a number of things I had witnessed and experienced as a child in the 40s and 50s and he wrote back that my childhood had been Dickensian. Yet we cling to these narratives of earlier times – all cultures do. The gum was sweeter and lasted longer. The girls were prettier and wholesomer (do they forget short shorts?). And on it goes. We must not stray too far from the reality of the past because the past figures prominently in my world view and in my perspective and in my narrative. Saying, “I don’t remember any of that” will not cut it. A library card will get you access to the information you need.
Which brings me to facts. I remain unconvinced that facts themselves are squishy. They may be easily manipulated, interpreted in dissonant ways, but there remains a hard kernel. For instance, tonight, April 13, Chris Hayes of MSNBC told a surrogate for a candidate that the crime rate in NYC did not go up 10%. That is a flat fact and she indeed dodged it by saying “everyone agrees” that NYC is not as nice a place as it used to be. That’s different from insisting that the crime rate, a statistic whose parameters have been established for a long time under rigorous scrutiny, has gone up when in fact it is at its lowest point in decades. Fact.
So part of my world view is that facts exist and facts matter. Daniel Patrick Moynihan will be discussed in this essay because Jim cites him frequently and his formulation of the pathologies in the Black community figure prominently in Jim’s arguments, but it is the late Senator from New York who famously said, “You are entitled to your own opinion but not to your own facts.” In checking this quote, I also found this, quite a propos:
“Political society wants things simple. Political scientists know them to be complex… One could argue that, in part, the leftist impulse is so conspicuous among the educated and well-to-do precisely because they are exposed to more information, and are accordingly forced to choose between living with the strains of complexity, or lapsing into simplism.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Before segments like the Past is Present or My POV will make sense we have to examine the building blocks of society, its institutions. By my definition, an institution is like a paradigm but supported by laws, policies, traditions, most of which may be unwritten or uncodified. A standard definition is “a well-established and structured pattern of behavior or of relationships that is accepted as a fundamental part of a culture, as marriage: any established law, custom, etc. any familiar, long-established person, thing, or practice; fixture. “[Dictionary.com]
We keep institutions at the fore to remind us where we stand in our world view, perspective, narrative, opinion, in our culture and current situation. Whether in the grocery store or in our marriage, we find ourselves ensconced in institutions. A myth we will look at under Narrative is that of the individual standing alone, a precious trope of Libertarians. That trope is held by most Americans – that of the Marlboro Man – exemplified in the photo of Barry Goldwater on horseback holding a Winchester. Eddie Murphy did a nice piece on that – and this foreshadows my bit on Presentism, to be defined – when he plays a modern day young Black man loud talking about how if he had been a slave how he would have put ol’ Massa in his place….. and then the whip cracks and he yells, “Where you want this bale of cotton, Massa?” Reality intrudes on narrative but institutions give narratives a warm nest it’s hard to pry them out of.
As with most of these topics, I like to insert a personal experience. A major institution in our exchange in the grouplet has been what we label racism – to be defined. But it is complicated. Here is an example:
My wife and I took our kids to Sears back in the late 70s for a family photo shoot. The teenage photographer was so taken with this beautiful family and perhaps intrigued by the interracial composition of it that she asked if she could get permission to put our portrait in the window as an attractor. We were delighted but she came back from requesting this of her manager quite crestfallen. Her request had been denied. Now what was going on here? My wife and I picked up a brochure at Costco the other day and there was a Black/White family on the cover and it reminded my wife of this incident, and we marveled at the change in customs.
Now, was this a big deal for us? Not unless you add it on to all such slights suffered over the years……. and there have been a lot. Before we declare it emblematic of America or dismiss it as trivial, let’s reflect on it. Was it due to race? We thought at the time it was because of the young girls’ embarrassment and discomfort, her obvious reluctance to tell us why the reversal of her decision to showcase us. But no overt statement of that kind was made. Was the manager correct in his sense that customers would react negatively and was he correct in assuming who customers would be? Should we have pursued the matter? Would some sort of complaint on our part have pushed racial justice forward or just embittered the manager? And what should the young girl employee have done? Was she complicit in a possibly racist act? And the manager – was he acting on Sears policy or on his own? What if we had gone to a Black photographer and the same thing had happened? Was my daughter disappointed that her photograph was not going to be in the display window? Was this all a figment of our imagination and the problem was that the manager had already had a display in mind?
Just a note here on writing style: I’ve noticed that some people take as significant the amount of space or time a writer devotes to a topic. That is wrong and immature reading. This incident with the photograph demands space for consideration, not because it is the centerpiece of the essay. So read henceforth in a mature manner.
Some institutions become overbearing. The Catholic Church at one time divided the world between Spain and Portugal. Ironically – and this colonial past will become a big point of discussion – neither Spain nor Portugal are big players, but their colonies – Brazil and Mexico – are. Just this week I finished a book by David Lightfoot titled The Development of Language, a bit above my pay grade but the parts I followed were fascinating and he compares the possibility of predicting language change with what historians of evolution and political institutions can predict. The answer is: not much. All of these areas of research are too contingent, i.e. too many factors come into the field and impinge in chaotic ways on the structures. He uses the varying interpretations of the English Civil War as the historian example. But hold on! We might find elements of some predictive value in all of this hot mess. Here I switch to Fukuyama and the process he labels capture by elites. The elites leverage their resources to restrict access. When this happens to the military, you get hollow armies as we saw in the Arab-Israeli wars; in the financial sector you get the phony and fragile economies of Greece and Italy; when you find it in government you get the break-down in services seen in some African countries. In religion, you get shifts like the Protestant Reformation. Right now the Reformistas are dismantling the American education system (interesting how few conservatives cry “Best system in the world” when they see investment opportunities in charters but yell it out when talking about health care because they want the insurance/pharmaceutical gravy train to keep flowing) in order to capture the vast education market. Watching the charter debacle, we can see in one area just how this works: you use money to buy legislative clout and to put out propaganda to disenchant the public with a system; then you step in as savior; then you milk the public money out of the system for yourselves and when only a shambles is left, you trumpet: “See, we were right – it is a disaster.”
Of great danger to the Republic is the emerging international class of financiers, people who no longer feel allegiance to a country. George Bush 41 got shot down over the Pacific and his son signed up for the National Guard during Viet Nam (I got the same offer and turned it down). As the ties to a nation weaken and the communication and transportation make interaction easy, the elites of the world collude in their own interests rather than in those of a single country. We are in rhetorical danger here as well because talk of international financial elites has been the bugaboo of the Right for well over a century, and the conspiracy theories usually target Jews. But Joel Kotkin wrote a book years ago called Tribes in which he identified a number of such international groupings, including the Anglo-American cabal.
What institutions are set up then to protect the non-elites? Good question. The hollowing out of the Middle Class, the devastation in our rural communities mentioned above, the rootlessness of our youth, all make us long for the good old days and a whole industry is devoted to such nostalgia.
An institution that looms over us all is the media. The media provides the narrative, the sound track. As we turn to that narrative, I will cite an example of how institutions submerged by circumstances may resurface. As our country thrived coming out of the New Deal and WW II, the White South found its institutions under attack and fought back, first by switching party allegiance to the Republicans (something many Blacks like Tony Brown have urged Blacks to do) and then using their political clout in the slave states to enact anti-union laws, anti-gay ordinances, and, after SCOTUS’ retreat from civil rights, voter restrictions, the last a throwback to the worst practices of the unreconstructed White South. All this without any threats from the federal government charged under “the general welfare” to protect the rights of all citizens to withdraw federal funds from these states. The slave states take far more from the government than they give in taxes. They are vulnerable but remain unmolested in their pursuit of former glory: the Old South, about which more soon and the institution of institutional and structural racism.
Fukuyama states: China was the first world civilization to create a modern state. But it created a modern state that was not restrained by a rule of law or by institutions of accountability to limit the power of the sovereign. The only accountability in the Chinese system was moral. A strong state without rule of law or accountability amounts to dictatorship, and the more modern and institutionalized that state is, the more effective its dictatorship will be. Applied to the U.S. we see how the moral force did not exist due to beliefs in the dominant culture about the place of Blacks, what we call a caste system, i.e. the rule of law or any other method of accountability did not apply to them. In my world view, as Jim would say, I interpret or frame the actions of SOME POLICE OFFICERS and those who support them as a relic of that lack of accountability deriving from Blacks’ lack of status, although a destructive relic. Prosecutors and other officers of the government are forced by changes in society since the 60s (thus the hatred of the 60s) to put up a pretense of accountability, as in the Ferguson case. The avoidance of outright racial appeals and epithets are called Political Correctness. Lopez outlines this as I show, the strategy of colorblindness. What Trump has done is throw the strategy overboard to make outright racial appeals – rather, racist appeals.
The economic institution of free market capitalism enjoys strong support, even among Liberals like myself and Progressives despite criticism and calls for regulation. Fukuyama points out that “Even in today’s mobile, entrepreneurial capitalist economy, rigid defenders of property rights often forget that the existing distribution of wealth doesn’t always reflect the superior virtue of the wealthy and that markets aren’t always efficient.” – p. 142 As Fukuyama says, the elites have a way of presenting what is good for them as universal truths and moral imperatives, often via religion. He says the elites talk of liberty but settle for privilege.
Political, economic and social institutions work in combination but not in lock-step. Fukuyama points out that social modernization, i.e. the breakdown of kin-based relationships, may or may not happen in concert with political modernization like bureaucracy or centralization of authority nor with the economic modernization accompanying technological progress. The Chinese built modern fleets and circled the globe in the 15th century but then retreated from the world stage while the Europeans set out in their tiny ships – really tiny! – and took over the world. Many countries nowadays undergo social modernization without concomitant political modernization and social organization is still kin-based. Thus sorting all this out is tricky and not given to glib formulations.
The power of free enterprise and free markets is amply shown by the examples from the Soviet Union where 4% of the land under private ownership produced one quarter of the food! In China, once Deng Xiaoping disbanded the collective farms, output doubled in four years. Liberals know this and support this. conservatives who oppose any government regulation, and that’s most at least in the economic sphere, try to smear Liberals with the label of socialist, communist, leftist, and so on, not because it’s true but because they want to frighten voters into supporting conservatives who will gut minimum protections. Now that that has happened and millions lost their homes, we revert to race-baiting about Mexicans and about Blacks getting free stuff (Fox News) paid for with White people’s tax money. (All this is well documented and undercuts Jim’s claim that he has never heard anyone say these things).
Outright lies bruited about currently are: Obama is not an American and does not understand America; Obama got his education due to affirmative action; Obama has dictatorially issued more executive orders than any other President; Obama; Obama is letting illegal aliens into the country when he has actually deported more than any other President; that job growth is the lowest ever; that Obama is responsible for the Recession; that taxes are higher under Obama than at any other time; that our position in foreign relations has been weakened to the point of destroying our role in the world; that we have enabled Iran to go nuclear; and more. These things are believed, mutatis mutandis, by about one third of the American public and around half of Republicans. They are variously voiced by public figures like Rush Limbaugh, the Breitbart crew, Glen Beck, Fox News, and others. My wife’s cousin listens to this and believes it all. We love her to death but her family thinks she’s crazy, seeing the connection between Right wing views and racial oppression. My question is: what does this distortion of reality do to our country’s ability to solve problems like the growing income gap, continuing poverty, problems in education, foreign policy issues like terrorism, domestic policy issues like terrorism (cf. Bundy ranch stand-off), a mess of a tax code, reform of election financing, the voter issues like access to the ballot and masses of illegals streaming across the border through the deadly Arizona desert just to fraudulently vote for our country commissioners, OK, I’m getting ridiculous but so are these lies.
Without a doubt, when we get into the role of race in our society and in its formation, we will deal with narrative, but all of our institutions have a narrative. In America, the narrative of the cowboy and its concomitant tags of Indian fighter, pioneer, and primarily, rugged individual dominates so much of our discussion. Our politics are awash in these images, made all the more powerful and pervasive by the media. Who do we think of first when we think of the American rugged individual? John Wayne. I saw him once, at a bullfight, and he was indeed an imposing figure but as a person, he managed to avoid military service other than starring roles in war movies. His image was adopted by Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan as well as by Marlboro cigarettes
The reaction on the part of conservatives to provocative statements on the part of non-Whites tells us a lot about them, the conservatives. I label it projection. Why the silly overreaction to a Louis Farrakhan, to two guys calling themselves the New Black Panthers, to a school in Tucson teaching Mexican-American students who refer to themselves as “dumb Mexicans” about their heritage? The Republican Superintendent of Public Education ripped the long-standing school program out; Fox News stayed on the Black Panther menace story; Farrakhan is trotted out as evidence of Black hatred for Whites……. or better, “Whitey” – an expression I’ve never heard a Black person use, BTW. My opinion is that Whites are projecting their own centuries long fear of Blacks especially that turns naturally to hate onto the Blacks themselves. It falls on deaf ears when you point out that freed slaves not only did not harm the former slave-holders but even returned to the devastated farms and plantations with food they had scrounged. That simply is not the narrative. Conservatives groan when we Liberals trot out Birth of a Nation, but those images of rampaging Blacks were imprinted on the mind of a nation.
In our house, typical of Black homes in this regard, we have pictures of both MLK and Malcolm X. Now we have Obama. Many homes of older people also have a picture of JFK and, because Black Americans are the most religious ethnic group in the country as measured by social scientists, a picture of Jesus.
So why do we have a picture of Malcolm X? Wasn’t he a radical? Does that then make us radicals? The “palling around with terrorists” theme struck by Sarah Palin provides an excellent insight into the superficiality of the conservative mind. First of all, MLK was considered a radical militant before sainthood was bestowed upon him. My state newspaper, the Arizona Republic, printed an editorial cartoon by our premier, Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist of MLK driving the Civil Rights Movement off a cliff. That was the predominant attitude, “the most dangerous Negro in America.” Then Malcolm came along and scared the bejeezus out of everybody, including Black folk. He didn’t invoke Jesus but someone named Allah. So soon after, the Civil Rights bill and the Voting Rights bills were passed, blanketing the country with tyranny or making sure people had their constitutional rights respected by the authorities, depending on your pov. Narratives are more flexible than institutions.
Another source of pique among Conservatives and conservatives is programs or workshops or whatever sort of presentations that go on in which a group of non-Whites have explained to them in stark tones the injustices committed against their people. At times, those presentations go over the top and it is difficult to correct these because such correction is read as suppression. In the process of overcoming the negative stereotypes attached to non-Whites, the attempts were sometimes awkward. I always recall with a chuckle when I worked for a very militant Black organization and I got selected to teach the ethnic minorities class to our trainees. Talk about outrage! I had a good time anyway and the trainees liked the class. Nevertheless, I am sure that some Conservatives would object to the way I framed the experience of non-White minorities in America. Too bad. Narratives need to be overturned or corrected sometimes and overshooting or undershooting is to be tolerated.
Our stereotypes derive from narratives. A good deal of the dissension among the members of the grouplet revolves around daily experience with African-Americans. The nexus is not the mistreatment of African-Americans but rather the one-note impression of them that clouds perception. I wonder what the conservative who thinks Black people have one dimensional views of society in its relationship to Blacks would think of the Larry Wilmore show where the Black woman on the plane is charging discrimination, that she is being forced off the plane. Part way through her high dudgeon the steward, also Black, pokes his face in and explains that the plane has been on the ground for some time and is now empty except for her. She explains that she is waiting for the in-flight movie Happy Feet to end, that’s all. Such a send-up of discrimination complaints coming out of a show that is not at all shy about excoriating White racism with vicious satire belies the “everything is about Black people being mistreated” theme. Black people can laugh at themselves. We hope Whites do, too (they do) when it comes to interactions with Blacks – the clutched purse, the phone call to the police about a “Black guy in my neighborhood”, the politicians who catch themselves as the word Black comes out of their mouth. You cannot judge Black people by only watching on TV spokespersons for the cause; of course, they are going to focus on misdeeds and mistakes. But sitting around watching the game, mowing the lawn, going to a ball game? No. One caveat: when a Black host cuts too close to the bone, the network may panic as was the case with Melissa Harris Perry and MSNBC. Her piece on Beyonce angered a lot of people and thus everyone is cut off from what Black people really think. Too bad. The MSNBC line-up is very good, but Blacks now appear only as guests and need not be invited back. Only Al Sharpton is keeping it real over on MSNBC and he’s been cut back to one show a week from five. As we move to the segment My POV we will see what it means to have people like Sharpton and MHP to counter the American Exceptionalism and Post Racial themes so embraced by an unknowing public.
The GOP is in fact deeply embarrassed that their preferred narrative of racial innocence has been shredded by the rise of Trump. He has “besmirched the movement’s long record of racial innocence,” said Bret Stephens in the WSJ. Laughable. Reagan starting his campaign in an out-of-the-way place known for only one thing: the lynching of three civil rights workers with the complicity of local authorities, was as loud a dog whistle as you can find without hearing the bark. Watching the GOP struggle to get just a taste of Jewish, Asian, Native American, Hispanic, and Black votes is a lesson in narrative building. You can read about that effort in detail and see the headwinds it is going against.
The model minorities are a part of the American narrative that cuts out Blacks. Ignored are the significant protest movements among Asians (with their references to bananas – yellow on the outside but white on the inside). It doesn’t fit the narrative, so “poof”, there it goes. The media cooperates by showing miserable illegal border-crossers and gang-bangers every night but where are the employers who hire the undocumented, the financiers who bankroll not only businesses employing “illegals” but the gun manufacturers who knowingly put cheap guns into high-crime areas. Specials, exposés, etc. do appear and must be applauded, but they do not contribute to the narrative. Constructing a narrative is a complex and largely unconscious process and takes scholarly work to unearth. The narrative of our distinct, ancient and sacrosanct national borders has played a spectacular role in the current campaigns and for some time now, but other than Bill Moyers and other Liberals, who else explores this notion in order to teach? More frequently we get the “get off my property” notion expressed, enraging someone in South Dakota that a Mexican would dare step foot on “his property”. My favorite anecdote about the border is one I came up with myself, listening to NPR during Pat Buchanen’s campaign in which border insecurity and the threat to Western Civilization posed by Mexican fruit pickers took front stage. A fervid supporter living on the border voiced his total support for Buchanen – except for that border stuff. Ol’ Pat didn’t know much about the border ’cause it ain’t that simple. I hope that voter pursued others of Buchanen’s claims to see how bogus they were, too. It’s amazing what knowledge can do in shaping your pov.
A nice quote on narrative comes with a discussion of campus protests by certain students: Students of color are not imagining hurt. They are not creating false history. They are not exaggerating pain. They want White people to understand how reflexively resistant we are to surrendering our American narrative. It is a narrative that disconnects us from our past and obscures our present . It lets us honor slave holders and supremacists, glamorize emancipation – and dismiss angry, passionate, visceral voices of dissent as childish drivel.*
Marvelously said. I wrote in the early parts of this essay that I would eschew humor and satire but let me throw in one piece I thought hilarious and poignant. A few years ago a young, blonde, White woman went missing on the island of Aruba. The media coverage was similar to that of the missing Malaysian airliner. Finally, having had enough, someone came up on NPR with a suggestion for a new news network: WWW – Where are the White Women? That was funny – a whole network devoted to missing White ladies, as if there were not already dozens of TV programs about such matters. But the poignancy came in when the spoofers got very pointed: there were many, many missing girls of color who never get mentioned. How is that narrative? I have written in several places that back in the forties, newspapers in the South would print the names of car accident fatalities and if the victims were Black, would print (colored) after the names. The purpose of that was not to alert the community of the loss of a valuable member of the colored race – I’ll leave it to you to parse their purpose, but my POV, on which a lot more later, is that Black girls don’t count, Native American girls don’t count, Mexican girls don’t count………… This gives a new face – “new eyes” – to the BLM movement but this lack of coverage shows Black Lives Don’t Matter. Narratives are strong and persistent.
Since the grouplet is made up of foreign language teachers, I will from time to time mine linguistics for analogies, parallels and comparisons. The history of English has a canon. English is an Indo-European language belonging to the Germanic subfamily. In an unbroken record from the lowlands of Northern Europe to the shores of England, the early English speakers brought the language we speak today. To show this, Frisian is spoken of as the bridge to our continental siblings. Dutch is a bit removed and German even more so but all part of the West Germanic group (a kind of grouplet); two other groups align themselves with West Germanic: North Germanic and East Germanic (now extinct). Once entrenched on the island of Britain, English slowly evolved over time from its Anglo-Saxon roots via strong influences from Latin and French but with little to no influence from the indigenous Celtic languages into a trimmed down version of Germanic with an almost overwhelming Latin-based vocabulary but a stubbornly Germanic core vocabulary. Moving inexorably toward more analytic and periphrastic forms, it grew via trade and empire into a world language bearing the high tech culture of the globe.
Romantic, traditional, scholarly, and very patriotic. A language meant to carry the burden of empire. But looked at closely, a good deal of this turns out to be a bit forced, as if to conform to a ………. narrative. The narrative of global dominance and cultural mastery. I can only recommend books like Alternative Histories of English by Watts and Trudgill.
Where do our narratives come from? The media, yes, but schooling is paramount. Our textbooks tell a story. I just finished a book on language change (The Development of Language by David Lightfoot) in which the author compares the writing of the history of languages to other fields, including the writing of history. Using the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution as the screen upon which historians wrote, he tells us first about the Whig historians who saw the unfolding of Englishmen’s love of liberty and the eventual inclusion of the middle and working classes. Their desire to limit the power of the monarch, secure free speech rights and so on drove them.
The social historians saw class war as bourgeois capitalists wanted to secure their property rights and participate more in national affairs. The major forces were economic, demographic and social rather than high politics. The revisionist historians came along and eschewed grand historical trends and looked to contingent factors, chance events and dynamic personalities as drivers of change.
And then the counter-revisionists came along…………
But which of these or yet others get into our national narrative? How do Americans read our Civil War between North and South, as states’ rights or human rights? Some school districts want the war excised from public school textbooks. Can we as a people select and agree on a national narrative? And is it one of American exceptionalism or one of contingent factors?
In our own political culture, the Liberal view is that Blacks vote Democratic because not only have Democrats championed civil rights but the Republicans have consistently come down on the side of states’ rights which is nothing more than freedom to reimpose segregation, something seen recently in the reimposition of voting restrictions in the wake of SCOTUS striking down the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The C/conservative view is that Blacks vote for Democrats because Democrats “give them stuff”. The understanding there is that Blacks don’t want jobs or education but welfare and affirmative action to get jobs and education????? Yes, you heard right. The Right is confused.
A knowledge of our national narrative helps us hear dog whistles. I missed one the other day that Nina Turner of Ohio pointed out. In the Republican debates Chris Christie and Marco Rubio referred to Obama as a child. Turner put this in perspective as the dog whistle version of “boy”, and anyone reading this who does not know the power of the word “boy” used of a Black man need read no further. Most of this will go over your head. But that is the very point of using a dog whistle: deniability. “I didn’t call the President a boy, I called him a child.” But such is the power of narrative.
This power can enthrall a people and deprive them of something surprisingly taken up by Fukuyama: dignity. He says that behind the identity politics so many deplore lies a quest for dignity. The force of that quest can be seen in the incident Fukuyama cites. the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in protest against his arrest by the police. Being treated without dignity was too painful for him and he set off the Arab Spring with this act. Monks in Viet Nam sparked uprisings and children put into the civil rights protests in Birmingham, in the face of admonitions from almost everyone, turned the tide against the White South as the country reacted with revulsion to the barbarous treatment of children. A daring stroke of genius as the jails filled with adults, leaving only the children. Protest is frowned upon by Conservatives because they fear it will lead to the destruction of private property, so they condemn it or call it the Boston Tea Party.
Identity politics would not arise were it not for blanket attacks on an identified group; that’s why it is called identity politics. Thought experiment: the conservatives list of principles align perfectly with the list of principles most African-Americans would pull out. So why do African-Americans not vote for Republicans? Because the only item on the two agendas where agreement cannot be reached is civil rights and Blacks know that if deprived of those rights, they have no way of enacting the other items on the agenda, even though the Republicans may enact those items, they would exclude Blacks from the polity.
Which brings me to…………
The Past is Present
The past isn ever dead, it’s not even past. – Williams Faulkner (that bore repeating)
God, the Devil, and truth in general lie in the details. – some linguist
The engine of this essay, for me, is the fundamental idea that this country can be understood fully only when we realize that, like all countries of the Western Hemisphere, its founding was as a colony and this colonial past explains a lot. It explains the discrepancy in health, income, and education status throughout our history among certain groups; it explains the recent political panic among certain groups; it explains the attitude of much of the rest of the world toward us; it explains a great many events and processes in our history that get glossed over so that the effects of these events and processes get ignored…… sometimes to our peril.
A quick definition of the term Western Hemisphere notes that it includes West Africa and Western Europe, which works very well since Western European countries figured entirely in the colonization process and West Africans filled out the labor force which built the continent. While everyone learns in the first couple of chapters of their history textbook how the intrepid explorers from Western Europe arrived and designated the future nations of the hemisphere and a side bar here and there mentions the inhabitants of the place and what happened to them while the Africans were being shipped over, these people perform the role of extras, as in a movie. Usually not in the scene, sometimes in the background, never in the foreground, these people have moved on up and are now looking at Oscars aka deciding elections.
What happened? What happened that made this issue the engine of this essay for me? In the discussion on a listserv about the role of poverty in education, I opined that the distribution and allocation of educational resources and opportunities could be understood broadly by reference to our country’s colonial legacy. A member wrote in something to the effect that he thought for a moment he was listening to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. That got my goat. At the time I responded only to the Rev. Wright part. straightening out the 98% of Americans (made up figure but close) who think Wright just popped out with, “God damn America!”, like the guys down at the pool hall might say, “God damn Obama!” No, he was quoting the Bible where it states God will punish, will damn, unjust nations and so the U.S. had better rectify any injustice in its body.* All hell broke loose. And yet when Pat Robertson or other White ministers go way beyond Wright’s admonition and outright condemns the nation in God’s name for the sins of homosexuality and abortion, all we get is heads nodding solemnly in agreement. Oh, did I say that Wright is Black?
Black Liberation theology might be rightly debated as might Liberation Theology generally as might Dominionism Theology (what Ted Cruz follows)*, but Wright is a fully licensed and highly educated minister, yet he gets zero respect from most White Christians on the Right. The sole reason he was condemned and had to play an unworthy role so Obama could dismiss him as relevant to his campaign was that Wright is Black and Obama could not afford a whiff of what the C/conservatives call Black militancy.
The other aspect of the message to the listserv involved the dismissal of the notion that America’s past is best understood by attending to its colonial past. This has been a pet notion of mine for many years now. It irked me to see it so dismissed as if it had sprung full-blown from my febrile brain with no academic support. As the idea of the Magnum Opus unfolded in my mind, I became aware of the looming presence of this notion and felt I might explicate it further in the Magnum Opus. In the segment on world view I have already stated that in my world view the past becomes the present and untangling them is not easy and I would present the present as past. So here it is.
Constipation is not a topic one would expect to pop up in an essay of this sort but my wife, who suffers from such condition, attributes it to her experience as a five year old riding in a truck convoy bringing Blacks out to Arizona to pick long staple cotton.* She rode for five days in the truck and never went to the bathroom. Why? First, the gas stations and other facilities along the way would not allow Blacks to use them, not even a five year girl. Secondly, scorpions and snakes off the road. Now let’s move to a more provocative case of the past affecting the present:
My wife’s nephew was traveling with her and her sister to Texas as an infant. Along the way he developed a dangerously high fever. Late at night they were happy to see a medical facility open – this was 1965, so I am surprised they even had clinics. They rushed through the doors of the clinic with the baby in his mother’s arms and the doctors and nurses rushed toward them – to take the baby, so they thought. Instead, in harsh tones, they were directed around the back to the boiler room and told to wait until all the White patients had been seen.
Thirty years later her nephew sat in a car, one hand on the steering wheel, the other on the ignition key, trying to start the car which was surrounded by sheriff’s deputies. As he kept trying to start the car, one of the deputies, according to the girl who was with Norvel, shouted, “Kill him!” One shot through the window twice, hitting Norvel in the neck and head. The girl, no thanks to prompt police action, was unharmed physically. Was Norvel’s lack of response due to the drugs he was undoubtedly on or was it a deeper glitch in his brain caused by the delay in treatment of his fever? No one will know. The deputies will justify the shooting because he would not stop trying to start the car, a weapon in itself. Who knows?
Of course, it is easy to set aside these anecdotes and focus on the present. One could assuredly explain current conditions on economic grounds, social and cultural norms, neurological conditions – oops! we’re back to the fever. Anyway, such events offer lots of opportunities for reasoned analysis. But then death is death and constipation is constipation and we would like to go beyond analysis and provide the best environment possible for people to function in. We will address the role of poverty in the next segment by quoting a wonderful teacher, but now I will present the details of the founding of this country and how that founding may impact the way we look at and deal with issues like education, poverty, race and policing.
The core of my argument lies just in the founding. We read about Puritans and Pilgrims and lazy aristocrats and even cavaliers but few details about what happened in the South. The North, including Virginia, gets the attention. What happened down there? I will quote extensively from Sugar in the Blood, a book getting excellent reviews, and American Nations, a look at American voting patterns as outgrowths of early settlement patterns reflecting the culture of those settlers. The story begins not in the South but in Barbados.
From Sugar in the Blood by Andrea Stuart:
- 16=17 Whether travelling by choice or by compulsion, all of these individuals flooding into the New World were part of a historical epic that had consequences its participants could not begin to foresee. Those who survived would become the hub of the British Empire and help Britain to become the dominant world power of the day. Along with their European counterparts, they would enrich the European subcontinent and extend the tentacles of its power virtually across the globe, westernizing the great bulk of humanity, imposing its institutions and beliefs, its languages and cultures across the world. Their collective migration would also precipitate the vast redistribution of life across the globe, most notably the millions of Africans who were forcibly transplanted to the Americas to work as slaves on their plantations. And it would transform the world’s entire ecosystem, destroying numerous species and moving innumerable others, to create a world that would be entirely different from what had been before.
- 147 Surrounded by such ideas [scientific racism], the young scions of the planter caste who had once played, albeit unequally, with their slaves, now despised them, dismissing them as “niggers” and chastising them if they addressed them unprompted or looked them directly in the eye. Racism was the factor that underpinned the entire social system of the colonies. It was not just about maintaining a rigid distinction between black and white but about making sure that white society found some coherence. “in fact”. wrote the historian Karl Watson,” the only issue which seemed to have a unifying effect on Barbadian whites was that of race,” Barbados was after all a tiny, densely populated island in which a paranoid white minority lived cheek by jowl with a black majority they perceived as threatening and volatile. But in reality this small group of whites – divided by class, political allegiance and life experience – had little in common, so in times of crisis, they had only one thing to pull them together: their shared skin colour.
This way of thinking was most seamlessly absorbed by those who grew up on the islands, but it was also quickly adopted by outsiders. The whites who went to the Caribbean often started off being hostile to the slave system but, after going through what the 20th century writer and historian Edward Brathwaite called “cultural action” or “social processing”, they often changed their minds.
- 198 Frederick Douglas writing on the practice of taking children away from their mothers: he noted that the custom had a terrible impact on slave women, who had “children but no family~” But he was even more grieved on his own behalf, because he felt that he had been denied the natural connection a child should have with his mother. Today we use the term “attachment disorder” to describe the profound impact on children’s emotional and psychological development of being denied a consistent and intimate relationship with a trusted caregiver. We can only guess at how John Stephen and millions like him were affected by being denied the core human experience of a parent-child relationship.
- 199 Although unwilling to curb the sexual freedoms of white men, the Barbadian authorities were equally concerned that interracial dalliances would undermine white supremacy. Mixed-race people disrupted the binary opposition between black and white, a polarization that depended on a perception of skin colour as immutable and species-specific. As the structure of the Atlantic slave system hinged on matters of race, categorizing the children of black-white liaisons was an obsession across the Americas. Hence the notorious “one drop rule” adopted in the American South, which eliminated anyone who was not “pure” white from assuming the privileges associated with the planter caste.
p 181 The colonists believed fervently that violence was intrinsic to maintaining the safety of their society. So new planters arriving on the island were instructed with the maxim: “at all times they must fear you, they simply must.” Hardly a day passed on any plantation when some sort of violence did not take place. One observer estimated that many larger plantations had sixty or more chastisements a day. Every estate dweller recognized the terrible, desperate screams evoked by such punishments. They were so loud that they rang throughout the property from the field to boiling house. Visitors to the islands were shocked that whites there didn’t appear to hear these noises and would carry on eating or chatting as if nothing had happened.
- 137 And like all locals, he was able to ignore the crack of the whip and the strangled cries of the slaves: a selective deafness that would amaze newcomers to the island.
p 188 The effect on the slave community of such casual sexual marauding would have been immense. Beyond the damage done to the women themselves, their mothers, fathers, lovers and brothers were forced to continue serving their abusers, powerless to protect or avenge them.
- 199 “… miscegenation or “race mixing” was a source of great anxiety in the region. But this had not always been the case. In the first days of settlement, when island society was still fluid and unformed, and when indentured servitude was still the dominant form of labour, there were marriages recorded between white and black people. During these years, before the ideology of racism had taken root, the English authorities suggested that the offspring of these couples should be free. But with the emergence of slavery, attitudes had hardened. As early as 1644, the island of Antigua passed a law that prohibited the “carnal copulation between Christian and heathen.” Miscegenation could it was now argued, undermine the entire system: “Interracial sex was said to be a violation of both natural and divine law, “ noted the American writer Edward Ball, “as it produced a ‘mixed’ race of people previously not seen on earth and also unsanctioned by God.”
- 101 The [Barbadian] islanders sometimes moved to other less populous territories, but most frequently they went to North America; indeed many areas, such as the Carolinas, were largely settled by Barbadians. These migrants took with them knowledge of the plantation system and the blueprint of how to organize and manage a large number of slaves. Thus it could be said that Barbados was “the laboratory” for the slave and plantation system in many parts of America where cotton, tobacco and rice were later grown………… By the final decade of the century [17th] almost half the whites and considerably more than half of the blacks (slaves brought over by their masters) in the Carolina colony had come from Barbados. A 1685 map of Berkeley County shows that of thirty-three prominent landholders, twenty-four had connections with Barbados. Their economic and political dominance of the Carolinas was such that contemporaries complained that “the Barbadians endeavour to rule all.”…….. All in all, six Barbadians were governors of South Carolina between 1670 and 1730
The island’s imprint on the Carolinas is evident in numerous areas. Some argue that Barbadian derived linguistic influences were taken to SC and are evident in the Gullah dialect. If that idea is contentious, there is no doubt about the Barbadian influence on place names in the region, from Hilton Head, named after the explorer William Hilton, to Colleton County, named after the Barbadian grandee of that name, and Barbados House in Charleston. And when the first slave laws of Carolina were enacted on 16 March 1696, it was clear that they were modeled on those ratified in Barbados in 1688.
His role as planter allowed – demanded – that he deny the humanity of the black people around him, that he participate in a culture of breathtaking cruelty, that he abuse women and children and justify that abuse as the will of God and his privilege as a gentleman. It endorsed rape, torture, and the separation of mothers from children.
Of course, Robert Cooper did not think of himself as a bad man. He believed that he was doing what was necessary to keep order in his society and maintain the social order designed by God. In a clear illustration of the banality of evil, he played his part as willing helper to one of history’s great genocides in complacent denial that he was doing anything other than his duty or exercising his rights.
From American Nations by Colin Woodard:
- 82 The founding fathers of the Deep South arrived by sea, their ships dropping anchor off what is now Charleston in 1670 and 1671. Unlike their counterparts in Tidewater, Yankeedom, New Netherland, and New France, they had not come directly from Europe . Rather, they were the sons and grandsons of the founders of an older English colony: Barbados, the richest and most horrifying society in the English-speaking world.
The society they founded in Charleston did not seek to replicate rural English manor life or to create a religious utopia in the American wilderness. Instead, it was a near-carbon copy of the West Indian slave state these Barbadians had left behind, a place notorious even then for its inhumanity. Enormously profitable to those who controlled it, this unadulterated slave society would spread rapidly across the lowlands of what is now South Carolina, overwhelming the utopian colony of Georgia and spawning the dominant culture of Mississippi, lowland Alabama, the Louisiana Delta country, eastern Texas and Arkansas, western Tennessee, north Florida, and the southeastern portion of North Carolina. From the outset, Deep Southern culture was based on radical disparities in wealth and power, with a tiny elite commanding total obedience and enforcing it with state-sponsored terror. Its expansionist ambitions would put it on a collision course with its Yankee rivals, triggering military, social, and political conflicts that continue to plague the United States to this day.
- 84 This was the culture that spawned Charleston and, by extension, the Deep South. Unlike the other European colonies of the North American mainland, South Carolina was a slave society from the outset. Established by a group of Barbadian planters. “Carolina in ye West Indies” was, by its very founding charter, a preserve of the West Indian slave lords. Written by John Locke, the charter provided that a planter would be given 150 acres for every servant or slave he brought to the colony; soon a handful of Barbadians owned much of the land in lowland South Carolina, creating an oligarchy worthy of the slave states of ancient Greece. The leading planters brought in enormous numbers of slaves, so many that they almost immediately formed a quarter of the colony’s population. The slaves were put to work cultivating rice and indigo for export to England, a trade that made the large planters richer than anyone in the colonial empire save their counterparts in the West Indies. By the eve of the American Revolution, per capita wealth in the Charleston area would reach a dizzying 2,338 pounds, more than quadruple that of Tidewater and almost six times higher than that of either New York or Philadelphia. The vast majority of this wealth was concentrated in the hands of South Carolina’s ruling families, who controlled most of the land, trade, and slaves. The wealthy were extraordinarily numerous, comprising a quarter of the white population at the end of the colonial period. “We are a country of gentry,” one resident proclaimed in 1773; “we have no such thing as Common People among us.” Of course, this statement ignored the lower three-quarters of the white population and the enslaved back majority, who by that time comprised 80 percent of the lowland population. To the great planters, everyone else was of little consequence. Indeed, this elite firmly believed the Deep South’s government and people existed solely to support their own needs and aspirations.
- 86 The low country’s wealth depended entirely on a massive army of enslaved blacks who outnumbered whites nine to one in some areas. To keep this supermajority under control, the planters imported Barbados’ brutal slave code almost word for word.
- 87 Such provisions would remain on the books until the end of the Civil War, and served as the model for the slave codes of the future governments of the Deep South. … After 1660, however, the people of African descent who arrived in Virginia and Maryland increasingly were treated as permanent slaves as the gentry adopted the slaveholding practices of the West Indies and Deep South. By the middle of the eighteenth century, black people faced Barbadian-style slave laws everywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line.
- 88 In the Deep South, African Americans formed a parallel culture, one whose separateness was enshrined in the laws and fundamental values of the nation’s white minority. Indeed, the Deep South was for at least the three centuries from 1670 to 1970 a caste society. And caste, it should be noted, is quite a different thing from class.
- 89 Many planters did, however, take an interest in their illegitimate children, often assigning them to be household servants and sometimes even paying to send them to school in Yankeedom, where such things were permitted. This helped foster the creation of a privileged mulatto social group that came to dominate the middle and upper casses of the black caste, and their later successes in trade, business, and other fields challenged the underlying justification for the entire apartheid system.
Greatly outnumbered, the planters were haunted by the fear that their slaves would rebel. They organized themselves into mounted militia, training regularly to respond to any uprising and awarding themselves honorary ranks like “colonel” or “major”.
- 91 Lowland Georgia would become not a yeoman farmers’ utopia but rather an extension of the West Indian slaveocracy that got its start in Charleston.
The Deep South was on the move, and, unlike Tidewater, it would face no competing European civilization to block its path to the Mississippi and beyond.
I have quoted these two authors extensively because this history is unknown to most Americans; they get the standard high school course and college survey course where little attempt is made to get outside the standard narrative. By looking at the origins of a big chunk of this country and therefore of this society, we then have a basis to which we can trace back from present customs and attitudes to better understand where all this comes from. I will comment on these quotes in the order in which I have recorded them:
Sugar in the Blood
- 16-17 Here we see the origins of European wealth. This is nicely depicted in a video titled The Columbian Exchange I showed my Spanish classes. My point is that so much of European wealth and exquisite culture and lifestyle are attributed to the Industrial Revolution when in fact it began in the 1600s with the immense wealth of the Americas flowing into Europe. This global reach feeds the perception of the universality of European institutions.
- 147 Here we see the origin of the rigid distinctions in skin color, typical of these colonial societies.
- 198 Were the traumas passed on? If so, how? When I worked for Child Protective Services it was stressed how attachment disorders and associated behaviors became a pattern in the family, passed down generation to generation. Is it possible African-Americans have this legacy to deal with to this very day?
- 199 Similarly, how much of this thinking is part of the legacy of slavery?
- 181 & 137 Could this have been passed on down the generations to emerge as an indifference to what happens to Black people? Recall my WWW – the satire poking fun at so much attention paid to one missing White girl while missing Black girls were missing from the news as well.
- 199 Edward Ball is descended from the greatest of the South Carolina low country planters. He decided to look up “members of the family”, i.e. the descendants of the slaves who served on the family’s many plantations. Thus the title of his fascinating book, Slaves in the Family. We must ask if the many features of Barbadian life persist to this day, could attitudes and practices also persist?
- 237 Herein lies the essence of my pov that this is not a matter of good and bad but of the social institutions we create. Later in the segment, My POV, I will lay out the dead end we create by casting these institutions in terms of good and evil. Once you go that route, the movers of an institution can rightfully declare themselves innocent because, in their own minds, they are – they are just doing their duty and exercising their rights.
- 82 Is Woodard’s use of “horrifying” a value judgment? For myself, I felt a chill when I read “east Texas” because that is where my wife is from. Please note the story of Char later on in this essay. Woodard is writing about the U.S. so his comments are much more pointed than Stuart’s; here he pulls this past right up into the present where we see voting and attitudes clearly patterning in the slave states, thus instantiating the legacy of the past in the present.
Few discussions of terrorists bring up one of the oldest continuous terrorist organizations in the world: the Ku Klux Klan and its many incarnations (Knights of the Camelia, White Citizens’ Council, etc.). That doesn’t fit the narrative that would shunt such facts of life to the margins.
- 84 The question this raises for me is how much did the Whites who were not of the ruling class accept their position and even revere the “quality folk”. In fact, the South even uses that expression, quality folk. Does this attitude discourage White Southerners from joining unions, from allying themselves with African-Americans. Such a question is difficult to parse but at an impressionistic level, I would say the social structure of the slave oligarchy laid the seedbed for today’s Southern political landscape.
- 86 and 87 The main purpose of the constabulary was to control the huge slave population. I use constable advisedly because, as I just found out googling it, a constable has limited authority and certainly the constables of the South were not in place to police the gentry, the slave holders, the plantocracy, the quality folk. By the mid-1700s, all Black people south of the Mason-Dixon Line fell under this regimen, and that was an overwhelming majority of Black people in the nation.
- 88 A great divide between Liberals and Conservatives, in my estimation, lies in this blind eye turned to caste. Conservatives treat of the caste-ridden Blacks in this country as they treat of class-ridden European immigrants. Emerging from a caste status is much harder than emerging from a class status.
The reference to a parallel African-American culture should be illustrated and I can do it from a personal and anecdotal perspective. I will not be devoting a special space to culture but it crops up everywhere. Here is an example: our teaching cadre put on a no-talent show once a year to amuse the students. I was tapped one year to play a role in a Seinfeld episode. They told me who it was and I said, OK, what do I do? They said, oh, you know, so-and-so, just act like him. But I don’t know who that is. You know, the one who does so-and-so and I finally said I’d never seen Seinfeld. Jaws dropped but apparently the guy I was playing was real stupid because I nailed it. So the very next weekend, I was reading a newspaper article on advertisers trying to reach a Black audience and they listed the popularity of TV shows by race, Black and White; among Whites, Seinfeld was #1, among Blacks, #56. Culture.
- 89 W.E. B. DuBois referred to the “talented tenth”, those African-Americans who had achieved education, a professional or artisan status, and property ownership. These were often the off-spring of slave holders who bestowed on their progeny some advantages, and because they were the off-spring of White men, they were light-skinned. This light skin color became associated with higher status. This has bedeviled the Black community almost from the beginning of slavery in this country.
So interesting that the Southern colonel stereotype doesn’t come from Civil War service as I had thought, but from service in the slave patrol (the origin, IMHO, of the Black term for Whites, Paddy, from their pronunciation of “patroller”, “paddyroller”).
- 91 And we might have stopped this rather than fight a civil war by lining the western edge of the Deep South with Federal forts, to prevent the spread of slavery, and given safe passage to any escaped slave who made it to the forts. They could then have gone on to settle the West. Once slaves knew they had safe passage once they reached the western edge of the slave South, there would not have been much the slave holders could have done to hold them back. Again, IMO. We might even consider doing something similar now. Viewing the geographical distribution of undemocratic attitudes, I can imagine us setting up a boundary behind which Southern culture could thrive and beyond which the liberal, democratic, pragmatic, and tolerant culture of what Woodard calls the Midlands.
Summary question: If you believe that this legacy was left behind long ago, I only want you to tell me when and where the transmission of values, attitudes, and practices was broken.
Tim Carney reported today April 4 that the “Dutch counties” in WI are like those in Iowa etc., like Mormon counties: lots of social cohesion and they despise Trump.
This perspective on America and its founding and the repercussions of the details of that founding is only one of many. This country can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The standard narrative is one thing but scholars have multiplied the interpretations of our past. But let’s say you focus on the economic development of the country, citing land use and development, mining, forestry, agriculture, stock raising and other farming, and industry. Fine. But you cannot leave out of any of these the slave past. What I am asking is that as you thumb through the pages of America’s history, you not exclude the very basis of the wealth of the country: slaves. If you exclude them, you can just as easily exclude the presence of African-Americans today, as many have tried to exclude the President.
Moreover, we will see when we get into my personal views – opinions, world view, perspective, whatever – I will attribute many of the problems we have in our society today to this foundation in a slave society. About 1969 I overheard a Southern White man being interviewed and the subject of the Civil War came up and he said, “And it’s not over yet.” We cannot dismiss such sentiments. They mean something. More especially they mean votes.
I know exactly where my wife messes up on these tests, These tests do reveal how well acculturated you are into the dominant culture. If that’s what we want for teachers but just with darker skins, why don’t we end the de facto segregation in our society so everyone will turn out like the people in Seinfeld? Years ago I took part in a school skit as a character in Seinfeld and had no idea who this was. I’d never seen Seinfeld. The next week the NYT listed favorite TV programs by race: Seinfeld came in first among Whites and 56th among Blacks. Why can’t people look at a fact like that – “empirical” as they like to say – and deduce that we have different cultures in this country and that determines the pattern of their responses on standardized tests?
Fukuyama’s recognition as being a part of dignity from which stem identity politics and Karen Armstrong’s assertion that violence erupts when people feel their identity is being lost cf Gypsies in Germany wanting to see the Impressions
In textbooks for students studying U.S. government and history, what we call civics, the multiethnic makeup of the country is stressed. In the face of that, there is often voiced the notion that the melting pot view of American society is that these ethnics groups lose their culture and are absorbed into a general U.S. culture. That latter culture is often defined as pragmatic, freedom-loving, hard-working, and adventurous. It is the culture I have dubbed Norwegian, a shorthand for the Midwestern culture, primarily Protestant, White, European in origin, with occupation backgrounds in agriculture and industry.
Where did this idea come from that being an American meant being absorbed into this Norwegian culture, what many call Heinz 57 or mutt or general American? The culture labeled Yankeedom by Colin Woodard has always frowned upon non-conformity. If the community is to be successful, then everyone has to be on board in terms of values and behaviors. The community provides for everyone – contrary to the Appalachian attitude that it’s every man for himself – but in turn everyone has to conform to the values and behaviors deemed acceptable by the Yankeedom culture. Foreignness is frowned upon, difference is regarded with suspicion, and every effort is made to absorb the recalcitrant into the dominant paradigm.
Contrary to that is the culture Woodard dubbs Midlands, made up primarily of people of German ethnicity, tolerant of individuality without making it into an idol as the Appalachians do. Each person minds his own business and everyone works hard to be successful and helps others to be so. It is hard to find anything out of sorts with this Midlands culture other than it lacks the passion of conversion of the Yankees, the stubborn rejectionist stance of the Appalachian, the haughty superiority of the Southerner and Tidelanders, but it does allow everyone to get along and work together. Or so it seems.
Here is another example of culture: I have a tape of a lounge singer in Brighton Beach where so many Russians settled in the 80s. She is belting out beloved Russian songs in a very Russian manner and all the Russians are responding with great enthusiasm………. and she a Black girl from Newark. She adapted her culture – probably singing in a Holiness church, to the demand economy. Love live free enterprise!
Another one: NPR interviewed a Black waiter who was nonplussed when he took the job and was told by the White waiters to be aware that Black diners do not tip. How racist! he thought. Then he worked there a while and, guess what?, Black folk don’t tip. That made me almost drive off the road when I heard it because I was always sneaking back into the restaurant when my brother-in-law paid for the meal because I knew he was stingy as hell with tips. Now why would this be a cultural trait? Simple. When I first moved into the Black community, no one went out to eat because restaurants would not serve them. One unintended consequence of integration was you no longer get a great meal after church IN the church, cooked by church ladies. So back then, Black people assumed, as my brother-in-law would say, the waitress is getting a salary, why should I give her money? Now, of course, everyone understands and tips…. I think. 🙂
Obsolete cartoon of young man wooing a girl by sitting down at a drum kit and declaring, “I composed this for you.” No longer funny. Back then, the cartoonist could count on an audience of people for whom drums were simply the monotonous background to insipid dance music or the occasional accompaniment to orchestral pieces. But after 50 years of “world music”, the notion of a piece for drum kit that would be not only rhythmical but melodic is not to be wondered at.
From Laurie Clarcq, a teacher in upstate New York in response to James:
You are not an isolated example but you are a rare one. I’ve taught high school students for 30 years in a rural area. The students whose families are above the poverty line are the ones who, overwhelmingly, hear messages of hope and support for a financially stable future via education. Those whose families live at or below rarely see outside of their own reality. In many cases, in today’s world, they have more financial aid available to them..many could go to college for little or nothing…but they and their families see little value in education. They do not even consider future careers that require education. That is clear by the time they enter ninth grade.
First of all, school is a different world than it was. While wealth has always helped, my observation is that more and more, a family’s financial background comes into play. Because so much emphasis is put on the data, more and more rewards are given to students who do well, STARTING IN KINDERGARTEN. Students who do well often come from families who read to them from an early age, can afford a good preschool program, ate well and exercised well and slept well the first five years of life. Kindergarten teachers are remarkably accurate in their ability to predict who will graduate from high school and who will not. Some of that may be from experience. Some of that may be because, in kindergarten, we have already identified who will be successful, who will not, and treat them that way (whether we realize it or not). Families with means will encourage students to play sports, take music lessons, have art supplies at home, provide computers and computer access from an early age. They will travel. They will encourage behaviors that will be encouraged at school from infancy…whereas families from lower-income social groups will not…without even realizing it.
It is not just the availability of money that makes the difference (although I promise you that a third grader who uses a computer and can afford a trip to the nearest arts and crafts store for his Solar System project will receive a much higher grade than the kid who did his on the back of a letter from Social Services.) It is the MINDSET of possibility (my own term) that money brings that is the biggest difference.
I am sure that Pat Barrett could explain it far better than I, but what I see is that these families require each member (in the family and it also often includes people in their “community” to be HIGHLY interdependent. These students have emotional, financial and social commitments early on in life. They are EXPECTED to stay home from school whenever a baby sitter is needed, or some stressful situation arises and a family member needs support. They frequently have adult responsibilities by ninth grade: paying bills, child care, negotiating disagreements between adults, visiting family in jail, arranging doctor’s appointments etc. It is very very difficult for them to even imagine taking enough personal time away from their families to put homework first, give up work time for classes, or even worse, leave home to go to college.
The other issue is harder for some of us to understand, but I assure you that it is very real. There is a cultural understanding in these families, that going to school and doing better than one’s parents is an insult to them. That a student would think himself better than a parent, and to act on it, is in many cases, unforgivable and therefore, unthinkable. The family is not going to ‘move up” with the student. In order to do better, the student would, eventually, have to leave the social environment in which s/he lives. In this kind of “closed” community, that rarely crosses their mind. They simply would never think of it.
The third issue is that doing well academically routinely requires delayed gratification…and that is simply NOT part of their reality either. But that is a deeply rooted, psycho-social phenomenon that I;m sure is dissertation-worthy, so I’ll leave it at that.
There are students who do it. And we encourage every single child to become what God would have him or her become. But, teachers are one tiny OUTSIDE voice among many closer and louder voices that they hear every day.
For me, that is the attitude of the home and surrounding environment, and my experience is that it is closely tied to families without financial resources. Can addressing poverty help that? In the sense that students might then NOT have to take on so many adult responsibilities..yes.
In addition, I believe that it would surprise many to know how many students ONLY eat at school. 1. There isn’t food at home. Either there isn’t money or the money is used elsewhere and that is beyond the student’s control. 2. High school students from these families often work evenings and do not use their money to buy dinner. It goes for gas to get to work. 3. Believe it or not, many of these homes actually LOCK up their food. For some, it is a way of controlling their children. For others, it is a way of protecting the food, many of these folks live in “communal” family situations (3-4 “families” in a household) and this is simply how they protect their resources. Also, parents who are addicts often have paranoid behaviors that lead to this…as do many parents with untreated mental health issues. (two situations which are prevalent in my area in this income bracket)
The last piece that adds to the challenges that these children face is the fact that they rarely get a good night’s sleep. They may not know where they are sleeping. They may be avoiding sexual contact from someone in the house. They may have family members up all night playing loud video games, or drinking/using drugs, arguing, etc. They often have younger siblings to take care of at night if mom works overnights. They don’t get the medical attention and medications they need when they are ill and sleep very poorly due to a number of ongoing physical ailments. They often live in crowded houses/apartments with little personal sleeping space available.
One might think that given all that they face, that they would love to get the heck out of Dodge and take advantage of a good education to do it. Well…not if they have never seen that happen. Not if, from kindergarten on, only the “rich” kids do well in school. Not if they have been an integral part of a system that requires them to put today in front of tomorrow.
Exceptions exist James, they truly do, but not as often as we’d like. All human beings have their challenges, each child, regardless of his/her background can become far more than his/her childhood has dictated. But before that can happen, the possibility of such a thing must exist in his/her mind. Your beautiful mother gave you that. Let’s hope that we can find the resources to help those who weren’t so blessed.
I would add to this that I was raised in a small Ohio town and experienced all the things such people experience as long as they were born White. At this point, I have a hell of a trump card (excuse the word) to play: one of my classmates went on to be a Harvard professor, president of the American Sociological Association, author of the best-seller Bowling Alone, and advisor to Presidents. Recently he took his research team back to our hometown, Port Clinton, Ohio, and did a study of what had happened there since 1959. The opening of the book details life in the town when I lived there, so you can see that my perspective is derived from direct experience just as it is on issues of education, poverty and race. Frankly, I’m not too sure many people have the combinations in their background I have. So as with poverty and education and race, you are free to question my perceptions of small town life in America in the 50s, but don’t tell me I know nothing about it just because it doesn’t correspond well to your gauzy, 50s sit-com, Republican nostalgia view.
BTW. Ruby Payne has become justifiably famous for her book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty. The book made me uncomfortable because it is written very much from the outside, as in, “We have the keys and you don’t and here is how you get the keys”, as if normative American, White, Middle Class society, what I call Norwegians, just rolls along with all the answers and these poor folk just need to get on board. Having said that, I will say that anyone working with poverty populations should read her book.
Numerous times in our exchange, Jim has asked me to state my world view, my perspective, and other words that convey one’s point of view. Sorting out world view, perspective, point of view, opinion, and fact has been the motivator for me in engaging in this very long and arduous task of producing the Magnum Opus. Along with those words I would add paradigm, narrative, etc.
Let me state at the outset that everything I say here is in response to something that came over the transom in our exchange but I am able to trace it all back to specific posts. So if anyone reading this wants fuller context or to verify the accuracy of what I am responding to, I can provide that. All the posts are extant and my editing of them is extant. As I stated in the Methods segment, the editing process brought the number of pages down to 200 but usually I can find what I need in short order because I’ve gone over this material so many times and have annotated it.
As I go along, I will attempt to categorize my comments as stemming from or part of a word view versus a perspective. There are paradigms, frames and narratives we all partake of and they will enter into this as well.
I will start with the notion of Perspective. Jim asked* if when I said I had joined a Black family in marrying my wife in 1964, one could equally say she had joined a White family. That is the sort of turning a concept around and looking at it from different angles that I believe leads to deeper understanding. All things being equal, one could say just that, but when the context – HUGE WORD – is taken into account, no, she could not have married into a White family because she, at that time, could not participate fully in the society my family participated in whereas I could fully participate in her Black world. I anticipate objections to the use of “Black world”, but it is shorthand for all the contexts and connections experienced by African-Americans and at that time that world was shrunken by legal and social constraints. Another objection might be that my participation in that Black world would have been circumscribed by hostility so often ascribed to African-Americans*, something I did not encounter except as noted in funny attempts by self-designated militants who wanted to make a dubious point.*
More broadly speaking, a good deal of the disparities between Jim’s pov and mine seem to lie in a Conservative and Liberal frame of reference. Framing an issue in the first place allows the framer to control the discourse. Fancy language for the obvious: the Framers of the Constitution stated boldly that there just comes a time when you’ve got to rebel and this was it. So the discussion moved forward to how that was going to happen, not backing up to question whether or not rebellion was a good idea or one whose time had come. Framing. Keep that in mind.
Ian Haney Lopez exposes the conservative maneuver called colorblindness. “I don’t see color” is at the heart of their denial of injecting racial hostility into politics; as long as you make no overt reference to race and do not use a racial epithet, you are “colorblind” and cannot be accused of racism. (Lopez traces this back to a SCOTUS definition of racism as requiring either malice of intent or the use of a racially charged epithet). And thus the GOP leader OK’d a phony dollar bill with Obama’s picture on it surrounded by watermelon and fried chicken, a “Food Stamp Dollar” and declared the maneuver free of racist implications because to her watermelon and fried chicken were “just food”. One might excusably call her a lying sack of shit, but we will be genteel here and just say she was avoiding responsibility – one might say “personal responsibility” – for this outrageously racist attack by denying a deeply embedded symbol in American culture.
How is it that members of a culture pick up these tropes? Two of my favorite anecdotes illustrate this on a very small scale: the man who wonders why his wife insists he not throw guests’ coats on the bed as they arrive and, when she says her mother always forbad it, calls his mother-in-law to ask; when she refers him to her mother, the grandmother responds simply: you’ll crush the hats.
The same man wondered why his wife insisted on cutting off the tail of the turkey before putting it in the roasting pan. Calling her mother, he was told that the mother’s roasting pan was too small to fit the turkey in with its tail still on.
Thus we pick up practices and attitudes. This cultural transmission lies at the heart of my contention that much of our attitudes toward poverty, race, policing, individualism, and so forth can be traced in part to that past. The question I have posed before is just when and how did certain practices and attitudes cease?* That does not mean that they did not, but the onus is on the person who dismisses a putative source simply because it “was a long time ago”. Everything changes so we would not expect a practice, a precept, a perspective to remain the same as it was a hundred years ago; but to say it has all gone away demands an accounting.
Jim suggests world view and perspective might be the same thing or that one’s perspective derives in some way from one’s world view.* That latter point certainly must possess some validity but it begs the question if we assume an uncritical conduit from world view to perspective. I differentiate the two, world view and perspective, in this way: a perspective comes from experience. In this way, we can certainly say my experience in the Black community give me a perspective not shared by those who have not had such experiences. OTOH, my world view includes elements like careful examination of my perceptions and of the source of my perspectives. It includes a constant review and revision of my world view. An example: my world view has never had a religious basis and, in fact, I have always been wary of the tendency of religious people to impose their views and practices on others. And so it was with a degree of resignation that I recognized that churched children generally grow up more secure, better grounded, than unchurched children. Now that requires a lot of unpacking and I am only referring to very broad trends in society; I don’t think it is too hard to come up with non-supernatural reasons for the tendency of church-going children to do better in some ways and for this to follow them even if they drop out of religious practice. So I revised my world view to take this fact into account.
In my experience, the reason the public’s perspective on Black/White marriage changed was through their own experience that the world did not come to an end when such marriages became more common (still the lowest number of interracial marriages, especially White male/Black female, but my wife and I see more and more all the time). We have a solid example in the wide-spread and sudden acceptance of gay marriage. My head is still spinning on that one. But I am also aware of the great struggle and courageous acts that led to giving gays the courage to “come out” so that the public could have the same experience with gays they had with interracial couples and it occurred faster because most families have at least one gay member who is now “out”.
– Breather note – this is going to be a lot longer than I thought. –
The world view of my wife and daughter referred to* as being based on framing everything in a Black/White perspective misses that that world view came from the education they received in public schools and not from any exposure to Black Lives Matter-type militant posture. Slave capture was always presented as an event initiated and pursued by White Europeans when in fact they only received slaves in sale on the coast. Therefore, a world view that White Europeans visited on innocent Africans the evils of slavery. That is wrong – back to facts. The slavers were Africans – they just were, as Megan Kelley would assert.
But now we have a clash – world view versus facts. It creates dissonance. But where is that to be corrected when attempts to inject satisfactorily factual versions of the slave trade are met with skepticism? Where I disagree thoroughly with Jim is in ascribing that world view to hostility toward Whites on the part of Blacks; I blame it on the reluctance of Whites (and Blacks) to engage in fact-based accounts of one of the biggest transfers of human populations in the history of the world along with its concomitant suffering and loss. And without that account, without that version, without that perspective, then my declaration that we must look to the roots of our current world views and perspectives in order to understand them so as to be able to correct them is without foundation, an empty rant.
A note on logical fallacies: of great interest to me since the time I got trounced in an argument by two guys using all those reductio ad absurdum and magna cum stupiditate terms of logic. In simple terms, to explain something is not to excuse it. I may explain that a student tripped another kid because he was anxious and angry over family problems but that is not saying it is OK for him to trip someone.
As I write this, the report on the Chicago judicial system: police, judges, prosecutors, attorneys, all of it, is permeated with the worst racism imaginable. Jim would attribute this, as I understand what he says, to a negative view or a Black/White prism, or to a world view that sees everything in terms of Black and White (different from a prism). The very fact I read about the report in the NYT may cause some people to discount it because they don’t trust such news sources. Here is where the selectivity Jim complains about comes in, although on the side of those who do not admit a serious “race problem” exists. That is part of the reason the Right vilifies universities: researchers come up with conclusions like those of the Chicago report which do not fit with their world view. So what do Liberals do in a similar way so that everything they take in conforms to their world view?
At this point, I must make it clear that I do base my opinions on what I take to be facts. Facts must always be examined and reexamined, but Jim’s charge that the facts we take up into our perspective are determined by our world view is discomforting, it implies an inability to grow, to change. I have always resented the aphorism, “A man who is not a liberal in his youth has no heart and a man who is not a conservative in old age has no brain.” We see people constantly bemoaning the younger generation and celebrating the past, a sickness seemingly endemic in the human population. What I take to be facts can be challenged; moreover the interpretation I place on facts can be challenged. But to say the facts do not exist is a bold claim that shifts the onus onto the claimer (I know that is not the proper word but the dictionary does say it means one who claims, but I think in the sense of baggage claim).
Another stage in this essay must be tackled: the definition of race, racism, racial, racialism, and racist. In my private discussions, I use the words in a very specific way at the start but then accede to others’ usage so as to keep the flow of conversation going. First of all, race is not a biological fact but a social construct. I could write a book on the silliness of race as a physical characteristic of people but this “essay” – my Magnum Opus – is already turning into a book. The other words, “racial”, “racist”, etc. all derive from the 19th century concept now labeled “scientific racism”. It must be borne in mind that a good deal of this concept, now eclipsed by science itself as well as common sense, seeps into discourse because few have studied the history of racism as a concept.
The term “racial” is very diffuse, referring to any context where the social construct is in play, e.g. racial discrimination means discrimination, usually against or negatively affecting, on the basis of a perceived race; racial discrepancy means a difference as measured between one race or another, e.g. test score discrepancies between Whites and Blacks.
“Racist” should refer to anyone who believes that people’s behavior and thoughts along with their appearance are all inherited and differ from other peoples’ [sic] on the basis of “race”, the biological concept. However, the meaning has inexorably changed to mean anyone who discriminates in thought or word or deed against another person on the basis of his presumed membership in a particular race. It has transmogrified unbelievably, to the point that a student recently exclaimed, when I clarified the no drinks in the classroom rule did not apply to teachers, “That’s racist!” Seriously.
David sent in this definition: they define racism as the specious categorization of people created for the purpose of giving white people privilege. (I would add for the ends of dividing working people). This definition is ad hoc but certainly is one most people would understand if not agree with.
Taking all this into account, I shall be using the terms race, racial and racist loosely, hoping my readers will understand that there is a minimalist definition of the terms in politics although those definitions will not stand up to scrutiny by a sociologist or other scientist.
I laid out my schema for how our racial caste system developed. It was difficult to send it so that it came out right although I just printed out another copy in landscape and it looks fine. The upshot of it was that while slavery proved economically workable, it entailed unintended consequences. We are still dealing with those consequences and painting them over with nostalgic gauze and minimizing them does not make them go away. I will reserve my take on the methods to promote racist practices while denying racism for my Parvum Opus.
But if we are still hearing what a terrible president Obama has been, what hope is there that the people saying that will look back at our history so that we can trace back to institutions the problems we face today? I could add into this Magnum Opus Obama’s accomplishments, but C/conservatives would engage in their usual “that-didn’t-happen” tactic, so there is no point. Jim would have it that whether or not you see Obama as effective is a matter of world view; I think we can count the number of executive orders he has issued and tally them against earlier presidents to see – as a matter of fact – how many more he has issued only to find he has issued less but that will not quiet the C/conservatives who will simply insist he has issued more than any other president…… a matter of faith, I guess.
Jim uses the terms “good” and “bad” as a valuation of various deeds and events, but that is bogus. What is good for you might be bad for me. What we have to do is judge by the effects, intended and otherwise. Is it good for police officers to shoot more Black people than White people – again, something we can tally? Lots of people will just see that as keeping people without proper values and behavior under control, so it’ll be good to them. But like the vendor in Tunisia, if it leads to social unrest so bad, it causes the mayor of Chicago to commission a report that finds the justice system replete with racism, then that report causes political shake ups that will certainly displease C/conservatives. Not a question of good or bad – Jim and I will never agree on that, but what is the outcome, the effect? Do both of us get something beneficial – a well-ordered society? That is the question, not good or bad.
The effect of a modern welfare state is beneficial. I know Jim does not agree; he has stated* that the Democratic Liberal policies have been failures. Given all the information that has been out there for years, if Jim can still believe that, then we are clearly dealing with the C/conservative world view. More on that in the What Conservatives Believe and Parvum Opus segments. The more support people receive, the better they do. Romney stated that one could just ask one’s parents for a loan to start a business – why not? At two minimum wage jobs…. or three or four… any family ought to be able to finance that……….. in Romney world. Now there is a world view, like Trump’s – his dad gave him a small loan of a million dollars to get him started.
Which brings me to Trump, a gift from the gods. Jim has insisted all along that, in Reagan’s words, only a trace of bigotry remains. And then along came Trump, ripping the mask off the face of American Exceptionalism. Many of his followers either laugh off his remarks or deny their effect in attracting support to Trump, but anyone buying that really must need bodies hanging from trees to get the idea that lots of Americans really despise people based on their race – and let’s not argue about “Mexican” being a race – to these people, it is. Freedom of religion? Gone. OK with Trump supporters. No surprise on my end – I’ve always known these people exist in droves; only Jim seems never to have heard them speak. Note to Jim: go to any column or article on any of these issues and read the comments. They will curl your hair – I hope. There you will see all the racism and bigotry you have missed all these years) But what they have done is put the GOP in a pickle. Maybe my addendum to this Magnum Opus will be titled, “I Told You So”.
Unfortunately for Conservatives, Americans, including the base of the GOP, have grown used to socialism and the welfare state. The Constitution states taxes are to be levied in order to provide for the common defense and general welfare. Over the years, the public has become used to the idea of general welfare along the lines of what Woodard dubs Yankeedom, a religiously inspired devotion to the common good, including education, health care, aid to the needy, and so on. The Social Darwinism embraced by leaders of society around the turn of the last century argues for leaving everyone to shift for themselves, in the face of the history of human institutions, which have never taken that approach, and certainly religions, which have always urged care for our brother. We must apprehend that Conservatism in the form of Movement Conservatism is about repealing the New Deal; its descendents, the conservatives, have grown dependent on it, only believing the lion’s share is going to undeserving minorities. But they are not about to give up their share.
In my World View segment I quoted Rehnquist’s majority rule rule* – if the majority does not like you, you are screwed. Fukuyama pretty much says this is what happens, either the majority or, more often, the most powerful, the elites, grab all the power leaving nothing for anyone else until the anyone else can hang them from lamp posts and take their women á la Genghis Khan. (I know that is a bit sexist but the torch and pitch fork crowd does not tend toward niceties). Fukuyama does give some examples of peaceful turnovers, but they are rare. Why must it be always thus? Because, as Fukuyama says, the elites manage to make whatever suits their needs sound like a universal truth.* Jim puts it as we are losing the mainspring of human progress, i.e. the individual and his freedom, and that is how Rome fell. Rome??!! Rome had the mainspring? And I do not believe the Swedes or the Japanese are dying to get to America; rather it is the societies dominated by elites with no interest in cultivating a decent society. This, I am sure you understand, is exactly what this is all about: do we continue funneling all the wealth to an elite and making up stories about how it is all the fault of bad family structure and an overweening federal government? Or do we juggle our vast resources to give every child an equal start? That is, do we fund all of our public schools, the bedrock of Yankeedom, balancing funding based on the particular needs of the particular school district, or do we offer up our children to private contractors and investors to make as much as they can in the name of the Free Market? When I heard that private contractors instead of U.S. military personnel were guarding our embassy in Iraq, that was my other Sarah Palin moment. Talk about Ancient Rome!! Let’s hire Chinese mercenaries to guard our nukes, the whole operation run by Haliburton.
Now for the coup de grace. Starting out as a White Liberal, I became skeptical of the value of racial integration. I saw more value in the Black community developing its own resources. I have not spoken much about problems, even pathologies, in the Black community; they certainly exist but the history of opening them up to scrutiny is just what we see with Moynihan: Oh, Blacks screw up? Oh, well then, that’s why they are not succeeding in society; it’s their own fault. (Wait until you see what Moynihan said) So people have been understandably reluctant to talk about problems so as not to have them turned on the people with the problems, but even the mention of cultural differences has been grist for the discrimination mill. It seemed to me that Blacks were wasting a lot of energy trying to fit into a society that was not interested in building community with them. That was one weakness I saw, that Blacks saw their path to success via entry into White society and fitting in. Lots of jokes about that among Black people, especially about hair. The division between the White middle class and non-Whites and the poor really came home to me in the mid-80s when I worked for Child Protective Services. I saw how the social workers had little understanding of what was going on in the lives of their clients; my successes in working with families in distress occasioned numerous conversations about how to work with people in poverty and in non-Norwegian cultures. (If I haven’t defined “Norwegian culture” yet, let me say I came up with the term as I studied the Norwegian language and recalled Garrison Keillor’s characterization of the Upper Midwest culture with its Scandinavian roots; this is a general American culture thought of by many people as emblematic of the good values of America, so it is not a specific reference to the culture of Norway). As I thought about this, I watched the conservative backlash of the 90s grow and wondered if it would be possible to separate from the Sixties cultural revolution. And then I remembered the Confederacy because survey after survey showed the marrow of conservatism ran through the Slave States. Why not redo the Constitution so that they could have their own country with the customs about religion and sex and race that so consume them? The New Confederacy would not be hampered by the Ten Amendments but would go by the Ten Commandments. If Blacks were wasting energy trying to fit into Norwegian culture, weren’t a lot of Whites (and others) wasting energy trying to conform to SCOTUS decisions on segregation, abortion, and sexual freedoms? Those Blacks who would prefer living in the New Confederacy – and I guarantee many would – could always get across the border into the U.S., but they would have to deal with all those non-Christian laws and customs. Up to them.
Let’s say the country stays together. And let’s say we live to be 120. Our great-grandchildren’s children might ask us some questions, like:
How did we manage to incarcerate 70% of the world’s prisoners with only 5% of the world’s population?
What led you to allow college costs to skyrocket out of sight even as you assured every young person they absolutely had to have a college degree and then allowing predatory banks to loan them college money, making them indentured servants? (back to Colonial America – see?)
What was in your collective minds when you let millions of poverty-stricken people into the country illegally just so you could have $5 hamburgers and get your yard mowed cheap? In England, curry is now the national dish; tacos for us?
Why in the world did you not let the U.N. inspectors linger a while in Iraq before invading, just to make sure the WMD were there? Over 4000 dead Americans, a 100,000 number at the least on Iraqi dead, a massive pile-up of veterans needing medical care, an unpaid for war shooting the national debt …… oh, sorry, that was Obama’s fault. Wasn’t there a Lyndon Johnson president guy who did the guns and butter thing? – that didn’t go well either. What was wrong with you people?
And why did Americans think back then that the Vietnamese would not fight for their country, or that the Iraqis wouldn’t….. even as you watched movies like Red Dawn showing American teenagers fighting as guerrillas against invading Russians. Did you think the Iraqis were any less than us?
Did anyone notice that school performance tracked family income?
Just what made people think that this country was for White Christians only?
To what extent were you willing to allow the police a free hand in shooting down unarmed Black men for the crime of being sassy? or just being Black?
While you were deploring Islamic terrorists, why did you not recognize your own home-grown terrorism in the form of the oldest continuous terrorist organization in the world – the KKK?
Why did Black Americans vote almost exclusively for Democrats when only a generation earlier they had voted in large numbers for Republicans, especially when Blacks fell right in line with the Republican/conservative social agenda on gay rights, military ventures, abortion, religion, on and on, on everything except one…. civil rights? After all, the Liberals’ nightmare is a faceoff between Black church ladies and gay rights activists.
They might ask, “What were you thinking?” Well, what were you?
Jim asked my thoughts on Thomas Jefferson – a great man who started having sex with his 15 year old slave girl who was the half sister of his wife. A great man – no irony intended. Recall Robert Cooper.
On Iraq I would say someone should have paid attention to the Iraqi expatriate who exited a meeting with George W. Bush just before the invasion, all wide-eyed, saying, “He knows nothing of Shiites, Sunnis, or Kurds!”
So why do so many people support this elite? The Republican rank and file, the libertarians, the independents, the disaffected, and on and on? They support the elite because the elite throws red meat to them. They ignore the approaching hunter in favor of the meat. Lillian Smith wrote her allegory of the elite rich man driving a cart with two poor men in the back, one White and one Black. She showed in the ensuing dialogue how the rich man split the two poor men so their combined power could not wrest control from him..
When we come to the conservatives, there are so many contradictions I will have a hard time in the segment on What Conservatives Think delineating their thinking. An example comes to mind: the Bundy Ranch. Cliven Bundy grazed his cattle on our land – first point of departure: it is our land, the public’s land but conservatives recognize only privately held property. We charged him a nominal fee, which he refused to pay. Eventually, glacier-like, the federal government came to collect. Suddenly this became Bundy’s land. OK. So now we have a guy who says it’s his land and he won’t pay despite signing an agreement. In normal people’s eyes, that is a contract, but not to conservatives; they are ideological: they hate the federal government and so no contract with it is valid unless it is for military service (I’m not saying any of this gratuitously – I will explain what I mean if you ask).
Then the government officials in the form of federal marshals came to collect or get his cattle off of government land aka public land aka our land and people showed up with all sorts of weapons; one guy even was sighting in on marshals with a sniper scope. I assumed they were all Black Panthers or a contingent of ISIS, but it turns out they were just good old boys out protesting. But they weren’t protesting like Black people, with signs and prayer circles – they were armed, like real Americans. As far as I’m concerned, they all should have been fired on until they surrendered to serve long jail terms. Since that didn’t happen, they went on to do it again and one of them wound up being killed. He was armed. If he hadn’t been, he might not have been shot. But I guess in that world, if you are not armed you are neither a man nor an American.
If people want smaller government, just stop asking the government for things. But what I will not permit is the sort of conservative nonsense where someone says, “I worked my way through college and paid my own way, not like these minorities” when he went to a state school and paid only a fraction of what it really cost to educate him. People do not know what the government spends or why, they only listen to commentators who tell them this and the commentators may go one way or the other, Right or Left, and it is up to the listener, the citizen, to choose which to listen to. Both are good, but you still must decide. If not, you wind up with people who think one third of GNP goes to foreign aid.
The direction a lot of people would like to go in was made obvious as soon as SCOTUS gutted the Voting Rights Act: states immediately passed voting restriction laws aimed at voters likely to vote Democratic. We knew that would happen just like conservatives knew it because they wanted to go back to the practices of the Slave States; they were just waiting.
We know all this because it has happened before. Without regulation, the country will go back to outright discrimination. Right now, the Right has to be cool and adopt the dog whistle politics Lopez describes so well in his book of that name. Rule of law, not rule by law, as Fukuyama clarifies, is what makes our country great. C/conservatives want to return to rule by custom. One thing I never understood was the Conservative emphasis on labeling our system a republic rather than a democracy. Then I learned that a republic is rule by an elite. Conservatives regard a democracy as mob rule where we lesser beings with our bad taste and questionable lineage do not have a voice. Regulations are for us, not for our betters. My wife could not figure out why she kept getting phone calls to refinance but the callers would try to get her into a subprime mortgage. Our income is top notch, our credit score is in the 800s, our record is one of home ownership almost 50 years straight – why subprime? Then she, with her finely honed Black sense of injustice, realized they were getting her race off the loan papers that ask for your race and promise never to use it except for statistics. Why are people like this not in prison? Let’s empty our prisons of marijuana smokers and fill them with these bastards. But we will never get a law against them because they write the laws. That’s a republic.
So much for morals.
Which brings me back to the quotes from Sugar in the Blood: these slave holders did not see themselves as participating in an evil anymore than those of us old enough to have lived during segregation saw ourselves as bad people. Our grandchildren might ask us what we did about it, and we might have to say, “Not much”, but even that would not make us feel bad about ourselves. A lot has been written about White guilt, something I see little of. Now I do have one example: my wife’s friend, Char. An older woman who took my wife as a friend when my wife integrated a local high school as a counselor, she and Letha became friends for many years after my wife left that school. They had lunch together and went shopping. Char was a White lady with a honey accent from the South. But one day at lunch, she broke down and cried, telling my wife that she had always felt so bad because her grandfather had owned slaves. (for those who think slavery is long in the past, think about it: this woman’s grandfather had owned slaves) My wife consoled her and said it was ridiculous to take responsibility for what her grandfather had done but wonderful of her to be so aware of how recent it was that her grandfather and my wife’s great-grandfather may have been owner and owned, that stepping back two generations, my wife’s friend might have owned my wife as a piece of property, ending my marriage to her and her ties to her children out of financial necessity or just on a whim.
This, I realize, is far outside the vision of Conservatives and especially of conservatives. In fact, conservatives insist that it is not they who are the racists but the Liberals; conservatives are colorblind, something we will discuss later.
But this certainly illustrates the vast gulf separating people who are aware of the racial gap in this country and those who, while perhaps aware, choose to ignore the gap as an inconvenient truth.
Another inconvenient truth is the gross discrepancies in every area of life based on the colonial basis of our social structure. Again, I reiterate, there are several ways of interpreting American history and mine is only one; I would say they are all valid except ones based on dogma rather than fact. American exceptionalism has been asked about and here I will just note that indeed America is exceptional, but there are three types of exceptionalism as outlined in the Wikipedia article:
First, a uniquely American ideology, “Americanism”, based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, republicanism, democracy and laissez-faire for business.
Second is the idea that America has a unique mission to transform the world
Third is the sense that its history and its mission give the United States a superiority over other nations.
My belief, my opinion, is that the first one fits me the best, although laissez-faire was not acceptable even to Adam Smith. Jim may find this definition closer to his belief/opinion in this matter:
Parts of American exceptionalism can be traced to American Puritan roots. Many Puritans with Arminian leanings embraced a middle ground between strict Calvinist predestination and a less restricting theology of Divine Providence. They believed God had made a covenant with their people and had chosen them to provide a model for the other nations of the Earth. One Puritan leader, John Winthrop, metaphorically expressed this idea as a “City upon a Hill”—that the Puritan community of New England should serve as a model community for the rest of the world. This metaphor is often used by proponents of exceptionalism. The Puritans’ deep moralistic values remained part of the national identity of the United States for centuries, remaining influential to the present day.
Perhaps it is this frame of reference that caused some of us in the grouplet to say Jim has puritan attitudes (NB: not the same as puritanical)
Part of that Puritan heritage works for me, the Yankeedom Woodard talks about in American Nations. State legislators looting pension plans does not fit with the Puritan ideal of society. Even our conservative – well, less so with the demise of Scalia – SCOTUS recognized that harm done is harm done as in the decision on housing policy where if the effect is discriminatory the intent does not enter. That is a reversal of the earlier decisions where either malice or racial epithets must be recorded for a racially discriminatory policy to be struck down. Even under that heavenly high bar, the voter restriction law in the state where Asif Mandvi of The Daily Show, a comedy show!!! got a GOP official in N.C. to say on camera (http://www.cc.com/video-clips/dxhtvk/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-suppressing-the-vote)* that “if a few lazy Blacks didn’t get to vote…… oh well”!! That is Bollick’s rule: never mention color or race so you can declare yourself colorblind and you can then discriminate with a free hand. The official broke the rule and the segment “went viral”. But he knew he was attacking the Democratic vote.
So if this GOP official sees the connection between voter suppression laws and suppressing the Democratic turnout, why would someone not get the connection between poverty and low educational outcomes? And what is unclear about the connection between poverty and the racial dynamics of the U.S.? Apparently, a lot isn’t clear and will probably remain unclear despite all evidence. All evidence is simply the result of one’s world view. That seems to be the upshot of the arguments in the exchange. Narrative, framing, paradigms, perspective, pov, and all that fall under “world view” and those with differing world view are tasked with figuring out a way to work together. Tough assignment.
Baby Boomers grew up under an expanding economy and the social and cultural explosion of the sixties. As the 90s flowed on, the strands of social and political tendencies began to harden. Sometimes it is hard for me to realize that so much of what has inundated us over the last 20 years did not exist in such rigid forms before. Horrified by the Bush administration, we nevertheless carried on only to find a President elected by a wide margin, twice, rejected by a significant portion of the electorate, primarily in the slave states. Trump, the current GOP pick, ran a campaign to delegitimize the President, something never done before. As Jon Stewart used to say on his show, rubbing his chin in thought, “Gee, what could the difference be.” Well, I can tell you it wasn’t because conservatives were prejudiced against a Black man because they are COLORBLIND!
OK, one line of sarcasm…… let me be.
In truth, a good many people were knocked off kilter by the rapidity, depth, and breadth of the changes. Jim alluded to this in mentioning he return from Germany and even that was very early in this process. By the 90s, a topsy-turvy environment had existed for some time. I have always seen the precursors to these changes and, as I mentioned before, someone even labeled my childhood Dickensian when it was actually quite nice, but I picked up on pathologies I saw and I can provide anyone with a litany of them should they want to see them. The changes in society provoked anxiety and fear – not the least of which was the depletion of the financial stability of the middle class – and those provoke anger. This has led some to dub what I call conservatives reactionaries.
Here I would like to enter a matter of perspective, one on culture. I noted in an exchange with Jim on the listserv once, having nothing to do with the topics of this essay/exchange, that he was surprised that an FSI survey found that for officers using a second language, the toughest environment to operate in was cocktail party chatter. Jim’s surprise, I would guess, comes from a couple of paradigms: one, that language is more difficult the higher the cultural content of the text is, and two, that cocktail party chatter must not be complex linguistically because the content of the speech is casual and not scientific. A similar attitude is found among people who believe academic language is harder than colloquial speech because for native speakers colloquial speech is natural and quotidian while academic speech contains words they have never encountered. In fact, academic speech, aside from specialized vocabulary, is quite predictable in its structure and regular in its cadence. Colloquial speech, OTOH, is loaded with false starts, digressions in the middle of a syntactic structure, slang and idioms and particularly heavy with idiomaticity with many inside cultural references. In addition, the acoustic environment is difficult with overlapping speech and interruptions and the clinking of ice cubes and blaring of music. Make sense?
An example of cultural change came to me recently as I was vacuuming around my drum set. Decades ago I saw a cartoon which is obsolete now: a young man sat at a drum kit, telling a young girl, “I composed this for you.” Funny at a time when drums were merely monotonous accompaniment to vapid dance music or occasional punctuation in orchestral music. But after a half century of exposure to “world music” wherein the intricacies of percussion are explored though many cultures, a drum solo and just that is perfectly to be expected. A culture change.
Now to comment on Black culture: just a story.
Our son invited us to hear a speaker at the Black Republicans of Arizona dinner. Weeping, I wrote a check to the Arizona Republican Party and ordered my dinner. Steak and something else was on the menu and my wife ordered something else while my son and I gratefully ordered steak. The steaks started coming out to this room full of people and when my wife saw ours, she told the waiter, “You know you’re going to be taking these back. Just my son and my husband like their steak this way. Black folk like their meat dead.” The waiter was a bit nonplused but went about his business. Soon waiters were scurrying back and forth, carrying those medium steaks back to the kitchen. The waiter came back and said, “You know, you were right. They’re all asking for the steaks to be cooked more.” So we laughed. (BTW, a moment a lot of people who think Blacks are so touchy about race ought to think about – the waiter himself was at first taken aback when my wife referred outright to race).
Then the speaker, Tony Brown, got up to the lectern and started with a story about a dinner in San Francisco where it was a room full of Black people, like this one. He noticed a guy scurrying from table to table as people called his name – Willy, Willy. So Brown said he asked his tablemate who this guy was, he was so popular. “Oh, that’s Willy. He’s got the hot sauce.” Brown then added over the laughter, “And I’ll bet you wished you had some hot sauce tonight.” I was reminded of that when the story about Hillary carrying hot sauce in her purse came out. But it represents the way cultural facts cannot be denied. You could probably tell the same story about White Southerners, too. Taste in food is a matter of culture and there’s nothing more cultural than food.
Perhaps it is culture, perhaps something else, what turned me so totally off to conservatives. I am not blinded by my world view. When John McCain told the lady at his rally who had said Obama was an Arab that no, he was a good family man he disagreed with, I noted the crowd of Republicans laughed at the woman. Good for McCain, good for those people who seemed, at the time, to divorce Obama the person from his policies. But then Sarah Palin came along and ridiculed Obama’s work as a community organizer in Chicago, as if it were not real work.
I thought about the horrible conditions in the South that had driven those people North, the loss of jobs throughout the Rust Belt, the slow start at trying to help people trapped in urban ghettos created by not only rapacious landlords and developers but government policies at all levels, the open prejudice and bigotry directed at Blacks in Chicago, even in my own family, and the vicious abuse of the image of the Black Chicagoan by Reagan with his evocation of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen with 10 social security numbers and as many kids…. and on and on. Such hostility directed against a whole people, worthy of the caste systems of India or Latin-America, and here Obama had worked to alleviate those pathologies that had grown in the area Blacks were restricted to, and here was Palin, an utter empty suit, deriding him to the ferocious applause of her audiences. THERE was the rise of the Tea Party, the heritors of Southern resistance.
Where will all this put us? Republicans will continue to work to reverse the New Deal and use immigrants and minorities as scapegoats; the GOP base will continue to fret over people’s sex lives and terrorists thousands of miles away while the top of the wealth heap will continue to siphon off the wealth of their nation; and Democrats will continue pretending they do not face an implacable enemy in the GOP. Clinton will be better than Obama at taking these people on and the Black community may have to face stark facts: there is nothing the federal government can do that won’t be undone in red states, so they will have to set up their own parallel systems of government, including education, health, and justice. Waiting for the police force to turn in their own officers is a non-starter. The Right will continue to besmirch the reputation of the many professional police officers by upholding the right of the rogues to shoot down minorities and the helpless. While the only Blacks I know who condemn all police are those who are criminals themselves, and even most of them praise good police work because their families need protection just like anyone’s, the free hand the Right wants to give police will gradually turn the force into a repressive one and the repression will not stop with minorities. It never does.
What can happen? This scenario seems apocalyptic, until we look at the Rust Belt, at the megafarms in California now running out of water, at the inner cities hemmed in by riot squads, at the rural areas dotted with meth labs, and at swaths of the country deserted by young people. Pretty soon those young people will head overseas as European youth are already taking jobs in India and anywhere where growth in jobs promises a decent way of life. As regions in the U.S. lose economic power, the government will abandon them, leading to unrest among the desperate unlike any urban riots seen in the last century. Post-apocalyptic novels are a booming market, perhaps foretelling a foreboding. My own pessimism increases when I look at how my son works in urban schools with teachers who have little incentive to deal effectively with youth so different from themselves. The training teachers receive does not match the challenges they face and the education system has been undermined by business people who believe high pay is why people became teachers. The next politician who walks into a classroom with that big shit-eatin’ grin on his face for the photo op should be handed the class to run…….. for the rest of day. “Alice, cancel my appointments for the rest of the day. I have to teach 39 fifth graders fractions and they don’t give a shit.” Oh, teachers do that every day but let’s cut their salaries and their retirement because if they had wanted a decent life, they would have started their own insurance company. I am reprinting Laurie Clarcq’s post on poverty because there is no way I could match it. (separate segment)
ANOTHER POV MO
Here I tread carefully because I must not conflate what Jim has said with others’ views, even though the others may appear, at least to me, to take Jim’s stance to some degree. In this segment I am particularly open to objection and correction. I will try to address Jim directly from time to time so as to separate what he says from what others say. So here goes:
At times, Jim, you seem to be moving toward a more nuanced understanding, as when you say “Unlike before the 1960s more and more opportunities are there even though the path may not be equally easy for all. An increasing number do take advantage but many do not. Again, I think that attitudes are a significant difference…. Does my focus on individual responsibility rather than remedies from government or collective society make me a proponent of the “puritan ethic?” ” The Puritan ethic stresses communal responsibility* along with the individual’s duty to adhere to a moral standard. The Puritan ethic as elaborated in colonial New England had overall influence on our society but it was two-pronged: you had individual responsibility to support, for instance, public education for all, not the disgusting travesty we have now where my granddaughter’s school raised enough money in two weeks for every student to have an I Pad while my son-in-law’s district had to go to a four day week and my son’s district has to give food out to the community rather than the community giving the school I Pads. Puritans would not stand for these latter situations.
You state your view may not be Politically Correct* but we are not worried about that. P.C. was invented by the Right during the culture wars to complain about policies against overt expressions of hate meant to intimidate. Intimidation is wrong and it is not P.C. for a university to make it an offense to call people names since the same holds in public off campus. I can’t just walk up to you out of the blue and call you a name – I am sure there is a better term for it but “disturbing the peace” certainly comes to mind. You were born in 1933, I almost ten years later; if someone walked up to either one of us in line at the store and yelled, “Get out of the way, old man, you’re too slow and I’m in a hurry,” the manager would most certainly, to preserve peace in the store and not upset other customers, ask the idiot to desist. If the idiot persisted, the police would be called. That is how the campus rules started; what the Right did not like was that the harassment of minority students was interfered with because the Right feels like those students do not belong – note the late Justice Scalia’s preference that Black students attend schools where the pace is “slower”.
But let’s look more closely at an issue you raise throughout the exchange, the happenings in Ferguson, MO. Let’s leave Michael Brown out of the equation and look at what the DOJ found in Ferguson: a pattern of raising money through traffic stops, many of which were bogus, abetted by a court system which covertly changed court dates, etc. so as to make it difficult for cited drivers to settle the violation or fight it. These delays then resulted in even larger fines. The city ran on these fines. So far we have avoided looking at this in terms of race, Black and White, Negro and Caucasian, all of those lens you object to. But how then do we explain the fact – not interpretation, not alternate framing, not an obsolete paradigm, and not the result of someone’s world view – but a fact that the burden of these practices fell overwhelmingly on the relatively poor population of Blacks in Ferguson? Just wondering how you explain that without looking through a lens of racial profiling and discrimination.
Where was the oversight to prevent such a distortion of the rule of law? C/conservatives are always preaching about law and order, why does it apply only to protestors or minorities, why not to the Ferguson P.D. and City Council. Those are the things we Liberals do not apprehend. When we point these things out we are called bleeding hearts operating out of a P.C. mentality. This situation in Ferguson was clearly rule BY law, not rule OF law. So where is American Exceptionalism in all this?
My wife just passed on a joke a friend told her. This friend is an 84 year old church lady, quintessential Black church lady, hat and all, she’s so cute. Her joke went like this: a Black man was on a big ship. Someone asked him if he thought he would ever be captain of the ship. “Yeah, when it’s sinking,” he replied. The sister then joked that that is what happened to Obama: he got the country when the Republicans had put it in the tank economically, militarily, educationally, and in our foreign policy. The Onion, a satirical magazine, came out with this headline when Obama was elected: Worst Job In Country Given To Black Man, and from day one the GOP swore to make his job impossible, with Mitch McConnel leading the way. To reiterate, the mindset is beyond my grasp……… or perhaps I should say world view. Had the GOP worked with the Democrats, the country would have rebounded faster. As it is, we are in better shape now than ever, yet the conservatives claim just the opposite. These are facts, measurable facts: GNP, unemployment, insured, deported, executive orders, troops overseas, national debt……… and yet conservatives say every one of them is just the opposite. So are you on the side of fact or of ideology?
Jim says poverty stricken communities need role models and that is our last hope*, yet we have seen how jobs, not just money, although Jim admits money helps*, but real jobs allow a mother and a father, together or not, to support the family. We’ll get to this issue of family structure momentarily. But the investigation of pathology among youth in the South on an Indian Reservation had to be terminated because a casino went in and provided jobs and the pathologies diminished to within normal limits. Other such adventitious occasions have demonstrated the power of a good economy on family structure. That is not to deny the power of role models. Jim asks why such role models are often derided or accused of not respecting the culture and I would refer anyone to Carl Hart’s book. High Price, where he tackles this business about Black kids who do well in school being accused of acting White; Hart pinpoints the problem: it is not kids who succeed in school who are pounced on but those who act like they are better. That is normal in any community. The popular Will Smith sit-com Fresh Prince contrasted the kid from the hood (Smith) with Carlton, his preppy cousin (Alfonso Ribeiro) and his daffy, Valley-Girl sister, Hillary (Karen Parsons). Parsons was interviewed and had a hilarious take on her role. It’s the superior attitude that gets under your skin.
Because it is so long, I am going to place a post to Jim from Laurie Clarcq in a separate segment or document. I don’t mean to poison the well, using the term of logic opposite of its meaning, i.e. set you up by praising the source, but Laurie is summed up as a person and a teacher in one word: wonderful. I urge you to read her post to Jim on what poverty looks like in the classroom. It leaves a sense of desolation and makes one wish that Jim were right, that role models would do the trick.
Before going further, I would like to state some positive things about Jim and this exchange, not to “poison the well” but to balance my own focus on my disagreements with Jim and my distaste for C/conservative positions in general. Outstanding is Jim’s perseverance in staying with this exchange in the face of hostility toward his ideas on my part. I take umbrage with his characterization in a post to his instructor of the positions of others in this group as “divisive, militant, extreme” and so on*. There will be plenty of that in my Parvum Opus but I think Jim may have been taken aback by the vehemence – and vehemence is the word – of our reaction to things he says. Nevertheless, Jim has stated over and over that he wants to understand and to be understood. That is head and shoulders above what most people bring to the table. He stated initially, “You may remember that after our discussion a year or more ago, I started to think about the concept of differing world views to explain how intelligent, educated and experienced individuals can have such different points of view on some subjects. A world view develops over time based on our experience and how we interpret it, our personal world view is a window through which we view the word around us and is rather resistant to change….” Here Jim included most of the elements I have thought go into making a person take one stance or another in a predictable way. We suffer when someone labels us, but I have taken many little thumbnail surveys and always come out very Liberal, consistently so. I find strange someone who doesn’t, as if they reflect on little and have no bedrock values and perspectives. So I think this is an important issue: how we think about things, and Jim has bemoaned the divided state of our body politic and even of the society and culture to some extent. He brought up Kate Smith; my Kate Smith is Aretha Franklin. Why does our society divide over silly matters like singing traditions or hair styles or fashion or dance or language………? The list goes on and on of controversies that often divide along lines consistent with political lines. Jim has been very patient in dealing with my Liberalism and that needs to be acknowledged.
Speaking of fashion, I wonder when they’ll bring the codpiece back.
Here’s how I track the trajectory of Jim’s arguments: policies over the last few decades and in particular over the last ten years (Obama) have resulted in not only no diminution in the poverty rate but a great deal of unfairness and divisiveness in the society. Authority has been compromised and institutions have been undermined. Figures like Obama have sown discord, usually along racial lines, and abetted a sense of victimization and learned helplessness among the poor, especially poor minorities. The chief actors in this process has been the Democratic policies from the War on Poverty on, the civil rights leaders called “race hustlers”, and the universities where radical thought is preeminent and dissenting opinion from the Right is silenced by P.C. policies. In addition, within the Black community a sense of racial entitlement and hostility has resulted in calls for separation from the dominant culture and society and vituperation toward fellow Blacks who do not fall in line with this agenda.
One thing I noted about Jim’s take on this: he resolutely restricts the diagnosis of pathology to poor Blacks; Blacks who are not poor either see pathology among poor Blacks or jump on the bandwagon of racial injustice to promote themselves in some way, e.g. college professors, authors, politicians, etc. So back to this charge of racism that so often hangs over these discussions: nothing in this argues for a racial angle on Jim’s part, it’s all about poor Blacks, particularly inner-city Blacks, trapped in a cycle of poverty. Where it might attract charges of a racist attitude, incorrectly IMHO, is where Jim attributes a lot of the pathology to Black family structure. He follows Moynihan and others in delineating the pernicious effects of what has been called the “culture of poverty”. For Jim, I believe, this gets tied into Black identity.
To some extent, I agree with Jim in that I have often heard African-Americans describe Black culture and Black life in terms of poverty. I think a distinction can and should be made. Lots of people I know personally came up in a Black environment of poverty and took advantage of the changes wrought by the Civil Rights Movement (and Liberal policies) to gain middle class status but maintain their footing in Black culture and society. I referred in my posts and in my blog frequently to the markers of that in my personal experiences.*
And there is Jim’s biggest weak spot and he agrees with that.* His lack of familiarity with the Black community allows him to draw inappropriate conclusions. One example is the so-called Black tables at universities, something trumpeted by foes of Black rights, which in fact, on the ground, was the action of a mere handful of people back in the 70s and was and is irrelevant to anything. Another is the inability on Jim’s part to see over 50 years the changes wrought in the very poor, uneducated congregation of one Black church. From a high school diploma at best 50 years ago to Ed.D.s and Ph.D.s today and from families restricted to slum neighborhoods and poor schools to living wherever they can afford. The stats on Blacks indicate they are the most religious ethnicity in America, so you just are not going to find a lot of these Al Sharpton/Louis Farrakhan followers so beloved of Fox News, and certainly no Black Panthers.
Which brings me to another point of dissension: the reading of protest movements among African-Americans in a way distinct from that of movements among Whites. Among Blacks a fringe group like the Muslims or the Panthers is seen as a real threat, but the KKK and similar organizations among Whites are called………. fringe groups. What is emblematic for one ethnicity is seen as inconsequential for another despite the fact that no Black group has done to America what Timothy McVeigh did. And how about murderers of abortion providers? Where is the alarm over anti-abortion groups who say murder is in order? And the Christian groups who have declared that lying in the defense of their Truth is not a sin and is in fact called for?* Why does Fox News not hold forth on these issues or have someone from the Southern Poverty Law Center on (maybe they have, let me know)?
Now if I have misrepresented your views Jim, let me know so we can go over this. You cite Moynihan a lot as a way of placing the onus for poverty and social pathology onto Black family structure and attitudes. Let me show you why we Liberals don’t cotton much to Moynihan. To quote you:
” I will read the article as soon as I can get to it. I have one question in advance. Does the author show how having a father resident in the home does not contribute significantly to family income and wellbeing as well as being a valuable positive role model for male children and a reinforcement on control of all the children so they grow up in a way that optimizes their future well being? Does she also show that the studies showing that not dropping out of school, not having children early and before marriage and not becoming involved in criminal or other anti-social behavior are the best predictors of the future for children from poor families are erroneous?”
To quote Moynihan: “…. the mother is forced to work (as the Negro mother so often is), when the father is incapable of contributing support (as the Negro father so often is), when fathers and mothers refuse to accept responsibility for and resent their children, as Negro parents, overwhelmed by difficulties, so often do, and when the family situation, instead of being clear-cut and with defined roles and responsibility, is left vague and ambiguous (as it so often is in Negro families).
And “a community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future – that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, disorder…that is not only to be expected, but they are very near to inevitable. And it is richly deserved.”
To top it all off: “At this point… the present tangle of pathology is capable of perpetuating itself without assistance from the white world.”
If anyone asks, I can unpack all this, but my point in printing it out was to show the picture of Black people – oh yes, this is just the poor Blacks, but I could say a lot about that, too – that Jim and others who imbibe the Right-wing vitriol against Black people receive. That picture is so distorted and inapplicable to the lives of people now that the best I can do is refer you to a similar academic position of the early 60s, the so-called “cultural deficit” model wherein Black children were considered lacking in the tools for normal ratiocination because they lacked the copula in predicate nominative sentences. Such ignorance of both linguistics and Black people is not forgivable and the “theory” soon found itself in the dust bin of history, where it belonged.
I do not equate Moynihan’s formulation of the problem in poor, inner-city Black populations with the cultural deficit model, although they are of a piece, and he did try to bring attention to the problem of distressed families and did cast the blame on racism in the past, but it was without doubt a way of giving an out to policy makers dealing with calls for remedies to social and economic problems. Not long after this, Goldwater, Nixon, and Wallace began using the dog whistle politics Lopez speaks of – crime in the streets, law and order, respect for the law, foreshadowing the “underclass” and “super predators” of the Clinton era. Moynihan has given the Right the ammunition it needs to wash its hands of predatory practices in Black communities by municipal authorities as in Ferguson, criminal negligence as in Flint, racially coded applications in employment agencies, Blacks targeted by subprime mortgage lenders, etc. Gingrich, Santorum and many more have continued the battle cry against Blacks, supplemented by Trump’s rapists and King’s cantaloupe calves targeting Hispanics. Kevin Phillips, a mover in the Southern Strategy which so divided this country, is appalled at the direction things have taken (what did he think would happen?). But many of us, along with Malcolm X, cry, “The chickens have come home to roost!” and the roost is Trump.
Here’s another issue Jim raises which I could unpack: education. In the exchange, despite the whole having started over the relationship between poverty and education, not much has been said, but Jim presumes the following shocking scenario: “Our public school system provides a free education sometimes with other support, such as free food, etc. so the lack of money can’t be the basic excuse. Other excuses can be offered for most cases, also and many are understandable but that does not make them right. I could unpack this because both my son and son-in-law work in disgustingly underserved and under resourced districts and I worked for years with families in distress, but I will refer you instead to Laurie’s eloquent post re poverty in the classroom and just note that when you put a child in an impoverished school you send a message to him as to his worth. What Jim says about free food and so forth is just silly. Jim’s use of the word excuses gives me pause, but it is notoriously common for people to read “explanations” as “excuses”. When I say a child didn’t take his textbook home because he has ADHD, I am not excusing the behavior, I am explaining it so we can do something about it. Punishment is not the answer.
At this point I would like to interject another topic: punishment. In the segment What Conservatives Think I will deal more with this doctrine in C/conservative thought that advances punishment as the response to unwanted behavior or the lack of desired behavior. Murders will stop if we punish murderers. They don’t. So then we have to punish even harder. The same with kids who don’t do their homework. The same with kids with learning disabilities. This notion that punishment works has been belied over and over but it has a hold on the American consciousness that is tenacious. This approach to school behavior has led in part to what Michelle Alexander calls the school to prison pipeline. When Deasy of L.A. Unified School District struck the category “willful defiance” off the discipline referral form, not only were fewer Black students expelled, more entered AP classes (I don’t have a citation for this other than Deasy saying it on a TV program: I’ve called for confirmation of this). I cannot go into the aspects of Black and Norwegian culture that result in this war between White teachers and Black students because it is very complex, although I can cite several works on the subject that are enlightening and I did a presentation on it at ACTFL that was very well attended (Thirty Years of Black Culture in the Classroom, part of the SIG presentations). A reliance on punishment has led to insane zero tolerance policies and tied the hands of skillful teachers, counselors and administrators.
An article in The Washington Post in 2011 reported on the disparate rates of school suspensions in terms of race: “71 percent of suspensions for insubordination, a relatively rare offense in the county, were handed out to black students. African Americans make up 21 percent of students in Montgomery’s schools.” Further: “In Maryland and Virginia, as in many other places, one of the most common causes of student suspensions are what many call “soft” — or discretionary — infractions: disrespect, defiance, insubordination, disruption and foul language.” One administrator opined, “As for why the race gap exists, “I think some of it is cultural sensitivity, believe it or not,” she said. Research had startling results: “In that research, African American students were more likely to be suspended for discretionary offenses and less likely than whites to be suspended for severe violations, such as selling drugs or bringing a gun to school.“If they are not involved with the more-serious offenses as often as whites are, what’s going on with those discretionary offenses?” said study co-author Michael Thompson, of the Council of State Governments Justice Center.”
This took me back to James’ outrage at the defiant student in S.C. whom the police officer yanked out of her chair for not getting off her cell phone. Pardon me while I lapse for a moment into a soliloquy that belongs more in the “What Conservatives Think” segment, but I see this raising of authority to sacred status never to be defiled by defiant youngsters as very typical of Conservatives and at the heart of their outrage at protestors against any sort of authority. Jim has a peculiar formulation of stages people supposedly go through in the relation to authority and he cites Gandhi and King as protesting against illegitimate authority as if at the time the authority were not legitimate. I am too young to remember Gandhi but I very clearly recall the vituperation heaped upon King and his followers for daring to stand up to properly constituted authority, which is exactly what they were doing. Here is what Young Americans for Freedom put out on King in 1968. The group was national and presumably this was penned by the best and the brightest of them:
“If the law can be disregarded, and if a lawbreaker can receive a Nobel Peace Prize and White House recognition, then why should the law be respected by the man in the street? If the government can loot by force, then why should people, conditioned to handouts by Dr. King’s philosophy, use the intermediary of government? Why not look directly? … The tragedy is that the stupid legislation continues, and government refuses to seek solutions to poverty and race relations within the private sector.”*
This, I believe, is as current today in Republican and C/conservative thought as it was then. The fact that the laws were not being disregarded but challenged by willingness to go to jail for breaking them; that King received recognition because he turned back people like me with my AK-47 School of Social Change tendencies (see Fukuyama); that the man in the street in their mind was White and was not being told he could not eat or pee in a public establishment or vote or live wherever he could afford; that King urged equitable distribution of aid – in 1968 I was told by older coworkers in the welfare office that minorities had only recently begun receiving assistance – and that the solutions from the private sector would then be coming from the very sector that had erected high walls against Black access…… these facts were skipped over by these young Americans so dedicated to freedom they were happy to deny it to others, in the name of private property of course.
Let me foam at the mouth a bit more: at my school, the police came to address the faculty about gang activity and upset the apple cart when they identified the most dangerous gang on campus as the White Power gang, not the Mexican gangs which the faculty so despised. What could be done in situations like these? The girl in S.C. threatened no one, she simply wanted to talk on her phone, something not allowed in the classroom and something all of us school teachers have dealt with a lot. When the girl was defiant, and I understand she had lost her mother and was in foster care, the routine is to call in a counselor to sit with the girl and talk with her. Jim’s concern seems more to be upholding authority than dealing with a child. We see this over and over among C/conservatives: school kids, especially minority school kids, are seen as either compliant or a nuisance to be got rid of. That certainly was true among the faculty at my school where one teacher asked about “the problem of minorities on campus” when my daughter was a student there. How was she a problem? But that is how so many White people see minority kids: it had to be the Mexicans at the top of the dangerous gang list, not those individuated, familiar, “normal” acting White kids. If the faculty had paid attention to the black doll hung in effigy on campus, maybe they would not have been so surprised at the P.D.’s diagnosis of our gang problem.
I realize this line of thinking, what Jim might call a difference in world views, infuriates C/conservatives because we are excusing bad behavior. The other huge insult is the notion that White teachers might need some instruction in other cultures. It is doubly insulting because #1 they are professionals and #2 the cultural explanation is just another excuse to mollycoddle kids, especially minority kids, and falls within the purview of political correctness. As professionals, we know that even kids like Michael Brown do not function the way an adult does and we supposedly make allowance for that. The real issue here is the right to question authority. Why would refusal to stop talking on a cell phone warrant an arrest? To me, and this is certainly my perspective on it, the key is a note that the school district had fairly recently undergone a large increase in the number of Black students, the same thing that happened with Mexican-American and Mexican students at my school. The teachers started their careers with mostly Anglo students and now were trapped in the school due to salary increases and could not leave and yet were dealing with students they were uncomfortable with. One lady confided in me she was afraid of her Black and Hispanic students and was ashamed of that. Neither scolding her for feeling that way or demanding total submissive compliance from a teenager do any good. Professional judgment is called for but I just do not believe…………… well, I’ll save that for my Parvum Opus.
ONE MORE THING….. I do not mean to imply at any level that the Black community does not have “issues”, as they say today. It is a constant topic in conversations at my house. What I rail against is the lack of knowledge, the distortions, and the lies about the Black family. Moynihan, perhaps against his intent, provided C/conservatives with a way out, an excuse, for his infamous benign neglect.
You wrote, Jim, that you sense I see any view different from my own to be wrong and the result of not seeing the world correctly.* For me, the word “view” is the key. Look at my segment, What Conservatives Think”. You will see that I acknowledge there are world views, perspectives, points of view, paradigms, and so forth different from my own and I do not propose to condemn them except on the basis of their outcomes. For instance, the world view that stresses personal responsibility is not one I find myself in bed with exactly, but any sane person acknowledges that personal responsibility is the bedrock of personal integrity. But that is not how C/conservatives use it. They make it sound like anyone receiving state assistance is not exercising personal responsibility, viz. Romney’s quote so destructive to his campaign about the 47%. The person who surreptitiously recorded him was a worker in the hotel, a Republican, who was appalled at what Romney was saying. He could have lost his job but had the courage working people really need to call these people out. Just as White Americans had finally had enough when they saw what happened on the Edmund Pettus bridge, many of us got fed up with this GOP war on average Americans who are not wealthy enough to get a loan from our parents to start a business. (Hey Dad, before you leave for your second shift at WalMart today, can you advance me ten thousand bucks to start a business? I’ll have Mom sign the check when she gets back from her Burger King job) What do we say to hedge fund managers who haven’t seen their kids in two weeks and then take them to a hotel for quality time only to spend all the time on the phone? Where’s personal responsibility there, especially when their kids wind up on drugs? Why do only the poor and working class get hammered like this?
At one point, Jim appears to be completely out of touch with the lives of normal people. He writes, “I doubt that you will find people with families working for a minimum wage. If they are, then there’s something more serious than wages going on. They would be receiving full-time assistance and food stamps.” Am I the only one to find this perspective on working people’s lives ludicrous? Now I will interject something extraneous once more but only because it seems to be the source of Jim’s misapprehension: I doubt very much Fox News ever showed the interviews with minimum wage workers one sees on MSNBC and, I would imagine, CNN. Fox labels such people as …………. well, in the past in these exchanges, Jim has sworn he has never heard a conservative or libertarian* say such things, but I have heard this stuff my whole life, that these people are dregs, losers, inadequate, and so on. In one memorable debate, two pairs of experts on personal finance were debating the advisability of changing the bankruptcy laws. Those in favor argued for a better understanding of what working people go through; the other pair dutifully went along with it for a while, but then finally exploded with, “Well, if you want to subsidize a bunch of free-loaders…..” Their underlying feelings came out under pressure. One young woman, when confronted with the vast amount of wealth some few people had, said, “They worked hard for that money,” as if other people didn’t work hard, too. And Rand Paul said, ““Rand Paul: Income Inequality Comes From ‘Some People Working Harder’ Than Others” We all end up working for people who are more successful than us,” the presidential hopeful said. Is this a misquote, a misinterpretation? The harder you work the more you make? That the principal I worked for was more successful than me? I am not asking you to say whether or not you agree with Paul but just to admit people DO say these things.
Back to Jim’s lack of familiarity with the Black community: he states he did not hear phrases like “institutional racism” or “white privilege” on the campus of Black colleges and universities where his wife worked. This is a problem with discourse. Few Black people use such terms; those terms are what one might call terms of art in analyzing social issues. It would be like expecting the average person to use “hegemony” in discussing world politics; it is not part of the normal vocabulary. What the people who come up with what amount to technical vocabulary try to do is find a succinct way of expressing an entire complex of concepts in a word. That is helpful in discussing issues among the cognoscenti such as public intellectuals, commentators, academics, and so forth, but unpacking the meanings, multiple meanings of these words, is some rough sledding. However, that does not mean that African-Americans do not discuss discrimination, discrepancies in treatment, etc., they just don’t use such specialized terms; they might say, “Some guy there was acting funny, you know,” and everyone knows what he means. And another major factor, in my estimation and experience: many African-Americans are loathe to bring up racial issues with Whites. I could fill this so-called essay – really more of a book at this point – with instances where attitudes toward my wife changed drastically when she brought up a racial issue, and not gratuitously but when, for example, the high school staff was allowing a Black student to wander the hallways and be out of class because, “Oh, that’s just Marcy,” as if Marcy did not need an education. Any challenge to the authority of Whites when they are dealing with Blacks is interpreted as an affront; therefore, many Blacks do not risk their disapproval and opprobrium.
Continuing with this, I note that Jim writes, “This of course assumes that Blacks can see something in the American culture that is good as opposed to all bad.” The troubling sense of that is the separation between Blacks and American culture. That may not be what Jim meant to imply, but it is stated as if Black Americans are looking at some general American culture from the outside. I assume, as I have a right to, that Jim got a good picture of the deep penetration of American culture on the part of Blacks in his course on Black History. I use the term Norwegian culture in a tongue-in-cheek manner to indicate that generalized American culture portrayed in sit-coms and dramas of the 50s and 60s, a sort of upper Midwest culture. It is worth noting that while the Germans came to the U.S. early on, the biggest wave, I believe, was around the middle of the 19th century, and the actual Norwegians about the same time, whereas Africans came to these shores in 1619, and in large numbers over time. We can even identify some of the seed cultures in West Africa: Wolof, Mende, and so on. Africans, like Germans, Scots, English, Italians, Irish, and a number of other ethnicities made up a big part of the founding of this country, and Africans were there with the first load of bricks…. unloading them.
And another theme recurrent throughout Jim’s posts: that hatred of Whites pervades the Black community. Jim does cite specific personalities on this, but I sense that he sees those personalities as having a broad and deep influence on Black society. Laughable. Few Blacks I know, unless they have an education in the Liberal Arts, think much about those matters. Back in the day, when I often encountered Blacks who wanted to ask me questions like “why do White people…..” due to the isolation imposed by segregation, and today when most Blacks interact with Whites regularly, I seldom encounter expressions of hostility. I think wariness would be a better word, like the story about the man who thought he’d be captain of the ship only when it was sinking. I will remind you though that in attending funerals even of fairly young people (40s and 50s), I am surprised at how few Whites show up. To quote Jim again, he says Blacks “This is a good step away from viewing….” Blacks who want to work with Whites as accommodationists. *While in the political realm such views might be found, for sure, generally in the Black community it has been accepted that you need to work with everybody to everybody’s benefit. Views like those of Tony Brown I mentioned earlier are carefully crafted political positions and are not commonly expressed by the average Black person. Jim concedes that most of his impressions of this have come from TV shows presenting political view points. I have urged him to view at least one of Tavis Smiley’s State of the Black Union colloquia for a broad sampling of Black elite opinion and Spike Lee’s movie Get On The Bus for an excellent portrayal of the spectrum of attitudes in the Black community
OTOH, we must not pretend that Black Americans are in a position to ignore race. Whatever some pundits may assert, Black hostility toward Whites occurs only as an appendage of something else: a political stance, a self-appointed militant stance, as part of justification for aggressing against a White person, and so on, but not free-floating hostility. BUT, there is free-floating hostility toward Blacks on the part of a lot of other people in the country. Some of it is misunderstanding, as when Korean female store clerks will not put change into a Black person’s hand, not because they are Black but because a female must not touch a male in the Korean culture. But Blacks had come from the South where it was taboo for a White person to touch a Black person. Or it could be the result of the fear I have described extensively seeping through the consciousness of White people over the centuries of slavery, like the teacher I mentioned. This juncture in the discussion is where Jim and I diverge significantly since he denies this hostility toward Blacks, real or perceived. The dynamic is more than complex and needs another Magnum Opus to dissect.
In trying to get Jim to see what happens currently, I feel like I am in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – no progress. And in reading Jim’s arguments and comparing them to what Ian Haney Lopez outlines in his book, I wonder if Jim has imbibed more of the Right wing Kool-Aid than he should have. I am just not sure. Denial runs rampant. Public Policy Polling shows only 14% of GOP voters believe Obama is Christian and only 29% that he was born in the U.S. Therefore, 86% did not think or doubted he was Christian and 70% did not believe or doubted he was born in the U.S. How’s that for “I’ve never heard anyone express those things”? Not referring to those specifically Jim – to address you directly – but generally you deny ever having heard the crap I grew up with and I think everyone in this country grew up with. It is all over the place and Trump has opened Pandora’s box, egging on paranoid fantasies about ISIS, illegal aliens, the media, and an impossibly long list of calumnies and idiocies. If you deny it, turn on your TV set or read a newspaper, but not something that will whitewash the filth and hate that this demagogue has given free rein to.
Another area you have stressed, Jim, is Black Lives Matter. And that is an area where you and just about every Black parent are in total disagreement. You want to “punish” cops who unlawfully shoot Black people or any people but you are unwilling to confront an ugly truth, that even the good police officers, the vast majority of the police force, are reluctant to come forth regarding misdeeds by a fellow officer. And anyone who protests such shootings is quickly labeled by the media on the Right as “anti-cop” – Fox News in particular was egregious in this over the rally attended by Tarantino. conservatives insist Tarantino said all cops are murderers when his comments are available for all to hear and he spoke against police officers who violate the law and shoot citizens when it is uncalled for – and prosecutors should go after them but often do not because they need the police in order to do their job and they work closely with the police and not with the communities they serve.
The same with Black Lives Matter: they are calling for steps to reduce the number of African-Americans shot by the police or otherwise unlawfully attacked. You yourself, Jim, have admitted that some cases like the Chicago one are clear violations of the law. We have had a spate of films of police brutality and we have to wonder if those violations of law just started occurring about the same time cell phones came equipped with cameras .Unlikely.
And so Black parents know that there is a much, much greater chance of their child encountering a police officer, no matter his ethnicity, who does not like Black people than of a White parent’s child encountering a police officer who will risk his career and freedom in order to shoot down a White kid. It is just like Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: Black people always knew those were Jefferson’s descendents, just as they know they have to prepare their children to deal with the occasional rogue officer who can end their child’s life. What you would say, and I take this from all your other objections, is that it is just a matter of people looking at everything in terms of race, not that Black people are much more likely to be shot by the police and much more so in the slave states. Connection? You betcha. Just like the teachers, we have to train police officers to go for actual criminal behavior and not “sass”. That’s why it pains me that so few presenters on African-American culture deal with this: Black people do not talk like White people, for the most part. It’s called different things but scholars have studied these cultural differences and they can be addressed in training. It is one thing to accuse Blacks of being antagonistic, it is another for a policeman to infer antagonism where none is present. A language blog had a long discussion of Sandra Bland and her speech in her encounter with the officer in Texas. Seldom do we find such discussions, partly because Blacks do not like emphasizing difference because it has been used to justify discrimination. But don’t tell Black parents there is no problem: they will laugh at you. It’s called “having the talk”; you might call it raising the specter of race and we parents of Black kids call it saving our child’s life. (BTW, in meetings of parents of autistic kids this fear comes up – will an officer perceive my child as erratic and dangerous?)
I have asked my “questions of C/conservatives”, so let me quickly answer a few questions Jim posed to us which I may not have addressed elsewhere.
Re the Iran Deal – top people who are not Neocons think it’s good, including many top Israeli military people. We may have to wait and see. I remember a Right winger who swore that Gorbachev was setting us up for a sneak attack. So far, no ICBMs.
Israeli-Palestinian mess – I stopped engaging with it over forty years ago, as soon as I realized both sides claimed God was on their side. Nonsense.
Americans Exceptionalism – I think I covered this, but to underscore the high point: our political system may not be perfect, but the Founding Fathers laid the groundwork for all the good stuff that followed. They did not think it a supernatural effort and I scoff at claims of the blessings of some god that are conferred on only thus. The pride of sin, remember?
Climate change – sadly, we just may live long enough to see incontrovertible proof of it.
ISIS – a combination of insurgency and terrorist group. It claims Islamic inspiration but captives say they saw little evidence of religious motivation. I spoke of a chat I had with an oil company operative who bragged about suborning state officers in third world countries; what do you think our run-of-the-mill working guy would do with an operative from China or Saudi Arabia who tried to skirt our laws? These practices feed recruits into Islamic and Jihadist groups and demagogues in the West then paint all Muslims with that broad brush to garner votes. And thus the circle of hatred and revenge revolves upon itself.
Sharia Law – non-existent in the U.S. system but I recall commenting in one of our exchanges that similar religious courts exist in the U.S. in the Jewish faith and no one complains of that.
Thomas Jefferson – a brilliant man of his times.
O.J. – he did it.
Let me know if I missed anything.
Oh, the Father/Daughter talk thing: that’s an old one. Compare apples to oranges and claim wisdom. It’s stupid. Period. God, do we have to go into how nations have governments which need money to run which they get through taxation which provides the physical and human environment in which business can operate? I just have no patience for this.
And then the straw men: one excerpt: If a conservative doesn’t like guns, he doesn’t buy one – if a liberal doesn’t like guns, he wants all guns outlawed. I was on my school rifle team. I think man-killers should be carefully licensed and controlled, aka handguns, and military-grade weapons belong in the military, period. We could go on forever but it’s a moot point: there are too many guns out there and anyone with a wild hair up his ass can get one. Do you really think executing murderers will stop murder? That also is stupid……….. and the same for the rest of those straw men like we Liberals want the mention of God and Jesus silenced – fat chance with a church on every corner. But put in one mosque and the whole place goes up in outraged flames. Dumb, dumb, dumb…….. and unconstitutional. Oh, and the last one: If a conservative reads this, he’ll forward it so his friends can have a good laugh. A liberal will delete it because he’s “offended”. Yes, we Liberals are so offended because we are milquetoasts. That’s why I do not intervene as we are told to when someone tells a “joke”, and then another one, closer to the edge, and finally we get to the hilarious nigger and kike jokes. I just let it roll. One Baptist at work, when I told him I was at church the other day, was all surprised that I went to church…. after all, I’m a Liberal and Liberals hate God. So I soothed him by explaining it was a Unitarian-Universalist church and he said, “Oh, believe in everything and in nothing”. I did not act offended because he is an ignorant (though very nice) man but I wondered what would have happened had I said, “And you Baptists believe Mary didn’t fuck but still got a baby – I knew several girls in high school who tried that one”. He was the same person who got wide-eyed when I said the National Baptist Convention had come out in support of Clinton in the Lewinski scandal and then soothed him again by noting they are a Black organization and he just said, “Oh”, as if Black Baptists aren’t really Baptists. Thank god racism is dead.
You can find all the sermons by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright you want on YouTube, but you might listen to his speech at the Press Club because I remember it and like it. You will probably a lot that is highly objectionable, and it will give you an idea of what I like about more militant figures in the Black community like Farrakhan, Jackson, Shaprton, and many others. I do agree with them and just wish more Black people were roused to do something about the situation where Black youth receive inferior health care, inferior education, inferior justice, and on and on. What they do now is try to make it out as individuals. Why not reach back and pull up? Be careful though because sometimes the poor and uneducated can be like crabs in a bucket, pulling down the ones about to make it out of the bucket. That’s a sad fact about all oppressed groups.
And I haven’t dealt with what happens when people are released from prison. And what happens in prisons. There is so much there but it is a broad problem in a society which still believes in the power of punishment.
Let me end this segment with a question: what was the reason for the strong reaction against Obama, the Tea Party being the most obvious excresence? When Lincoln was elected, S.C. fired on Fort Sumter without bothering to find out what Lincoln might do. Knowing him now as we do, we might expect him to compromise with the South, limiting but not ending slavery. But the South could not tolerate this slap in the face to their honor, this threat to their power over their Negroes and the chance to expand their slavocracy. To me, the reaction to Obama came about because a lot of people saw his election and elevation to the Presidency as a stain on the honor of the country, a nigger in the White House. That is how I read it and still read it.
What Conservatives Think
- xxiii The Portable Conservative Reader, Russell Kirk ed. & author of introduction::
“Thus an American political conservative , at least as the term is employed popularly, is a person who believes strongly that the old patterns of American society ought not to be much altered. Typically, such a person holds by the Constitution, maintainling that it should be strictly interpreted; he endeavors to oppose the drift toward political centralization; he dislikes organizations on the grand scale, in government, in business, and industry, in organized labor; he is a defender of private property; he resents the heavy increase of taxation and many of the “transfer payments” of the welfare state; he is unalterably opposed to the Communist ideology and the aspirations of the Soviet Union; he sighs, or perhaps shouts, O tempora O mores! at the decay of private and public morality. ”
The above was presumably written in the very early 80s, long after the Civil Rights Movement’s heyday, and so was presumably written with that in mind. I realize that to some I might seem to be playing a one-note samba, but I am by no means the only person to see race as a crucial element and motivator in the conservative movement and this passage shows delectably how the big C and little c C/conservatives interact. What are those “old patterns”? Might they be segregation of the races? If holding by the Constitution is so important, why not apply it to everybody? Is voting not a primary right in this country? How strict to interpret the Constitution in the light of changing tempora and mores? The drift toward political centralization came, IMHO, because local governments abrogated or nullified those rights. My own ignorance was exposed when I thought MLK was just using big words when he referred to nullification and interposition, only to find out they are technical terms labeling the actions of the slave states aka the White South. If the conservative doesn’t like organizations on the grand scale, why does he vote the way the Koch Brothers want him to? Private property is to be defended until the freeways go through and then they find their way through poor neighborhoods. The heavy taxation has been drastically lowered and the wealthy don’t pay the real taxes they are obligated for but hire lawyers who use the tax code to reduce their liability. Of course, the welfare state is all about transferring the hard earned tax dollars of White Americans to undeserving minorities……… and Jim, if you have never heard anyone say that, open your ears, it is a great big fat point of every Republican candidate. And the decay of public and private morality…….. oh yes, that’s been going on a while, since around 14,000 B.C. in every society in every generation as long as some toothless old man was around to shake his cane at shameless hussies and disrespectful young hooligans. The U.S.S.R.? Reagan betrayed our country by talking to Gorbachev and working out a deal……….. hey, Trump’s going to do that, too.
John Stuart Mill called Conservatives the stupid party b/c they don’t think much about where their ideas come from and are satisfied just to sit and think….. or just sit. “Let me rest: I lie in possession” says Fafnir, the king’s son in Norse mythology. Russell Kirk himself says Conservatives are selfish and self-centered. I must agree with him at least on this point. But he characterizes radicals as envious. Maybe. I don’t know. I’m not a radical despite what the Social Studies Department in my school thought. Here is a devastating quote (if you don’t know who Russell Kirk is you should google him): “Most conservatives [I would spell it with a capital C] hold by their particular social convictions because of early prejudices and experiences; their minds are not susceptible to temperate argument, nor can they express with much lucidity the postulates from which they draw their professed opinions.” That bodes ill for bridging the gap in world views.
Ten principles of Conservatism (conservatives do not have principles, only reactions, as in, “I want my country back.”) as elucidated by Russell Kirk.
The first is a transcendent moral order Conservatives believe runs the world, e.g. Natural Law. This is required for there to be a sense of right and wrong and without that you will have a bad society no matter how many people vote. Along with this moral order goes moral authority. Guess who tells us what natural law tells us and who has the authority to do so….. those already in power. As Fukuyama says, the elites have a knack for turning anything beneficial to them into a universal principle.
Next is the elevation of custom, tradition, convention and continuity to the undergirding of order, justice and freedom, the result of centuries of trial and reflection and sacrifice. This is why the Civil Rights Movement had to be opposed: the Southern Way of Life undergirded the social order.
Third comes those rights which exist because of their antiquity. We stand on the shoulders of giants and so should not tinker. This is why Conservatives are constantly invoking Plato and Aristotle and conservatives Reagan. The individual is foolish but the species wise and we should abide by precedent and precept and even prejudice…. Don’t you just love the aroma of hanging moss and mint julep?
Fourth in line is prudence, care in making changes too fast, but at least desirable, well considered change is recognized as necessary. With all deliberate speed is a kind of synonym that turned into an antonym.
Fifth, Conservatives love variety, by which Kirk means ….. well, I can only quote for you to get a whiff of this: “They feel affection for the proliferating intricacy of long-established social institutions and modes of life, as distinguished from the narrowing uniformity and deadening egalitarianism of radical systems. For the preservation of a healthy diversity in any civilization,, there must survive orders and classes, differences in material condition, and many sorts of inequality.” I will desist, for the stench of magnolia blossoms gags me – although Kirk was from Michigan. I just want to know who will volunteer to be in the “interesting” part of society. So much more in five.
Sixth: Humans are imperfect. “All that we reasonably can expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk. By proper attention to prudent reform….” Then why did Conservatives oppose civil rights for Blacks? Were not Blacks justified in taking up arms since what they suffered was far more than the founding fathers suffered under the king? Evils weren’t lurking; people mailed postcards of lynched Blacks to their friends and relatives. The British never did that to us. “Lurk” reminds me of Reagan’s “a trace of bigotry”. “The ideologues who promise the perfection of man and society have converted a great part of the 20th century world into a terrestrial hell.” But Conservatives also oppose agrarian reform, universal education and health care, equal rights for women, protection of children, all in the name of preserving the natural order. How is that any better than the excesses of Leftist? Oh, it is that Conservatives don’t suffer any losses if everything remains the same.
The seventh principle links property rights to freedom. I am not prepared to argue against that. I support the free enterprise system as long as the enterprises pay taxes to support the community/government that supports them.
Eighth is voluntary community. I think this is code for freedom of association, i.e that it is OK to pass ordinances prohibiting Blacks from using public bathrooms because Whites do not want to associate with them, even when the bathrooms are installed using taxes Blacks pay, too. What C/conservatives NEVER understand is that if they had simply given Blacks the same rights as Whites, the federal government would never have gotten involved. But the ONLY way to break the stranglehold of segregation was to use federal dollars and federal laws and thus was built up this jury-rigged system that C/conservatives hate so. Had they not been so hide-bound in keeping Blacks suppressed, we would not have to talk about states’ rights as code for keeping the Blacks in their place. Trent Lott would not have lost his leadership position for saying we should have supported Strom Thurmond for president; the country’s sensibilities have turned against racism even as its effects yet remain.
In Nine, Kirk writes: “A just government maintains a healthy tension between the claims of authority and the claims of liberty.” Here I will inject another new idea for me: liberty and freedom. Liberty is conferred, freedom is inherent.
And ten calls for a balance between permanence and change. Isn’t that what is so difficult in all this?
“Tiny changes in a complex system may lead to highly unpredictable consequences. Researchers in disciplines from weather modeling to theoretical physics to population biology have turned from the regular orderly behavior of classical science to irregular, disorderly, unpredictable, erratic behavior….. Chaos seems more human.” (The Development of Language, David Lightfoot p. 254)
10 principles: https://thf_media.s3.amazonaws.com/2011/pdf/FP_PS38.pdf
What liberals think – weaknesses
I will use upper and lower case to distinguish the classic Liberal positions going back to 19th c. England from the liberal positions characteristic of people who take on the label “liberal”, in the same way I distinguish Conservatives from conservatives
liberals are not free of bias toward conservatives (most seem to respect Conservative thought, at least for its intellect), e.g. Katy Tur on MSNBC referred to the “gutteral” cheers at a Trump rally. Not nice.
liberals rely on government and ignore to a large extent the underlying social order
liberals think above the level of the basic human nature, believing intellect overcomes it whereas Conservatives at least claim to respect that nature even as they craft laws, ordinances, and other means and support customs that curb that nature.
liberals believe in the power of the word, that talking about things solves problems. Talking works to process what needs to be done via communication but then something needs to be done
liberals like to set up figures, ideologically pure figures as emblems of a cause. Thus they find themselves speaking approvingly of some rotten characters who may nevertheless have suffered an injustice. Michael Brown was not an innocent young teenager, he was a jerk, but we don’t kill people for being jerks in this country. Trayvon Martin, OTOH, seemed like an average kid. One super Liberal professor I knew never met a Black person who wasn’t “brilliant” or an African who wasn’t noble or a piece of folkloric art that wasn’t exquisite and so forth, all just to jab into The Man’s eye his opinion that the petty prejudices of the average White American were just that, petty.
liberals don’t help themselves when they lump people together, as if all Hispanics were the same – I recall an episode of one of those very well done cop shows where the detective of Columbian origin is being feted and the dinner serves tacos. He explodes, lecturing his slack-jawed colleagues on the difference between Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Columbians, and so forth. Even lumping all poor people together as if they would all get along, having their poverty in common is not a good idea..
OTOH, liberals battle against trickledown economics, a perfect example of Fukuyama’s dictum that the elites cloth their own interests in the dress of universal verity, as wages, pensions, health care, unions, education, science, money regulation, IOW, every policy that has made the Middle Class in this country prosperous is attacked. The conservatives would do well to watch their back.
Jim has often remarked that he just does not hear Libertarians and other say things like poor people don’t work hard, etc. Yet here is a Rand Paul quote:
“Rand Paul: Income Inequality Comes From ‘Some People Working Harder’ Than Others”We all end up working for people who are more successful than us,” the presidential hopeful said.” Is this a misquote, a misinterpretation? The harder you work the more you make? That the principal I worked for was more successful than me? I am not asking you to say whether or not you agree with Paul but just to admit people DO say these things.
Here’s the point: there comes a time where you can no longer talk about different perspectives, disparate goals, fundamentally different world views, and just get down to simple morality. Hatred of the poor, indifference to other people’s children, contempt for non-White, non-Christian people, suspicion of immigrants, all characterize persons who are deficient in personal morality and, sadly, these attitudes characterize the contemporary Republican Party. My question is, do these attitudes characterize conservative thought generally?
The world view of conservatives and specifically Republicans is this: the U.S.A. is the land of opportunity; all you have to do is work hard. Any contrary pov contradicts the America as exceptional trope and is prima facie evidence of unamericanism. Since everyone has equal opportunity, a given, then anyone who is not independent and self-sufficient is deficient in some way, usually morally, in the form of laziness, dependency, criminality, or cognitive impairment. Therefore, no one need do anything to help these people unless you belong to some bleeding-heart organization that wants to hand out sandwiches to homeless people, aka bums. Our history – as taught to us by old Westerns – backs up this narrative of grit and determination bringing rewards
Lopez introduces the concept of “common sense racism”, by which he means the way people look at conditions certain groups find themselves in and say: “That’s just the way they are.” That almost fits my strict definition of racism but it is not the view Jim espouses. It is, however, the view of people who see the disproportionate number of Blacks in the penal system and decide, “That’s just the way they are.” No interest in investigating, in getting to know people in that situation, nothing like what Chua and Rubenfeld go into in establishing the markers for minorities who have achieved financial and structural success in the society and those who haven’t. If you wonder about this phenomenon, that book, The Triple Package, is excellent. And here I will respond to some points Jim makes He says:
” The book Pat suggested:
“Amy Chua (Tiger Mom) and Jed Rubenfeld have a book I read recently titled The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America”
confirms my conviction that the traits successful people exhibit need to be encouraged in the black subculture. I don’t agree completely with the way the terms and concepts are delineated in this book, but it is largely correct. More directly it is the specific attitudes embodied under the general concepts that are definitive. I see these as:
- sense of initiative, personal responsibility and self sufficiency vs. sense of being victimized by others
- authoritative full family structure driving the need to succeed in school and a strong impulse control to keep clean of drugs and avoid having children before marriage.
- the conviction that you must succeed regardless and not be satisfied with less.
- willingness to be frugal and practice self-sacrifice as necessary to achieve your goals.
My response to this: this constant refrain of Jim’s that Blacks see themselves as victims comes straight out of the conservative war on Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders who quite rightly focus on the disadvantages conferred on Blacks by the wider society. But that does not mean Black people go around feeling like victims; in fact, the Black people Jim has spoken with indicate exactly that. The personal responsibility theme on the Right is meant to imply that people who suffer disadvantages are milking the system and looking for sympathy. It is invidious. It implies equally that those who do not identify as minority are personally responsible and do not ask for consideration or help.
The word “authoritative” is very telling here in connection with family structure, suggesting a patriarchal or matriarchal structure . Impulse control as decisive in the use of drugs and the partaking of premarital sex is very much misplaced; young people in poverty do not engage in the abuse of sex and drugs on a whim or impulse. Young woman get pregnant because that is what young women do. It is true that young men in Europe in the recent past did not marry until late so they could support a family but they frequented brothels; I don’t think conservative America wants to license brothels. Young women are ready to procreate and that is an instinct, not something we overcome through true grit. This is another of those gross simplifications so typical of the Right when faced with complex issues. While many poor families did see school as the path to success, education was not the usual path, even for people who were not poor; getting a job was and I have not read where Jim addresses the high unemployment rate among Blacks and the employment discrimination reported on over and over – but that is denied by the Right so I guess it is off the table. For instance, when I sent the url to the program on Diane Rehm on transportation, Jim wanted to know if they addressed teen pregnancy, etc; well, by isolating the inner-city from jobs, the destruction of the “Negro family” was pretty well assured, but I do not see anyone taking responsibility – excuse me: personal responsibility – for that.
Lots of people succeed regardless: regardless of family, of country, of religion doctrine, of common decency, even of the law. They exploit undocumented workers, women, the environment…….. nothing stands in their way to success. Personally, I do not admire them.
Frugality is not what most Americans’ credit card debt displays ,but lots of them succeed. They don’t live in underserved areas, send their kids to falling-down schools, or deal with rampant crime. If you read The Triple Passage carefully, you will see that Chua and Rubenfeld explicate the intricacies of what happens to Hispanics, Blacks, and Native Americans very well. I heard many years ago that four White ethnic groups were compared: Irish, Swedes, Italians and one other. Two groups let their girls go out to work in other people’s homes so the boys could afford college and the other two kept the girls at home. A couple of generations later, the groups who sent their girls out were higher on the economic scale than their stay-at-home comparisons but had a much higher divorce rate. So which advances society: financial success or intact families? The better off families sacrificed their girls.
Quickly to my TV watching for this Magnum Opus:
My assignment was to watch Fox News. I watched in November and found Brett Baer unexceptional as I did Roshini Rajapaksa and Shepherd Smith, and I thought Red Eye was balanced. Both VanSusteren and Kelly Smith called the BLM protest rallies anti-cop, an outright distortion (and again, Jim, if you dispute that, I suggest you think really hard about your relationship to power and authority – calling out bad behavior on the part of a few police officers, asking why they are not prosecuted, why their fellow officers protect them, and where the training is in dealing with people who are not Norwegians and the mentally handicapped – when I complain about the officer who said he like hostage negotiators because they give him time to get a bead on the suspect, how does that make me anti-cop?). Gretchen Carlson talked about protecting big government and how the IRS did not permit the Tea Party exemptions based on key words in the applications. All that is fine, except the anti-cop lies, it’s just that they have the same bias as MSNBC – watch the faces Rachel makes and the smirk on Chris Matthew’s face and the condescending chuckle from Chris Hayes – and it is just that I think the things Hayes is chuckling about – the silliness of worrying about child molesters going tinkle next to your little girl – are utterly stupid. The things Fox chuckles about – big government, the IRS, the postal service – are funny to them because they and/or their audience do not understand what government does nor how it does it.
On John Stossels’ take on reforming education I will defer to a blog entry I will post when I find my notes.
I watched Star Parker, author of Blind Conceit. I will also post my notes on her as a separate blog entry.
And the “dream” you found funny, Jim, is based on the usual conservative nonsense about how government operates It is the same dream held by millions who believe illegal aliens are flooding the country (3%), that one third of GNP goes to foreign aid, that Blacks get money from the government just for being Black (you asked about my marrying into a Black family – I did it so I could get my Negro check – OK, my only attempt at sarcasm). And so on. Every Liberal is a secret Communist, Obama is from Kenya – and let’s face it, that is the WHOLE problem with the Right in this country – they hate that a Black guy got into the White House. The hate crimes that were put in quotes? Those actually occur but well-off people protected behind their mantle of Whiteness are never exposed to them and so can pretend they never occur. That is the C/conservatives’ and Libertarians’ best defense: pretend.
I never said this was going to be pretty.
Parvum Opus MO
So the elites will maintain Christmas, stall the homosexual agenda, make sure the American Flag and the Ten Commandments hang in every classroom, keep pregnant sluts from safe abortions so they will have to suffer the consequences of their sin, fight foreign wars to employ the poor young men, and generally throw meaningless sops to working people to keep them from noticing their decline. Smart, huh? At least until the mobs come for the elite
Before working for 25 years in high school classrooms teaching foreign languages (Spanish, Latin and Russian), I worked 20 years in social services. That whole time was spent in South Phoenix, what people call slums, inner city, ghetto, the poor part of town, the urban environment, whatever. I dealt with people discharged from the insane asylum (no p.c. here) and the county psych ward. I worked in Child Protective Services investigating and servicing cases of child abuse and also investigated and licensed foster homes. I worked in a training program for the hard-core unemployed and one of my assignments was the people just up from Mexico who knew no English and had no job skills. Most of those jobs included visiting the homes and also consulting in the schools, public and religious (Catholic). My last teaching assignment was five years in a Catholic school.
I don’t want to miss anything here because it is important to understand that my familiarity with people in poverty and minority groups, while pretty much restricted to the Phoenix, AZ area, is extensive. So when people make statements about such groups, I tend to turn a critical eye on the topic.
In that vein, I would wonder how anyone could know that I have been married to a Black woman – as I stated, I am White – for 52 years as of June 13, in what was until the invasion of the snow birds from the upper Midwest in the 50s, including me, a Southern city and state. I have described the circumstances my wife and her family and per force me lived under. How exactly was all that to go away with the signing of a civil rights bill? In talking to an ex-Mormon, I told the story of how we found out that the LDS leadership had reversed its stance on Blacks in the Church and she said that in Utah the resistance to that was massive. You don’t change people overnight. As MLK said, laws won’t change your heart but they can keep you from lynching me.
And that is what so many Whites do not like, the open concession that, yes, White people can be violent. The Bundys are LDS and engaged in two terrorist acts: threatening federal marshals on lawful business and carrying out an armed occupation of federal land, both occasions highly televised. Can I insist that the President label that “radical LDS terrorism”? And also the mob s attacking busloads of illegal immigrants in California…… why not label those actions terrorism? Because those who carry it out are White? Is that what gets you labeled a terrorist, being unwhite? No, because Obama was accused of “palling around with terrorists” when he served on a commission with an elderly White man who had belonged to a terrorist student group in the 60s but had done nothing in that line since, a tamed terrorist, you might say. Can you forgive me for being confused?
Back to poor people: they have all the same problems other people do except theirs are magnified by poverty. Laurie Clarcq describes it so well I won’t go over it myself except to warn you, reader, not to challenge me on things I have lived, personally and professionally. I did a stint counseling in a woman’s shelter the people referred by the police on domestic abuse charges. The setting was in one of the country’s ritziest towns, Scottsdale, Az. The people referred to me were neither poor nor minorities. There were only two differences: they were White and they had money. Otherwise we were dealing with the same things. While those clients sat in a counseling office because they had money for a diversion program the people I was working with on my day job were sitting in jail on the same charges.
And back to my contention that the Barbados culture suffused the Deep South and laid the foundation for the current environment:.
“”The second paper, by the economists Alberto Alesina, Edward Glaeser, and Bruce Sacerdote, was titled “Why Doesn’t the United States Have a European-style Welfare State?” Its authors — who are not, by the way, especially liberal — explored a number of hypotheses, but eventually concluded that race is central, because in America programs that help the needy are all too often seen as programs that help Those People: “Within the United States, race is the single most important predictor of support for welfare. America’s troubled race relations are clearly a major reason for the absence of an American welfare state.”
Now, that paper was published in 2001, and you might wonder if things have changed since then. Unfortunately, the answer is that they haven’t, as you can see by looking at how states are implementing — or refusing to implement — Obamacare.
For those who haven’t been following this issue, in 2012 the Supreme Court gave individual states the option, if they so chose, of blocking the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, a key part of the plan to provide health insurance to lower-income Americans. But why would any state choose to exercise that option? After all, states were being offered a federally-funded program that would provide major benefits to millions of their citizens, pour billions into their economies, and help support their health-care providers. Who would turn down such an offer?
The answer is, 22 states at this point, although some may eventually change their minds. And what do these states have in common? Mainly, a history of slaveholding: Only one former member of the Confederacy has expanded Medicaid, and while a few Northern states are also part of the movement, more than 80 percent of the population in Medicaid-refusing America lives in states that practiced slavery before the Civil War.
And it’s not just health reform: a history of slavery is a strong predictor of everything from gun control (or rather its absence), to low minimum wages and hostility to unions, to tax policy.””
Why do I watch MSNBC? Just now, as I prepare to send this “essay” out, Chris Hayes had David Kay Johnson on. Johnson is an expert on taxes and has blown the cover off the machinations of the top one tenth of one percent wealthy, their tax dodges, off-shoring, etc. During Romney’s campaign, he showed how such people take over companies, gut them, costing thousands of jobs, and ship the skimmed money overseas and leave detritus behind. But Romney is Mormon, dedicated to his Church and the moral life, right? One night as someone questioned Johnson on the ethics of Romney’s affairs, Johnson explained what he taught in his financial ethics classes in the Temple……. !!!! Johnson is a high ranking Mormon!!! Holy Golden Tablets!!
So tonight (May 6) Johnson was on explaining what Trump doesn’t know. If the American people would watch MSNBC instead of outlets that feed them pap, they might avoid falling into ignorance. Sadly, they will stay tuned to shows that stress the spectacular and bizarre, leaving the difficult details, like reality, to CSPAN, PBS………. and MSNBC.
Lopez’ 3 punches…In Dog Whistle Politics, Lopez lays out the tactic: first coded race talk. But the talk is always in terms of ethnicity, not race; race is defined as blood. Ethnicity and culture are behaviors, whether it is the Obama food stamp dollar bill with fried chicken and watermelon on it or family structure or not knowing how to behave toward a policeman, it is not race. When liberals accuse them of racism, they are righteously indignant, having never used a racial epithet or maliciously labeled a group. What, me racist? YOU are the racist for injecting race into this. Accused of injecting race (the kick of the punch-parry-kick tactic), many liberals back off, nonplussed. Oh, the Obama food stamp dollar bill had Kool-Aid on it, too.
With voter restrictions at the state level only the feds are left, just like before, so why do you keep asking us to pretend the 50s are long gone?
Is it because you are naive? C/coservatives have not only admitted on camera they are restricting voting in order to keep various groups like college students, minorities, etc. from easy access to the polls. The former head of the RNC even apologized to the NAACP for the Southern Strategy, yet we still have people denying the Right is suppressing the vote and there is no voter fraud.
In Another POV I mentioned the fifteen year old girl in S.C. who was yanked out of her chair for defiance. Two things: her mother had died and she was in foster care. Do you think the teacher should have known that? If she had known it, did she approach the situation properly? Will the girl’s doubtlessly traumatized state be seen as the proverbial conservative “excuse” or seen as an explanation?
Second, it was mentioned the officer’s girlfriend is Black. That illustrates the total misunderstanding of race as a power relationship. Remember I said race is a social construct? Remember my wife’s Nigerian doctor who reports she is treated one way on appearance and another when her accent reveals she is not African-American? One time Jim wrote, “Please! This is not the 50s.” I would write, “Please, understand these massively complex issues at a high level, not some silly, playground level like, “Oh, his girlfriend is Black so he can’t be prejudiced.” He treated the girl that way because of the power relationship in which her Blackness and his Whiteness played only a part.
Another canard you find on venues like Fox is that Blacks say, “I do not have to speak standard English; that is not Black and makes me deny my Blackness” and that is followed up by grave head-shaking, “that person will usually not be able to achieve as much as others who do [speak standard English]. So silly. Again, some campus radical from the sixties gets quoted ad nauseum to prove Black problems in education and employment are due to their “attitudes”. Such crap.
How might Black people mischaracterize White people? I certainly heard some odd questions back when it was possible for a person to operate almost entirely in a Black environment due to segregation. White people are cold. They are unfriendly, even with each other. They are not religious. They love only money. They neglect their kids. They smell funny. They can’t dress well and they surely cannot dance.
OK, let’s come to the rescue of the reputation of White people. First of all, Norwegians, according to Garrison Keilor, will jump a mile high if you come up behind them and touch them on the shoulder. They will jump only half a mile high if you touch them on the shoulder from the front. Touching a lot is not common in SOME cultures among White Americans, very common in others. But not touching is not a sign of a cold heart, just of different customs around physical touching. Unfriendly might be applied to the more formal relationships among people in the White community – interestingly, in a book on the actual Norwegian culture in Norway, it was pointed out that Norwegians do have that reputation until you get to know them personally; only then do they let their guard down. Just custom, again. My wife’s cousin attended a Unitarian church service with us, a very upper Midwest, extremely Norwegian crowd. As the singing commenced, I was standing behind her and saw her switching her hips back and forth, trying to find the beat. After I got over my giggles, I leaned forward and whispered, “There is no beat in this church.” Norwegians love God just as much as Black people do, they just express it differently.
Foreigners often remark on the poverty of conversation in the homes of their American hosts. It’s all about money. The truth is, Americans judge each other, for the most part, in terms of their income. We hope other dimensions enter in. Neglecting their kids is interpreted by them as making their kids independent. If a way can be made, then it makes sense to let your kid make his own way; but if you know road blocks abound for your kids, it makes sense to have a bed ready for them and a hot meal if things go bad…….and especially for their kids, your grandkids.
Smell is a matter of diet. Europeans thinks Americans overdo the deodorant. Dress style varies by culture and Norwegians do not dwell on it the way, for example, Italians or Hispanics do. Blacks like flamboyant dress and colors and I still find it fun to go to church and see the old guys in beautiful white or chartreuse or beige or even orange suits with matching hat. Very sharp. And no, White people cannot dance…….. well, actually, that canard is going by the way, too. as Whites have grown up with African-American rhythm and gone to school with Black kids and learned the moves. Working in high school since 1986, I noticed that. But at the reunion, I believe I have told this, of my brother-in-law, one of the Black alums asked me why it was that back in their day the White girls danced on their toes. I asked them to think of Polish and Norwegian dances (maybe that’s where I got this Norwegian thing from) and how they are vertical while African dances are with the hips and they move more horizontally. My quarrel with teachers who do not like twerking has been so fun because I send them links to Christian gospel choirs in West African where the good Christian ladies bend over and twist their bottoms in praise of Jesus. Love it. It’s just a dance style – it’s not fucking! as researchers in California found out when they did in-depth – very in-depth interviews of high school kids who had spent the night twerking – no more sex than anyone else, including the researchers when they were kids. It’s a dance style!
Here is an issue, just one, where the Right simply lies. I worked in a Catholic school for five years after working 20 years in a public school. Over and over I heard and read at the private religious school that students cannot pray in public school. That is a lie, pure and simple, and they know it’s a lie. We had a Christian club, the students prayed in a circle around the flagpole, my wife sponsored the Christian club at her school (and she is not even Christian), kids asked to pray in class and I said silent prayer was fine; once two kids wanted to pray out loud and they stepped out into the hallway because other kids were cramming for the test they were praying to pass. NO PROBLEM! Yet Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and all the phony pundits on the Right repeat this lie about public schools and they know it’s a lie. Why do they lie? Because the charter and private school folks are paying them to lie to jinn up support for private schools and take money away from public schools so they will indeed give poorer service and support the C/conservative contention that our schools are failing. Anyone with half a brain can study this and see that only schools in poverty areas are struggling; schools in middle income and affluent areas get test results commensurate with those of Singapore and Finland.*
The real question is, why do conservatives not bother to go down to their local school to see if their kid can pray. They either don’t or they go as part of a contentious group intent on finding public schools guilty of anti-religious bias. In short, they are lazy sheep following their Fox News talking heads.
Just one example among many I could give of the cesspool on the Right. I focus on race because of my personal perspective as well as professional experience. In education I have worked in only two schools as a teacher. I have never been in the military but my son is a veteran. My wife worked in a lot of different schools as a counselor and early on as a second grade teacher. I’ve already delineated my non-school experience. And then there’s the library – a good source of accurate information for those who want it.
If we gave the states the right to do whatever they wanted in all spheres, no federal protections of Constitutional rights, in the slave states we would see laws prohibiting homosexuality (because they are so stupid they think it’s a choice); we would see laws regulating every aspect of a woman’s sex life because women are the vessels and helpmeets to men and have no right to a life of their own or to make their own decisions, according to the Bible as interpreted by the Reverend Billy Bob; one political party would dominate because that was the nature of politics in a slavocracy and that has been carried down – first the Democrats, now the Republicans, but no free play because that might challenge authority; religion would be highly regulated with Baptists ascendant and Methodists as the fringe faith – all others would be relegated to tightly controlled spaces and then only Christian denominations; the most outlier of Biblical interpretations like Dominionism would be taught in the schools; unions would be disallowed due to their challenge to authority; Douglas Blackmon in Slavery By Another Name showed how the slave states used convicts as unpaid labor and they would return to that following the practice of towns like Ferguson; the police would be unrestricted in their practices as long as they ignored enforcement against the “quality folk”; and so on. Libraries would be heavily censored as would bookstores and theaters. Cable TV would be imported from outside the South but that and the internet would face scrutiny. Strangely enough, a lot of Black people would decide to stay for all kinds of reasons. No one would be under the protection of the Constitution.
Ian Haney Lopez describes the tactics behind the Right’s newfound color blindness. Being color blind means you do not recognize color, so when it is pointed out that Blacks are more likely to be stopped in traffic, “profiling”, conservatives say, “Why are you injecting race into this?” When the reply comes, “Because minorities are disproportionately stopped,” conservatives respond with, “Why do you pay so much attention to people’s race? I don’t even notice and I am sure the police don’t either.” It’s part of a one-two-three punch developed in the 90s that has turned the rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement around to protect racist policies like racial profiling while accusing those pointing out the injustice as either race conscious or race hustlers. Clever.
Lastly, to show I am entirely capable of distinguishing Conservatives from Fascists, I will lay out the defining characteristics of the latter* and you can compare them with Kirk’s 10 principles of Conservatism.
One: powerful and continuing nationalism. (why I oppose most formulations of American Exceptionalism – see mine)
Two: Disdain for the recognition of human rights – a major reason Conservatives oppose Trump.
Three: Use of scapegoats (the reason Trump’s denigration of Mexicans and Muslims is so not Conservative)
Four: Supremacy of the military: (why I argued with the person who said the U.S.S.R. was a military dictatorship; it wasn’t because, like us, the military is totally dominated by civilian control)
Five: Rampant sexism: (that does worry me when I see the obsession with sex that C/conservatives are possessed of)
Six: Control of the Mass Media (we see the media increasingly reduced to a few megacompanies and that is worrisome)
Seven: Obsession with national security (while some people get alarmed, most focus on their daily lives and recognize we are not under general attack)
Eight: Religion and government intertwined (while lots of people think they would like that, they wouldn’t; the Baptist would discover the Methodists had taken over)
Nine: Corporate power protected (Sanders’ campaign issue and it is an issue)
Ten: Labor suppressed (unions still exist but weakened. Few Americans realize the role of unions in “making this country great”)
Eleven: Disdain for intellectuals and the arts (we are still strong there. The Conservatives make a great effort to establish their own academic and think tank institutions)
Twelve: Obsession with crime and punishment (much reduced from the 90s. Punishment is woven into our culture but is in many others as well)
Thirteen: Rampant cronyism and corruption (depends on how you define it. Lots of cronyism under Bush II but not characteristic of our society as a whole and corruption even less so……… unless you count Congress)
Fourteen: Fraudulent elections (not yet)
So we are not there. Jim asked what are some good things about the U.S., or “the best good things current and past”. In a word, freedom. Any mature understanding of freedom includes responsibility. Does that sound like a Conservative? Yes, but unlike Conservatives, I am serious. I do not apply the responsibility rule only to other people but also to myself, or better, to me and mine. I take care of my responsibilities in every area: my home, my family, my job, my personal behavior, and so on. What we have been treated to by conservatives is a mockery of this, their personal lives being a morass of corruption and personal deceit, lack of personal integrity, and they press on with a quick prayer for forgiveness and keep on doing bad. No problem. People like that are funny to me, people like Newt Gingrich, a total scumbag and phony. Now we have Trump, a total scumbag and phony. Who voted for him? People who think making cracks about women’s menstruation is great fun. The guys down at the pool hall who can’t understand why that hardworking Mexican got the job instead of them. Angry, bitter, resentful, high on meth, lost souls.
This freedom we have means we can do something for those people. Do you really think it’s Blacks who are wallowing in poverty? As I’ve stated, it’s the White working class that has been shafted right along with Blacks and Hispanics. If you look at that book, Jim, the Triple Package, you will notice that those ethnic groups do want to be accepted and fight for it, but not to the detriment of their own success. They have not only an inferiority complex that drives them but a superiority complex. The working class White, the Black, the Hispanic, do not have that. And when community organizers try to instill that same superiority complex in them, you complain that they are teaching separateness and radicalism and condemn people like Rev. Wright who preach Black Liberation Theology. You can’t have it both ways.
American accomplishments? Legion. We pulled together for WW II; we built great dams to harness rivers and open up the West to agriculture and settlement; we spurred growth in science via our universities; our inventors and entrepreneurs not only developed all our resources, they spread that around the world. Even in an area where some maintain we have not done so much, the arts, we actually have contributed mightily.
But we are faced with challenges. Many Americans question our food supply, our water supply, how we husband our resources, how we educate our citizens. And at every step of the way, we have the C/conservatives wanting to own things and sell things to the detriment of the nation. Haliburton took over the war effort, hedge fund managers are trying to control our schools, and pharmaceutical companies want to make a buck off our illnesses. They have the freedom to do that and we have the freedom to curb them. We just have to elect people who will refuse to be bought.
Michael Moore, hated to the core by C/conservatives, displays our third world in our own backyard, places like Flint, like the rural areas, like the inner-cities. Isolated, left behind in crumbling infrastructure because no one can figure out how to make a buck off them, so over the cliff they go. So much for the Christian spirit. That’s why I didn’t put religion among good things about America. If you get nothing else out of this Magnum Opus and Parvum Opus, look at these blasted human and natural landscapes and think back to our colonial heritage, the part of it where we came for gold and killed off the inhabitants and imported slaves to scrape what we could off the land. This exploitative and extractive approach to our country is only part of our heritage: we have the New Englanders, the Midlanders, and elements of the other “nations” that make up this country. We can harness this heritage to rebuild our country, our infrastructure, our middle class, our race relations, our public education………. we just have to curb the C/conservatives.
One example of a great thing about America at its best: when the Twin Towers came down in the terrorist attack September 11, many brokerage houses lost personnel, equipment, and communications. Their rivals – yes, their rivals – came to their aid, some employees of rival firms even joining the distressed firms for a while to get them on their feet. That is the America of Yankeedom, of the Midlands: building community and true competition, from a level playing field, not putting a kid in a crumbling school and telling him to pull up his pants and stop listening to his music. Where is this American spirit now?
I have not mentioned American religion as an accomplishment. We founded several: LDS, Christian Science, and others. But to me, the religion of the South is a not unique but amazing blend of European religions brought here by the settlers, the Native American religions the settlers found here, the practices from Africa of the slaves, and a unique emotional response to spiritual needs. The best tutorial in this is a wonderful movie written, produced, and starred in by a son of my wife’s region, East Texas, Robert Duvall, one of the great American actors. What he depicted there, in all its strangeness, obsession, love, violence, and even savagery, is the religion known variously as Holiness, Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Born Again, Holy Rollers, Pentecostalists, and other sectarian names. Having attended such a church, one whose congregation originated from the same area, East Texas, I was amazed at the skilled actors who put on a revival until Duvall in an interview mentioned those were real Holiness revival ministers. The depths of need this apostle ministered to was made patent in the movie, a world many know little of but which represents more and more of America. In The Unwinding, George Packard draws a nice sketch of Sam Walton, a real entrepreneur, for a number of pages, and then ends it all in the last paragraph with, to paraphrase, ‘And when Sam Walton died, America woke up and saw that he had created the same blasted and devastated landscape of America that he had grown up with in Arkansas.’
Courage – few Republicans have had the courage to resist the din beginning to overpower the dog whistles. John McCain was one when he told the woman who did not trust Obama because he was an Arab that Obama was a good American, a family man, with whom he had substantial disagreements. But McCain proves my point: the Republican base despises him and all Republicans who do not back up the narrative that Obama is an alien, alien to America, Sarah Palin’s line. So now when courageous voices are needed against Trump, they cannot be found because over time this din of invective and racist garbage has emerged from the pool halls and beer parlors and now is heard as the standard narrative of who anyone who treats Obama as anything other than subhuman really is. We who support the President are traitors to America because there is only one America and it is White, Christian, conservative though not Conservative, and this narrative has overwhelmed a reasonable Conservative pov to the extent that anyone not on the far right gets no traction – witness John Kasich, extremely Conservative, way beyond my toleration, but rejected by the conservatives.
Did I marry into a Black family or did my wife marry into a White family? A matter of perspective. At the time , due to restrictions on Blacks, there was not much sense in seeing her as marrying into a White family even though that was the fact because none of the benefits of being White would accrue to her while the disadvantages (and advantages) of my marrying into a Black family were apparent. Nowadays, were a White person to marry a Black person, one could certainly say the Black person had married into a White family.
In textbooks for students studying U.S. government and history, what we call civics, the multiethnic makeup of the country is stressed. In the face of that, there is often voiced the notion that the melting pot view of American society is that these ethnics groups lose their culture and are absorbed into a general U.S. culture. That latter culture is often defined as pragmatic, freedom-loving, hard-working, and adventurous. It is the culture I have dubbed Norwegian, a shorthand for the Midwestern culture, primarily Protestant, White, European in origin, with occupation backgrounds in agriculture and industry.
Where did this idea come from that being an American meant being absorbed into this Norwegian culture, what many call Heinz 57 or mutt or general American? The culture labeled Yankeedom by Colin Woodard has always frowned upon non-conformity. If the community is to be successful, then everyone has to be on board in terms of values and behaviors. The community provides for everyone – contrary to the Appalachian attitude that it’s every man for himself – but in turn everyone has to conform to the values and behaviors deemed acceptable by the Yankeedom culture. Foreignness is frowned upon, difference is regarded with suspicion, and every effort is made to absorb the recalcitrant into the dominant paradigm.
Contrary to that is the culture Woodard dubs Midlands, made up primarily of people of German ethnicity, tolerant of individuality without making it into an idol as the Appalachians do. Each person minds his own business and everyone works hard to be successful and helps others to be so. It is hard to find anything out of sorts with this Midlands culture other than it lacks the passion of conversion of the Yankees, the stubborn rejectionist stance of the Appalachian, the haughty superiority of the Southerner and Tidelanders, but it does allow everyone to get along and work together. Or so it seems.
Puritan origin of education – see
The idea of charter schools was proposed by a union founder, Al Shanker! The idea was that a school in the public system would be freed up from the administrative tangles that result from running any large system, freed up to innovate. A good example is my son. He worked in two charters which had problems, basically both were run by a coterie which could not tolerate his way of dealing with things. No one said he was not a good teacher or did not get along with everyone; no, he just did not fit into the tight little group that had started these charters. Two years in a public school got him the experience he needed and now he has gone back to a charter situation because there he can advance using his innovative ideas whereas in a public school he would have to get in line and wait maybe ten years for a principalship. Plus he would have to conform to guidelines set by others. That was the true purpose of charters but the extractors found the mine and skimmed the top off the mountain to grab the gold and run, leaving a mess behind. Arizona is one of the worst states for that because of cronyism among Republicans and their business allies. The people behind my son’ss new situation are all business people who seem to truly want a good school to serve inner-city kids. I’ll be reporting on my blog.
My son remarked that my granddaughter’s school raised in two weeks enough money to pay for I Pads for every student – I call it the Intel school because so many kids’ parents work there. Money.
Fascinating map. Slowly scroll the arrow over the map for various districts. Standfield and A.J., Cartwright, Chandler, Mesa, etc. Surprisingly, Chandler is quite low in funding but does very well. What is the explanation for that?
There is nothing in what I have written that will change anyone’s mind about Black people. about poverty, or about our problems in education. But that was not my intent. My intent was to lay out my world view, perspective, pov, and reveal my paradigms and narratives I operate from. In addition, I hope I have responded adequately to questions posed by David and Jim.
It comes down to what kind of a country you want to live in. Finland provides all the things the GOP despises: health care, education, housing, parental leave, vacations, all the things we know make for a stronger society. And the results have been excellent: Finns still go to school and work and take care of their families, they don’t slide into lethargy in a cloud of smoke or sit on the couch with a needle in their arm. They have not lost the “main spring of human progress”.
Why don’t we do the same? For the same reason other countries in the Americas don’t: we are all former colonies; only Canada has avoided that trap and Woodard details why in his American Nations. Ian Haney Lopez lays out what I have been saying a long time (see my blog in its early days): Whites believe that social programs benefit minorities and they don’t want to see that. Like the old toothless White man in Mississippi recorded by Alexandra Pelosi saying him getting food stamps was right because he deserved them, not like those minorities.
In this summary I will state as boldly as I can what I “think”. I think that Liberal Democrats and no one else have promoted the general welfare and defense of the U.S. Frankly, I don’t think it requires any proof or citations that the bulk of the supporters of conservatism in this country, older White males, were raised in a time when they were the “Americans” and the many other groups that made up and make up this country were discounted, the bit players, the extras, in the American movie. They grew up believing that that was what America is and a few Norman Rockwell paintings and WW II movies with an Italian or Black character to prove we believed in equality reassured them that it was OK to live in segregated communities and for their kids to go to segregated schools.
The reason that situation existed in the first place I think is our colonial past. But the Founding Fathers laid the groundwork for a society of equal rights and opportunities. That requires some unpacking. What I mean is that the way the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were written contained the seeds of all that has transpired since to move this country away from that colonial heritage and realize in reality the promise of equal opportunity. Donald Trump has shown us the power of denigrating women and minorities. His disapproval ratings show that that is a losing game. After all, the people my age are leaving the scene, those who remember a different America. Even people born in the fifties turned 10 in the sixties and saw a different world. Nevertheless, it has taken the infamous “changing demographics” to slowly erase the pernicious influence of social stratification. The sequelae of generations of such stratification, women’s roles highly restricted, women’s freedom highly restricted, women’s rights not encoded in the law, minority rights ignored, a deep and powerful narrative of White Christian hegemony, and more are still with us but under siege. First Obama, then Hillary Clinton are smashing barriers whose breaching was considered unimaginable when I was a child in the 40s and 50s.
The essence of Conservatism is resistance to unnecessary change. That sounds as if it would accommodate change until you realize that the body of Conservatives is made up of stake holders in the status quo and they are the ones who decide when and what change is necessary. The conservatives, OTOH, react to perceived encroachment on their status and are easily distracted by a narrative of values under attack, religion under attack, the family under attack, the nation under attack, all based on a bogus narrative of unrestricted wealth and happiness under an earlier regime of White Christian rule. The conservatives have been exploited by the economic elite to capture the legislative process and create tax law beneficial to the elite and forcing the government to turn to the middle class to support services. The jujitsu of this elite has been to the turn the conservatives against a “rapacious and tyrannical” government, thus weakening the government further and strengthening the hand of the elites through their control of the legislative branch. This is the process Francis Fukuyama describes. The only fire wall against total control of the country by these elites are the Presidency, the Supreme Court, the judicial system, and the vote. Major attacks on the judicial system and the vote have been launched by conservatives who believe judges are destroying the moral fiber of the country by deciding in favor of immoral and illegitimate claimants like homosexuals and abortion providers and the vote is being reduced by propaganda against all fact that voter fraud is an actual problem. Spokespersons for conservatives have openly said that the purpose of these voter ID laws is to reduce turnout and get Republicans voted in. Only a very unAmerican person would believe such an act to be moral.
And only a very unAmerican person would believe it a good idea to ignore the Constitution on so many issues, issues like religion, voting, the equality of women, and so forth. Many want to impose a Biblical interpretation on the law and then have the nerve to complain about Sharia law – another non-existent bogeyman. How do you treat such people with respect? They are either complete shysters because they know these efforts go against the Constitution or they are hopelessly ignorant of the Constitution. This is why, in view of the large numbers of such people and the unequivocal findings that they are concentrated in the slave states that I have suggest the resurrection of the Confederacy. That may be tongue-in-cheek, but only because I recognize its unlikelihood. In the same way I recognize the unlikelihood of a parallel resolution: Black Americans choosing to form large communities and begin to control the most dominant elements of society: the schools, health care, the police and courts, the financial institutions, the socioeconomic safety net, etc. Jim mentions the failure of so many polities controlled by Blacks for many years now, starting with Stokes’ victory as mayor in Gary. Like the Black man on the ship said he’d be captain only when it was sinking, Blacks became mayors of major cities only when they were about to topple over from rust. In the same way, when a large school district is the only employers in a Black area, the superintendent and board of education become the only employers, conferring great power on them. When the community is already weak due to poverty and lack of education, it is very easy for people of questionable intentions to move in and take over. In addition, those Black areas and Black leaders were answerable to the White power structure, just as the mayor of Flint was answerable to the Republican governor. Those Black leaders could lead only so far as the establishment would allow them. My vision would involve setting up a special relationship with the federal government, excising the area from state control as many states are dominated by those entrenched in the old colonial patterns, and a vetting process for would-be leaders would be set up. Due to the total lack of will to do this in the Black community, I haven’t thought this through and I am sure it will never happen. Of course, if Trump is elected………….. all bets are off.
The New Deal marked the maturity of this nation. The Great Society propelled that vision further. The backlash has been mounting ever since. This is why I call conservatives reactionaries.
My experience with you, Jim, is that when we cite personal experiences to back up more general observations about the state of society, you redirect that to be evidence of us seeing everything in terms of Black and White, aka race. If we cite statistics on issues like housing discrimination, discrepancies in educational funding, voting restrictions, cynical decisions on transportation, police and court policies and even misconduct, you offer Right wing blog sites or Right wing think tanks to counter that, ignoring the poor reputation these sources have in academia and politics, as long as they shore up the Right wing pov. The Conservatives complain of Liberal condescension, but it is hard not to be condescending when conservatives repeatedly go off on discredited sources like Breitbart or O’Reilly. That whole Planned Parenthood selling baby parts thing was pursued relentlessly by Fiorina, an actual presidential candidate. What can she be worth? That’s why Kasich, as Conservative as he is, is at least sane and the only hope of the GOP, but putting him at the head will enrage millions of people who want Trump, especially now that Cruz is out (today is May 4, 2016). You seem to be partial to Libertarians, Jim, and they are a trifle better morally than conservatives only because they are consistent: we won’t help you but if you want to smoke dope, help yourself.
To be honest, I think some of your thinking is just naive……… not a bad thing, it’s just that you need more exposure to how the other half lives. In my case, incidents do burn themselves into my brain and perhaps you could accuse me of bias, bitterness, a skewed world view or whatever, but I remember when my mother lay dead in a cubicle in an emergency room and when my family arrived after me and the nurse was directing them to my mother’s body, a doctor became very angry and said, “That’s not her family!” Why not? Oh, this was 1992, so that may qualify as “a long time ago”. I don’t fault the doctor, he just was not used to a world in which people did not pay attention to skin color, a colorblind world, you might say.
Now, the night after Trump took Indiana and thus became the GOP nominee, a shattering event, we will watch to see what Republicans do. The future of the party is at stake because while many Republicans turned their backs on Goldwater, the party itself did not break apart. Trump may have that effect, the party may have to be destroyed in order to save it. The country needs a center right party just like it needs a center left party and we used to have that. I have tried here in this essay, which is far too long to be called an essay, to show more completely what I wrote up in my blog entry, The Road To Trump, that is, a fairly personal view, taking into account my world view, my perspective, my frame of reference, the paradigms I operate out of.
More than that, the whole country needs to figure out what to do with all of those voters for Trump and Sanders who obviously feel left out and disaffected. They are there if the parties can address them and their issues. The Trump voter who is angry at Obama for representing and serving the grasping minorities will now pursue the conservative line that minorities vote for Democrats because Democrats give them “things”, “stuff”, the lie that Fox News routinely puts out via O’Reilly et al. Thus progress in rebuilding the GOP post-Trump is in doubt.
The night of Trump’s Indiana victory, Steve Schmidt, McCain’s senior advisor and the guy who picked Sarah Palin, gave a passionate response to Chris Matthew’s question to him re the GOP, quo vadis? But Joy Reid came right back at him full force, reminding him of all the dog whistles the GOP engaged in over the years to recruit disaffected White voters and assure them they would end abortion. put prayer back in the school, wipe out terrorist cells, and lower taxes, none of which they did because they could not do that and knew they couldn’t. This dynamic set up the Trump phenomenon.
I hope this extended essay can display the roots of all this in the 1600s so as to enable us to analyze origins and sources and begin the rebuilding process.
Aug. 6, 2018 Although I put this quote in more current entries, I thought it appropriate to append it to the original Magnum Opus since so much of the discussion there centered on the extrajudicial killing of people by the police. My whole point in the M.O. was that the divisions and patterns and currents in our society have roots in colonial past, incl. slavery and we cannot resolved deep-rooted obstacles to democracy by attending to superficial solutions like civilian police review boards when the board members have been raised in a culture where policing has always focused on Black people. It’s like explaining water to a fish. It just is.
And the best way to twist your head around to a new perspective on this is to read Lies My Teacher Told Me. And this quote is from there but the statement was made by Stephen Douglas: “Slavery cannot exist a day or an hour anywhere unless it is supported by local police regulations.”
That is the Freeport Doctrine and it functions still today as the underlying basis for policing in the U.S. – the control of Black people.