"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Monday, May 28, 2018

Stranger Than Fiction–Donald Trump Is ‘One Of Us’ And Time For The Left To Get Over It

Stretchy is member of a local Washington area sports club.  Fit, reasonably well-educated, assiduous, and regular.  Yet he is on the fringe, an outlier in a gym with a mixed demographic profile – young thirty-somethings in the early hours, retirees in mid-morning, ladies in the afternoon, and the rest in the evening, all well within the socio-economic and cultural profile of the region. 

Energy levels, commitment, and humor vary.  The young professionals have a lot at stake, and a trim, able body factors tens of additional thousands in contract negotiations, upward mobility, and public image.  Older men have equally as much at stake – keeping the wolf away from the door for a few more years and perhaps even a vague notion of male attractiveness despite the sags and wrinkles.

Then there is Stretchy, a man whose contortionist regimen, so circus-like and beyond the pale of anything the patrons of the gym have ever imagined, that he is a freak, an outlier, and a side-show curiosity. While gym members have been taught never to stare, they cannot take their eyes of this man who stretches every joint to its physical limits – hip joints beyond 180 degrees, lumbar, shoulder, and elbow joints past the breaking point, and neck vertebrae impossibly twisted.

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Besides the fact that Stretchy could be the circus freak show, a top dollar attraction, and a money maker for Barnum & Bailey, he remains at the gym.  Every day, rain or shine, he is there, on the monkey bars, twisting and pulling his joints as though he were willing them to come apart, wrenching his neck and head so far around that he might even look backwards, and fluttering his hands, wrists, and fingers to loosen them from their binding ligaments.  It is impossible to turn away, impossible to ignore him, and impossible to wonder who he is, what he is doing, and where he comes from.

There is speculation of course.  An odd reference here and there, but no one really knows Stretchy, nor his name.  Rumors are that he was a gymnast or a dancer, and even a circus performer; but nothing about him suggests such a past.  He speaks well.  No accent gives his origins away, no malapropisms his education.  For all intents and purposes he is one of us, a retired government employee, lawyer, or non-profit employee.

So to what can one attribute such an exaggerated behavior? Most patrons of the gym are there to keep reasonably limber, reasonably strong, and aerobically fit.  No one is ripped, perfectly proportioned, or trim and lean.  All are there to keep from deteriorating further rather than reach some ideal.

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There can be no way that Stretchy’s routine can possibly help him in real life.  Such exaggeratedly attenuated ligaments and tendons cannot possibly help him in his work, around the house, or in the garden.  Nor has there been any proven correlation between extreme limberness and life expectancy or morbidity.

The man must be unbalanced, quirky, and socially unsettled.  He is not one of the majority but in the language of Freaks, ‘One of us’.  He belongs to a cadre of exceptional, unique, but peripheral individuals who are rarely noticed but when they are, gawked at for their eccentricities.  He is no different from other gym characters – ‘Death’, a grey, skeletal woman who drove the ellipticals to some hoped-for reprieve; Jabba the Hut, a ponderously obese man who overflowed the whirlpool, who had one elephantine leg (his surgery had been only partially successful) , the man who polished his balls, using a towel like a shoeshine strop, or the barking scarecrow, 70ish, neurasthenic, unbalanced, and hectoring.

But of course these men and women are not anomalies.  They exist in the thousands on the street.  They talk to themselves.  They walk in rectangles, twitch and jerk in corners, and wear beanies with propellers.  They are the unhinged, the off-program, the emotionally estranged, and the weird.

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Yet if we are honest, their ranks are not in the thousand but the millions.  In a country where most social fetters have been loosened, where anything goes, and where the unexpected has become the norm, then many of us are pedestrian versions of Stretchy, no where near as eccentric, but borderline, persons of tics and emotional twitches that have become so common as to be unnoticed.

Transvestites, drag queens, transgender, cross-dressing sexual mutants are not unusual or remarkable but points on a fluid gender spectrum.  What was formerly considered mental illness has been reclassified.  Bi-polarity has its upside, adding diversity to a uni-polar world.  Even schizophrenia, a horrible disease of distortion and unbelievable reality, is now considered part or the normal emotional range.  While schizophrenics might need medical help, they should never be marginalized, institutionalized, or rejected.  They are one of us.

To take this metaphor one step further, is there nothing amusing in ‘normal’ behavior?  The excesses to which we take politics, religion or social engagement?

How can one take totally, completely predictable behavior seriously? Is there nothing funny about someone who marches in every march for environmental justice, gender rights, economic and social equality? Who is persistent and daily in posts about injustice, climate ignorance, and racial discrimination? In whose family no offending word may be allowed – ‘stupid’, ‘dumb’, and ‘ugly’ are terms non grata, no aggressive behavior is tolerated, no unkind reflection permitted? For whom every possible social ill – climate change, the glass ceiling, misogyny, racism, sexism, and economic elitism – are products of American capitalism and must be fought and the Republic defended against rightist tyranny?

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Of course it is funny.  Any exaggerated behavior is funny.  Any move off the mark, any puncturing of the social bubble wrap, condemned.  Only the diffident, the indifferent, the unconcerned are serious cultural heroes.   The dispassionate, like cockroaches and raccoons, are the inheritors, the survivors.
Where does this leave Donald Trump?  There are those on the Left for whom the man is evil, a reincarnation of Hitler, Stalin, Genghis Khan, Garfield, and every carny barker, Elmer Gantry, charlatan, snake-oil salesman, and travelling Lothario that ever walked the earth. 

Yet what is new about Donald Trump?  Is he not the huckster, squire of beautiful women, magnate and owner of yachts, mansions, and things that we would like to be?  Is he not quintessentially American in his appetites, his braggadocio, and over-the-top personality?  Who can possibly judge Donald Trump who has ever been to Las Vegas or Hollywood; or who has ever set foot on Wall Street or the streets of New York?

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He is one of us.  We want everything he has.  We want to say what we think, elaborate the facts a la Sunset Boulevard, dismissively judge amateur talent and ridicule amateur intelligence.  We want his yachts, his women, his palaces, and his power. 

We want nothing to do with nor pay any attention to the wailings of his opponents.

Finally we have an American president, one of us.  Kennedy was an aristocrat from Downton Abbey, Clinton a horny dissimulator who refused to acknowledge his hillbilly roots, George Bush a down-home wannabee who misceginated his cowboy and patrician heritage, LBJ who, as much as he hated Camelot and Hyannisport, would always define himself as the not-Kennedy.   Trump is not Kennedy, Churchill, Roosevelt, or Reagan.  He is American – at heart, fundamentally, and absolutely.

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The tens of millions who voted for Donald Trump understand that he is a Man of the People more than any other president.  The Left, and especially the progressive Left cannot and will not accept that he is in the Oval Office; but in this rejection of his legitimacy have ignored what is really America and not their imagined vision.  Trump is bourgeois, crass, and unschooled.  He is a streetfighter, a hooligan, and a showman.  He is a gambler, a risk-taker, and an unabashed, in-your-face, cultural thief.  How can he possibly be President, progressives ask?  How could this sexist, racist, etc. etc. man have fooled so many?

He did not fool anyone.  Those who voted for him and those who almost did understood him completely and voted for him exactly because of who he was.   They are not disappointed, but requited.  Nothing he has done – no turnabouts, questionable relationships, friendships, or deals have turned them against him. 

Why? Because he is ‘one of us’ – forever outrageous, independent, defiant, unintimidated, and controversial.

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The Union is better off with Donald Trump than Obama, Hillary, or Bernie Sanders because he represents American values – not necessarily home, family, and faith, but patriotism, bourgeois taste, frontier justice, and Barnum and Bailey showmanship,

No special prosecutor, nor FBI, an no Congressional inquiries will change that.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Memorial Day–Does That Include The Confederate Dead? The Innocent Must Be Remembered

While one can understand the arguments for removing the Confederate flag, it is much harder to accept the relegation of Confederate dead.  As in most wars, most Southern soldiers fought because they were drafted.  In some cases, particularly in the officer corps, they fought for patriotism and followed the lead of their generals and colonels. 

More American soldiers died in the Civil War than in any other (as a proportion of the population); and Confederate soldiers died just as courageously and heroically as their Northern brothers.  Why shouldn’t their deaths be honored? Does it take a just war for soldiers to be recognized?

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If a just war were the only criterion, then soldiers who died in Iraq or Vietnam should be given no recognition whatsoever.  Most historians have concluded that the War in Vietnam was a tragic mistake; and many believe the same thing about Iraq.  What about the soldiers who killed thousands of American Indians to make the West habitable for white settlers? Should their graves be moved to some obscure corner of military cemeteries?

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Those who fought for the Confederacy were Americans, and after the Civil War were still Americans.  They had fought courageously and determinedly not for a cause but for  loyalty.  Most young men who lost their lives for the South were conscripts who fought because they head to, not because of white supremacy, slavery, or Southern righteousness.  Those who died for the Confederacy, a losing cause from the outset because of Northern numbers, armaments, and reserves, were the true heroes of the War Between The States because it was a losing cause. 

The ordinary recruit, enlisted from red dirt farms, was trained to kill fellow Americans out of duty, respect, and obedience - a boy who  acted under no moral or ethical philosophy, nor any  hatred for his brothers from New Hampshire, but only out of loyalty, camaraderie, and honor to his fellows, his officers, and their command - deserves no less honor on Memorial Day then those who fought and won the Civil War.

It is the conscripts who deserve our respect and honor on Memorial Day, not the men who led the charge, configured the battlefield victories, or designed the winning strategy.  The real heroes are the ordinary men who fought  valiantly and even heroically for a cause they had not designed nor for an end they had never even envisaged.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields
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The boys who served in France in WWI, Corregidor in WWII, in Chosun in the Korean War, Hue in Vietnam, and the Iraqi desert in Desert Storm fought not for liberty, freedom from tyranny, or against an illiberal oppressor but for duty and responsibility  Either drafted or volunteer, their motives were simple, practical, and uncomplicated either by politics or political philosophy. They were the innocents, free from blame and censure.  Not lambs to slaughter but heroically, obediently, and willingly going to their deaths.  They are the soldiers to be memorialized, not their leaders. 

History remembers Napoleon, Patton, Trafalgar and Normandy; but Memorial Day honors those who died for no reason, no cause, and for no purpose.  Wars have always been fought and they always will for questionable reasons.  Henry V was challenged by his enlisted men on the battlefield at Agincourt.  They, they confided to the King in mufti, were pawns in venal, selfish aristocratic war. 

The cause and purpose of the war meant nothing to the common man, the recruit.  They were only casi belli of the ruling elite.  Yet Henry’s men fought and fought courageously.  They, not the politicians who decided to go to war nor the strategists appointed to win it, were the heroes of the conflict.  They could have sought cowardly escape like Falstaff  in another war, but chose to fight even for a dubious cause.

Those who lead the way in war and are sacrificed to it may be history’s recognized, but never honored heroes.  Only those who serve obediently, dutifully, and honorably deserve recognition.
The Confederate graves in Vicksburg, Richmond, and Gettysburg – graves of conscripts and dutiful citizens – deserve honor, respect, and prayer.  So do those at Bittsburg and a hundred other cemeteries in which are buried soldiers who fought for the Third Reich.

Memorial Day is in honor of the nameless millions who have died for others’ causes.  Those whose patriotism was not relative.  Those who fought not because of a righteous cause but because or duty, honor and respect.

In a censorious age, judgement is quick and harsh.  Confederate soldiers, regardless of how and why they fought, should be consigned to an unrecognized death.   Indians who died at the hands of Union soldiers should be memorialized while federal recruits killed in combat with Comanche and Apache warriors should be given unmarked graves.  Revisionist history has branded Westward Expansion and the Indian Wars as immoral; and those Americans who died at in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri deserve no recognition for advancing Western civilization and are reviled for their barbarity.

Memorial Day should not be another day to celebrate American victories but to honor the dead – especially those who died for nothing other than obedience, duty, and respect.  Even those who volunteered because of unemployment, poverty, or economic ambition deserve at least some recognition. 

There will always be wars.  Unless human nature is reconfigured through genetic modification, natural territorialism, aggression, self-defense, and self-interest will always prevail.  If that is so, then those caught up in the inevitability of war – the unlucky – should be honored for their willing service, regardless of the side on which they fight.

Probability–The Ultimate Irony In An Age Of True Believers

Randall Cummings spent more of his weekly paycheck than he should have in Las Vegas.  He was by no means a compulsive gambler – he could never have been and would have lost everything within a few weeks since he played only roulette and craps. Although with some understanding of probability, a gambler can limit his losses and play longer at poker and blackjack, other games like roulette and craps rely on pure chance.  A player will always have a fifty-fifty chance of landing on the black (minus the house’s edge) and 2.6 percent chance of winning on any given number.  A craps player has a one-in-six chance of rolling a seven. but a less than three percent chance of rolling a two.  Despite the mythology of ‘getting hot’, the odds are immutable over time.  While a player may continue to hit his number, he will always and inevitably be ruled by the mathematical odds.

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Randall was not out to hit the jackpot, defy the odds, and beat the house.  He simply liked being in a place of chance.  There was something elegant about games of pure chance and their fixed laws of probability.  No one was above them.  No one could beat the odds.  No one could win.  Yet everyone played.  They knew that the odds were stacked against them, yet they persisted.  They would ‘get lucky’, a hot streak would find them, and they would – more than in any other endeavor – beat immutable odds. 

These were the same people who believed that everything is subject to effort.   A canny employee can game the office by manipulating weakness, exploiting loopholes in procedure and regulation, picking the right moments, and using patience, guile, and a silver tongue.  A savvy man can win women through charm, attentiveness, and understanding.  Children learn how to play their parents, athletes learn how to deke and deceive.  Salesmen can increase their revenues through carefully-worded promises, borderline claims, and persistence.  While probability rules them all, the exercise of human will and intelligence can improve the odds.  Not so with roulette and craps.

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At an even more fundamental level, human choice can influence genetic disposition.  Intelligent, well-educated, highly-socialized, and wealthy adult children, sons and daughters of equally intelligent and accomplished parents and descendants of a uniform lineage of achievers are likely to have children like them.  The odds of bits and scraps of a rogue third cousin’s DNA are highly reduced.  While one can never be absolutely sure of birth outcomes, careful mating can improve the odds of success.

From a longer, broader perspective, however, probability is always a factor.  Given the  impossibly complex combinations and permutations possible within the human genome, itself a combination and permutation of every male and female ancestor who contributed to it, anything can happen.  The highest pedigree can never guarantee longevity.   The savviest office manipulator will likely get his comeuppance – the arrival of an equally devious competitor, a boss who plays by no rules and defies presumption and categorization.  A stupid mistake in calculation.  A misstep can itself be calculated. 

As a dutiful Catholic, son of devout Catholics, Randall was instructed in the mysteries of the Church – the complex nature of the Holy Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ; the Resurrection, the transubstantiation of Holy Communion, salvation, redemption, and forgiveness.   What Father Brophy and the Sisters of Charity taught were immutable, God-given principles of faith.  There was no question about Christ’s ascension into heaven nor his power to forgive.  There was no limit to God’s power nor his vengeance and retribution.  Catholic principles were the only principles and the ones that accurately reflected the world – a sinful, disobedient, and arrogantly ignorant world which needed Christ’s ministry.  Ever since the First Century, the words of Jesus have had resonance and meaning.  For those who believed in him, there was no alternate reality, no odds, and no choice other than him.  For Randall’s parents, Christ’s way was the way, the only way.

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Even that doctrinal purity, that spiritual certainty, that belief in the existence of God and his kingdom, could never match the absolute certainty of the odds.  Even the most pious are given to to doubts – and who could not?  The story of Christ to a non-believer is a fabulist myth and nothing more.  The virgin birth, the persecution, and the resurrection are common themes in secular epics.  Religious principles and accounts are shared across cultures, and worship, although diverse, is at heart common.  Is there a God? Probably, but not certainly.

Unless as Bishop Berkeley suggested, a tree falling in the forest might have no sound unless there is someone there to hear it – and in so stating gave phenomenology a new, surprisingly modern dimension of relativity – then the chances of rolled dice coming up seven are absolute.  There can be no perceptual relativity; no Ring and the Book, Kurosawa, or Durrell suggestions that reality is only composite and subjective.  Unless God or the alien intelligence which has thought the world into being and dreams its existence change their mind,  the chances will always be one in six.

Which is why the Mirage, the Bellagio, and Caesar’s Palace were as good as churches for Randall who had given up his religious faith decades ago.  ‘God doesn’t play dice with the universe’, said Einstein; but of course he does. Everything is governed by odds, probability, and chance.  By the very fact that sevens will only come up only and always 16.666 percent of the time was a doctrine, a principle, a fact more incontrovertible than any other.  Of course Einstein meant that God could only create a logical universe, one which behaved according to observable laws.  Gravity would always hold things in place.  Light would only travel so fast.  One and one would always equal two. 

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Max Planck and Heisenberg changed all that.  What could be more un-Godlike than quantum physics according to which one can only gauge the probability of a particle being in a particular place and time?  Even laws of relativity suggesting uncertainty were absolute, or so Einstein thought; but the new physics have thrown doubt into every theorem.  Their laws might only be probable; and worse, their exact probability cannot be calculated.

The age of ‘big data’ has suggested that any human enterprise can be subjected to probabilistic analysis.  Baseball shifts, for example, are a simple example of such analysis.  The more data that are collected about a human activity – any human activity – the more one is able to predict its outcome.  Not with certainty, but probability.   More and more, activities thought to be purely subjective can now be analyzed objectively.  Eventually, taking into consideration DNA, the calculus of environmental factors, and the calculable chances of intervening variables, most actions will be predictable.

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The process is asymptotic – the more data that are collected, organized, and applied, the more the probability of any particular outcome will approach the absolute odds of rolling the dice.  It is this asymptotic rule – that the odds of any one thing happening will never be as certain as sevens or snake eyes – which keeps hope alive for the most hopeful who feel that absolute odds will deny God’s special, unique grace.  If his universe – the one he created – is nothing more than a probabilistic one, then one does make of the doctrine of grace?

All of which questions the nature of true, secular belief.  Climate change may or may not be happening; and if it is, its effects are only probable.  There are too many intervening factors, too little data, too incomplete algorithms to conclude or act with certainty.  Wars are likely to continue ad infinitum because they have always existed in the past.  The probability of nuclear war rises and falls according to temporal variables, but its overall probability remains high.  Those who insist that the world can become a more peaceful place refuse to look at history.  The chances that society will become more equal, less stratified, and less unfavorably organized have not studied early human, pre-human, and animal behavior.  The chances of a truly homogeneous society increase or decrease at different times, but the overall probability, while not as fixed as the dice, remains stable.

There was always something definably classic and esthetic about the roll of the dice.  Not only was the casino the only place to observe pure probability; it was its temple. 

Atheism has become a religion.  It has a secular theology, a liturgy, prescribed and proscribed beliefs, and an important social context.  Atheists don’t just ignore the possibility of God, the actively, uniformly and collectively deny it.  ‘Probabilism’ – the ‘faith’ of Randall Cummings – had nothing to do with either established religion or atheism.  It was as logical and imperturbable as the exercises of Aquinas without his belief.  As secular and determined as those of Kant, Hume, and Descartes without needing outcomes or meaning. 

Las Vegas may seem an odd place to worship; but to assume that would be to misunderstand Randall Cummings.  He was in awe of the roll of the dice and of a probabilistic, roll-of-the-dice universe, nothing more.  He had had his secular epiphany there and thereafter there was never a question of returning.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Multicultural Lovers–Meghan Markle, The Queen Of England, And The Neutering Demands Of Race

The recent wedding of Meghan Markle to Harry, Prince of England was certainly a milestone.  Only a generation ago, the Royal Family would never even considered an American (shades of Wallace Simpson) let alone a woman of mixed race.  The Queen is old enough to remember her troubles with Africans; and although her advisers suggested that she apologize to all Kenyans for British ‘abuse’ during the long and bloody struggle against the Mau Mau, she did so reluctantly.  Her world was colonial empire, tutelage if not patriarchy of the colored races of Africa and Asia, and a profound belief in and absolute respect and admiration for British rule.  If it hadn’t been for the British,  East Africa would have never have developed.  From the forest to Westminster in a scant few decades was the accomplishment of British rule, less satisfactory and complete as that in Asia, but significant nevertheless.

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For decades after the British successes in East Africa, West Africa languished as the white man’s grave.  Democratic justice, civil service, and physical infrastructure lagged far behind Kenya, Tanzania, and especially South Africa.  What are now Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Liberia barely moved forward since colonial times.  In fact, according to many observers, they have regressed. 
Independence and home rule only enabled the dictatorship of African autocrats – big men who had debts to pay to family, tribe, and region and profited from a surprisingly tolerant ex-colonial power.

Winston Churchill, hero of WWII, champion of British sovereignty, and apologist for continued colonial rule, insisted that the lessons of Western democracy, established in Ancient Greece, ratified by philosophy and revolution, were universal.  African nations would do well to acquiesce to European rule for a time, he said, until the roots of progressive liberalism took root; but the demands for African independence, encouraged by Roosevelt and his geopolitically na├»ve nation, were respected; and British and other colonial power rule dismantled.  The results of this precipitous leap to autonomy are seen today.  Big men still rule Africa, poverty rates remain intolerable, crime and civil unrest persist; and the continent, free for almost as long as Asian colonies, regresses while India, China, Indonesia and Malaysia and the rest of Southeast Asia record double digit increases in GDP.

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The Queen, now well into her nineties, and a child of Empire, cannot be but discouraged by the current state of affairs.  British sovereignty should never have pulled back ‘East of Suez’ let alone from the desperately disadvantaged countries of Africa.  British rule was of course good for Britain, but there could be no denying its positive influence on its colonies.  By the time Britain left India in 1947, it had left behind a modern physical infrastructure, an efficient civil service, a rule of law, and a set of moral and ethical principles unchanged for over 2000 years.

The Queen has presided over a radical and remarkable transformation of Britain itself.  There was no way that divestiture of its colonies could mean insulation from their refugees.  Africans quickly took stock of the venal, self-centered, and arrogant leaders who took over former British colonies and fled while the fleeing was good.  Britain was understanding, tolerant, and ethical in its treatment of those who wanted to leave the tyranny that had replaced English liberalism; and for a while, members of the British Commonwealth were admitted without question to the UK.  In short order Britain became multicultural and diverse.  Fortunately, immigrants from their former colonies had not been radicalized like French Algerians, and assimilation was a rather easy affair. Bangladeshi Muslims were of a very different order than Salafi-indoctrinated immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East.

Britain had always had a very productive colonial relationship with both the Union and the Confederacy in the United States.  Money and influence were to be had in both, and sides were hard to take during the Civil War.  Britain knew, however, that slavery could not last, that they outlawed it in its Caribbean colonies, and that only thanks to very productive and mutually beneficial trade with the American South, did it not take sides against the Union.  The most sophisticated observers of the American scene agreed with Thomas Jefferson that although slavery was an unfortunate institution, its repeal would result in more civic chaos than ever imagined.  Jefferson in the early 19th century tried to design a program to either return freed slaves to Africa or to third party countries in the Caribbean and Europe.  He knew that freed slaves – in 1865 still African, unschooled in the ways of the West, still animist and in many ways primitive – would be a disruptive influence on white, stable, Western America.

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So Elizabeth II is no stranger to racial geopolitics either in America or the UK; but given her age, her family, and her family’s almost 1000 year history, she cannot but have qualms about the state of race relations in Britain and America.  She cannot help but have at least a residual feeling of superiority to Africans and questions about their descendants. She of all people has a right to wonder how Britain so miserably failed in its colonial enterprise; and equally wonder what it is about African culture, society, and history that has contributed to this developmental delay.

On the other hand, 150 years have passed since slavery was abolished in America, and many American blacks have joined the middle class. Women like the Queen's daughter-in-law are perfect examples of the success of liberal democracy. Meghan is highly-educated, talented, principled, and intelligent.  Under any other circumstance, she would be welcomed into the royal family without question.  Yet because the issue of race has been deliberately and inevitably introduced into the equation, it cannot be ignored.  Meghan herself, a child of the multicultural generation, a believer in the importance if not primacy of the signifiers of race, gender, and ethnicity, has made it clear that she wants to join the family not just as a unique, desirable individual, but as a black woman.

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She is happy to be judged according to her racial profile.  She has willingly subsumed her own, unique, personal identity within the context of race.  Since race-gender-ethnicity is at the heart of a politically progressive ethos, being black in America confers an automatic membership.  While she has spoken out in favor of only some progressive causes, one can conclude nothing about the rest; but given the cultural ethos in America and the demands on black men and women to conform to and participate in a progressive racial and political agenda, one may assume a certain conditioning.

If this assumption is correct, she could no sooner be sympathetic to Israel than she could to the Mississippi grandees of the antebellum South.  She might have reservations about full support to the police or the armed forces in racial matters. She might even suspect multinational British corporations for their investment policies. Meghan's public, progressive stance on race, gender, and ethnicity, however cloaked in humanitarian globalism, is still highly political. If there is one truly revolutionary change in the palace, it is this very obvious political agenda.

Worst of all, like many black people, her own own, unique, and very personal identity has at least in part been co-opted and neutered.

Who knows how the dynamics of race and generation influenced Harry in his choice for a bride. He must know that his marriage to Meghan Markle is not incidental – an expression of cultural zeitgeist, expected in a time of inclusivity – but purposeful. Not only is Markle an American, but a divorcee and black – a combination that itself makes a political statement. 

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This is all well and good.  Britain is no longer culturally homogeneous, and unlike the monarchy of kings past, today's sovereign rule must include all British subjects. The acknowledgement of this new heterogeneity and a willingness to serve it is politically necessary.  Harry knows well that the British crown has come increasingly under attack for its isolation and elitism.  From that perspective, marriage to Meghan Markle is an undisputed good thing.

Yet, by raising race to such a public level in the marriage and by including the signifiers of a racial upbringing of which the bride had little part - black preachers, black gospel choirs, and references to American civil rights leaders - it sends the wrong message. Once again black people are being asked to wear the same mantel, enlisted willingly or unwillingly in a common legacy.  Black first, they are told;  individualism, enterprise, and soul second. This may be temporarily comforting - black Britons now have a voice in the palace - but the bargain is Faustian. 

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No one asked to represent, speak for, or promote the interests of one’s color, national origin, or religion can ever be free or unique.  Characterizing someone first and foremost by race, gender, and ethnicity puts them into an inescapable box.  Meghan will never be asked about her moral principles, her faith, her personal aspirations, or her philosophy.  Her humor must always be circumscribed and correct; her affections politically mediated; her aspirations heady, given her titled position, but predictable.  Because she is who she is – black, American, and a woman – it is inevitable that she will be co-opted and used.

A close American friend and colleague had had numerous affairs with foreign women, some in passing but many quite serious.  He had been very much in love with a Danish doctor, considered moving to Buenos Aires with an Argentinian artist, and had a two decade affair with a Pakistani Parsi biologist among others.  He had never once considered race or national origin in either his choice of women or their promise.  Their attractiveness, allure, and excitement had nothing to do with where they were from or what language they spoke but who they were – strong, playful, seductive, insightful, vulnerable, brilliant, or beautiful.  While some, almost stereotypical aspects of their culture, added to the mix – African forwardness, Asian deference, and Eastern European intrigue – they never occluded the truth. 

Usha’s muhajir history, her family’s forced emigration from India to Pakistan, their economic enterprise similar to the Birlas and Tatas of the country they left were incidental to her humor, her sexual inventiveness, her revealing honesty, and her unquestioning affection.

Indian woman jasmine

The lovers of my colleague never thought twice about such things.  They took transnational affairs as a matter of course.  A sexual liaison with a Saudi, Brazilian, or Laotian was expected if improbable.  The zeitgeist was permeable cultural borders, not multiculturalism.  My colleague in turn never considered anything but female sexual response.  The fundamental, hardwired, but unique biological imperatives of sexuality were hard enough to figure out let alone distracting complications of race or national origin.

Which is to say that Harry and Meghan might have a normal, demanding, difficult but ultimately satisfying personal relationship, but the socio-political overlays are too obvious; the scenarios too precisely and predictably written.  Perhaps this is the real legacy of the throne, part of patronage and rule.  Its what they inherited.