THE CENTER FOR THIRD AGE LEADERSHIP NEWSLETTER – JUNE 2015
1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
2. THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION PROCESS – RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
3. MEN OVERCOMPENSATE WHEN THEIR MASCULINITY IS QUESTIONED
4. CONFESSIONS OF A RIGHT-WING SHOCK JOCK
5. MEA CULPA – THE ‘SOUTHERN AVENGER’ REPENTS
7. THIS MONTH’S LINKS
QUOTE OF THE WEEK – ALICE WALKER
“I think we have to own the fears that we have of each other, and then, in some practical way, some daily way, figure out how to see people differently than the way we were brought up to.”
1. FATHER WILLIAM’S MUSINGS
June Greetings, Dear Friends…
As so many of you, I was deeply disturbed by the racial murders of church-goers in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church. This terrible atrocity was followed within days by the burning of predominantly black Briar Creek Baptist church near Charlotte, NC.
“…there was a spate of such crimes across the South in the 1990s. The U.S. Justice Department began an investigation in 1996 into a string of arson attacks against historically black churches in the south over a period of several months, including Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina.
“TIME called it ‘a national epidemic of violence against black churches,’ and reported on President Clinton’s visit to a burned and rebuilt church in Greeleyville, South Carolina, and on the Republican-led House passage of a bill that would make it easier for the federal government to prosecute the crimes.
“Kinsey, the pastor of Briar Creek, told local media he hoped the fire was not motivated by racial hatred. ‘We are still talking about this same issue and this is 2015,’ he said. ‘We all have to consider what else do we need to do to actually be able to work together.’ “ -TIME, June 25, 2015
There is something else we can “do to actually be able to work together.” It has been tried and proven successful in situations as difficult as America’s festering history of slavery, segregation and racial hate. We have Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and South Africa’s peoples to thank for this guidance. Archbishop Tutu describes their process of “Truth and Reconciliation” in a talk he gave in 2004 (#2).
Restorative justice not only opposes vengeance but shudders at its geometric progressions of horrors into genocide, Holocaust, species annihilation and planetary destruction. It is long past time sane men acknowledge the murderous dimensions of our macho heritage, the elevation of excessive masculinity and its accompanying cruelties.
When God insisted “Vengeance is mine,” he didn’t mean retributive justice was god-like; he meant it was not for humans to appropriate to themselves. And yet his human lieutenants, almost all of whom were male, went quickly from “an eye for an eye” to religious and racial extermination. As Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw or Jean-Jacques Rousseau said, “God created man in his own image. And man, being a gentleman, returned the favor.”
It’s time sane men acknowledged that a macho mentality precludes the possibility of participating in restorative justice. Given our cultural conditioning, this will not be easy for us to do.
And, in our lifetimes, there are many good men who have been showing a way: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Pope Francis are models for us all.
But these inspired and courageous men can too often seem beyond us normal mortals. We are not saints and never will be. We live in realities where power rules, and we feel impotent if not cloaked in that power. We may have continuing misgivings about what we are part of, but we see nowhere else we normals can live our truth and survive. So we hide in the camouflage of our ‘old boys’ networks’ no matter whether they be Klan robes or the Koch Brothers’ Secret Billionaire Summit.
Why would well-meaning, intelligent men so debase themselves? Because we don’t have a clue how to be caring, healing friends to others just like us who have committed sins we believe there is no attainment for. And this means we see no healing for ourselves. Gentlemen, does this sound familiar?
“The reason men almost never hold long term grudges against each other is that we’re so damn bad at making up. We don’t offer heartfelt apologies, and then hug each other tightly the way women do, laughing and crying into each others hair until the last remnants of hostility and resentment are gone. We just sit around, nodding inelegantly without making eye contact, shrugging and saying things like ‘Forget about it’ or ‘Let’s just call it even’ or other meaningless clichés that’s save us from actually having to speak directly to each other about hurt feelings and anger. In most cases, we just as soon find a new friend as submit to the awkward process of reclaiming an existing one…” (Jonathan Tropper, How to Talk to a Widower, Orion Books UK 2007, p. 169)
Pride, born of male insecurity of never being able to be manly enough, causes us to be non-human. We cannot envision confessing our sins and surviving – unless that is in a dark booth or on a couch to one who legally required to never reveal them to another living soul. How, in such circumstances, can we ever hope to acknowledge who we have been publicly?
And if we can’t be public about our failings, how do we expect our brothers to take that risk? Isn’t it incredible we would see such truth-telling as a despicable feminine fault and make it impossible for healing ourselves and others? It is time we men, despite how much we’ve contributed as hunter-warriors, woke up to how far we still have to evolve as human beings. And we can only do that by recognizing and accepting our human wholeness including our feminine – but this is not what men do when we feel our masculinity is threatened (#3).
Women struggle as well with the narrowness of gender definition, especially in the old-boy-controlled corporate environments. Still, being ‘too macho’ can be a left-handed compliment in the board room while being ‘too feminine’ never is. Interestingly, and probably correctly, we men have more work to do on our evolution now; women have already been working on theirs for much longer because they had to in order to survive. It seems it’s our turn for the next few generations – not just for our own survival, but for our loved ones, our species and our world.
So in this month’s newsletter I offer you the story (#4 and #5) of ‘The Southern Avenger,’ a man whose earlier failings were certainly no greater, but more public, than mine. Recent events have caused him to reconsider what he believed in the past, and to offer his apologies for those behaviors now. His name is Jack Hudson, and I admire him greatly for not only sharing who he is now, but who is has been in earlier years. His is an act of ‘Truth and Reconciliation’.
The first piece that follows (#4) is about who ‘The Southern Avenger’ was. The second (#5) is about who Jack Hudson has become.
So can “Trial and Reconciliation – Restorative Justice” help beyond the borders of South Africa? Jack’s evolution offers possibilities to us all. Even Karoli on “Crooks & Liars” wrote this:
“…It didn’t feel insincere when he talked about that McKinney incident, or the shame he has when he looks back on what he used to do. I’m still not 100 percent sold, and I do think this is a way of trying to attract African-Americans into Rand Paul’s camp.
“But beyond that, I also understand from personal experience that when one makes a choice to stop reflexively hating and start thinking about what one does and says, it can be a moment of transformation and truth.
“It is possible both are true. He may genuinely have turned away from hating and promoting white supremacist ideas and may also want to rehabilitate Rand Paul’s reputation in the arena of race relations.
“You make the call on that. Hunter’s segment begins about 12 minutes into the video on the top.”
I think Karoli’s cautious support of Jack Hudson is right on the money. My own career, as consultant always negotiating multiple agendas, taught me very little motivation is simple, pure and unitary. I can’t imagine Jack’s motives are less complex than mine, and, even with such complexities, his “Mea Culpa” still offers great hope for human possibilities anywhere because he, as a 21st century Southern male, accepts and celebrates his own very personal vulnerability and mistaken-ness. I hope I can do as well as I go forward in my messy life; I surely did not in my earlier years.
And to conclude, I offer you one of my favorite poets, David Whyte, and his thoughts on vulnerability (#6). As males, many of us still find this very hard…
PS: Be sure to watch Brené Brown’s video in the links – it’s not only us men who have problems with vulnerability…
2. THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION PROCESS – RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
BY ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU, THE LONGFORD LECTURES, 16 FEB 2004
Thank you for the great honour of giving a lecture in this distinguished series. Lord Longford was famous for his advocacy of a new approach to penal practice and was passionate in his faith in the essential goodness of people. He refused to give up on virtually anyone believing that we all deserved another chance to make a new beginning. It did not always make him the blue-eyed boy of those who held on to traditional ways of doing things and he was often vilified and pilloried so that he spoke of himself as the ‘outcasts’ outcast’. He believed fervently in helping others to make a new start so that in the Post War Government he was the Cabinet Minister responsible for helping to set so many on the path to reconstruction and revival so much so that Chancellor Adenauer commended him warmly for his efforts. Even for this he was castigated as caring more for the enemies of Britain than for Britons. Looking at modern day Germany and its prosperity and economic clout we must admit that Lord Longford had done a splendid job of foundation laying.
The Truth and Reconciliation Process During the period preceding our historic first democratic elections of April 27th 1994 which we will commemorate as we celebrate a decade of freedom, the negotiators had to decide how to deal with the horrendous legacy of our immediate past, the ghastly prelude to the advent of freedom and democracy. Some, especially of the apartheid regime advocated that a general amnesty or blanket amnesty be granted to all, so that as they imagined bygones would be bygones, that the past would not hold the present and future hostage. Mercifully we don’t possess a fiat by which we can declare “Let bygones be bygones” and they dutifully become bygones and go and lie down quietly. They have an uncanny capacity to return and haunt us. An unexamined and unacknowledged past finds all kinds of skeletons emerging from all sorts of cupboards to bedevil the present. Just ask General Pinochet. Santayana declared hauntingly “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”
And general amnesty victimizes the victims a second time round by asserting that either what happened to them did not really happen, or worse, that it was of little moment and so they are not able to experience closure and will nurse grudges and resentments which may have dire consequences for peace and stability as their anguish festers and they may then one day take their revenge. Some others thought the easiest path would be to follow the Nuremburg trial option and arraign all who were known to have committed or were suspected of committing gross human rights violations. Nuremburg happened because the Allies defeated the Nazis and could impose what has been called victors’ justice. In our case neither the apartheid Government nor the liberation movements of the ANC and PAC defeated their adversaries. There was a military stalemate. It is almost certain the apartheid security forces would have scuppered any scheme at the end of which they might be indicted. And South Africa could not afford the long trials nor could an already overburdened judicial system have coped.
The negotiators opted for a principled compromise – individual amnesty not general amnesty in exchange for the whole truth relating to the offence to which amnesty was being sought. “Amnesty for truth” – many have asked in genuine concern, “But what about justice? Are you not encouraging impunity?” First of all it is important to stress that this way of going about things was deliberately designed only for this delicate period of transition, ad hoc – once for all. It would not be how South Africa’s judicial system operates to free people who had committed crimes if they made a full disclosure. Far from encouraging impunity this way of going about things stressed accountability since the amnesty seeker had to admit committing an offence. Innocent people or those who claimed innocence obviously did not need amnesty.
As to “What about justice?” it was clear that most who asked this question thought in terms of only one kind of justice, retributive justice which is what obtains overwhelmingly the world over.
The purpose of it all is punitive to ensure that the offender is punished. That is the primary aim of retributive justice. Its advocates might point to the biblical injunction of an eye for an eye as justification for it. It is in fact a misconstruing of the biblical injunction to think it sanctions revenge when it was intended to restrict blood feuds to targeting only the culprit and not others whose one fault was to have been related to the offender. It has seemed in fact that harsh penalties for crimes have not always had the desired effect. There is no doubt that in a moral universe such as we inhabit, flouting its laws should indeed have consequences for those breaking those laws, that they should not contravene them with impunity. But it is an incontrovertible fact that the penal systems of most countries have failed to stem the tide of recividism. The first time offender who is sent to prison for his crime is as likely as anything going to end up being a repeat offender, that harsh sentences designed to be only punitive are turning out to be quite costly. Prisons are overcrowded. In this country they have been sentencing motorists to prison for motoring offences in a bid to deter others. It does not seem to be working and there are now all kinds of suggestions about how to reduce the prison population including avoiding custodial sentences for motoring offences.
Countries that have maintained the death sentence do not show a drop in crimes of violence or murder. The death sentence does not appear to have much to show as a deterrent. There is no marked drop in the numbers of those sentenced to death. Columbine happened in the United States where 2 students shot and killed fellow students and fairly recently a school boy of 14 shot and killed his teacher. Then there was the panic caused by the sniper in Virginia. This in a land they knew would sentence them to death if found and convicted. And even more significantly there have been no appreciable increases in serious crimes in countries that have abolished the death penalty, certainly not increases that could be linked directly with that abolition. If there are now increases they are not related to the absence of the death penalty coming as they do so many years after the ban on death sentences. It does appear as if the death penalty makes very little difference to the crime statistics. What it seems to be doing is to brutalize society.
President Bush was Governor of Texas which is notorious for the high number of executions that state carries out. It may not be fanciful to see a connection between this and the belligerent militarist policies that have produced a novel and dangerous principle that of pre-emption on the basis of intelligence reports that in one particular instance have been shown can be dangerously flawed and yet were the basis for the United States going to war dragging a Britain that declared that intelligence reports showed Iraq to have the capacity to launch its Weapons of Mass Destruction in a matter of minutes. An immoral war was thus waged and the world is a great deal less safe place than before. There are many more who resent the powerful who can throw their weight about so callously and with so much impunity. We see here on a global scale the same illusion that force and brutality can produce security as we note at national and communal levels that harsh sentences and being tough on crime necessarily make our neighbourhoods safer. How wonderful if politicians could bring themselves to admit that they are only fallible human creatures and not God and thus by definition can make mistakes. Unfortunately they seem to think that such an admission is a sign of weakness. Weak and insecure people hardly ever say “sorry”. It is large hearted and courageous people who are not diminished by saying “I made a mistake”. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair would recover considerable credibility and respect if they were able to say “Yes, we made a mistake”. I hold no brief for Saddam Hussein – if now the reason being trumpeted for the war is regime change why there and not, for example, Burma or North Korea and who makes the decision about which regimes should be changed and what authority do they have to do whatever they may think is right or is it a matter of might is right and to hell with the rule of international law?
In the South African experience it was decided that we would have justice yes, but not retributive justice. No, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process was an example of restorative justice. In our case it was based on an African concept very difficult to render into English as there is no precise equivalent. I refer to Ubuntu/botho. Ubuntu is the essence of being human. We say a person is a person through other persons. We are made for togetherness, to live in a delicate network of interdependence. The totally self-sufficient person is sub-human for none of us comes fully formed into the world. I need other human beings in order to be human myself. I would not know how to walk, talk, think, behave as a human person except by learning it all from other human beings. For ubuntu the summum bonum , the greatest good is communal harmony. Anger, hatred, resentment all are corrosive of this good. If one person is dehumanised then inexorably we are all diminished and dehumanised in our turn.
A criminal offence has caused a breach in relationship and the purpose of the penal process is to heal the breach, to restore good relationships and to redress the balance. Thus it is that we set out to work for reconciliation between the victim and the perpetrator. There may be sanctions such as fines or short exile but the fundamental purpose of the entire exercise is to heal. In the retributive justice process the victim is forgotten in what can be a very cold and impersonal way of doing things. In restorative justice both the victim and the offender play central roles. Restorative justice is singularly hopeful, it does not believe that an offence necessarily defines the perpetrator completely as when we imply that once a thief then always a thief. There were many instances when ghastly hair raising revelations were made about the awful atrocities an amnesty applicant had committed. “We gave him drugged coffee and then we shot him in the head. We burned his body and whilst this was happening and it takes 6/7 hours to burn a human body we were having a barbecue and drinking beer.” You wondered what had happened to the humanity of someone that they could be able to do this. Quite rightly people were appalled and said people guilty of such conduct were monsters or demons. We had to point out that yes indeed these people were guilty of monstrous, even diabolical, deeds on their own submission but, and this was an important but, that did not turn them into monsters or demons. To have done so would mean that they could not be held morally responsible for their dastardly deeds. Monsters have no moral responsibility. But even more seriously, it meant we were shutting the door to any possibility on their part to improve and if that were so we should really shut up shop because the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was based on the premiss that people retained the capacity to change, that enemies could become friends.
Ubuntu and so restorative justice gives up on no-one. No-one is a totally hopeless and irredeemable case. We all remain the children of God even the worst ones. We all retained the capacity to become saints. For us as Christians the paradigm was provided by our Lord and the penitent thief on the Cross. He had led a life of crime presumably until he was crucified. Some might be appalled at this death-bed repentance and conversion, but not God whom we seek to emulate – “be as perfect as your heavenly father is perfect” is Jesus’ exhortation. We are not able to declare categorically that so and so has a first class ticket to hell. We shall be surprised at those we meet in heaven whom we least expected to be there and perhaps also by those we do not find there whom we had expected to be there.
Lord Longford was constrained by his deep Christian faith to make what for others might have appeared provocative and unfeeling appeals for parole on behalf of those who were regarded as being totally beyond the pale. Relationships are a matter of faith otherwise we would not have so many being divorced who when they married were madly in love. You stake your life on this one as an act of faith hoping that it will turn out all right. So too we must having taken reasonable precautions as in any relationship, have faith in those who might have fallen foul of our laws that many do want to go straight, do want to be rehabilitated, do want to be decent and productive members of society. They need someone to have even a modicum of faith in them and they can turn the corner.
We can say that the principles of ubuntu have helped in our case in South Africa to avert a catastrophe of monumental proportions in substituting forgiveness for revenge and reconciliation for retribution. It may be prudent to see what it can do to redeem a penal system that clearly is not delivering the goods.
It does seem as if in this case as well there is no future without forgiveness, for forgiveness means the offended being willing to give the offender another chance to make a new beginning.
We were exhilarated by many examples of victims forgiving the perpetrators in a display of remarkable magnanimity and generosity of spirit. It was not just black South Africans who did this. Many white South Africans did as well. What is more it was not confined only to South Africans. Peter and Linda Biehl were an American couple whose daughter Amy, a Fulbright scholar, was killed brutally by stoning by a mob of young blacks chanting the blood curdling slogan ‘One settler, one bullet’ – irony of ironies was that Amy had been a passionate supporter of the anti apartheid movement. Her parents (her father has since died) attended the Amnesty hearing of the 4 young blacks who were serving sentences for their part in her murder. And the Biehls spoke up in favour of granting amnesty. Not only did they do that they set up the Amy Biehl Foundation to try to salvage as many black youths from the violence and dead end of township ghetto life. Their daughter’s murderers now work for the foundation which is doing outstanding development work in the townships where their daughter was murdered. They are giving new beginnings to many. One of the most moving scenes were Linda meeting with the mother of one of her daughter’s murderers and the two mothers united by this awful tragedy embrace one white the other black, one South African, the other American, bound by the bond of humanity, the bond of ubuntu connected by their essential humanity and the mothers in embracing with tears streaming down their faces speak of the possibility of forgiveness and reconnection, the possibility of new beginnings, of healing and restoration, of life out of death.
3. MEN OVERCOMPENSATE WHEN THEIR MASCULINITY IS QUESTIONED
BY MAYA DUSENBERRY, ‘FEMINISTING,’ JUNE 24, 2015
STUDY SHOWS MEN OVERCOMPENSATE WHEN THEIR MASCULINITY IS QUESTIONED
A new study confirms that when men feel their masculinity is being questioned, they’ll often try to compensate by both rejecting anything considered “feminine” and exaggerating their “manliness” in other ways.
The study found that male college students who were given falsely low results on a handgrip strength test exaggerated their height by three-quarters of an inch on average, reported having more romantic relationships, claimed to be more aggressive and athletic, and showed less interest in stereotypically feminine consumer products.
By contrast, men who received average score results, and whose masculinity was therefore not threatened, did not exaggerate those characteristics. The findings, researchers say, underscore the pressure men feel to live up to gender stereotypes and the ways in which they might reinstate a threatened masculinity.
The researchers note that while women may display a similar dynamic when it comes to femininity, in general, the anxiety about not meeting gendered expectations is likely more severe among men since gender norms have expanded more for women — as the study puts it, “masculinity is more easily threatened than femininity.”
And the ways in which it may be reasserted when threatened are also way more harmful. This study joins a huge body of research on the dangers of threatened masculinity. While the overcompensation in this case is pretty benign — lying about their height, avoiding stereotypically “feminine” products — other research has hinted at how damaging it can be. In one study, men whose masculinity was threatened were more likely to hit a punching bag and, in another, to sexually harass a female interaction partner, and, in another, to blame the victim in a rape case.
Meanwhile, in the real world, unemployed men have been found to be more likely to commit violence against women, and men who aren’t the primary breadwinner tend to be less willing to share the housework with their wives. Not to mention the most extreme cases, epitomized by Elliot Rodger, when a sense of “aggrieved entitlement” to feeling “like a man” leads someone to the ultimate expression of masculinity: indiscriminate violence.
4. CONFESSIONS OF A RIGHT-WING SHOCK JOCK
BY JACK HUNTER, NOVEMBER 25, 2013
I’M NOT A RACIST; I JUST PLAYED ONE ON RADIO
In July, the neoconservative website Washington Free Beacon published an article with the headline “Rebel Yell: Rand Paul aide has history of neo-Confederate sympathies, inflammatory statements.” The subject was a peculiar one—a staffer for Sen. Paul (R-Ky.) who had worked as a radio shock jock with the nickname “Southern Avenger” while wearing a Confederate-flag wrestling mask.
The Southern Avenger had said some pretty atrocious things. He toasted John Wilkes Booth’s birthday each year and believed that Lincoln “would have had a romantic relationship with Adolf Hitler if the two met.” He worried about “racial double standards for white people” and that “a non-white majority America would simply cease to be America.”
That Rand Paul aide was me. I had written and said all of these things. They no longer reflected my beliefs by the time the Beacon article came out—and hadn’t for a long time. Some I had completely forgotten, like the John Wilkes Booth toast. The reporter had retrieved that one from an old long-defunct website.
“He expressed surprise when read his remarks about race, saying, ‘Hearing you even read that to me, because I just don’t speak like that, sort of bothers me,’” the reporter wrote. “He said his views had changed dramatically.”
They had changed. But it didn’t matter. There was no excuse for my comments. In fact, the Jack Hunter of 2013 would have condemned the Southern Avenger of 2003 for making them.
Two weeks after the story broke, I resigned.
For the previous three years, I had worked for Rand Paul and his father, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. I had helped Rand Paul write his 2011 book, The Tea Party Goes to Washington, and had worked to spread what I saw as his broadly appealing message of small government and personal freedom.
It was much more than a job.
I had a front-row seat for the war brewing between the Republican Party’s old guard and a new breed of libertarian conservatives who were causing headaches for the establishment. The Free Beacon article led to dozens of subsequent stories calling me a kook, a racist and a white supremacist. Suddenly, Paul couldn’t give an interview without being asked about me. “If I thought he was a white supremacist, he would be fired immediately,” Paul told the Huffington Post. I had become a distraction.
Sen. Paul had known that I used to wear a Confederate wrestling mask as part of an old radio shtick, and I still sometimes used the Southern Avenger moniker—it was my Twitter handle and appeared on my Facebook page. But he hadn’t known about the many stupid and offensive things I’d said. By the time I met him in 2010, I had changed my tone and many of my views.
The Free Beacon would eventually obtain a Southern Avenger CD in which I suggested that someone “whip” director Spike Lee, who had trashed Mel Gibson’s 2000 Revolutionary War film The Patriot as “whitewash.”
Whenever I put on that wrestling mask, I took on a persona that was intentionally outrageous and provocative. I said many terrible things. I disavow them.
I had forgotten about that, too. It was painful to revisit because it sounds awful to me today, so I could only imagine what it sounded like to African-Americans in 2000. I recall making equally insensitive comments about illegal immigrants and Muslims. Whenever I put on that wrestling mask, I took on a persona that was intentionally outrageous and provocative. I said many terrible things. I disavow them.
But let’s be honest: My commentary wasn’t all that different from what more mainstream conservatives were saying—at the time and still today.
“I said many terrible things,” says Hunter. “I disavow them. But let’s be honest: My commentary wasn’t all that different from what more mainstream conservatives were saying—at the time and still today.
Look at some of the popular conservative arguments of the last decade. Is our border-security problem really part of a La Raza takeover of the United States, as some have speculated? As I once speculated?
President Obama is unquestionably awful. But is it necessary to call him a food-stamp president? What kind of message does that send?
Do we need to portray Obama as a secret Kenyan-Muslim-communist consumed by anti-colonial rage? Would his policies be more acceptable if Obamacare and gun control were somehow proven to be all-American in origin?
I believe that conservatives’ limited-government arguments are the right ones. So why do we ever have to go there?
Most conservatives are not, and never were, racists. But many have displayed a disregard for minorities for a very long time and in a plethora of ways. I certainly did. Minorities think we don’t like them. Not enough conservatives have tried to convince them that’s not true. Some seem comfortable doubling down on the same old insensitivities as a matter of being more right wing-than-thou.
It’s a problem. It’s also a dead end for the GOP.
I grew up in the cradle of Southern secession—Charleston, S.C.—and came of age in the 1990s, a decade defined by racial tension. The Rodney King trial would lead to the Los Angeles riots, followed by the explosive O.J. Simpson trial. Welfare, carjacking and the “dangers” of multiculturalism were conservative talk-radio staples.
My upper-middle-class parents voted Republican because they liked low taxes and keeping the government out of their business, but they weren’t very political beyond that. When my mother started listening to Rush Limbaugh the summer before I graduated from high school, my father complained that Limbaugh was too loud.
I, on the other hand, was hooked. Most of the political views I had heard up to that point came from the rock stars I idolized. By comparison, Limbaugh’s conservative ideas seemed fresh, even rebellious.
In the mid-90s I picked up Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind at Barnes & Noble. I bought it because it had “conservative” in the title, and I figured it was probably about how bad the Clinton administration was.
To this day, it’s the most important book I’ve read. Kirk acknowledges the South’s tragic past (not enough, in my opinion, but the book was published in 1953), but also tried to present a more positive history. “Despite its faults of head and heart, the South,” he wrote, “had hardihood sufficient for an appeal to arms against the iron new order which, a vague instinct whispered to Southerners, was inimical to the sort of humanity they knew.” At 20, I had thought of my region as so scarred by slavery and racism that any conservatism in Southern history had to be bad.
Jack Hunter is editor at Rare.us. He helped write The Tea Party Goes to Washington, by Sen. Rand Paul and Now or Never: How to Save America from Economic Collapse, by former Sen. Jim DeMint.
5. MEA CULPA – THE ‘SOUTHERN AVENGER’ REPENTS
BY JACK HUNTER, RARE.US, 06.22.154:40 PM ET
I WAS WRONG: THE CONFEDERATE FLAG HAS ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT RACE
As a Charleston, South Carolina-based conservative radio personality known as the “Southern Avenger,” I spent a decade defending the Confederate flag that is yet again the center of so much controversy.
I said the flag was about states’ rights. I said it stood for self-determination. I said it honored heritage.
I argued the Confederate flag wasn’t about race. I believed it. Millions of well-meaning Southerners believe it too.
I was wrong. That flag is always about race. Whatever political or historical points the flag’s defenders make, there will never be a time—and never has been a time—in which millions of Americans have looked at that symbol and not seen hatred.
We can argue for the rest of time whether this is fair or not. And for the rest of time, that symbol will still be seen in an overwhelmingly negative light.
Those who see hatred have political and historical reasons too.
This has always been the Confederate flag debate game. One camp’s arguments are supposed to trump the other’s.
I’m not here to settle those arguments. I tired of them years ago.
But I am here to say there is something at stake far more important than this symbol.
Heritage might not be hate. But battling hate is far more important than anyone’s heritage, politics, or just about anything else. We should have different priorities.
I now have different priorities.
Dylann Roof is a reminder of what’s at stake.
The week before a white supremacist murdered nine black men and women in my hometown of Charleston, I was angry at my fellow conservatives.
A 14-year-old black girl attending a pool party in McKinney, Texas, had been manhandled and thrown to the ground by a police officer. The girl had done nothing except talk. She was just standing there with other teenagers.
It was revolting to watch. I asked others to imagine it was their daughter.
The overwhelming response was that she was a “thug” who was “no saint” and needed to be taught “respect.” The comments were as revolting as the act—an adult mob praising the assault of a 100-pound, half-naked and scared black kid. I pleaded again for people to stop defending this. It got uglier.
It bothered me greatly, probably because at one time I might have done the same thing.
In my role as a conservative radio personality, I would’ve likely joined in in calling a group of excited black teenagers, or protesters, “thugs.” I might have called illegal immigrants criminals or worse. Muslims would’ve been slandered as terrorists.
Ugliness was a stock-in-trade.
I thought a big part of being conservative meant picking a “side” and attacking the other. I thought not caring what others thought or felt was part of it. Some of my Confederate flag debates certainly reflected that mentality.
This is something ideologues do and is by no means exclusive to the right, as evidenced by the way some liberals cartoonishly portray conservatives, Christians, and, yes, Southerners.
Ideologues ridicule and dehumanize people at the expense of their personhood. Ideologues believe some groups must be attacked, and although the groups are comprised of flesh-and-blood human beings, it’s better not to think of them as people too much—it could get you off message.
It’s crude collectivist thinking. It’s an intentional lack of sympathy. It’s dehumanization. It’s at the heart of everything that’s wrong with our politics and culture.
In its most extreme form, it’s what’s wrong with Dylann Roof.
Between the reports of his racist words and manifesto, we know Roof had a mission: to murder black people. Entering the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church Wednesday and sitting with the group for an hour, Roof confessed that he “almost didn’t go through with it because everyone was so nice to him.”
But instead he chose to “go through with his mission.” He had to shrug off their kindness. These weren’t people. They were just “blacks.” They were on the wrong side.
Roof’s hateful tunnel vision led him to commit pure evil.
What is the polar opposite of such hatred? The forgiveness demonstrated by Roof’s victim’s families. Said the daughter of Ethel Lance, “I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you.”
“And have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you.”
This is humanity. It is a rejection of collectivist thinking. It is the epitome of sympathy. It’s grace. It’s love.
My attraction to libertarianism a number of years ago began a journey of rejecting groupthink and placing primacy on the individual. Once you start down the path of putting individual human beings above whatever group they belong to, it puts politics—and everything else—in a new light.
Putting people before an agenda or broad prejudices puts us all in a much better place. It can, and should, make us repentant of our past behavior. It did for me.
A 14-year-old girl at a pool party isn’t a “thug” who deserves abuse. She’s a child. Decent people should view her as such.
We can be more decent.
As a native of Charleston, I was touched, but not surprised by some of the victims’ families’ responses to Roof. My hometown is filled with loving men and women of all races. You’ve seen them in the streets and at the vigils in the last week throughout the South Carolina Lowcountry, holding hands and sharing this grief.
They are also the kind of Southerners who would be attacked in another context for their religious or traditional beliefs. They are the kind of people who are being attacked right now by pundits living thousands of miles away from this heartbroken city, who know nothing about Charleston and choose to impose their own politics on this tragedy. Peggy Noonan is right, “Why don’t you leave the grieving alone right now? Why don’t you not impose your agenda items on them? Why don’t you not force them to debate while they have tears in their throats?”
Some of the people you’ve seen join hands with their Charleston brethren in recent days likely have supported the Confederate flag. Support for this symbol is hard for most outside the South to even understand.
I would ask readers to at least try to understand these folks. Many are not coming from a place of hate.
Others are. Too many have for a very long time. One hateful man did so again last week in a way our nation will not soon forget.
This is why it’s finally time to take down the Confederate flag.
As a Southerner, I long stuck up for my “side.” The South was right. The North was wrong.
I have no intention of stopping him to educate him about the “true” meaning of the Confederate flag, as I might have years ago. I’m certain as a black American he already has a pretty concrete idea of how he feels about that symbol.
Black Americans have too many reasons to despise the Confederate flag. From slavery, to Jim Crow, to last week—it is so bloodstained today that it can only be thought of primarily as a symbol of terror.
Confederate flag supporters have argued for years that everyone should understand them. But black Southerners have tolerated something most of them consider intolerable for a century-and-a-half.
That’s time enough for understanding.
Understand this: Imagine your great-grandfather was a slave. Imagine your great-grandfather was lynched. Imagine your grandfather was forced to drink from a separate fountain. Imagine your father or mother was murdered by a deranged man with the Confederate flag all over his website.
Imagine these kinds of horrors were your American heritage. Imagine every time you saw a Confederate flag it reminded you of this.
Now imagine being told you don’t understand what the flag “really” means.
It’s an insult.
I care about moving beyond groupthink where right and left stop dehumanizing people more than I care about a flag. I care about white and black Southerners and Americans coming together, as we’ve seen on the streets of Charleston, more than I care about a flag. I’d like to see more coming together.
We will have a future that can be so much better than what a lot of Southern and American heritage represents, but only if we stop thinking of each other as separate camps constantly at war. We can only improve to the degree that we begin viewing one another not as enemies to be attacked but brothers to be loved.
Dylann Roof reminds us how hate destroys. The families of those he murdered remind us of the love we’re capable of.
The Confederate flag will always be a roadblock to the betterment of our natures. Let’s take it down so that we might all rise up.
BY DAVID WHYTE, AWAKIN.ORG
VULNERABILITY is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice , vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding under-current of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature, the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to be something we are not and most especially, to close off our understanding of the grief of others. More seriously, refusing our vulnerability we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.
To have a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events and circumstances, is one of the privileges and the prime conceits of being human and especially of being youthfully human, but a privilege that must be surrendered with that same youth, with ill health, with accident, with the loss of loved ones who do not share our untouchable powers; powers eventually and most emphatically given up, as we approach our last breath. The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant, and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.
© May 2014 David Whyte – Excerpted from ‘VULNERABILITY’ From the upcoming book of essays CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. http://www.davidwhyte.com/
7. THIS MONTH’S LINKS:
OBAMA DELIVERS EULOGY IN CHARLESTON
BRENE´ BROWN ON VULNERABILITY – 20,375,872 VIEWINGS
TESLA REVEALS THE POWER WALL…
LET US USE DRONES TO SAVE LIVES…
INVICTUS: NELSON MANDELA’S GUIDANCE OF SOUTH AFRICA
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