Friday, June 28, 2013

Morning Reading and Reflections -- June 28

Robert Parry's essay in Consortium News is a timely look at how contemporary politics and racism puzzle together is little more than a replay of the past. 
The modern Republican Party and its chic libertarians have dallied with white supremacists as a political necessity, because blacks and other minorities have rallied to the Democrats due to their better civil rights record. But the Right’s dancing with the racist devil is not new. It’s as old as the Founding, writes Robert Parry.
Highly recommended reading.
In the U.S. news media, there is often a distinction made between the racist Right, which emerged from the struggle to maintain slavery and segregation, and the “small-government” Right, which supposedly represents a respectable conservatism focused on the libertarian ideals of personal freedom and free-market principles 
But the reality is that both of these major branches of the American Right grew from the same political trunk, i.e., the South’s fear that a strong federal government would intrude on the practices of slavery and, later, segregation. And, throughout U.S. history, those two branches of the Right have been mutually supportive 
Thus, prominent leaders of the “libertarian” Right – the likes of William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and Ron and Rand Paul – have opposed major legislative efforts to combat Southern segregation, typically citing the “liberty” of a white restaurant owner to bar black patrons as trumping the right of the patrons to be treated fairly. 
The primary distinction between Washington and Jefferson was that – although both were Virginian slaveholders – Washington was arguably the First American while Jefferson was a Virginian first, rooted deeply in its soil and traditions. 

Unlike George Washington who freed his slaves in his will, neither Jefferson nor Madison granted a blanket grant of freedom in their wills. Jefferson only freed a few slaves who were related to his alleged mistress, Sally Hemings, and Madison freed none. 
As historians Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg wrote in Madison and Jefferson, these two important Founders must be understood as, first and foremost, politicians representing the interests of Virginia where the two men lived nearby each other on plantations worked by African-American slaves, Jefferson at Monticello and Madison at Montpelier. 
“It is hard for most to think of Madison and Jefferson and admit that they were Virginians first, Americans second,” Burstein and Isenberg note. “But this fact seems beyond dispute. Virginians felt they had to act to protect the interests of the Old Dominion, or else, before long, they would become marginalized by a northern-dominated economy. 
“Virginians who thought in terms of the profit to be reaped in land were often reluctant to invest in manufacturing enterprises. The real tragedy is that they chose to speculate in slaves rather than in textile factories and iron works. … And so as Virginians tied their fortunes to the land, they failed to extricate themselves from a way of life that was limited in outlook and produced only resistance to economic development.” 
In a recent New York Magazine article, Frank Rich summed up this political history while noting how today’s right-wing revisionists have tried to reposition their heroes by saying they opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 simply out of high-minded “small-government principles.” But Rich wrote: 
“The primacy of [Strom] Thurmond in the GOP’s racial realignment is the most incriminating truth the right keeps trying to cover up. That’s why the George W. Bush White House shoved the Mississippi senator Trent Lott out of his post as Senate majority leader in 2002 once news spread that Lott had told Thurmond’s 100th-birthday gathering that America ‘wouldn’t have had all these problems’ if the old Dixiecrat had been elected president in 1948. 
“Lott, it soon became clear, had also lavished praise on Jefferson Davis and associated for decades with other far-right groups in thrall to the old Confederate cause. But the GOP elites didn’t seem to mind until he committed the truly unpardonable sin of reminding America, if only for a moment, of the exact history his party most wanted and needed to suppress. Then he had to be shut down at once. 
As Frank Rich noted, “The boosters of the new voting regulations would have us believe instead that their efforts are in response to a (nonexistent) rise in the country’s minuscule instances of voter fraud. Everyone knows these laws are in response to the rise of Barack Obama. It is also no coincidence that many of them were conceived and promoted by the American Legal Exchange Council, an activist outfit funded by heavy-hitting right-wing donors like Charles and David Koch. 
“In another coincidence that the GOP would like to flush down the memory hole, the Kochs’ father, Fred, a founder of the radical John Birch Society in the fifties, was an advocate for the impeachment of Chief Justice Warren in the aftermath of Brown [v. Board of Education] Fred Koch wrote a screed of his own accusing communists of inspiring the civil-rights movement.”
Am I alone thinking that high-profile news stories about the killing of Trayvon Martin, the crumbling business empire of Paula Deen and the Republican obsession with "border security" in the matter of immigration reform have a lot to do with old-fashioned racism? Of course they do. Border security should include both ocean coasts and the trans-continental Canadian border but when the term is used in Congress it means keeping out brown people to the South.


Changing subjects, this video was passed along by Abbas Raza at 3Quarks Daily.


A word about marriage equality...

Within hours of yesterday's Supreme Court ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional and subsequent invalidation of California's Proposition 8 making gay marriages illegal, I read several Christian evangelical responses that can only be described as a reframing their message with love taking instead of condemnation.

Hey...whatcha gonna do"?

I shudder to think how much longer the love angle would have waited had the Court's decision been different.

The language of many Christian leaders suggests they expect an outbreak of unprecedented sinful behavior leading to a collapse of civilization, despite the fact that homosexuality is literally still illegal in most of the world and the percentage of LBGT people in our own population is really quite small. The percentage of the gay population (under 4%)  is estimated to be less than half the percentage of left-handed people (approximately 10%). I know there seem to be more gay TV and movie parts than in the past, but I can recall when the only black faces on TV were Amos & Andy and Jack Benny's valet Rochester'

The number of people living together without benefit of matrimony is large and growing, about half of marriages end in divorce and the marital status of some can be best described as serial monogamy. It seems to me there is plenty of remedial Christian ministry crying for attention without maligning the relatively small number of same-sex couples wanting to formalize and legalize loving, committed relationships.

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