Shoegaze and Not-Shoegaze

Ridiculous Headline of the Week

Say Goodbye to America’s Racist Birds

The headline is ridiculous, and the news it links to is not only ridiculous but much more: crazy, sick, arguably wicked. You may have seen other news stories about this: the American Ornithological Society has decided that many bird names "have associations with the past that continue to be exclusionary and harmful today." 

Are these people not among the most insufferably self-righteous twits who have ever walked the earth? They have taken passive-aggression to undreamed of heights. And it's very hurtful.  

The headline makes the effort sound even crazier than it is. Even "activists" would have a very hard time convincing themselves that the birds themselves are racists. 

There is a hawk called Cooper's Hawk. I have no idea who Cooper was--not James Fenimore, I presume? Or maybe it was. In any case, he lived before our Red Guards began to do their work of purification, and is therefore automatically under suspicion. It won't take much to convict him. Anyway, it doesn't matter. Judging individual cases would be a big hassle, so they're just going to rename all the birds whose names include the names of persons. I expect the people who will actually feel better when this is done are not those who are said to feel "excluded" when they hear the words "Cooper's Hawk," but the activists who are enjoying the exercise of their power. 

And I suppose they won't get rid of the slur-adjacent "woodpecker," which is pretty much the same thing as "peckerwood."

I must, however, applaud the first comment on that story:



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In isolation this is a small thing, but these small things continue to add up. Waiting for the Audubon Society to change its name because... reasons.

"Are these people not among the most insufferably self-righteous twits who have ever walked the earth?"

Indeed. Which is why pushback is necessary even on the small points. Give in on the little stuff now, and we'll inevitably be giving in on bigger stuff later. See "Statues, Confederate."

You probably saw the story a week or so ago about the Robert E. Lee statue that was taken down (from Charlottesville, I think) and has now been melted down. The metal is to be used for something "inclusive." It was done in secret and Lee's face on the statue was first mutilated. There is something downright sadistic in that. It's not enough to remove a statue out of a place of honor. I can at least half agree with that. It has to be ritually defaced and utterly removed from the world. For complicated technical reasons I can't include a link to the story but I'm sure you can easily find it.

Audubon is in fact a target. There was a period in his life when he owned several slaves, so he's really evil. I don't know if they're trying to rename the society or not. I assume the paintings are too well-known and admired to be suppressed.

My grade school was Stand Watie Elementary. My junior high was Stonewall Jackson. My high school would have been U.S. Grant (I went to a private school for high school). Two Confederates and one Union.

Now Stand Watie is Esperanza Elementary and Stonewall Jackson is Mary Golda Ross Middle School. Ross was the "first Native American female engineer." U.S. Grant is still U.S. Grant.

Montaigne wrote about such "twits" in the 16th century, though he sarcastically called them "wits". Please forgive the lengthy quote:

I see most of the wits of my time using their ingenuity to obscure the glory of the beautiful and noble actions of antiquity, giving them some vile interpretation and conjuring up vain occasions and causes for them. What great subtlety! Give me the most excellent and purest action, and I will plausibly supply fifty vicious motives for it. God knows what a variety of interpretations may be placed on our inward will, for anyone who wants to elaborate them.
The same pains that they take to detract from these great names, and the same license, I would willingly take to lend them a shoulder to raise them higher. These great figures, whom the consensus of the wise has selected as examples to the world, I shall not hesitate to restore to their places of honor, as far as my ingenuity allows me to interpret them in a favorable light. But we are forced to believe that our powers of conception are far beneath their merit. It is the duty of good men to portray virtue as being as beautiful as possible; and it would not be unbecoming to us if passion carried us away in favor of such sacred models.

That’s a great quote—thanks.

Robert Gotcher: the town I grew up in had a Stonewall Jackson High School, which I thought was still named so, but out of curiosity just checked and it is now named Unity Reed High School! It seems it was renamed in 2020.

Stonewall Jackson's last words I still think are some of the most beautiful: "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees."

But he's probably not getting much rest these days with all the renamings :)

One of the ones that burns me the most is from Kentucky, and involves a Confederate colonel or general who after the war spent a large amount of time, money, and effort helping the freed slaves, even going so far as building them their own park when the local one was declared to be for whites only. The guy did a complete 180 after the war, yet they still got rid of his memorial, even though a lot of the local blacks objected.

There is no repentance with these people, which is scary.

That Montaigne quote is very good.

The one that takes the proverbial cake for me, is Sidney Lanier, who not so long ago, in 1972, the US Postal Service honored with a stamp and the designation "American Poet".

At least three Sidney Lanier named schools were renamed in the past couple of years just because he served in the Confederate Army, and then only as a private.

Wedding Hymn
By Sidney Lanier

Thou God, whose high, eternal Love
Is the only blue sky of our life,
Clear all the Heaven that bends above
The life-road of this man and wife.

May these two lives be but one note
In the world’s strange-sounding harmony,
Whose sacred music e’er shall float
Through every discord up to Thee.

As when from separate stars two beams
Unite to form one tender ray:
As when two sweet but shadowy dreams
Explain each other in the day:

So may these two dear hearts one light
Emit, and each interpret each.
Let an angel come and dwell tonight
In this dear double-heart, and teach.

There is indeed a push to rename the Audubon Society, but so far they have decided to stick with it. The renaming of birds makes me crazy, and I just will refuse to use the new names. A man in my Facebook naturalist group just published a book with illustrations of all the floral and fauna native to Mississippi, and I think I need to buy one before another edition comes out.


And who the heck are these people, anyway?


The ringleaders are Dolores Umbridge clones. The followers are...followers.

Lanier High School in Montgomery is named for Sidney Lanier. If I'm not mistaken the athletic teams are named the Poets. It's a little funny because Lanier only lived in Montgomery briefly.

Andrew Hudgins has a book-length set of poems, After The Lost War, written, with much license, from Lanier's point of view. It's pretty good. Not on a level, technically speaking, with the poem CK quotes above (thanks).

I had to look up Stand Watie. Interesting.

It's really funny how "the left," who spent many long years castigating and ridiculing people of a former era for their Bowdlerizing, are now taking the lead in similar behaviors, and furthermore not only don't recognize that they are doing it, but cannot see the irony involved.

The sheer stupidity of this (if it is indeed stupidity, and not a form of willful ignorance), is mind boggling. If a group of people ever existed who "don't know what they don't know," it's this crew.

The Stand Watie story is very interesting. I note with considerable relish that he was born in what is now Calhoun, Ga. The fact that there is still a place called Calhoun is a little surprising. One would have thought that the infantiles would have gotten to that one by now.

I guess changing a place name is a much bigger practical problem than getting rid of a statue or renaming a single building.

I'm not all that surprised by the young leftists who are doing this stuff. They were almost born into it. I am somewhat surprised by the older ones, the ones in my general age bracket. When they were young, they considered speaking out against the establishment a cardinal virtue. "Question Authority!" and all that. Now they run interference for authority. They used to live in fear of the FBI and CIA--or at least pretended to. Now they trust them. Covid really brought that out--they were all for the government and tech suppressing "misinformation."

Yes, and the ones who didn't go along were considered traitors -- Greenwald, De Boer, etc.

This craziness seems more generational to me than it does left/right or progressive/conservative. My feeling is not only do the young people have terrible taste in music, but also no sense of history and an inordinately wacky idea that anyone who is white was wrong at every point in history. Even if they are white also. It all helps to foster votes for Republicans, so it should upset me more than the rest of you.
I have a great deal of envy for people who pay no attention to any of this. I know so many folks like that and I just don't understand how they do it?

I'm wrestling with that. Thinking seriously about making a big effort to just drop out mentally.

Young people in general are a pretty dispiriting sight, but the "let's rename the birds" crowd, the desire to erase all the history we don't like, is completely a left thing.

I don't think it's apparent to most people who weren't around and involved at the time, but there is nothing in "wokeness" that was not already present, at least implicitly, in the '60s cultural revolution. It's just vastly more widespread. And what was implicit is now explicit.

In a book written in 1990 Rene Girard predicted that "political correctness" would get worse and possibly become tyrannical.

I've tried to opt out, but the stuff is everywhere -- it's hard to escape. I guess you could train yourself to ignore it though.

I think I can ignore it. The bigger problem is that I seek it out. I'd have to cancel at least three magazine subscriptions and force myself to stay away from their web sites.

Many years ago I saw a cartoon which I really wish I had cut out and saved. In the foreground are two women talking. One is saying to the other "Some men lead lives of quiet desperation. And then there's Ralph." In the background is Ralph screaming "I CAN'T STAND IT!!!"

That's the way I feel about the political-cultural situation.

Ha! I feel the same way. That Oliver Anthony song really struck a nerve with me, especially the line that says "They don't think you know, but I know that you do." I've considered having that made into a bumper sticker.

That's a bit long for a bumper sticker. "They don't think you know" would be pretty good by itself.

That's funny, Mac. Was that a Far Side comic? (about Ralph, that is)

It was National Review. Not exactly renowned for its comics. But if my memory is correct, for a long time they had a cartoonist who just signed himself "MAL" and was often quite funny. This was no later than the '90s, possibly earlier. That I remember it shows how much I liked it.

Speaking of cartoons: The New Yorker has always been the gold standard, but they seem to have really fallen off. For mysterious reasons they show up from time to time on Facebook for me, and a lot of them are just bland and unfunny, both verbally and visually. But very topical of course. Young people again...

Roz Chast is still there, though, and she's still good, though possibly past her prime.

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