Happy Thanksgiving!

November 25, 2010

That’s all I’ve got to say.


“The Boy General With His Flowing Yellow Curls”

November 22, 2010

So Mr. Obama has included Sitting Bull among the “Great Americans” eulogized in his children’s book Of Thee I Sing. Sitting Bull’s story is indeed an epic, tragic Indian saga, but as has been pointed out elsewhere, it is simply logically impossible that someone who was a mortal enemy of the United States could also be an “American.” But at this point perhaps it may be beside the point to oppose Mr. Obama’s view of what constitutes an American on the basis of logic and non-contradiction. His claim makes perfect sense according to the liberal view of American-ness that has taken root since the 1960s. In that view, anyone in the world of any background whatever who manages to arrive in the United States and reside there permanently is an American. A corollary principle is that anyone who ever resided within our borders is also an American – and in fact, American Indians have more or less been granted status within the culture as the truest Americans, as indicated by the title “native Americans” by which they are now known.

Well, I can’t imagine that any American today would have the audacity to deny Indians their special status and right to be here. I would suggest to my fellow (non-Indian) Americans, though, that they think twice before consenting to the notion that American sovereignty belongs to the Indians. The Indians are not about to re-take the United States, but the non-Western immigrants who are currently carrying out an aggressive transformation of our demographics and culture are very much emboldened in this endeavor by the belief that white Americans are, at best, “immigrants” with no particular right to this country, and at worst, invaders who ought to be expelled. Thus an African illegal alien and welfare recipient like Mr. Obama’s Aunt Zeituni claims that America belongs to God, not Americans, and that Americans owe her a living – a sentiment I have also heard expressed by Somalis living here. Thus “Hispanic” immigrants justify their hoped-for takeover of our society on the grounds that they are genetic kindred to American Indians – “we didn’t cross the border; the border crossed us.” (In the linked article, “conservative” Linda Chavez, who had a civil rights appointment under President Reagan, advises Hispanics not to use this slogan, for strategic reasons.) No, we had better affirm America’s European, English-speaking identity and announce that we intend to keep it that way. Do we really want to go the way of Aotearoa/New Zealand?

While Sitting Bull was not an American, George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876), killed by a coalition of Indian forces who had gathered at Sitting Bull’s camp, certainly was. It is not a matter of liking or disliking Custer; it is simply a fact that Custer was a soldier and citizen of the United States and an ethnic member of that nation. But is there any point in saying this to those numerous Americans of European descent who, as a result of 50 years of a liberal-left rewriting of American history, have never once entertained the notion that they belong to nation of people with a particular nature and history?

Such deracinated Americans are likely to buy into the view of Custer presented in the 1970 film Little Big Man, which portrays him (admittedly with obvious satirical intent) as a delusional, narcissistic lunatic. If you scan the comments on the YouTube video showing the scene of Custer’s death in that film, you will find self-professed Americans saying things like “This land belongs to the Indians,” “Custer was a genocidal killer,” etc., in the usual atrocious spelling and mixed with the usual obscenity. Similar comments are made by foreigners who clearly despise the United States, but this apparently doesn’t strike the Americans as meaningful. In Custer’s case there are a few comments made by Americans who sympathize with the man or defend him. For this we should be thankful.

Who the heck was this Custer anyway? An ambitious military officer, one of the best known of the Civil War, distinguished by his fearlessness and readiness to strike quickly and decisively, though the high casualty rate for his men may be taken as an indictment of his tactics. A practical joker who graduated last in his class at West Point and accumulated numerous demerits for stunts and violations of rules – though we should remember that about two-thirds of his entering class were culled out by graduation; anyone who graduated was a success! A Michigander (and partial Ohioan) who led his Michigan Brigade into battle at Gettysburg with the call “Come on, you Wolverines!” A self-promoter and publicity seeker, but to some extent necessarily so – military leaders, then as now, needed to paint their deeds in a good light and cultivate political connections if they were to succeed.

…A prodigious letter writer. An anti-Abolitionist Democrat and sympathizer with the South who nevertheless took the Union side with no hesitation. A critic of Indian agents who sold goods for personal profit that were meant to assist the Indians, and wrote “If I were an Indian, I often think, I would greatly prefer to cast my lot among those of my people adhered to the free open plains rather than submit to the confined limits of a reservation, there to be the recipient of the blessed benefits of civilization, with its vices thrown in….” (1) And, undeniably, a figure who owes his present fame not to his interesting and impressive career, but from being immortalized by his disastrous defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. The exact sequence of events at that battle will never be known, although archeological excavation seems to shed some light on the matter. This historian gives what sounds like a balanced account, refuting the idea that Custer was a megalomaniac or madman.

At different times and by different people, Custer’s merits and flaws have both been exaggerated. Yet the drama and horror of his “last stand” quite understandably excited the imagination of his fellow Americans. How could one be indifferent to an event like this? Custer is one of ours, and we relate to him, and easily imagine ourselves, with horror, in his place. If we relinquish our right to judge for ourselves his merits and demerits, or indeed whether to remember him at all, we are giving up a piece of our heart. You might as well ask us to stop caring about missing white girls. No, that way lies extinction. The history of a people is in part a spiritual drama, represented by iconic events remembered collectively. The nature of this drama, and how it shall resolve itself, is the great question we face, and this is a question which no number of archaeological digs can resolve.

(1) George Armstrong Custer, My Life on the Plains, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK: 1962.

Toxic “Knowledge”

November 15, 2010

Recent histories of the United States invariably focus on the experience of the various vanquished Indian peoples and of the African slaves, not to mention the various new minorities who arrived in the 20th century. You know, this kind of thing is demoralizing to read. Wholesale destruction of Indian tribes; the slave ships of the 18th century…the list is endless, and even if one remembers the other side of the story – the cruelty of Indians or Africans; the many kind and humane Europeans; the utterly different societies and conditions of the past – one wishes things could have been different. (I mean this mainly with regard to those who were displaced or forcibly brought here; I have little concern with peoples who came of their own accord after the country was formed.) What gets to me is not so much the alleged badness of my forbears; I have learned to listen to those forbears directly, and their humanity and heroism are apparent to me. It is simply the sadness of knowing that for our civilization to rise, other peoples and cultures had to perish or be pushed aside. And they, too, had their humanity and heroism. That is the tragic side of our history.

Adults who are secure in their sense of identity can afford to contemplate, from time to time, the sometimes unfathomable cruelties of history, including those that took place in their own country. That does not necessarily mean that it is a useful thing to do. I remember reading of a Holocaust survivor who derided the idea of using art and literature as a means to “understand” that event. Some things are so horrible that there is nothing to be gained by contemplating them, which is not the same thing as saying that the facts should not be ascertained, the causes analyzed, etc.

What about in the case of children? We obviously want to teach our children to value and seek truth. But responsible people would not expose children to historical narratives that could traumatize or confuse them, any more than they would expose them to pornography. I think here our culture is deeply confused: on the one hand, our cultural arbiters seem to have decided that stories like “The Three Little Pigs” or “Little Red Riding Hood” need to be rewritten so that there is no villain and nobody gets hurt. On the other hand, they seem to have a compulsion to expose children to graphic accounts of violence and cruelty of America’s past, as long as it is a matter of white Americans being cruel to non-whites.

Here’s an example, from the state of Michigan, of the nightmarish results that can ensue:

Warren district faces suit over slavery lesson

Book excerpts with N-word rile family of fifth-grader

Christine Ferretti / The Detroit News

Warren — The family of a former Warren Consolidated Schools fifth-grader is suing the district, claiming the African-American girl was the victim of racial discrimination when excerpts from a book about slavery containing “outrageous statements” — including the N-word — were read aloud in class.

The lawsuit, filed last week in Macomb County Circuit Court, says the district inflicted emotional distress and racial harassment on the girl by allowing a Margaret Black Elementary School teacher to read sections of the book “From Slave Ship to Freedom Road” by Julius Lester.

The lesson took place in January, and involves passages that include: “Step right up! New shipment of n—–s just in.” And, “Nine months after you buy one of these n—–s, you will have a plantation full of n—-r babies,” according to the lawsuit.

Novi-based attorney Scott E. Combs, who is representing the family, says the incident violates Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which bars employers — and schools — from discriminating on the basis of factors such as religion, color, age, height and weight. The family is seeking damages exceeding $25,000.

Combs said Tuesday that numerous letters and calls to the district failed to remedy the family’s concerns over the literature.

The issue, he said, ultimately led the parents to pull the child from the district. She is now enrolled in sixth grade at an undisclosed school in Oakland County.
In the book — geared toward children ages 10-15 and in grades six to eight, according to Scholastic’s website — Lester uses text to interpret 24 paintings by Rod Brown to re-enact the 250-year journey from the first slave ships taking Africans from their homes to the Civil War and emancipation. It also depicts difficult truths such as whippings and lynchings, Scholastic.com says.

An Amazon.com review said some paintings “may be too powerful for younger children” and certain depictions “are difficult even for adults to bear.” The review says, “Children may be initially startled… but they will also be engaged and enlightened.”

I remember Scholastic. When I was in elementary school in the 1970s, we got children’s magazines published by them – I think they were called Scholastic News and Scholastic Voice; there was also one called Dynamite. We also could order books through the Scholastic Book Club – you would bring in a few dollars for the order, and a week or two later the books would come in. What a pleasure that was! Ghost stories, dinosaur stories, and some books dealing with the Founding Fathers and other topics that I daresay planted some seeds that are yielding fruit decades later in this blog.

So Scholastic is now in the business of forcing children to hear stories and see pictures of slavery and lynching, and even to do “thought exercises” that are different for students of different races! Neither black nor white children should be exposed to this sort of material, which is upsetting in itself and is obviously going to inculcate guilt in the white children and anti-white hostility in the black and other non-white children.

To cap off this “educational” travesty, the author of Slave Ship is black! So, a black man writes an anti-white children’s book, a teacher (I suppose white) reads the book to the class, and a black child’s family sues the school for traumatizing her. On both sides, blacks make money and get to inhabit the moral high ground in the deal; meanwhile, children of both races are mistreated. It sounds like another good example of what some are calling “Black-run America.”

This is not a country that I want to live in or consign my children to live in.

The reality is that some things are more important than making sure that certain “facts” are widely and publicly known. For instance, a people must first feel secure and sovereign in their identity and enjoy a healthy connection to their past, before they can enjoy the luxury of critiquing themselves and their history. The American people today enjoy no such security and are allowed little such connection. In such an atmosphere, it would be better if slavery, lynching, the atomic bombings, and other morally and ethnically-charged phenomena were suppressed and forgotten, than that they be taught as they are today, where every “fact,” true or false, becomes ammunition for angry minorities, foreign colonizers, and foreign enemies. This goes for what is told to adults as well as what is told to children.

And of course – my regular readers will hardly need to hear this – facts themselves can mislead more than enlighten. It would be better, I think, if no one “knew” that there were 5,000 lynchings between 1882 and 1968 in the United States except those who were also prepared to also learn, for example, what portion of those lynchings were of whites; how many victims of lynching were likely guilty; how many Americans in the North and South perished in the Civil War; the nature and condition of black communities from Reconstruction to the present; and recent black-on-white crime statistics. We should note also that a book like Slave Ship is more fiction than fact – how does Julius Lester know what kind of dialogue took place at a slave auction?

I believe in seeking truth. But even if it could be proven that all of the whites who colonized America were nothing but plundering, raping savages, I would stand by their descendants’ right to control this land and the destiny of the nation. Because somehow or other they created the America I know, a unique and beautiful civilization that I would do anything to help save. If you accept that, we may have something to talk about.

What Did The “Vast Conspiracy” Accomplish?

November 1, 2010

Somewhere I have read a commentator remark on how tragic or pathetic it was that during the Clinton years, while Islamic terrorist groups were busy developing their capacity to attack the United States, American society was preoccupied with Monica Lewinsky. Depending on your political allegiances you could blame either the shallow vindictiveness of the right wing or the sleaziness of the president and his supporters; but since 9/11 it can hardly be contested that we must have been doing something seriously wrong.

I was distant from American politics during the 1990s; I lived abroad during part that era and was otherwise preoccupied with different things. (I still can’t bring myself to care terribly much about many of the details of American electoral politics.) However, the stunning and – to a conservative – devastating developments of this past decade obviously have proceeded directly from the events of the 1990s, so it is worthwhile to revisit that time to see what we can see.

I have been reading The Clinton Wars by Sidney Blumenthal (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003), a liberal journalist who became an important senior adviser to the Clinton administration. My hope was to learn more about U.S. involvement in the Bosnian War, but the main focus of the book is on the various scandals in which Clinton and his administration were implicated. Blumenthal is a serious Clinton partisan – it seems neither Bill nor Hillary can do wrong in his eyes, and apparently his support of Hillary against Obama in 2008 cost him a job in the Obama administration. As someone who has never had the least inclination to like Clinton, it is interesting to see how he appears to his admirers. His talent and energy are undeniable, and he made at least superficial attempts to “moderate” the Democratic program in hopes that the majority of Americans, along with liberal Republicans, would support him. That Clinton was nevertheless attacked and derided by Republicans and the conservative media was, to Blumenthal, proof of their essential irrationality and ill will.

Blumenthal, who gave Hillary Clinton the term “vast right-wing conspiracy” to describe “the alliance of conservative media, think tanks, and political operatives that sought to destroy the Clinton White House” (see here) really does see “the right” as the primary obstacle to progress in politics – a fundamentally irrational, malicious force in American society.

Clinton believed he could move his agenda reasonably, making his case, fighting his battles, and pushing extremists to the fringes, where they belonged. But the irrational element in politics isn’t a virus isolated in extremism. Uncontrollable emotional passion in politics has roots in a thousand sources deep in the social soil. It can be located in the loss of power, in frustration at trying to grasp it, or just in the slightest proximity to power; in status anxiety, a moment of unsteady attention, or economic insecurity; in the desire for fame, influence, wealth, or ratings. These combustible feelings can never be quite gratified – because there is an insistent pressure for more, an ever-nagging sensation that whatever has been gained is never enough, and a dread that a speck of reflected glory can be capriciously lost in a twinkling.

The intensity of reaction, defying logic and reason, acquires its own logic. Rage and hatred swiftly develop images that masquerade as ideas, and the heightened imagination can make the figures on the cave wall appear to be a higher truth. The stronger the feeling, the more ingenuous it feels. Once in its grip, a person can make any remark or incident fit the mesmerizing pattern and confirm its reality. And the more a figure of hate tries to alter that reality to escape from the picture, the more he or she (Bill or Hillary) is thrust back into the stereotype…. (48)

I’ll limit my remarks to just a couple for now. First, Blumenthal’s view of the nature of “the right” is shared by many liberals, especially political thinkers and commentators and the more sophisticated of the Democrat voters. Frustrated by the intransigence of nearly half of the American population in their resistance to progressive policies, they try to articulate a psychological or anthropological explanation for the obvious irrationality of this group. They simply cannot accept that many people do understand the aims of progressive policies and reject those aims. Obama, readers will probably recall, has described “the right” in these terms quite frequently.

Second, despite the enormous biases of liberal operatives like Blumenthal, it is not a bad idea to consider how the establishment Right – say, the editors of the Wall Street Journal; Republican leaders; members of think tanks – appear in their eyes. What were they doing in the 1990s? Were they above the shenanigans that drew such contempt for the Clinton administration? That administration no doubt deserved the hounding they received. But what were the Right doing about mass immigration, deindustrialization, and deficit spending – to name a few of the problems that have really caught up with us since then? They had a lot of power to disrupt Democratic ambitions, and it’s good that they did, but it wasn’t enough.

The Republicans appear poised for huge gains in Tuesday’s elections, but until a solid and principled conservative movement has planted its roots at all levels of society, such victories will be fleeting and their benefits capricious.