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

Monday, July 31, 2023

The Best And The Brightest - In Praise Of Elitism

 Cato the Elder was a Roman philosopher and educator who in his diptychs enunciated the fundamental principles of a Roman education – the foundational values on which leadership was based.  Cato wrote of a singularity of purpose and absolute commitment to moral achievement.

Seneca, Epictetus, and Plutarch as well as Cato were Roman moralists who provided the intellectual and philosophical foundations for the education of the future leaders of the Empire.  All of them stressed respect, honor, discipline, courage, empathy, intellect, and reason.  The young Roman aristocrats might have been born with wealth, breeding, and culture; but without the foundation of a moral education they would weaken; and both they and the empire would suffer. The self-confidence needed to be a Roman leader, these philosophers knew, came from a certainty about moral principles.  Right action would be rewarded and respected.

These moral principles are not relative.  They are as absolute as the Ten Commandments and have guided kings, priests, and common men since the first human settlements.  Men collectively and instinctively knew that given a human nature rooted in survival, venality, greed, aggression, cruelty, and dishonor would be the rule; and therefore evolved a set of principles which, although idealistic and hopeful more than practical, had to be codified if not deified. 

Plato’s dualism was based on the contradiction between the ideal and the real.  He knew that men existed on two planes – a superior and inferior one.  Without the belief that a pure, uncorrupted morality could exist, human activity would be chaotic and little different from animals.  Through rigorous training and discipline students could intuit the Good, or the world of the ideal. 

This Pythagorean, Platonic sense of moral idealism translated by Cato the Elder, Seneca, and Epictetus has been largely lost today.  Relativism cannot support the absolute.  Honesty, courage, discipline, respect, and any of the other principles postulated by them are valid only to the degree that they are understood within the context of conditionality. The dumbing down of America.  

In David Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest the author describes the heady environment of the Kennedy Administration - a collection of the brightest minds in the country, Harvard-educated men of firm moral foundation; ambitious men of finance, industry, and government dedicated to investment in America; men for whom service was a core value and responsibility at the heart of their patriotism. 

Kennedy valued intelligence and talent over government experience.  Smart men, educated to value analytic reasoning, dispassionate consideration of facts, but within the context of social and personal responsibility, were what the young President was looking for.  He had little patience for those not as schooled as he and his Boston Brahmin coterie were - men of ability but whose more modest upbringing deprived them of the Bostonian historical legacy. 

Yale in the years before Inslee Clark and the 'democratization' of the university was the seat of sophisticated learning and principal Constitutional values.  It was there, in addition to a sound liberal arts education, that students learned the importance of honor, courage, discipline, compassion, duty, and responsibility - the very values espoused by Cato and taught to the young men who would lead the Roman Empire.  This education was a consolidation of the early training given by their parents - families whose ancestry dated to the American Revolution and beyond to the courts of England. 

It is no surprise that the American Constitution reflects Enlightenment thought and values, for John Locke and his colleagues understood that rationality in the abstract was nothing; and that human intelligence was given by God for a purpose - to understand him and his creation. 

Individual rights as envisioned by the Founding Fathers were always protected as long as they were expressed within the context of the interests of the community.  Jefferson was quite specific in his explanation of ‘the pursuit of happiness’.  It was  never meant as a defense of vanity or personal self-worth; but only as a validation of the individual within his larger community.  Jefferson and his colleagues would be appalled by today's promiscuous expression of personal identity and rights attendant.  Community and nation always come first, they averred; and individual enterprise, the engine of social progress, could never overstep social bounds.

This idea became the ethos of the new Republic. 

The Kennedy Administration was perhaps the last to institutionalize this ethos - to celebrate it, embrace it, and use it as the benchmark for successful public service.  Of course, ethos has its limits, and those men charged with the nation's well-being overstepped their bounds.  Elitism also breeds arrogance, and assumptions about America's leadership in the world were sadly mistaken; but the foundation on which it was based was sound.  

The Age of Identity has changed all this.  The idea of one universal set of values - a national ethos - is antiquated, say social reformers, especially in a pluralistic, diverse society.  Culture is multi-faceted.  That of the inner city is a product of slavery, colonial white oppression, and institutional hegemony.  Blacks should and will define their own ethos, one bred out of street culture and credentials and deeply rooted in their tribal African past.  Hispanics will - and should - embrace their earliest indigenous roots, their own evolved character of Catholicism, and their particular racial identity.  Gays and transgenders cannot possibly embrace the beliefs of a homophobic group of former Englishmen. 

This disassembly - the diversity that divides - puts America at a geopolitical disadvantage, for the world is more characterized by historical identity not personal identity.  It is no surprise that Russia, China, Iran, and Turkey among others look to their imperial pasts and hope to restore their former glory.  Culture and religion are at the heart of the new nationalism.  These countries have retained a core, universal ethos, and their leaders can only laugh at an America coming morally apart at the seams. 

Everything today points to the erosion of ethos and the foundational principles of Jefferson.  Yale and Harvard take all comers and while attempting to guarantee academic excellence can only founder in identity politics.  As importantly under the aegis of progressivism, they feel no obligation to teach the values of Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, or Cato. 

There seems no turning back.  Re-establishing the moral principles of the past when they have been so badly eroded is near impossible.  Somehow the Republic will have to coalesce around something else, but given its centripetal forces, nothing is in sight.  

America's culture has become process only - accession, rights, identity, revindication, and judicial claims.  There is nothing of France's pride in being the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church, Russia's veneration of Peter the Great or China's imperial dynasties.  We have only movement and reassignment. 

Elites - the aristocracy - have always been the caretakers of history.  Without us, said a member of the French nobility, the country would forget.  Elites have always been historically and culturally relevant.  America has lost both a sense of history and the foundational values of its origins. 

Sunday, July 30, 2023

When Good Men Go Bad - The Sorry Sexual Adventures Of An American President

 As far as the press and American public know, Joe Biden has been a model of sexual probity.  However, a slave to God's irony - a lifelong sexual obsession with but a few decades to realize it - the President thinks about sex all the time. 

Despite his MeToo training, his feminist advisers, and his wife's dogged morality, he cannot help himself.  Take his chief DEI advisor - a beautiful black woman, full bosomed, throaty, red-lipped, breathy, and dark.  Although she has a law degree from Harvard, and time on the bench, he simply cannot get beyond thinking - dreaming - about what she would be like in bed.  Hot, wet, steamy, and tireless. 

In fact, love with a black woman would be the final step in his long journey to blackness.  Although he had come to inclusivity relatively recently - only during his tenure in the Obama White House had race become a reality (growing up Irish, his only contact with blacks were street fights on Sidwell Avenue) - he had become an ardent supporter of the black cause.   His goal as President was to return the black man to his rightful place at the top of the human pyramid, legatee of jungle wisdom, spiritual authority, and natural poetry become all-American man. 

So making love to LaShonda Phipps would be immersive - he would not only not have to speculate on what life was on the other side, he would live it.  LaShonda would not only share her body with him, but her black soul.  Every languorous moan, every drop of sweetness from her thighs, every kiss would bring him back to the jungles of Angola  It was in the middle of this reverie that LaShonda, Special Assistant to the President for Racial Equality, was ushered in to the Oval Office.  'Anytime, any place' was the ordre du jour for Dr Phipps, immediate unrestricted access to the President, and there she was. 

"I want to talk to you about Baltimore", she said, peering over the Lincoln desk and looking into the President's eyes. "Something must be done!"

The President had no idea whatsoever what she was talking about and wished that she would leave.  The real LaShonda was an irritant, a bloody necessity foisted upon him by his Vice President, part of a  Cabinet of insurrectionist hectors he did his best to avoid.  The dream LaShonda was another story entirely. 

Jimmy Carter once admitted that he had lust in his heart, a Biblical reference that had always resonated throughout the poor man's life because it stayed in his heart during his long, faithful marriage to Roslyn; but such is the fate of the proper American male. But why me, too? wondered the President. 

Not so the French, Biden mused. Sarkozy kept his mistress at the Elysees and was loved all the more for it; or Mitterrand whose mistress and illegitimate daughter attended his funeral alongside his wife.  Or Putin and every single President in American history, especially that racial miscreant Jefferson who bedded Sally Hemmings and actually had a black woman not just in his dreams. 

"You are extraordinarily fit for a man your age", the official physician to the President told him. "Fit and virile." Biden was sure the doctor had winked at him. A man almost his age, surely beset by the same persistent, niggling, constant dreams of sex, suggesting something more than reverie. 

Might it be possible, thought the President? Here I am, the most powerful man in the world unable to do the simplest thing, stuck with a crochety old woman for a wife, dried up and shriveled, tormented by the likes of LaShonda Phipps. 

LBJ had the Secret Service pimp for him, nightcrawler that he was.  Eliot Spitzer said he was too busy to chase women, so had his dalliances with high-class call girls in the bridal suite of the Mayflower.  Truman, Roosevelt, Lincoln, all the greats had theirs, and here he was shut up in the White House surrounded by women. 

Not only was God's irony painful enough, but even the most ambitious women paid him no mind.  He was doddering, unattractive, and unavailable.  Why should Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino have children at eighty when he was a balding celibate? Shouldn't a man with his finger on the nuclear trigger have women?

"You seem distracted more than ever, Joe", Jill said to him one night.  "What's on your mind?"

Of course the President could not tell her to move her wrinkled, dry self, so he, like all men, replied only, "Work, dear.  Nothing important"; but his resolve was hardening, and it was time to hint his intentions to the Secret Service detail. Trapped, a man's man, President of the United States, a eunuch, a sexual cipher. 

Of course he had too much of the Catholic in him to commit mortal sin, although he had long ago given up on his altar boy past; so he was consigned to reverie, the most shameful, unconscionable state of impotence. 

And so it was, a minor historical tragedy. A man who, when all was said and done, could really care less about transgenderism, the black man, the bloody climate, and bath houses, only a man living unhappily. 

The only good news was that his aggressive dementia loosened the wires enough so that his oppressive fantasies disappeared in the sweet dreams of his childhood. He read from A Child's Garden of Verses every night before bed, and his memories of his lovely summers at Rehoboth came back to him in a light, sweet breeze. 

Soon he couldn't quite figure out who all these people were who kept barging into his office unannounced, nor what he was doing there, let alone sex with anyone.  Just the sounds of the waves, the light blue sky, and the lilacs in back yard were real; and so it was that this poor, disabled, man served out his term, barely avoiding that Harris woman. 

A sad tale of a good man who wanted more than anything to turn bad, to tomcat and pimp - a modern boulevardier, a macho man - but here he was, a lace-curtain Irish, conned and trimmed by priests and women, looking out the window over the Rose Garden with the portrait of that Lothario, MLK, looking over his shoulder. 

Saturday, July 29, 2023

College Legacy Admissions - Ethos, Community, And Patriotism

 Now that affirmative action has been invalidated by the Supreme Court, there is a move to eliminate legacy - the policy that gives an advantage to children of alumni. While on the surface this shift seems to be a logical extension of eliminating racial prejudice, it is of a very different ilk.  Legacy is really a membership bonus program not unlike frequent flyer accounts on airlines where travelers are rewarded for their loyalty and their contribution to corporate profits.  A Yale alumnus who has contributed generously to the Alumni fund over many years should be eligible for a bonus for having provided the university with funds for scholarships, infrastructure, and top quality teachers. 

Not only that, legacy programs keep a certain ethos going - a Yale whose matriculants are drawn willy-nilly from the pool of applicants will eventually be no different than a public university and no longer the elite institution it has always been.  

John Harkins, Yale '60 was a proud member of the alumni community just like his father, grandfather, and great grandfather before him.  He was a Yalie, true blue, steadfast in his financial support, attendee at all reunions, monthly contributor to the alumni notes, a conscientious voter on university appointments and campus issues, a member of the New York Yale Club and frequent guest at Washington's many Yale house parties. 

Harkins had attended Andover - as had his father and grandfather - and with his academic and extracurricular record there, Yale would have been a lock even without legacy.  In the late Fifties the university still favored boys from New England prep schools - the era of public school predominance only came years later.

Isaiah Harkins had attended Yale in the years shortly after its founding.  He like the other young men attending the small college destined for international reputation, was a notable in New England society.  He was descended from English royalty but was firmly republican in the Revolutionary War.  He went on to build a shipping business that profited from the burgeoning Three Cornered Trade and invested his earnings in real estate, logging, and shipbuilding. 

The Harkins family continued its patriotic, energetic, and profitable contributions to the new nation, and became one of the wealthiest and best respected of all Beacon Hill families.  It was a family of tradition, honor, duty, and loyalty - a noblesse oblige of the best kind. 

Harkins was not alone as an elite member of New England society.  His classmates were all from well-known families of Boston and New York, all with similar pedigrees. Whether they had prepped at Andover or Groton, St. Paul, or St. Mark's they were of the same lineage, the same storied history, and the same likes and dislikes.  They were to a man conservative in thought, word, and deed - conservative in the best Hamiltonian sense.  They were parsimonious with their great wealth and lived with taste and reserve.  Their homes were appointed with the best of Revere, Chippendale, and Townsend.  Original Turners and Gainsboroughs were on the walls, and the finest Persian carpets on the floors.

All of which created a sophisticated ethos at Yale - one of confidence and tradition. Students would follow one another to Wall Street or corporate America, would distinguish themselves and burnish the family reputation while contributing to the prosperity of many. 

The reign of Inslee Clark, Dean of Yale College in the mid-Sixties changed all that.  Clark opened Yale up to the many - high-achieving Jews from New York, top-ranked students from the best public schools, and a smattering of ethnic diversity; but with these changes - it was about time that Yale secured its position admitting the very best and the brightest, not just privileged legatees - came the loss of ethos, social integrity, and community. 

Yale for three hundred years had been the locus of American ideals, embodying the principles of Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin and exponents of the nation that was created out of the Enlightenment.  Now with 'diversity', that reign of propriety, service, patriotism, and honor, has disappeared.  Yale is now a collection of individuals grouped along racial, ethnic, and gender lines. Identity is the key to belonging.  You represent only the ethnic or racial group from which you come - Puerto Rican South Bronx, black Mississippian, transgender San Francisco gay man. 

A potpourri of America, mixed on the basis of 'identity'.  Yale is no longer the elite institution it once was.  Gone are tributes to American history as one by one Yale's residential colleges are renamed to recognize modern heroes whose achievements are less important than their racial and gender identity.  Yale, like many American institutions has been cancelled, revised, expunged of the past. 

Legacy preference used to matter, for it assured the social homogeneity of the university - not just any homogenous student body, but one characterized by the best American post-Revolutionary traditions.  It was a legacy of Hamiltonian patriotism. 

The Hamilton-Jefferson debates concerning the political organization of America are well-known.  Hamilton favored a limited democracy, one in which men like John Harkins' ancestors assured the consistency of principal Constitutional values - a firewall against the majority easily swayed by demagoguery.  

Legacy admissions mean nothing in the current environment of 'diversity' in which the background of students changes with the times.  In an era of race-gender-ethnicity politics, students have been selected less on the basis of performance and more on identity.  Along with this 'democratization', the cachet of Yale is disappearing. While the name 'Yale' still has impact, it has become only one school among many, indistinct from the public universities of the Midwest. 

Last but not least, the exclusion of legacy from the admissions process means fewer donations. What is the point of supporting Yale, an institution taking whomever and perhaps not one's son or daughter?

Legacy admissions will soon be a thing of the past, so one can only hope that the hodge-podge of graduating students will find some loose change in their pockets to support Yale.  The alumni office has its work cut out for it, creating a new ethos for the new Yale. No longer can one expect the full-throated male chorus of voices singing Bright College Years at reunions - that too is gone in a purge of the old school.  Time will tell if a new ethos will emerge and the name Yale will have salience. 

Friday, July 28, 2023

Remedial Education - Why Affirmative Action Is Wrong

 The Dean of the English Department of a well-known black land grant college explained how she, a white woman from  privileged, Ivy League background - family history dating back to Jamestown and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Beacon Hill, Georgetown, and St. Bart's - managed to shepherd young black students through English literature. 

"I show them pictures", she said, "explanatory, mnemonic devices to help them navigate the new world of literature".  Linguistic context is not enough, she explained - figuring out or guessing the meaning of new words through action and circumstance.  A student, she went on, coming from a deprived, reading-poor environment, cannot possibly know the term 'hansom cab', assuming at best that it is a misspelling of handsome; so visual aides are vehicles of transition from the inner city to the world of Nineteenth Century London. 

Now, most students with a modicum of learning experience can easily fill in the blanks, extrapolate from the setting, the action, the intent and volition of the characters and assume what the term means - a conveyance, one drawn by horses, transport for the well-to-do. 

If these students need such basic remedial education - third-grade prompts at best - then why are they attending university at all? "There are many intelligences" the Dean said, "and we should not try to put round pegs into square holes". 

In other words, as the primary school meme goes, some students color well within the lines, others play trumpet, and others can do math.  No child should be penalized for unfamiliarity with other intelligence's expression. 

Where this notion came from is uncertain.  It certainly has its origins in progressivism and its cri de coeur, inclusivity.  No one is fundamentally different, but 'differently abled'; and educational programs should be designed to encourage that diversity.  The children subjected to this politically devised curriculum suffer its consequences - they may graduate from primary school able to color within the lines, carry a tune, or run fast, but unable to negotiate the complex world they will soon enter.

They are handicapped when they enter school, living with single-mothers, brought up by uneducated grandmothers, and without the intellectual discipline of their white peers.  Once in school, they are promoted, marched forward, still behind in basic intellectual skills, and then, thanks to free money and affirmative action, attend college.
There are many avenues for the less well-equipped for college - community college, technical apprenticeship, online education - given the range of opportunities for all students in America, there is no reason for anyone to attend college beyond their means.  Courses like the one at the Dean's institution are demeaning, insulting, and a waste of time and money.  

If a student cannot make sense out of Dickens without knowing the meaning of 'hansom cab', he doesn't belong at the college level.  Even if he is other-endowed, how can he manage history, sociology, philosophy, or civics?  He does not belong in a place of higher learning until he has mastered the fundamental skills of critical thinking, logical analysis, and literary convention. 

Affirmative action fifty years ago had a point - a way of breaking the stranglehold of white unions, industries, and professions.  A leg up for talented individuals who had no access to white jobs and education.  Now, it is different.  Times have changed, and there is plenty of room to move, and maneuver.  Yet affirmative action has remained in place on the grounds that diversity ipso facto is beneficial to everyone.  

Yet black students are encouraged to belong to black fraternities, enjoy likeminded camaraderie, and stick to their own kind.  Neither whites nor blacks fraternize with the intimacy intended.  At the same time, because of courses that are either remedial or designed to make minority students feel comfortable - black studies, black history, black literature - black students are deprived of any real learning and the opportunity for real advancement. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

There Is No Diversity In The Mountains–The Last Outpost Of Civility In An Upset, Hostile Society

There are many gateways to the high mountains in Brent, Montana, a small town on the Yellowstone River not far from the Park, and when Harlow Michaels began his climb into the Absarokas, he was a happy man.  He had left Baltimore, a penitential, crime-ridden, nasty, race-baiting, uncivil place far behind, and looked forward to going where the issues of race and the ‘inclusive’ issues of gender and ethnicity did not exist.

The Western old growth forests were over a thousand years old sitting atop geological outcroppings more than a hundred times that, layers of schist, basalt, granite, and quartz dating back to the Pleistocene and even farther to the volcanic formation of the earth.   Walking there would not only be a refuge but a trip back to origins, a pre-historical place.

beartooth mountain vista - absaroka beartooth mountains stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Michaels had been fascinated by the idea of remoteness for years – an interest in the idea of solitude itself, a sui generis state of being – and only recently had the notion taken on a sense of refuge.  The more Baltimore became a violent, angry, disputatious, and ungovernable place, the more the Thoreauvian idea of the state of nature appealed to him.  It was not so much ‘getting away from it all’ but getting to the heart of the matter.  Aloneness, individual identity without ascription, a spiritual evolution.

The city he left had become an example of the worst of American urban dysphasia, a racially hostile place allowed to fester and turn inward by notions of racial laissez-faire.  A city governed by the same diffidence arranged as progressive policy.  

Idealistic notions of difference which ignored the growing disregard for moral order and assumed that innate goodness and respect would eventually out.

However, one municipal administration after another watched as the inner city befouled itself.  The infection of morally and socially blighted communities led to ‘moral flight’, a phenomenon attacked by liberals as white flight but nothing less than  decision to leave a place without internal order or moral code.  The more white families left the city, the more the inner city became the whole city, and a pervasive ungovernable ethos spread.  It was no wonder that Harlow Michaels sought refuge in Montana.

The American Transcendentalists were the first to codify the spiritual nature of natural experience.  Thoreau wrote,

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Henry David Thoreau - Wikipedia

For Harlow it was indeed a wish to ‘front only the essential facts of life’, but not necessarily to learn what Nature had to teach.  His was an existential fugue of a different genre.  His was a desire to escape a world gone awry – to find out whether solitude and a complete recession from social interaction was simply a temporary balm, a remediation, or simply a naïve attempt to leave troubles behind.  Was he a seer of sorts, a malcontent, a seeker, or a philosopher?

At first in the deep, dark, old growth forest, he drew deep, restorative breaths, felt a calm and moral resolution.  The woods were indeed a respite, a refuge, but also a resolution.  There were problems better left alone, too complicated to be disaggregated or deconstructed.  Social outbursts are really not problems at all but repetitions of the endless cycles of expression.  Anger, violence, territorialism, self-interest, aggression are not some random, unfortunate occurrence on the streets of Baltimore, but something native, a given in all human beings, tamed and tempered in some, released with fireworks in others.  Escape to the wilderness was for better or worse escape from human society.

The hectoring, dunning, badgering, and bullying about racism, misogyny, and homophobia was loud and strident, far more insistent than even the collective outrage of the civil rights era.  American society was becoming more contentious, more divided, and more hostilely opposed than ever before.  Now, more than ever was time for Absaroka solitude.

Hinduism has many states of becoming – a man is a student, a householder, a spiritual wanderer, and finally enlightened.  One cannot jump steps.  Each is predicated on the former; each necessary to becoming; none to be ignored.  So, thought Harlow, am i simply a neophyte, a pretender, a naïve explorer into reaches I can never fathom?

Shiva as Lord of Dance (Nataraja) | Indian (Tamil Nadu) | Chola period  (880–1279) | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

There were neither ho’s nor pimps here.  No spinners, bling, or attitude.  No street creds, dopers, lock ups, single mothers, or street creds.  The stark, irreconcilable differences must mean something, he considered.  Either they exposed innate contradictoriness or were pleas for compromise and integration.  Was fugue tantamount to avoidance? Isolation abandonment?

On the other hand what about the millennia-old moral injunctions of the Jews, the latter day apocalyptic revelations of Christianity? Wasn’t there an absolute code of moral behavior that was the key to both spiritual evolution and social accommodation?

Harlow walked farther and farther and deeper and deeper into the woods, and although the pathway was marked and well-used, he became anxious.  Would darkness fall before he left the wilderness?  Would he take a wrong turn and end up lost and completely alone? The moment was unsettling since he had invested so much of himself in the forest.  Why if the forest was a given, a millennia-old pre-human place, was he concerned? 

At each turn, there was the palpable feel of bad attitude, insolence, righteousness, and selfish accusations.  In Baltimore he was less physically threatened by violence and physical assault than he was by implied intimidation – dismissals by insolent counter clerks, deliberate avoidance and impolite snubs, implicit refusal to accommodate, every proprietary claim – and each time he could tolerate and forgive less.  ‘Inclusivity’ had become a ticket for irresponsibility, a get-out-of-jail-free card, an open invitation, a free pass.   Inclusivity was a worse form of incarceration than any prison. it condemned the individual to perpetual moral childishness and disrespect.  It locked in the street culture, the culture of dysfunction, and attitudes of entitlement, walkin’ around money, and perpetual social marginalization.

Louisiana's Angola: Proving ground for racialized capitalism – People's  World

There were indeed absolutes in the world and moral probity, social reasonability, and an innate sense of right and wrong have been precepts of all successful civilizations since the first human settlements.  What was happening in Baltimore was anti-historical, anti-human, and certainly counter to the streams of religious rectitude.

Thank God there is no diversity in the woods, Harlow concluded.  It would be unwanted and misplaced.  The very nature of progressive diversity – the lionization of some, the dismissal and rejection of others, and the self-assured inviolability of the liberal canon – is a false idyll.

He left the woods and returned to Brent, a place whose climate, geography, and economic history have made it a uniform town, one whose diversity has always been subtle and never called out; one whose familiarity is the key to congeniality and good faith.  A lack of racial dispute and angry disputatiousness lets problems be resolved simply; no identities need to be parsed, exposed, or concluded.  Man and women are ranchers, breeders, schoolteachers, carpenters, or day laborers as the market demands.  They are not too good for anything.  Family, security, and responsibility come first and last.

So Harlow realized he would not have to take refuge in the Absarokas.  Brent would be more than enough salve for his social cuts and bruises, a good place to live, a fine place.

He left Baltimore and its raging political reformism, irreconcilably nasty ghettoes, and selfish, patronizing, entitling government behind.  He became a Montanan in principle, outlook, belief, and philosophy.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Shades Of White–Small Town America And The Debunking Of The Myth Of Systemic Racism

Brent, Montana is a small town on the Yellowstone River, not far from the Park, a former rail hub for cattle, ore, and timber, now diminished in regional importance but still economically viable, especially with the summer influx of fishermen, rafters, and hikers.

Paradise Valley Montana - AllTrips

It is a place which reflects an older, more traditional conservatism – Old West individualism, a natural simplicity, and civility.  Its conservatism has none of the radical government hatred found in the Deep South or the MAGA outliers of the Idaho panhandle.  It reflects old postwar patriotism, pride of place, family, and religion of the Fifties.

There are no black people in Brent.  There has been no reason for them to settle there – a mountain outpost, brutally cold in the winter, scant employment, and an ethos far from either the inner city or the rural South.  As a result Brent has been insulated from the hounding, hectoring, and constant banging about race.  There are no racial demands, no Black Lives Matter signs there. 

Schools have been unaffected by the radicalism of teachers’ union demands for ‘inclusivity’ and ‘diversity’.  Collegiality, not contention is the ethos of education in Brent.

It is a place which represents the best of America, a town where American originalism is close to the foundational values of the early days of the Republic, a place which Jefferson and Hamilton would recognize – a town where individualism is expressed within the context of community, hard work expected, complaints in the pursuit of opportunity rare.

Thomas Jefferson - Facts, Presidency & Children

Shades of white – distinct reflections of innate diversity are respected in Brent.  Intelligence, enterprise, humor, spiritual aspiration, endowed and expressed differently but strongly, are part of the natural order of things. Isolated from the angry demands of inclusivity, left alone to sort out peeves, inequalities, and disagreements, the people of Brent make do with what they have, come together or live apart, and survive adultery, divorce, and loss of faith.

A reporter for an Eastern metropolitan newspaper was sent to Brent to research its views on racial diversity, inclusivity, and justice.  He had learned of the universal demographic whiteness of the town, and suspected that there was more to the superficial congeniality and good faith of the place than met the eye.  

Racism was systemic in America, he knew, and no place was exempt from it. If black people were to arrive in Brent, they would be subjected to the same virulent hatred as anywhere else in the country, perhaps even more so as the white idyll would be perceived to have been invaded.

However, since one can never prove a negative, honing in on what were the reporter’s presumptions about racial prejudice was difficult.  Without black people to hate, how could he prove that the residents of Brent were racist?

Nevertheless he went about his business and canvassed residents across the spectrum – ranchers, farmers, service workers, students, teachers, and day laborers.  Yes, they responded, they had heard about Black Lives Matter, Jim Crow, and white supremacy but these issues remained theoretical.  No, they argued, they would never hate a black person if one were ever to come to Brent and would offer the same opportunities as any white resident. 

Yet the respondents were insistent on one thing – the configuration of a small town, its particular level of mutual respect, the subtle differences between this rancher and that, this merchant and that, this neighbor and that, fostered a sincere respect for difference, what the reporter called ‘diversity’

Because our differences are slight, one woman said, we accommodate them more easily than if they were gross; and this is the way life should be – degrees of subtlety.

Try as he might, he could not unearth the racist sentiments he expected.  Not only did he not find examples of systemic racism, he was surprised at the intelligence of the responses on the issue.  The people in the town discussed race obliquely – that is, they did not talk about race at all but about the idea of diversity  The certainty with which his interviewees responded was unsettling.  He was expecting defiance.

Anyone visiting Brent would be impressed by its congeniality.  Coming from Eastern cities where charges of racism have embittered whites and entitled blacks to bad attitude, sullen resentment or violence, visiting the place is a respite, a pleasure.

The reporter returned to his office empty-handed.  He had gone to Brent to finally put to rest the argument about systemic racism.  A lily white place like Brent would be the example of the inherent, deep-seated, brutal racism of America.  His discovery would be a universal indictment of America, a once and for all expose of the harsh truth about a profoundly immoral place; but he had nothing but speculation.  It must be there, but he simply couldn’t find it.

The people of Brent, however, did put the question to rest.  Systemic racism they knew was a fiction, a political ruse, a distorted hysteria.  It was inherently destructive, unhelpful, and antithetical to the very idea of diversity promoted.  Racial harmony and true integration were set back by unfounded belief.