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08/14/2017

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In reference to Charlottesville:

"This frightening turn of US Christianity (Protestant and Catholic) toward a right wing political activism of hatred, exclusion, and judgementalism goes back to our founding. We cannot move forward until as a nation we confess our guilt. We have exterminated the native peoples, we have enslaved other humans, we have needlessly put blacks in prisons, and excluded them from housing and jobs. We have promoted hateful discriminatory language against immigrants and foreign peoples and other religions. We, the United States, who proclaim so loudly that we are a Christian nation, are in grave sin."

A Catholic friend of mine wrote that. In Germany this sort of thing would be illegal because they take seriously their crimes of the 20th century. In the USA we have the Confederate flag and guns and crazies, and now a President that does not want to offend the "alt-right".

Your friend has valid points but he (or she) is doing the same thing that has helped to get us into this mess: reducing political disagreements to polarized questions of absolute good and evil that can't even be discussed. Suggesting that "judgementalism" is only a step toward terrorism (if this was written about Charlottesville). The alt-right is not even Christian.

I like Archbishop Chaput's response:

http://archphila.org/statement-of-archbishop-charles-j-chaput-o-f-m-cap-regarding-racial-violence-in-charlottesville-virginia/

Written prior to Charlottesville incidents, I just thought of it in reference to alt-right, hate groups, etc. I took one paragraph that I had been thinking about and put it up for discussion.

The older I get the less inclined I am to feel that any Confederate anything needs to be displayed anywhere, just leave it for the History books. And I do have ancestors who were slave owners in North Carolina. Perhaps just outlaw these overt displays of racism: Confederate flag, Nazi flag - and go from there.

I also like Archbishop Chaput's response, Mac. Though I would classify the Confederate flag is quite similar to the Nazi one.

Although it's only mid-August, summer is in a sense over for me. As I've mentioned before, two of my grandsons, ages five and seven, have been spending three or four days a week with us,. . . But school starts tomorrow,

Guess it's even more over for them, poor babies. I hate it that school starts so early.

AMDG

I know. I don't think they were as downhearted about going back to school as I was when I was a child, but I didn't get the impression that they're enthusiastic, either.

I figure in time there will be no summer vacation at all. Contemporary social and economic conditions oppose it.

Confederate flags and monuments are a touchy question. I've often thought about writing a piece making the point that as a matter of simple good manners and decency the flag ought not to be publicly displayed, certainly not on government buildings. I never have written it because the people I might wish would see it would not. But the flag isn't *necessarily intended* as a support for racism. Southerners especially tend to be really patriotic and see the flag as an expression of regional pride. If you go too far, for instance by trying to ban it altogether, it will only alienate those people and add fuel to the fire for the real racists. That's what the drive to pull down monuments is doing. Is getting rid of a statue of Robert E. Lee, whom almost everyone who has studied him agrees was an admirable man, really going to help race relations? I think we have the answer to that. It's certainly not going to do anything to improve actual physical and social conditions for black people.

I love, love, love that picture. If it were on the front of a book, I would read the book.

AMDG

Glad you like it. No, glad you love it. I will confess that it really touches me.

I know. I was certainly brought up believing that RE Lee was the better of the two generals, with US Grant being a drunk and not to be very much admired.

The Mayor of New Orleans had a moving speech in reference to his city removing Confederate statues, that I read online around the time that was going on.

Hard to imagine Lee Circle without Lee - perhaps they changed the name. Oh well. Terrible the hate and what is hijacked for the cause of hate.

I am one of the dwindling white males who will soon be living in a country of non-whites, why don't I become a Nazi or KKK member? I just don't think that is a good excuse to be an extremist.

Now, you know it doesn't work like that. It's not push the button, out comes a nazi. But when you set certain social forces in motion it's not hard to predict that some people will react in certain ways. Imagine you're a white kid with not very good prospects in the world. The world of segregation was dismantled 20 years before you were born, and yet you're held responsible for it. And you're hearing the message "Ha ha, pretty soon you're going to be in the minority, a**h****", which carries a certain implied threat. Everybody else is encouraged to celebrate their ethnicity, but you're supposed to feel bad about yours. It's about as predictable as anything in human affairs that some number of people in that situation are going to fall prey to racist and similar notions.

Obviously I don't mean it's right, I'm just saying it's pretty much bound to happen. How many times have we heard that the punitive Treaty of Versailles encouraged the rise of Nazism?

Also predictable, even more so, is that people who are already definitely racist will exploit all that anti-white rhetoric for their purposes. "See, this is what we've been telling you. Better join us."

Thanks for the link to Archbishop Chaput's statement on Charlottesville and what it signifies. Nothing I've read by others in positions of leadership even come close.

Hm. I am really hiding under a rock. What happened in Charlottesville?

!! You really are. A big white nationalist rally during which a guy drove a car into a group of counter-protesters, killing one person and injuring a number of others.

You're welcome, Marianne. It was Chaput's remark about the country unraveling into brutal hatreds that really struck me.

My word for that kind of thing is barbarism, no matter what "side" they are on.

That almost seems to mild a word for the guy who drove his car into the crowd. I've seen a few people here and there trying to claim that he was just trying to get away from people who were attacking him. But if you watch the video I don't see how you can say that. He accelerates for a block before hitting the crowd. I can't imagine any explanation for what I saw other than that he intended to do it.

Totally off-topic, I just saw a link to this on the Close Reads Facebook page. 2016 Thriftbooks most popular reads by state. One has to note that the South comes off far better than any other area.

AMDG

That is fun, Janet. Who knew Isaac Asimov was such a big deal in Arkansas?

I know. that made me laugh.

AMDG

Very interesting. What's the matter with New York and California?!?

Lee decent? I used to think that too.
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/the-myth-of-the-kindly-general-lee/529038/?utm_source=fb

A rebuttal to the Atlantic hit piece.

https://the-american-catholic.com/2017/06/05/robert-e-lee-our-contemporary/

I only had time to skim the Atlantic piece yesterday. Distressing if true. Certainly a hit piece so I assume it's not the whole truth. I'll read the American Catholic one later.

There are TWO great things about the RE Lee piece Rob G attached: 1) it isn't too long; you can read it in 5-7 minutes; 2) our old friend Art Deco has a comment in the comments section!!

It was very nice to see AD again, with his typical use of language ('starboard'!). But I don't agree with his suggestion that Jonah Goldberg is about the only good writer hired during the Rich Lowry era at National Review. I think Kevin Williamson is one of the best journalists who has ever worked for the magazine - at least for as long as I've read it - since the early 1990s

"Insipid dreck" would be a subjective term, right?

Usually, but not when I use it. When I use it, it's pure and simple fact.

I disagree about NR, too. There are several writers there whom I find interesting at least, K Williamson being one. But I understand that he's the sort of hard-punching polemicist that people who don't agree with him wouldn't like. Would probably hate, in fact.

Two points on popular books in states. Rolling Thunder, Hear My Cry is a wonderful book.

It is interesting to this Oklahoman that The Oursiders, which was set in Oklahoma, is the most popular book in Texas.

I sent to Stand Watie grade school and "Stonewall" Jackson middle school. My mom worked at Robert E. Lee grade school. If I had gone to a public high school it would have been U.S. Grant(!).

Art Deco says that Ross Douthat was never employed by any of the "starboard magazine press". He has done some writing at First Things, though, and I think at one time movie reviews for National Review. Anyway, I think he's a very thoughtful writer with well-informed ideas. I just now wandered over to his Twitter feed and found a series of 13 Tweets he wrote a few hours ago on what to do about Confederate statues that’s a good example of this -- it ends with the latest, so start at the bottom:

The fact that some who want to remove Confederate statues also want a general iconoclasm doesn't mean lines can't be successfully drawn.

12. But keep statues of ordinary soldiers, bc God gave "both North + South this terrible war as the woe due those by whom the offense came."

11. That still seems like a reasonable approach. The statues of CSA leaders should be in museums. Plaques celebrating the Cause should go.

10. But I also suspect that he would have expected, and welcomed, statues of southern soldiers on battlefields and town greens.

9. I'm sure Lincoln would have been appalled by the statues that went up as monuments to that cause, to Redemption, Jim Crow, etc.

8. ... and it points to a way of remembering southern military valor as part of *our* story while rejecting their political cause as wicked.

7. This is mythmaking, of course, but also not without truth: South didn't invent slavery, Founders accepted it, North tolerated it, etc ...

6. ... as an (incomplete) expiation in which white Americans know that depending on their birthplace they might have fought on either side.

5. Lincoln is hinting, I think, at a way that many non-Confederate-nostalgist Civil War buffs think about the war today ...

4. This is very different from Lost Cause mythos. But it points to a way of remembering Civil War that isn't just CSA=proto-Nazi traitors.

3. It includes particular and sharp criticisms of the South, but they're joined to an assumption that war is God's judgment on all the USA.

2. Lincoln's address is a remarkable exercise in attempting national reconciliation by assuming a collective American guilt for slavery.

1. Not sure if I'll write this up, but I've been re-reading Lincoln's Second Inaugural while thinking about the Confederate statuary.


The piece Rob G links to may be short but it doesnt rebut any of the main points in the Atlantic piece, such as that Lee broke up slave families when he sold them, that he had two recaptured slaves whipped and then washed their wounds in brine and that he thought that slavery was necessary for blacks until they evolved up to the level of white slave owners. The problem with this Last view is it how could keeping them as slaves working in the field enable them to evolve up to the next level so to speak

Yes. Assuming that the facts in the Atlantic piece are accurate, they certainly tell against Lee. But the writer is obviously not interested in presenting a balanced and judicious view of the man overall (he also writes for Salon and Buzzfeed) so I reserve judgment to some degree.

I do think there are good reasons not to have these monuments in public places. But I also think the current frenzy is going to produce a fierce backlash. Already is. Douthat's view is very reasonable but few are listening to reason right now.

I scoff at those who are yelling "traitor!" at Lee and all Southerners down to the present day, unless they're also willing to repudiate the existence of the U.S.A. as a nation, founded on treason against the Crown. What the hell do they think George III thought of Washington et.al.?!?

Robert G: "My mom worked at Robert E. Lee grade school. If I had gone to a public high school it would have been U.S. Grant(!)."

That's hilarious. And people were okay with the seeming contradiction, I suppose.

I agree the author did seem biased but both of them seem so to me.

Most people in my generation have been through a learning curve about the history of racism in America and about what slavery could actually be like. Much of it was kind of whitewashed in the textbooks and historical books of our childhood and college days. To give an example, it seems (I may be wrong about this) but it appears that historians have only relatively recently begun to debate about clauses in the Constitution which could have made slavery illicit, and how the authors of the Constitution decided not to include those clauses. To give a less technical example: most people who saw the mini-series about Adams will have been taken aback to see slaves building the White House, at the end of the last episode.

So, ten years ago, or even five years ago, I would have said 'all the statues must stay because history must not be erased and after a Civil War you cannot have reconciliation if one side utterly loses and the other side utterly wins.' I actually wheeled that out a few days ago, on facebook. I wrote 'history must not be erased.' And then I realized that I don't believe that any more. Not in all cases everywhere. The Civil War was 150 years ago and we no longer need to reconcile the two sides :)

What I'm trying to say is that everyone has somewhat shifted on these issues over the past 15 years. Or most people - obviously not the KKK in Charlottesville last weekend. But Conservative opinion is not what it was 30 years ago. I was reading a piece by some conservative journalist who taught a college course this summer on the history of conservativism, and was kind of embarrassed about, say, Buckley's attitude to the Civil Rights Movement.

I realize there are extremists who want to take down Everyone's Statue going down to the year dot. But outside of those folks, I think the mainstream is recognizing that the whole history of America is much more checkered than it used to be presented. It used to be presented that way (I would guess) simply because of a tendency toward Pelagianism in the culture. Its hard for a Pelagian culture to come to terms with its clay feet.

Oh certainly, both authors were definitely biased in their different directions. I didn't mention the pro-Lee guy's bias because he was quite up front with it.

I pretty much agree with the rest of what you say. There's the Pelagianism, but there's also the Manicheanism or maybe just Puritanism of those who see history as a conflict between light and darkness and have now definitively put most of the historical reality of the U.S. and for that matter most of Western civ into the dark column. I come back again to the word "frenzy." It's true that the frenzy is limited to a relatively small number of people, but as in most of the culture-war scenarios they are influential way beyond their numbers.

There are certainly good arguments for taking the statues down etc., as I think I said earlier. But it's not going to make any real difference in the real situation of black people or other minorities.

Someone once wrote that an unfortunate error of the CW era was that Northerners began to see all slaveholders as Simon Legree, while Southerners saw all abolitionists as John Brown. Under the current regime identity politics this error of perception has only gotten worse. All Confederates are now tarred with the Legree brush while the Browns are declared heroes.

I wish I could think that something more noble than this was driving the statue removals/desecrations, and perhaps there's a grain of nobility in some of the efforts, but on the whole I'm simply not buying it.


Whatever the merits of the abstract arguments pro and con, it seems pretty clear to me that the push to get rid of the statues, plaques, etc. doesn't really have much to do with those. The Douthat line of reasoning that Marianne posted, sensible as it is, is irrelevant to the crusaders in part because it assumes that healing and reconciliation are the goal, but they aren't.

It's not about reconciliation and healing divisions, but about sharpening them. It's about the extirpation of evil, of a piece with the need to destroy a baker who doesn't want to bake a gay-themed cake.

Kevin Williamson's claim that they are pulling down the statues in order to rile up the right and bring out the troglodytes (incl the president) sounds about right to me

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/450551/confederate-statues-republicans-democrats-should-let-them-be

It could be a positive thing, another Republican needs to run against this toad in the next election cycle. Maybe it could be a baker who has lost his/her job?

But having reasonable candidates running against Trump didn't work this time. This stuff is probably causing more Trump supporters to dig in their heels than non-Trump-supporters to call for an alternative.

I realized, reading the Williamson piece, that his work is sometimes kind of a guilty pleasure for me. I laughed out loud at "degenerate little old lady from Park Ridge" but it's not a reaction I should indulge.

Anyway, I guess he's probably right about this being strategy at some level. At the very least, it's being used that way. But I think it is in fact a crusade for the people doing the marching and shouting and free-lance statue-pulling-down.

I totally agree with him that it should be left at the local level.

I've been meaning to mention: weren't the tiki torches hilarious?

I agree Stu. The provocateurs could overstep, and trigger Trump to do or say something so crazy Pence has to take over and or someone else runs for the GOP in 2020. They may already have done so.

But the again (replying to my own comment above) there's this:

http://thefederalist.com/2017/08/16/donald-trump-needs-to-not-be-president-yesterday/

"the again" = "then again"

Well that was great, Mac. I loved The Indiana Jones Rule!

I'm pretty much rooting for him to do any and all crazy stuff that does not lead to death at this point. He really needs to be out no matter what. It is an epic disaster. He makes Putin look like a great leader. Kim Jong Un still seems slightly more unhinged than Trump.


Kevin Williamson would surely put me down as one naive old woman because I don't think everyone in favor of removing Confederate monuments is totally in it for the politics of the thing. Yesterday I came across the speech the mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, made back in May when four Confederate monuments there were taken down. He makes an eloquent and powerful argument for their removal. Reading it, I wasn't at all reminded of "vandals and the iconoclasts", and I don't think his aim was "to get a rise out of the Right". You can read the speech here.

That was a great speech, Marianne. I was quite impressed by it. And I am one who is not totally convinced that all traces of the Confederacy need be removed.

That is a good speech, although I won't say great. It seemed overlong and repetitive to me and I might argue with bits of it. But all in all, I agree with it.

Insofar as Williamson really means to say that cynical politics is the only thing at work in the movement to get rid of the statues, I don't agree. But I don't think it's at all overly cynical to assume that such calculations are being made by Democrats. A lot of the foot soldiers are no doubt looking for that evasive Selma moment.

One important part of the speech to me is his description of the process by which the statues were removed. That's the way it should happen, not the mob-like national movement that wants to force its will on every town and city right this minute.

Btw in Mobile there is a marker on the site of the old slave market.

I love that photo too. I'm glad you've had a good summer with them.

"This frightening turn of US Christianity (Protestant and Catholic) toward a right wing political activism of hatred, exclusion, and judgementalism ..."

What garbage.

Marianne I dont think KDR means that every person who wants the statues to come down is a provocateur. He means that the movement to bring with the statues down at this time is deliberately provocative

I also liked Francks piece

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2017/08/19919/

Marianne I dont think KDR means that every person who wants the statues to come down is a provocateur. He means that the movement to bring with the statues down at this time is deliberately provocative

I also liked Francks piece

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2017/08/19919/

I mostly agree with that, too. I'm not so sure it's valid to assert that the statues erected 20 and 30 years or more after the war were mainly intended to intimidate. I don't think people were in a position to do that sort of thing for a while after the war. And I'm not so sure that there won't in fact be a push to take down Washington and Jefferson, though it wouldn't be likely to succeed.

I think his last paragraph is very important: "Let us, finally, take these decisions about our public spaces and the commemoration of our past in full daylight..."

Franck's piece is good too, Grumpy. But I don't want to see the statues of Raphael Semmes or Father Ryan taken down, and I'm not even from Mobile! Maybe I just like statues.

If this is accurate there are indeed people who have no intention of stopping with public civil war memorials.

http://thefederalist.com/2017/08/17/heres-list-monuments-liberals-want-tear-far/

It is pretty crazy. I think we all agree that a statue of Hitler would be bad, or the guy in Syria, or even Trump for that matter. But the rest of this is nuts!

I think we should start putting up statues of famous authors, how about Truman Capote in Bienville Square?

I sorta think there may be a statue of Eugene Walter somewhere in Mobile. No, probably not a statue--maybe a plaque or something? Or maybe I'm just making that up because literary Mobile talks about him so much.

Eugene Walter is buried in the Church Street cemetery very close to Joe Cain, so there might be something there?

There was a sort of rumor going around of a coordinated nationwide attack on Confederate memorials this weekend. I heard the police were going to be keeping an eye on the Semmes statue. But I haven't heard of anything happening.

Racial hatred is an abomination. I think if we react to hateful acts with hate ourselves, we are really no better.

Rene Girard said that sacrifice universally throughout the history of man was based on the idea that if we destroy this thing, life, or person, we appease the gods and therefore achieve benefit for ourselves (scapegoating). He discovered that the only religion that rejected this approach to the Gods was Christianity. It was God who sacrificed so that we could live eternally. When he realized this, he became Catholic.

What neo-Nazis and white supremacists do is scapegoating. If we respond to them with hatred and a desire to somehow neutralize them, we are doing the same thing (crime, of course, needs to be punished--but not vindictively). Among other things we are saying they are the problem and that if we somehow get rid of them our life in the U.S. will be better. Here is an article by a former neo-Nazi about how he was converted to Catholicism.

This is the text of St. Francis's 9th Admonition to his brothers:

The Lord says in the Gospel, "Love your enemies," etc. 3 He truly loves his enemy who does not grieve because of the wrong done to himself, but who is afflicted for love of God because of the sin on his [brother's] soul and who shows his love by his works.

I've never read any of Girard. I've heard his basic view sketched more or less as you've done and always thought it sounded interesting but wondered if maybe he was trying to make it explain more than it really can. Is there one book of his you'd recommend?

We now have sort of a mutual scapegoating going on. The racists do it, almost by definition. Now the anti-racists are doing a variation of it.

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