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Friday, August 18, 2017

More Charlottesvilles?

The events last week in Charlottesville threaten to kick off a new chapter in American political history, one comparable in some respects to the student revolts of the late 1960s.  As usual, my perspective seems to be a bit different from most.  I shall try to share it.

I have no doubt, and have had none for at least the last ten years, that the United States is in the midst of a great political crisis.  Yet I am increasingly convinced that this crisis is not mainly a matter of left vs. right, but rather a crisis in our institutions and the relationship between our elites and the people which threatens either to plunge us into anarchy or even break up the United States.  The election of Donald Trump was a symptom of the crisis, in my opinion, because a demagogue without any background in public service, a man who had never been successful at anything except establishing and trading off of his own celebrity and his extraordinary neediness, and won the nomination of a major party despite the opposition of its entire leadership, and then squeaked into the White House without even a plurality of the popular vote.   The crisis was bipartisan, in a sense, because the Republican Party could not stop his nomination, while the Democrats could not come up with a candidate that could beat him.  By the time he took office Trump was firmly in alliance with the network of right wing donors led by the Koch brothers that I discussed at length two weeks ago.  That alliance, which also dominates Congress, is now working at dismantling more and more of the federal government.  Meanwhile, Trump's unstable behavior threatens war at almost any moment.

In the midst of this, two small but genuine grass roots movements have started something new.  A coalition of right wing groups, including Nazis, the KKK, and other white nationalists, decided to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, VA.  A larger number of people from the left decided to counterdemonstrate--and Antifa decided to show up to fight. There is really no doubt about that, and it is foolish for liberals to try to deny it.  Today both of my newspapers, the Boston Globe and the New York Times, have stories about Antifa quoting members who believe in violence against the right wing.

It took only one crazed right winger in his car to turn the Charlottesville protest into something bigger, by killing Heather Heyer.  But fatalities in such confrontations could happen in many other ways, and probably will. Many of the right wing marchers carried firearms; some of the Antifa people carried clubs.  There are many other controversies over monuments brewing around the country, and other pretexts for marches as well. Tomorrow 500 police and 100 state troopers will deploy around Boston Common to separate a right wing march for free speech from the larger number of leftists who plan to oppose it. By the time many of you read this tomorrow I suspect the Boston Common march will be dominating the news. (I won't be there.)

The concept of "space", promulgated by Jurgen Habermas, is central to postmodernist thinking, modern left wing thought, and contemporary liberal activists.  That is why they are so determined not to allow small numbers of far right activists to march unimpeded. But in my opinion, they are wrong.  Postmodern concepts of space and oppression are at odds with more traditional concepts of liberty and law.  The far right groups have the right to peaceful protest and other citizens do not have the right to impede them.  Should they become violent it is the responsibility of law enforcement to stop them, and I am confident that, in the vast majority of cases, they will.  In any case, these groups are still much too small to be any threat to our liberties, and they should be allowed gradually to return to the obscurity which they so richly deserve.

I do believe that Confederate monuments should come down.  Some months ago I devoted a post to Mayor Landrieu's speech on the occasion of the removal of the monuments in New Orleans, which I thought marked a milestone in American history.  A white southern politician not only endorsed, but embraced, the removal of the statues from a prominent outdoor location on the grounds that the Confederate leadership was on the wrong side of humanity and history.  I believe other white southern politicians, as well as many black ones, will follow his lead.  I have been shocked this week to discover that there were Confederate monuments in Baltimore and in Lexington, Kentucky, for the simple reason that neither Maryland nor Kentucky was ever part of the Confederacy.   The Baltimore statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, it turns out, came from a bequest from a man named Ferguson and went up after his death in 1948.  Their presence was endorsed, disgracefully, by Mayor Thomas d'Alessandro of of Baltimore, who happens to have been the father of Nancy Pelosi.  Just today Pelosi has asked for the removal of Confederate statues (including one of Jefferson Davis) from the U.S.Capitol. Those statues were sent by the states, each of which was entitled to select two citizens to memorialize.  I don't know exactly when they went in, and I would be curious as to whether there was any effort to keep men who had taken up arms against the government of the United States out, but I don't think Congress should insist on their removal. They came from various states (Davis from Mississippi), and the states should remove them. And I think there is a chance that they will.

The United States needs above all to rediscover a functioning government that can command the allegiance of its people. A long round of battles between white supremacists and Antifa activists around the country will not get us any closer to that goal.  I believe the Democratic Party and its adherents should try to lead by example.


João Carlos said...

I fear the Boomers failed to create a Gray Champion that will unite the nation. Trump causes division and Clinton was not good enough to win the election. A new war is coming, aparently. And it will get the US divided.

This fourth turning will end in disaster. Let's hope the Generation X come to power soon to fix everything the Boomers will broke.

Energyflow said...

We must not stop with civil war memorials but go after those of previous generations who condoned or practised slavery or racism, meaning washington, jefferson, lincoln, wilson, FDR, etc. We must rename thousands of streets, buildings, colleges, schools which memorialize such evil human beings who perhaps once uttered the n wordin private(LBJ, Nixon,Clinton perhaps, Bush). Racism or even the smell of it is a cardinal sin before the judaeo christian muslim god, the worst of all possible sins leading to eternal damnation. We must be vigilant.. Jesus said to love your neighbour. Perhaps a politician once hated his neighbour. He should be hounded out of office, his name eliminated from memory forever regardless of positive accomplishments for the common good. History must continually be rewritten according to most current ideas. Othello is a racist work, merchant of venice antisemitic and taming of the shrew sexist. Burn all of shakespeare. In the new testament homosexuality is condemned as an abomination. Where did st. Paul get off. Burn all bibles, tear down the churches. Not to speak of hundreds oof other authors like Mark Twain, etc. The witch hunt must begin. Cultural marxism must find its victim. In the russian revolution 10 million kulaks were killed for possessing land, a co, etc. We must draw a similar line in the sand. Love is the answer said John Lennon. Love or die say I

I hope you take this posting in the correct spirit. Pol Pot and Mao started along with Nazis in a similar extremist vein as well as Robespierre. Open the door to this just a crack and it will become a flood. Your many writings could be next to be banned as you make forced confessions in public of politically incorrect thought and are sent to reeducation camp in slave labour. Hysteria in Ukraine is a recent example if you doubt such things can occur today. It is in fact likely that the mob latches on to something insane when nothing is left to anchor them and they go into a frenzy of killing.

Unknown said...

Whitewashing History

The move recently to remove confederate soldier statues in New Orleans, Charlottesville and most recently Durham has resulted in some extremely troubling demonstrations and violence. Rallies by disgusting white supremacists and Neo-Nazis have served to cloud the fundamental issue. Are we in this country going to attempt to rewrite history and cleanse it for public consumption?

Are we to forget the more than 150 thousand Confederate Civil war casualties, and only remember and honor the Union casualties? Are we to forget the Confederate soldiers who fought valiantly for causes in which they firmly believed? The issues were not just slavery. There was the issue of States rights. There was the issue of self-determination. There was the issue of love of one’s State.

We remember the divisiveness that precipitated the Civil War, but we often forget the reconciliation (albeit painful at times) that ensued. The 47th Congress in 1882 during the administration of Chester A. Arthur was comprised of over 50 ex confederate officers and over 50 ex union officers, who fought bravely during the Civil War. Even the former Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, was a congressman from Georgia.

We cannot accept. We cannot tolerate the hatred and bigotry sown by these disgusting groups recently. They should be relegated to the fringes of society from whence they came.

Nor should we relegate decisions to the small minority who would remove every vestige of public sentiment for those who fought for the Confederacy. To do so would only serve to fuel the disease of divisiveness that currently infects our country.

US Army Fort A.P. Hill is located in Caroline County Virginia. A.P. Hill was a Confederate General in the Civil War. He was one of the most highly respected Generals on either side. He had extensive battle experience, and was killed on April 2, 1865 during the third battle of Petersburg just one week before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. The US Army has chosen to honor someone who fought valiantly against them by naming a fort in his honor.

In 1913 a reunion of Civil War Veterans took place in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with over 50,000 veterans (Union and Confederate) attending. We can all benefit from recalling (and honoring) the words of President Woodrow Wilson spoken on the occasion of this great reunion, “We have found one another again as brothers and comrades in arms, enemies no longer, generous friends rather, our battles long past, the quarrel forgotten – except that we shall not forget the splendid valor.”

A. Eric Bartholomay
Coventry, RI

Bozon said...


An interesting and thought provoking post.

While I agree with you about much you say here, I saved comment space only for where we most seem to differ. I trust you will understand.

I have some useful quotations below regarding Mayor Landrieu's position, moral judgments, and tearing down monuments.

"...I do believe that Confederate monuments should come down. Some months ago I devoted a post to Mayor Landrieu's speech on the occasion of the removal of the monuments in New Orleans, which I thought marked a milestone in American history. A white southern politician not only endorsed, but embraced, the removal of the statues from a prominent outdoor location on the grounds that the Confederate leadership was on the wrong side of humanity and history....." DK, excerpt

"It is the natural result of the whig historian's habits of mind and his attitude to history -- though it is not a necessary consequence of his actual method -- that he should be interested in the promulgation of moral judgments and should count this as an important part of his office. His preoccupation is not difficult to understand when it is remembered that he regards himself as something more than the enquirer. By the very finality and absoluteness with which he has endowed the present he has heightened his own position. For him the voice of posterity is the voice of God and the historian is the voice of posterity. And it is typical of him that he tends to regard himself as the judge when by his methods and his equipment he is fitted only to be the detective. His concern with the sphere of morality forms in fact, the extreme point in his desire to make judgments of value, and to count them as the verdict of history. By a curious example of the transference of ideas he, like many other people has come to confuse the importance which courts of legal justice must hold, and the finality they must have for practical reasons in society, with the most useless and unproductive of all forms of reflection-- the dispensing of moral judgments upon people or upon actions in retrospect....." Butterfield, The Whig Interpretation of History, VI. "Moral Judgments in History".

"...(a point historians repeatedly ignore, often operating with an ethics of success which blames losers for their failure)..." Schroeder, The Transformation of European Politics, p 741.

All the best

Energyflow said...

A detailed intelligent article by Ned Bennett, a noted historian, who discusses what will happen if Black Lives Matters get their way in rewriting history and who was a real racist bdfore and during civil war in US leadership.

Energyflow said...

Essentially the hijacking of academia by special interest groups, which you often complain about, has gone mainstream. All sides scream like 18 year old college students without regard to cool headed discussion of fact. This is immature. That all politicians and MSM enforce black white type opinions on all issues based on sound bites controlled through extremists like Black lives Matter, gay or women's rights groups can only lead to non extremists turning extremists of the opposite color out of pure spite.

For example if you were agnostic and a family member or acquaintance constantly tried to convert you to his religion you would work up a defense system of atheism, cynicism. If BLM says whites are evil long enough the average white guy will start researching aboutbevil non whites in history and discovering how good and bad exactly every white was in slavery era. The more gays or women's rights groups attack, heterosexuals, families, male privilege the more heteros, families, men will dig in their heels.

Essentially this is not a one way street. Battle lines have been drawn since the 60s. Academic madness is going mainstream. Trump is becoming victim of a campus lynching but D.C. and congress are dorms and campus with MSM egging them on. If the president has lost power to the left wing mob who irrationally threaten to ostracize anyone who gets in their way with racist label then we are in 60s Mao era where students were weapon against intellectuals who knew truth. Truth was invented by the party. This is happening today. Racism is one club internally, russophobia abroad. Agree or perish. Google fired a guy for saying women are not men, common sense. If I state state that blacks, whites, gays, etc. have different qualities ( as traditionally stereotypes of Irish, German, Italians) I will be lynched. The constitution guarantees free speech. Democracy is about discussion. The left has introduced a dictatorship on free opinion whose vise tightens by the day.

Columbus and those after him were colonial mass murderers. When do we rename D.C. Washington and Jefferson had slaves. Our whole past is riddled with paradoxes. Personally morally everyone experiences the same thing with sexual morality, lusting in the heart, so to speak or envy of others with more money. Ideology like anti racism, PC thought of left is a replacement for religion, which they do not practise anymore, being agnostics. Human rights is just ten commandments, love thy neighbour, written into law. They are shovving their religion down everyone's throats like any bible belt fundy or salafist. There are two sides to every story. You cannot force people to love their neighbour by religious diktat nor eliminate sexism and racism by laws and ostracism.

DAngler said...

I hear and agree with the article and the comments by other readers. HOWEVER, there is a reason for the current generation's disgust with us, and we would do well to recognize it.

It isn't all just our institutions of learning having run amuck. It is that this country has struggled with the concepts of equality of justice, of opportunity, of respect since its inception, and at some point it is right to ask if we care enough to make real equality who we are in America?

The new generation says that we have tried the approaches espoused by DK and all of you -- and me too -- and we have failed, as is clearly evident in Charlottseville and in Donald Trump's popularity. They are correct. They see us more interested in preserving our position(s) than in fixing our country. Thus the label of white supremicists.

If we want to prevent our children from creating a new civil war, we need to stop our intellectual masturbation and give them tangible alternatives that will work.

I am not just blasting DK and those who have commented before me. I am blasting myself too! My daughter is deep into this, and I am struggling with how to help guide her towards approaches that won't lead us to civil war. Something other than what we are doing now needs to be done and soon. She is correct in one thing: We must quit singing the same old song and start examining our premises from end-to-end -- which is far different than throwing out our old ways without keeping that which is valid and discarding that which fails us.