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

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

How The Righteous Bob Mewling Fell To Earth–His Own Past Could Not Be Cancelled

Potter Harris had been brought up right – or at least as far as a since-forgotten New England of the Fifties was concerned.  He was born of a proper Boston family with roots both in Plymouth, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the New Haven Plantation, and later Elizabeth town; and in Tidewater Virginia.  His parents and grandparents were proud of their heritage, and despite Potter’s accusations of slavery and human trafficking, both sides of the family felt they could hold their heads up high.  

Potter was having none of it.  His New England forbears had been active in the three-corner slave trade.  Ezekiel Harris had owned a fleet of ships which sailed from New Bedford across the Atlantic, sold rum on the Gold Coast of Africa, then carried slaves purchased with the proceeds to the Caribbean. His ancestors on the other side of the family – the Virginia side – were just as complicit and had made the family fortune through the sale of slaves to the Deep South.  Virginia’s overworked tobacco lands could no longer support slaves, but the new cotton lands of Mississippi needed labor, so the Fenwicks facilitated the exchange.

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No matter how much the young Potter hectored and chided, the Harrises refused to concede.  They had simply been a part of American history, one not encumbered by today’s suspect moral imperatives.  Judging the past by the present, they said, was simply historical ignorance, moral myopia, and intellectual arrogance.

Living with the past was far easier for Potter than it was for  his classmate Bob Mewling who for decades had assumed that his ancestors had escaped the nexus of slavery.  Hiram Mewling had been a well-known abolitionist during the Antebellum period, his siblings were Radical Republicans during Reconstruction, and his great-granduncles had been Quaker moralists.  Both sides of the family had been cleared of any national moral taint years ago.  

However, just to be on the safe side, Bob Mewling had his DNA tested.  Confident of the expiating results, he would become one of the progressive movement’s elite – a man above suspicion, one with impeccable credentials, patrimony, and history.

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Much to his chagrin, he found a direct and unmistakable genetic link to one of the largest slaveowners in Virginia.  The DNA evidence was unmistakable since Bob’s maternal 19th century patriarch had many offspring, and tracing the blood line from him to the present day was simple.  Most of the Harkins' (Bob’s mother’s family) distant cousins and great-cousins had no interest in genealogy, but lived quite well on the extensive, former plantation lands of the Northern Neck. 

The Harkins name was everywhere on the peninsula – lawyers, doctors, mechanics, salesmen, and real estate agents – and thanks to the inaccessibility of the Northern Neck and their very close family network, they were still recognized and prominent. 

When the worried and anxious Bob Mewling flew south to interview his cousin Henry Firth Mewling, he was met with graciousness but ignorance. Hank Mewling had no interest whatsoever in his ancestral past, only that his was a big family descended ‘from English nobility’, a fact which was true enough since first American ancestor Mewling had received a generous grant from the English King in 1726 and became immediate owner of tens of thousands of rich Tidewater bottom land. 

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Not surprisingly, Bob found the Mewling name in the black sections of town as well – a black Mewling, Rufus, owned the garage and tire repair shop on Route 17; another, Dorothy, managed Dot’s Diner in Kilmarnock.  

Bob was confused over this complicated racial history.  How was he going to be able to sort out black from white?  Would his slave-owning past be neutered by a possible black heritage?  He had his DNA tested by another firm, hoping to find the few drops of black blood which would at least confer some measure of legitimacy to his progressive activism.  Even a scintilla of black heritage would give him rights to victimhood, and immediate solidarity with Black Lives Matter. 

When the disappointing results came in – he was lily white as far back as genetic legacy could attest, and he was the direct descendant of slave owners - he knew he was done for.

The news would not have been so damaging if it hadn’t been for the progressive commitment to America’s racist past; that is, seen through the lens of Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project, white Americans were all racists because of their complicity in white privilege, Jim Crow, and Southern hegemony.  Anyone with a direct link to the slave-owning South would, if discovered, be expelled immediately as the most corrupted of the corrupt.

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Bob, however, above all else an honest man, knew that he had to make a clean breast of his ancestry.  In fact such a personal revelation might well be a badge of honor.  If a white, privileged man, descendant of one of the biggest slaveowners in the Upper South, could totally and unequivocally reject not only that past but his own whiteness, he might be honored by black people. 

Nothing could have been farther from the truth.  Lashonda Washington, head of his chapter of Black Lives Matter, ruled against Bob and dismissed him from the organization.  She tossed his impassioned letter of abject apology and explanation into the trash without reading it.  Word had already filtered up to her about the scandal, and she was not about to waste her time on meaningless, self-serving apologies.

Bob was a defeated, discouraged, and completely disheartened man.  Although he tried dabbling in the peace movement, the women’s rights movement, and the environmental protection movement, his heart was not in it; and although one of the chief principles of progressivism was conflation – membership in one activist movement gave immediate membership in any other – his infection could not be overlooked.  The Progressive Movement did not tolerate apostasy or tainted blood lines. 

A few years later he disappeared – no trace, no forwarding address, no Facebook profile, no Google Search information. 

Potter Harris, on the other hand, prospered.  He took what was given, understood that history was history, warts and all; a few religious wars here, civil conflicts there; marauding, pillaging armies here, oppressive regents there.  Human nature was not a pretty thing if looked at through an objective lens; but simply a given and nothing to get exercised about.

Potter happily flew the family banner, displayed its heralds and escutcheons.  Not only were the Harrises storied Americans but descendants of noble Englishmen, courtiers, minor princes, and knights.  They might have been responsible for exploitive feudalism, religious intolerance, punitive and uncompromisingly self-serving laws, but they had also contributed to rise and dominance of English culture and Western civilization. 

 No society has ever been without territorialism, family and palace jealousies, skirmishes, wars, and enslavement.  Potter, like all his relatives, chose to look at the best – the entrepreneurial, patriotic, courageous, and mythical side.

Image result for Images Herald English family Northumberland. Size: 220 x 204. Source: www.pinterest.com

Unlike Bob Mewling who was the victim of his own suppositions – being good is all that matters; loyalty is paramount; identity with the righteous is as forgiving as Christ on the Cross – Potter Harris, despite his youthful skepticism, labored under no such misperceptions.  The past is simply  a long, repetitive replaying of human interests without value or particular moral standing.   

There can be no such thing as apologies, reparations, expiation, or forgiveness.  While the impressive Harris past might be considered more illustrious than most – and therefore worthy of note and honor – it is only one strand in the complex of unplanned and random events.  Be proud, but not too much. 

Potter Harris led a good life thanks to his family name, privilege, and wealth; and his intelligence, moral firmness, and generosity.  He did not ask for such historical relevance, but was not about to ignore it.  He was a good man who did not rest on his laurels, but never denied them.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Kamala Harris At The Border And The Power Of Political Delusion–If You Choose Not To See It, It Isn’t There

A number of authors and film makers have been fascinated by the nature of human perception.  Robert Browning in The Ring and the Book, Lawrence Durrell in The Alexandria Quartet, and Kurosawa in Rashomon all have told the same story according to different observers who did not agree on what they saw. 

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Forensic psychologists have studied eye-witness accounts and found that observers see what they want to see or what they have been subconsciously programmed to see.

A famous study concerned a drive-by shooting with many witnesses.  Some saw two black men in a ‘low-slung’, pimped out car; others saw two white men with red bandannas; and still others saw only shadowy figures in a speeding vehicle.  Since the perpetrators were never caught, these witnesses never had their day in court; but had they been called, their testimony would have had nothing to do with what actually happened but what they assumed had happened.

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A family relative used to tell of his exploits in the war – exciting stories about storming German fortifications, rescuing comrades wounded by enemy fire, and marching through the streets of Paris with the liberation army with young, beautiful French women on their arms. 

The interesting aspect of Harry’s stories was not so much that he embellished the truth, but that his listeners – my cousins Emil, Bruno, and Alfonse, and my Aunt Leona – so transformed the story in subsequent  retellings after Harry had long been dead and gone, that it hardly resembled the tale that he himself had told.  

The re-tellers relocated the venue from Harry’s Sicily to Normandy; added the Champs Elysees and champagne toasts by French generals, and filled in the interstices  with French can-can dancers and cigar smoke.  By the time many Easter dinners had ended, the story bore little resemblance to the original, and except for the Pigalle prostitutes and the avenue of the triumphant march, was a very different tale; but it seemed to listeners that it was the same story; that is, the true story, the one that actually happened.

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Politics is noted for its many versions of the truth.  Politicians have never felt bound to an undeniable  version of events; but only feel obliged to give every story a favorable spin.  In Kamala Harris’ case and according to her there is no trouble on the southern border let alone the chaos that critics have claimed.  According to her the gulag-style internment camps are Hiltons, children are not abandoned and mistreated but loved and given comfort and human warmth.  

There are no waves of illegal immigration, but a flow of legitimate asylum-seekers. There are no criminals, no exploitative coyotes, no Salvadoran gang members, no spies, ne’er-do-wells, or anarchists - only oppressed minorities deserving of solace and care.

As far as President Biden and his supporters are concerned, the country is no longer divided but unified under an inclusive progressive tent.  While there may be some who see Critical Race Theory and the Gender Spectrum as misguided, revisionist, and ignorant of history, biology, and Biblical injunction; Biden enthusiasts see only compassion, respect, and the legitimacy of the New Age canon.  

Those who object to the radical environmentalism of the Biden Administration, seeing a rule by fiat and the reversal of geopolitically advantaged energy policies,  will soon leave aside their self-interest and see the existential environmental threat for what it is.

Progressives suffer most from such subjective myopia because of their unshakable Utopian idealism.  The world has to progress, they argue, for without a belief in progressive evolution – a better, greener, more considerate, and just world – life would be nothing more than a a dutiful, determined, predictable slog – short, brutish, and ugly.  This cannot possibly be all there is, progressives insist, reaching for some spiritual clause in their secularism. 

And so it is that Biden and Harris see nothing but orderly transition on the border and the processing and sheltering of needy refugees who have suffered inhuman abuse. They refuse to see the micro-issues – the corrupt predation by Mexican coyotes, the infiltration of Mara Salvatrucha gangs, pimps, whores, pickpockets, and druggies.  

Because Central Americans in general have suffered civil wars, death squads, privation, thievery, and political misdeeds, then all individuals attempting to come to El Norte are ipso facto needy and deserving.  It is a distorted, self-serving political conflation of gross proportions.

While political debate is natural and healthy; and while no one expects any two sides to agree, it is still surprising to see such myopic distortion.  Did Biden and Harris not see what the impact of open borders would be?  Did they not anticipate the crowded holding pens, the stacked bureaucracy, the resentment of border state governors and legislatures, and the frustration of local citizens? Were there no pros and cons discussed in the White House? How could an administration take such an emotional, illogical, and uncritical view of the problem?

Easy, of course.  True believers cannot and do not see through objective lenses.  The truer the belief, the more absolute and true it becomes, and the harder it is to question.  It is worse than myopia, distorted vision, or visual uncertainty.  It is a downright refusal to see.

Where did the progressive principle of gender fluidity come from?  While there have always been homosexuals in all populations, they have never accounted for but a few percent of the total.  Cross-dressers and transgenders for even less.  The progressive assumption that that such ‘alternate sexuality’ is as legitimate as traditional heterosexuality and therefore promoted as a viable option for everyone, is a great intellectual leap at best and nonsense at worst.

Where do Aristotelian logicians defend the extension of such a limited, narrow, and questionable sexual identity? They do not; but in politics as well as in human intercourse, logic is not a foundational principle. If it seems right, then it is right.

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What is perhaps the most astonishing and remarkable conclusion of political affairs is that given the subjective nature of all perception; given the biased nature of individual logic; and given the vast fictional, journalistic, and academic evidence that individual perception is flawed and not to be trusted, why do politicians persist in such absolutist convictions?

One might think that a nation’s leaders would take extra, special efforts, to assure objectivity.  Given a democracy and the resultant plurality of political views, shouldn’t a nation’s leaders pay special attention to deciphering the truth, or at least presenting opposing views? Of course not.  The higher the political stakes, the greater the resort to deception and tomfoolery. 

On a more metaphysical level, if there can be no such thing as absolute truth, then deception and tomfoolery are the only avenues for leadership; and it is up to the electorate to do the deciphering.  

Our republic is based on this assumption – or at least Jefferson’s assumption about the will of the people.  Hamilton wanted no part of this na├»ve idea.  The people would always be an inchoate mob easily swayed at the hands of manipulators and con artists; but he was only partly successful in convincing his colleagues to create a House of Lords – the Senate – a body with more collective intellect and intellectual experience than the House.  

Of course the Senate turned out to be just as venal, politically motivated, and unreliable as the House; so the turn of the screw only increased the need for individual responsibility.  But as any casual observer could see, the American unwashed was no less of a mob than that of the Ancient Rome, manipulated by Mark Antony and Coriolanus.

Image result for Images Alex Hamilton. Size: 170 x 204. Source: commons.wikimedia.org

There are many vain hopes in a democracy – to assume that its leaders will be logical, analytic, and objective; that the electorate will use its own powers of judgment to insist on the rationality of its leaders; and that there is such a thing as truth, absolute, and obviously right.

Some presidents at least have given the impression of judiciousness and careful inquiry.  Bill Clinton was one who never gave an unreasoned comment; and both supporters and critics saw in his insistence on logical exegesis a return to objectivity and a retreat from hyperbole and fol-de-rol.

Jimmy Carter had the same reliance on intellect, but his personal philosophy got in the way of logical conclusions.  Ronald Reagan, not a man of great abilities, nevertheless stood on a few basic simple principles and never varied from them.  His clarity, consistency, and commitment compensated for a very political agenda.

The Biden Administration has shown no originality, no unique insights, no rational analysis, and no logical legitimacy.  It is an administration running on political fumes and on the assumption that righteousness will always win out.  The President looks more often than not like a deer in the headlights.  His reliance on scripted appearances, questions from trusted sources, and resort to familiar progressive memes inspires no confidence.  

And Kamala Harris, once thought to be his Rasputin, has been shown to be no more willful, authoritative, or decisive than her boss.  Both President and Vice President are doing a fanciful pas-de-deux choreographed by their White House shills – a lovely ballet with absolutely no substance, meaning, or intent.

Pessimists conclude that we are in for four years of indecisive White House anarchy and the take over of global affairs by the world’s most determined, willful, and powerful leaders.  Optimists and idealists believe that America’s goodness, rightness, and rectitude will be all the force needed to reform a corrupt world.  Realists see the same-old, same-old; but because of the Biden-Harris inexperience and naivete, America is bound to play second fiddle.

Despite the outrageous, inimitable, and divisive personality of Donald Trump, there is no question about his principles.   His economic, financial, social, and geopolitical policies were clear and unmistakable. He, like Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon allowed for no doubt about America's principles and purpose. Now we have an Administration of flaccid principles, go-with-the-flow, feel-good ‘inclusive’ ideals, and an idealism which hearkens back to the Utopianism of Oneida. 

So, Kamala sees what she has been programmed to see and President Joe smiles and squints at the camera trying to gather his thoughts; but neither one knows what they are doing or what lies head.  They are flying  by the seat of their pants and actually believe they are in the cockpit of the world’s greatest airplane.

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