The “civil rights revolution” fought in the middle of the 20th century was a battle for the hearts and minds of the American public, as well as a political and legal campaign. The new medium of television brought pivotal events into America’s living room—everything from the soaring words of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Bull Connor’s use of fire hoses and police dogs to suppress protests in Birmingham, Alabama. The NAACP and other civil rights groups filed lawsuits challenging segregation, but the ultimate victory came legislatively—as a result of a transformation of Americans’ attitudes regarding race, following a painful, candid public dialogue about freedom and equality.
“Do not deceive yourselves,” wrote St. Paul. “If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a ‘fool’ so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.”
Pope Francis appears to disagree. He treats the standards of this age very reverentially while undercutting “fools for Christ” like Kim Davis. Shortly after the worldly wise expressed outrage at his meeting with the Kentucky clerk, he authorized his press secretary to spin it as a meaningless gesture, akin to a random ropeline greeting.
“The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” said his press secretary. “Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.”
I don’t often write about gun issues; there are more than enough pro-2nd Amendment voices out there to cover that beat and, I admit, some part of me wishes it would vanish as a political issue. (I say that as someone who owns about a dozen guns, from pistols to shotguns to “assault weapons” and am quite capable with each of them.)
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s announcement that he’s leaving the Obama administration to return to Chicago has set off an expected round of analyses from both the right and the left. As the longest serving member of the Obama Cabinet, Duncan naturally attracted his fair share of supporters and critics from all sides of the political spectrum. Perhaps the best way to judge Duncan’s tenure is to ask whether or not he met the challenge he gave himself in an April 2009 editorial he wrote for the Wall Street Journal, “School Reform Means Doing What’s Best for Kids,” where he said:
The only open question is whether or not we have the collective political will to face the hard facts about American education. We must close the education gap by pursuing what works best for kids, regardless of ideology. In the path to a better education system, that’s the only test that matters.
Ann Richards was the state treasurer of Texas when she delivered the keynote address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Her claim-to-fame was this line about vice president George H.W. Bush, then running for president: “Poor George, he can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”
Her indictment of Bush was so effective that he won the presidency in that election. Basically, she appealed to the convention’s partisans, but her delivery came across to others as obnoxious. She helped inspire the Democrats to nominate her own Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen as running mate to Michael Dukakis. But she also said, “When we pay billions for planes that won’t fly, billions for tanks that won’t fire, and billions for systems that won’t work, that old dog won’t hut. And you don’t have to be from Waco to know that when the Pentagon makes crooks rich and doesn’t make America strong, that it’s a bum deal.”
Civilizations come and civilizations go. While some prove capable of inner renewal, there’s no guarantee that any given culture will maintain itself over long periods of time. Today we continue to admire the achievements of Greece and Rome. As distinct living cultures, however, they’ve been dead for centuries.
Many of us think of civilizational failure in terms of a society’s inability to withstand sudden external encounters. The sun-worshiping human-sacrificing slave-owning Aztec world, for instance, quickly crumbled before Hernán Cortés, a handful of Spanish conquistadors, and his native allies, and, perhaps above all, European-borne diseases. Given enough violence, superior technology, and the will to use it, an entire culture can be seriously destabilized, if not swept aside. Yet ever since Edward Gibbon’s multi-volume Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, it’s been impossible to downplay the role of internal vicissitudes in facilitating civilizational degeneration.
Begin with yesterday’s bombshells: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gave a 40-minute address to the UN General Assembly. He declared Palestine a state — a statement of zero legal effect but of political significance. He announced that: (a) September 30 would henceforth be known (to Palestinians) as Palestinian Flag Day; (b) the Palestinians were no longer bound by the Oslo Accords. Specifically, Abbas proclaimed as to Oslo, from the same podium where in 1974 Yasser Arafat spoke to the General Assembly with a gun in his belt, that
We therefore declare that we cannot continue to be bound by these agreements and that Israel must assume all of its responsibilities as an occupying power.
Abbas began his speech with this inversion of Jerusalem history since the end of the 1967 War:
(Transcript by Arnold Steinberg)
Jorge Ramos: President Trump, on your deportation plan…
President Trump: I didn’t call on you.
Jorge Ramos: I represent Univision. I have a right…
Trump: Excuse me. Wait until my lawsuit against Univision gets to the Supreme Court.
Jorge Ramos: By then you’ll have your sister on the Supreme Court.
Trump: She’s smart, very smart. And she knows I love women and I’m in favor of women’s health. Mexican women. All women. Sit down, or I’ll appoint Ann Coulter U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.
Ramos: I have a question. What about your plan to deport eleven million or more…
Trump: Sit down, or the Secret Service will remove you.
Speaking of the restoration of the centuries-old Bourbon monarchy — following the massively convulsive interlude of 22 years between French Revolution and Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815 — Talleyrand quipped, “They [the Bourbons] have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.”
On a smaller scale, the same judgment applies to the lessons learned (or studiously ignored) in a lengthy report released last week into the “underlying issues” behind the riots and looting that erupted in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson (pop. 21,200) following the shooting death of a young black man by a white police officer on Aug. 9, 2014.
Commissioned by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, the report is long on liberal pieties and dogma, including the advocacy of some policies that will only worsen existing problems, but short of practical suggestions for improving economic or social conditions in a close-in, big-city suburb that went from predominantly white to predominantly black in the space of two decades.
Complaining about liberal media bias is like complaining about a puppy peeing on the rug: it’s just what they do, and if you don’t like it then don’t have them in your house.
We’ve all seen editorials masquerading as news and television anchors impersonating objective journalists when hosting Republican debates or Sunday talk shows. We, America’s non-leftists (whether or not Republicans), know the game and filter our processing of “news” and debate questions through that lens.
But the media’s recent obsession with what Republican presidential candidates think of Muslims (or whether President Obama is one), their badgering of said candidates with questions that are irrelevant to the governing of the country, their distraction away from legitimate issues and into the looking glass of political correctness so extreme that it is literally ridiculous (i.e. not just silly but, as one online dictionary puts it, “deserving or inviting derision or mockery”) demands a response beyond “that’s just what they do.”