Novels that changed the way Americans viewed slavery and the South *UPDATED*

Uncle-Toms-CabinKen Burns’ epic Civil War documentary came out in 1990. That was during my years as a lawyer in a very big firm and as a single gal enjoying life. My lifestyle then matters because it explains why, back in 1990, I managed to watch only the first episode of the 9-part series.

Now that we’ve been to some of the Civil War’s most famous battlefields — Gettysburg, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Bull Run — my husband and I are taking the time, finally, to watch the Civil War series in full. There’s something about having seen the battlefields, even though they are now green and peaceful places, that makes the series reach me at a visceral level in a way that could never have happened when I was a flighty young thing. The series moves me deeply.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin appears in the very first episode, of course. As Lincoln allegedly said to the author of this phenomenal bestseller, “So you’re little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.”

If he did indeed say it, it was not an exaggeration. While the abolitionist movement had been agitating for around one hundred years by the time the war started, it was Stowe’s book that took the abolitionists from being a fringe religious movement to one that galvanized the general public. In the North, slavery was suddenly no longer just a peripheral issue that troubled people’s consciences; instead, it was a central issue that drove the South out of the union (“How dare those arrogant Yankees tell us what to do?”), triggering the biggest conflagration in American history.

I don’t know how many of you have read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but I have. It is not a literary masterpiece. Stowe’s prose is the modern equivalent of a dime store novel — but that’s completely irrelevant. What matters is that she is a writer of marvelous narrative power. The characters may be hackneyed, but they are vivid and the slaves’ travails reach out and grab you by the throat. This is especially true for an audience that wasn’t made callous by Jerry Springer and Oprah, and that wasn’t exposed to every image known to man thanks to television and the internet. Mid-19th century Americans carried their true emotions quite close to the surface.

Ironically enough, just as Stowe’s book initiated the fervor that led to a war that left more than 600,000 American dead in its wake, I think it was another woman’s book that helped keep Jim Crow alive by creating across America a passion for the romance and gallantry of the old South. I speak, of course, of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind, which was published in 1936, and then kept alive for generations of Americans thanks to one of the best movies ever made in Hollywood.

I first read GWTW when I was 12, and probably read it annually for the next six or seven years. I read so often because, at least to my adolescent self, it was one of the greatest, and most tragic. romances ever written.

Scarlett O’Hara is a deeply flawed character who ought to be despicable because of her grasping, greedy, self-centered ways. That she is not — that she is peculiarly compelling and that her valiant spirit causes us to feel for her even at her worst — makes her something of a metaphor for the pre-war South itself, at least as Mitchell wrote both the character and the culture. While Southern culture may have been wedded, selfishly, to an utterly evil institution, Mitchell brought to that society the same fire, charm, courage that Scarlett had herself.  Her characterization of a lost time touched many people who still had enough moral center to condemn slavery.

Scarlett’s travails — which are also the travails of a war-torn South (and it’s worth remembering that, barring the foray into Gettysburg and some skirmishes out West, Union soil and towns saw no battles) and a Reconstruction South — inevitably elicit sympathy. How can they not? Even though Scarlett and the South were in the wrong, their sufferings were very real and their attempts to cope with that suffering had a peculiar courage.

Moreover, Margaret Mitchell, unlike Harriet Beecher Stowe, was a good writer. GWTW may not be great literature, but it’s damn good writing, so the reader inevitably begins to empathize with the lead characters — and the South itself is the true lead in this grand tragedy.

GWTW taught a generation of Americans who had no memory of the actual war that the South was gracious, genteel, mannered, gallant, valiant, brave and, when defeated, as heroic in defeat as it was during the War. (Ken Burns’ Civil War makes it very clear that the South had a much better military than did the North. A few brilliant generals with a fairly small cadre of committed troops saw victories far in excess of what their materiels and numbers should have allowed.)

autant en emporte le ventgone with the wind1939réal : Victor FlemingVivien LeighHattie Mc DanielCollection Christophel

autant en emporte le ventgone with the wind1939réal : Victor FlemingVivien LeighHattie Mc DanielCollection Christophel

GWTW also taught a generation of Americans who had little contact with black people that blacks were a fundamentally childish race and therefore were always at their best when they had good whites to look up to and take care of them. Certainly, when I was a child, the romanticized world of GWTW’s beloved house slaves (especially Mammy) seemed infinitely preferable to the realities of South Central LA, Watts, or other major American slums. My immature mind concluded that anyone with half a brain could see that it was nicer to wear clean, bright clothes, and scold spoiled Southern heiresses while lacing them tightly than it was to live in a modern American housing development.

It was actually quite a while before I was able to understand that slavery is so intrinsically evil, and so at odds with core concepts of human individualism and liberty, that it can never be accounted a good thing, no matter how superficially pleasant it may appear. I think it was this eventual understanding — when I cast off the last shackles of “Gone-With-The-Wind-ness” — that also enabled me to understand that a welfare state is just another form of slavery.

And when I say “welfare state,” please understand that I am not referring to a moral country that cares for its old and weak, its helpless and frail. Instead, I am referring to a country that systematically tells vast swaths of its citizens that they are better off living the most marginal existence possible at the government’s expense, than they would be were they to strike out on their own. The only difference in modern slavery is that the slaves are instructed not to work (“white privilege owes you”), than being instructed to work (“you owe white privilege”). Either way, the new slaves have been deprived of the ability to learn the skills and make the decisions that are the hallmarks of a free people.

I’m a more bookish person than most, but I am quite convinced that Margaret Mitchell’s powerful, romantic, tragic, gilded view of the South before, during, and after the Civil War allowed Jim Crow and other depredations against blacks to continue long after they should have died a natural death. Just as Stowe brought a generation of Americans to realize the horrors of slavery, Mitchell made a whole new generation see the beauty of a society built upon slaves’ backs and to believe that this society was as good for the slaves as it was for their masters.

Your opinion?

UPDATE:  Patrick O’Hannigan offers a typically insightful and thoughtful challenge to my post, arguing that a much more powerful book, by a much greater American writer, helped offset any message she created.

The Bookworm Beat 7-25-15 — the Lazy, but interesting, edition

Woman-writing-300x265As you may have gathered from the number of things we did every day on our recent trip to Virginia and environs, ours was not a restful vacation. I capped off the fatigue with a cold and, since our return, have been having a very hard time motivating myself to do anything. My theme song for the week has been Irving Berlin’s Lazy, although I’d have to add fatigue and inertia to the laziness mix:

Still, despite my laziness, I have managed to peel myself off the couch and find my way to the computer occasionally, so I do have some posts to share with you:

Made You Laugh

Before I get to the depressing stuff — and, lately, all the news seems to be depressing — I wanted to tell you about a weekly column my long-time friend Gary Buslik is starting at The Blot. I first introduced you to Gary a few years ago when I reviewed his outrageously funny book Akhmed and the Atomic Matzo Balls: A Novel of International Intrigue, Pork-Crazed Termites, and Motherhood. I’ve since read, though shamefully neglected to review, his delightful travelogue, A Rotten Person Travels the Caribbean: A Grump in Paradise Discovers that Anyplace it’s Legal to Carry a Machete is Comedy Just Waiting to Happen. In both books, and in the various travel articles of his published in anthologies, Gary’s voice is true: erudite, wry, mordant, snarky, self-deprecating, Jewish, and very, very funny.

Since Gary just launched his weekly column, there’s only one week’s worth of writing, but I think you might enjoy it: The Great Jewish Dilemma.

Yes, Martin O’Malley’s link between ISIS and climate change is crazy

Democrat presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley came in for a good deal of derision for saying that ISIS’s rise can be tied to climate change. The obvious reason this is a laughable point is because the most direct tie to ISIS’s rise is, of course, Obama’s retreat, which created a giant ISIS-sized vacuum. My friend Wolf Howling sent me an email which I think nicely summarizes the Obama/ISIS link:

A fascinating article in the NY Review of Books states that it is the Iraqi organization originally founded by Zarqawi, the utterly sadistic terrorist we sent off the mortal coil in 2006. The movement obviously survived him, and this really throws into stark relief the wages of Obama and the Left cutting and running from Iraq in 2010. ISIS is like a bacteria that survives a stunted course of antibiotics. Had we stayed in Iraq, there is no possible way that ISIS could have had a rebirth.

The author of the article tries to make sense of the rise of ISIS. You can read his ruminations. My own theory is two-fold: One, ISIS is preaching the true Salafi / Wahhabi purist doctrine that makes of the world a thing of black and white, where all things that support Allah are pure, while everything that does not is evil and can be dealt with without regards. Thus it is a draw to young Arab men. If you want to see how, here is a fascinating article by Tawfiq Hamid, a doctor who became a terrorist, who discusses the lure of Salafism / Wahhabism and all its deadly toxins.

Two, the ISIS ideology is a draw because it is utterly without bounds in its sadism or cruelty. This also is a draw to a particular segment of Arab men. It is the Lord of the Flies. It is going into a scenario where you will have the power of life, death, and pain with virtually no restrictions.

The fact is that ISIS should not be around today. My word, but Obama has so totally f**ked us in the Middle East . . . . He makes Carter look like Nixon by comparison.

I only wish I’d written that, but at least I can share it with you. So yes, O’Malley is an ignorant moron.

Still, never let it be said that the Left doesn’t protect its own, so The Atlantic has tried to throw a life saver to O’Malley: Martin O’Malley’s Link Between Climate Change and ISIS Isn’t Crazy. The article’s premise is that there’s a connection between drought and unrest. To which I say, “Well, duh!”

Any student of history knows that in primitive societies (and Muslim Middle Eastern countries are extremely primitive when it comes to food production, due to natural limitations, societal factors, and the transfer of food crops to biofuels) anything that interferes even marginally with food production has devastating effects, with war one of the most common ones.

However, as my reference to “students of history” makes clear, droughts have always happened. O’Malley wouldn’t have been a moron if he’d said “the drought they’re experiencing in the region no doubt was a contributing factor to unrest in the Syria – Iraqi region.” But instead, he had to throw in “climate change” — and what makes that so laughable is that we’ve come to the point  which climate change is responsible for everything. I’m awaiting the day when we get an article saying that Caitlyn Jenner’s unfortunate transgender habit of dressing like a male chauvinists’ dream 1950s pin-up girl is also due to climate change.

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The Bookworm Beat 5-20-15 — the “I’m still standing” edition and Open Thread

Woman-writing-300x265Unlike Rand Paul, who is standing for a filibuster against the Patriot Act, my “standing” has to do with the fact that, after a long afternoon of shopping and doctors with my mother, I am still upright and reasonably coherent. His feat is the more admirable one or possibly the more lunatic — I can’t decide. While I think that one over (and please feel free to chime in with your opinions), I offer the following for your reading pleasure:

Honoring vets

Bruce Kesler, retired Marine extraordinaire, has a message of immediate concern to veterans and their supporters. Check it out here.

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Reparations?! Again!?

Slavery in AfricaIt appears that Barack Obama and his cronies may be set to put reparations for slavery back on the national agenda. I don’t have anything to say on the subject, but that’s not because I don’t have strong opinions. It just that, a few years ago, in a post as current today as it was then, Wolf Howling said exactly what I would have said if I could think and write as well as he does.

The Bookworm Beat (11/19/14) — It was a dark and stormy day edition (and Open Thread)

Woman writingThat global warming sure has caused global cooling with a vengeance. My thoughts are with all of those who are suffering the brunt of this blast (or vortex?). Stay warm and safe, please.

Here, I’m happy to say, it’s raining! Considering that Marin is constantly hovering just a few gallons away from water rationing during this drought, rain is always good news. Equally good is the fact that it’s supposed to rain for another day, and then rain again in five days. Woo-hoo!!!

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Did Barack Obama just praise slavery? (Probably not, but….)

Muslim slave traders in AfricaPresident Obama and Michelle Obama released a joint statement to commemorate Eid-al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. The statement contains a very interesting turn of phrase (emphasis mine):

In the United States, Eid also reminds us of the many achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy. That is why we stand with people of all faiths, here at home and around the world, to protect and advance their rights to prosper, and we welcome their commitment to giving back to their communities.

“President Obama,” I wanted to ask after having read that, “please tell me what contributions Muslim Americans have made to the fabric of our nation?”

Since I didn’t expect to get an answer to that imaginary question, I did a little research on my own. According to the Wikipedia article on Islam in America, Muslims arrived on American shores in three waves: (1) with the slave trade, since approximately 10% of slaves rounded up by Muslim traders in Africa and then sold to English/American ship masters in the triangle trade were Muslim; (2) late 19th and early 20th century Muslims from the former Ottoman Empire (meaning central European, rather than Middle Eastern and North African Muslims); and (3) the steady trickle of Arab Muslims from the 1960s onwards.

All of these Muslims put together have resulted in a modern Muslim presence in America equal to about 0.8% of the population. In other words, in terms of numbers, Muslims have made little dent in the population.  Of course, as Jews have shown, numbers may not necessarily matter if one can affect the culture.  Because of Jewish dominance in Hollywood, on Broadway, on Tin Pan Alley, and, to a certain extent, in the world of literature, American Jews have had a disproportionate affect on American culture.  (See, e.g, Ben Shapiro’s book, Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV, which describes how liberals in Hollywood, almost all of them Jewish, used television in the 1960s and 1970s to tilt the entire country’s popular culture to the Left.)

It’s true that there are numerous Muslims in America who have achieved some degree of fame, but few of them have achieved any great degree of fame. None of the names on the list seem to go back more than fifty years. Moreover, if my own recognition of famous names is anything to go by, some of the most famous Muslims are African-Americans who converted through the Nation of Islam in the 1960s.  A handful of them — Malcolm X, Muhammed Ali, etc. — became sufficiently famous to be recognizable outside of African-American circles, but they didn’t change the culture.  (On the other hand, Martin Luther King, a Christian, changed the culture profoundly.)

Aside from a few famous people, I didn’t see on the list the names of any people who significantly changed America. Sure, there are politicians, but each is just one among many. Keith Ellison, for example (another Nation of Islam follower), was the first Muslim elected to Congress, but he’s just been a garden-variety Leftist. The same can be said for all other Muslim journalists and political figures on the list. Put another way, none struck me as people “building the very fabric of our nation.”

Who, then, built the fabric of our nation? Let me go back to those slaves who came in the first wave….

America’s original capital was Philadelphia. It was only in 1790 that Congress passed legislation authorizing the creation of a capital city on the Potomac River. Before this legislation passed, there was little there other than swamps and a few small outposts.

Building a capital city from scratch took labor and, considering that Washington D.C. is in the deep South, it should come as no surprise to learn that much of this labor came from slaves (10% of whom, on average, had Muslim roots and may have practiced their faith in secret despite slave owners’ efforts to quash it). Indeed, slaves had a hand in creating two of the most iconic buildings in our nation’s capital: The U.S. Capitol and the White House.

It wasn’t just those famed buildings, though, that relied upon slaves. It was the whole city that benefited from cheap slave labor:

Historians say slaves were the largest labor pool when Congress in 1790 decided to create a new national capital along the Potomac surrounded by the two slave-owning states of Maryland and Virginia.

Over the next decade, local farmers rented out their slaves for an average of $55 a year to help build the Capitol, the White House, the Treasury Department and the streets laid out by city planner Pierre L’Enfant.

Slaves cut trees on the hill where the Capitol would stand, cleared stumps from the new streets, worked in the stone quarries where sandstone was cut and assisted the masons laying stone for the walls of the new homes of Congress and the president.

They also were involved in the expansion of the Capitol in the late 1850s.

That forced behavior — laboring as slaves on the buildings that lie at the heart of our republic — really is “building the very fabric of our nation.”

Do I honestly believe that Barack Obama was trying to praise Muslim slaves with his Eid-al-Fitr statement? No. I don’t think Barack Obama was trying to say anything at all. These were feel-good buzzwords to a minute segment of the American community, most of whom have led bland and blameless lives for decades. American Muslims have contributed to the fabric of our country only in the way most of us have — simply by being here, holding jobs, and paying taxes.

Obama would be utterly flummoxed if he were actually asked to name any more specific Muslim contributions to the “very fabric” of our country than just being here. Still, though, there is a bizarre history truth to his fatuously uttered (or written) words, and that truth lies in the nature of American slavery.  This slavery couldn’t have happened without Arab Muslim traders in Africa, and it included around 60,000 black Muslim men, women, and children, some of whom almost certainly built the house in which Obama now lives.

Double standards, anyone? Look Left.

Harry Reid racismThe more we get contextual information about Cliven Bundy’s comments, the more it’s clear that he was making a valid argument, although doing so in the most painful, inarticulate way, and the way most likely to come back and bite his supporters in the butt.  As best as I can tell, what Bundy was saying is that slavery is slavery, whether you’re enslaved to an individual or a nation.

He’s right, too.  The difference between now and the antebellum era is that blacks have never been masters of their own destiny.  For the vast majority, their status is remarkably indistinguishable from what it once was:  marginal existences; dependency (in the past, they weren’t rewarded for their work; in the present, too many don’t work); and children without fathers.

Today, as an extra fillip to their drab dependency, they get the twin scourges of drugs and crime.  Oh, and there’s one other big difference:  today blacks are directly complicit in their own enslavement.  In the past, starting in Africa, it was other blacks who were complicit in the enslavement process.  Now they do it to themselves.

I’m done with the subject now.  Caleb Howe, however, makes two points worthy of notice:  the way that the RNC chair responded to Bundy versus the way the DNC chair didn’t respond to Pat Quinn’s racist tweets.  The Right instantly tries to distance itself from anything that could smell of racism; the Left does not.

Incidentally, I’m beginning to think that, rather than looking at the RNC’s conduct as virtuous, it’s a huge problem the way conservatives reflexively distance themselves from these things without first investigating.  Having thrown Bundy under the bus, the right cannot resurrect his principled arguments about the way in which government owns people, something antithetical to the principles set out in both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  Rather than going into stupid panic mode, it would be infinitely better if the right would first stop and think for a minute — and, in the first instance, say something such as, “If Bundy indeed said what he’s accused of saying, and there’s no contextual excuse, we condemn it.  However, we’re not going to indict someone without investigation, etc.”  As it is, they’re constantly stupidly reactive, instead of intelligently proactive.

My enlightening dinner with Blue State liberals

Dinner party

I had the opportunity the other day to dine with a collection of Blue State liberals.  It was enlightening, not because I actually learned anything from them, but because I learned about them.  It was also a reminder of how far I’ve traveled ideologically, because I used to be one of them.  Looking at them, I don’t regret my journey.

Most of the evening, of course, was idle chitchat, without any political ramifications.  Inevitably, though, politics and ideological issues cropped up.  I’ll just run down a few topics.

Antisemitism in higher education:

I was told in no uncertain terms that Columbia University cannot be antisemitic because it’s in New York.  My offer to produce evidence to support my thesis was rebuffed.  For those of you who, unlike Blue State liberals, feel that facts are valuable, these links support my contention that, New York address notwithstanding, Columbia is in thrall to Palestinian activists and BDS derangement:

100 Columbia professors demand divestment from Israel

Professors preach antisemitism from the Columbia pulpit

Columbia professor Joseph Massad, a one man antisemitism machine

Columbia students delighted at the opportunity to dine with Ahmadinejad

And of course, there’s simply the fact that Columbia is one of the more ideologically Left schools, although that wouldn’t have bothered my dinner companions.

The effect of taxes on investment:

One of my dinner companions is a successful investment analyst.  I asked him if he’d been hearing about any effects flowing from the Obamacare medical device tax.  “No, of course not.  It’s — what?  — a two percent tax.  That’s not going to make a difference to anybody.”  Again, my offer of contrary data was rejected, because it was obviously Fox News propaganda, never mind that it’s not from Fox News.  Stephen Hay, at Power Line, neatly summarizes a Wall Street Journal article predicated on actual investment data:

Today in my Constitutional Law class I’ll be taking up the famous case of McCulloch v. Maryland, the bank case from 1819 in which Chief Justice John Marshall observed that “the power to tax involves the power to destroy,” which immediately set my mind to thinking about . . . Obamacare.  Obamacare’s medical device tax—a tax not on profits remember, but on revenues—is doing its destructive work already.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that “Funding Dries Up for Medical Startups,” noting that “Investment in the medical-device and equipment industry is on pace to fall to $2.14 billion this year, down more than 40% from 2007 and the sharpest drop among the top five industry recipients of venture funding.”  It seems we have to relearn every few years (such as the luxury boat tax of 1990, swiftly repealed when it killed the boat-building industry) the basic lesson that Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan taught us: tax something and you get less of it.  Especially when you tax it like Obamacare, where the tax significantly reduces the after-tax return to investors.

When a 2% tax is on after-tax returns, and it targets a specific industry, surprisingly it does make a big difference to people.  Right now, the difference is at the investment level, but soon it will be at the consumer level, as consumers are less likely than ever before to see life-changing inventions such as the insulin pump or the cochlear implant.

American healthcare compared to other Western countries:  Everybody agreed that America has the worst health care compared to those countries with socialized medicine.  Britain doesn’t count, my fellow dinners told me, because it’s “chosen” to offer bad health care.  My attempts to talk about freedom of choice, market competition, declining government revenue, cost-based decisions to deny treatment to whole classes of patients, etc., were rudely brushed aside.  “That’s just Fox News propaganda.”  Likewise, the liberals also dismissed as “Fox News propaganda” my statement that the studies they’re relying on have as their metric availability of coverage, rather than quality of outcome. I therefore wasn’t surprised when they equally rudely dismissed me when I said that a recent study showed that America has some of the best cancer survival rates in the world.

Since I know that you’d never be that rude, let me just quote Avik Roy, who actually studies the numbers:

It’s one of the most oft-repeated justifications for socialized medicine: Americans spend more money than other developed countries on health care, but don’t live as long. If we would just hop on the European health-care bandwagon, we’d live longer and healthier lives. The only problem is it’s not true.


The problem, of course, is that there are many factors that affect life expectancy. One is wealth. It’s gross domestic product per capita, and not health-care policy, that correlates most strongly to life expectancy. Gapminder has produced many colorful charts that show the strong correlation between wealth and health.


If you really want to measure health outcomes, the best way to do it is at the point of medical intervention. If you have a heart attack, how long do you live in the U.S. vs. another country? If you’re diagnosed with breast cancer? In 2008, a group of investigators conducted a worldwide study of cancer survival rates, called CONCORD. They looked at 5-year survival rates for breast cancer, colon and rectal cancer, and prostate cancer. I compiled their data for the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, and western Europe. Guess who came out number one?

[chart omitted]

U-S-A! U-S-A! What’s just as interesting is that Japan, the country that tops the overall life expectancy tables, finished in the middle of the pack on cancer survival.

I’m not doing justice Roy’s article with these snippets, so I urge you to read the whole thing.  Suffice to say that my companions were uninterested in data that ran counter to their narrative.

The racist inside every liberal:  My dinner companions did concede that culture is a factor in health care, although they stopped short of admitting (as they should have) that a country as diverse as America will never be able to counter cultural differences with socialized medicine.  (Or, rather, they couldn’t admit that it would take overwhelming government coercion to do so.)

One of the guests described a patient with a treatable disorder — i.e., one that could be controlled with a carefully regimented plan of medicine and treatment — who was too disorganized to follow the treatment.  As a result, this person ended up in the emergency room one to two times a month, at great cost to the system.  The healthcare provider finally hired a minimum wage worker to remind the patient to take the medicines and to drive the patient to the hospital.  Another guests said, “Black, right?”  The person who told the story said, “I can’t tell you that, but probably.”  They snickered companionably over the fact that blacks are just too dumb to care for themselves.

Another way of looking at it, though, was that this patient did fine:  The patient didn’t have to fuss with drugs (and their side-effects), got emergency treatment on an as-needed basis, and ended up having a dedicated employee to detail with the finicky little details of disease maintenance.  Who’s snickering now?

The power that maintains slavery:  One of the people at the dinner was a student studying American history.  The curriculum had reached the Civil War.  The student asked a good question:  “I don’t get how the slaves let themselves stay that way.  After all, they outnumbered the whites.”  Good point.  The liberal dinner guests started mumbling about systems, and complexity, and psychology.  And I do mean mumbling.  They didn’t offer data.  They just mouthed buzzwords such as “it’s complex,” or “you have to understand the system,” or “well, there’s a psychology there.”  I interrupted:  “The slave owners were armed.  The slaves were denied arms.  The side with weapons, even if it’s smaller in number, wins.”  To my surprise, none of the liberals in the room had anything to add.

The food was good and my dinner companions were periodically interesting and charming, so the dinner wasn’t a total loss.  Nevertheless, I found dismaying the arrogant ignorance that powers their engines.  All I could think of was my own blog’s motto:  “Conservatives deal with facts and reach conclusions; liberals have conclusions and sell them as facts.”  That was my dinner in a nutshell.

Man who lived under a rock for the past 50 years gives positive review to “12 Years A Slave”

The WaPo’s Richard Cohen wants you to know that 12 Years A Slave is an extremely important movie because it gives Americans a surprising new message that they need to hear:  Slavery is bad.

I don’t know under what rock Cohen has been living, but the last major American movie to suggest that slaves didn’t have it all bad was Gone With The Wind, which came out in 1939.  Cohen was born in 1948, nine years after Gone With The Wind hit movie theaters.  He presumably graduated from high school in about 1965, by which time the Civil Rights movement had changed America’s racial paradigm.  His education, moreover, didn’t take place in Ole Miss, or some other bastion of Southern-ness.  Instead, he was educated in New York all the way.

Since leaving college (Hunter College, New York University, and Columbia, none of which are known for their KKK sensibilities), Cohen has lived enveloped in a liberal bubble.  He first worked for UPI and has, for a long time, been affiliated with the Washington Post.

Somehow, though, up until he recently saw 12 Years A Slave, Cohen always believed that slavery was a good thing for American blacks.  No, I’m not kidding.  Yes, that’s what he really said:

I sometimes think I have spent years unlearning what I learned earlier in my life. For instance, it was not George A. Custer who was attacked at the Little Bighorn. It was Custer — in a bad career move — who attacked the Indians.

Much more importantly, slavery was not a benign institution in which mostly benevolent whites owned innocent and grateful blacks. Slavery was a lifetime’s condemnation to an often violent hell in which people were deprived of life, liberty and, too often, their own children. Happiness could not be pursued after that.

Steve McQueen’s stunning movie “12 Years a Slave” is one of those unlearning experiences. I had to wonder why I could not recall another time when I was so shockingly confronted by the sheer barbarity of American slavery.

Instead, beginning with school, I got a gauzy version. I learned that slavery was wrong, yes, that it was evil, no doubt, but really, that many blacks were sort of content.

Slave owners were mostly nice people — fellow Americans, after all — and the sadistic Simon Legree was the concoction of that demented propagandist, Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Her “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was a lie and she never — and this I remember clearly being told — had ventured south to see slavery for herself. I felt some relief at that because it meant that Tom had not been flogged to death. But in the novel, he had.

I have no idea whether 12 Years A Slave is a good movie or a bad movie.  Aside from the fact that I almost never set foot in movie theaters, going only when I need to chaperone children or when friends want a Mom’s night out, I have sworn off most movies, especially Hollywood history movies.

Sure Hollywood occasionally gets history right.  Mostly, though, Hollywood gets it wrong, with the wrongness ranging from Oliver Stone’s delusional JFK, to the old-time biopics that had Cole Porter as a nice straight guy (Night and Day), to the saccharine anti-war stuff of Tom Hank’s war movie Band of Brothers.  Hollywood is never interested in truth and never has been.  It’s selling entertainment with an undercurrent of propaganda.  In the old days, it sold entertainment with a wholesome, moralistic twist.  Since the 1960s, Hollywood’s entertaining versions of history simply hate America, and that’s true whether Hollywood expresses that hatred in booming Technicolor or small nuances in Indy pictures.

Without having seen 12 Years A Slave, I willingly concede that slavery is a bad thing.  It was a bad thing when Pharaoh enslaved the Jews and it was a bad thing when the British and, later, the Americans enslaved the blacks.  It’s still a bad thing throughout the Muslim world where devout Qu’ran followers enslave Filipinos, Christians, blacks, and anyone else unlucky enough to end up in their clutches.

But unlike Cohen, I’ve actually paid attention, not just in school, but in subsequent years, so I don’t need to have Hollywood preach the obvious to me.

The Democrats’ prescription for slavery has always been the same: “Get over it. It’s the law.”

Obamacare fails at so many levels it’s hard to count them. It fails because it’s the only piece of significant legislation in American history to be passed on strict partisan lines, using procedural tricks and bribes, and with a majority of American people disapproving of it. It fails because its implementation violates American religious freedom insofar as it forces people of faith to fund abortion and birth control. It fails because the administration knowingly used lies to pass it, a tactic that has a legal name: fraud.

Obamacare fails because it turns people into slaves to the government, making its opponents the new abolitionists. It fails because tens of millions of Americans will lose the insurance they were promised they could keep. It fails because it raises insurance costs for millions of Americans who believed Obama’s blatant lie that their average annual costs would decrease substantially. And of course, it fails because the Obamacare exchanges are so dysfunctional that the only parts that work are the routine breaches of privacy.

Right now, owing to all those failures, Americans are not happy with either Obama or Obamacare. Democrats are unsympathetic. Rep. Steve Cohen (D., Tenn.) sloughed off American concerns. According to the National Journal, he had a simple message for Americans: “Change is hard. Get over it. Barack Obama is president, and the Affordable Care Act is the law.”

Actually, this is not a new Democrat message. In the years preceding the Civil War, they kept telling Americans to “get used to” slavery, because “it’s the law.” And in the post-Civil War era, when Jim Crow laws depriving blacks of their civil rights were enacted throughout the South, the Democrats had the same message: “Get over it. It’s the law.”

Put another way, whenever slavery is at issue — and this is true whether it shows itself straightforwardly as “slavery,” or masquerades under such euphemisms as “Jim Crow” or “Obamacare” — the Democrat message has been the same for 160 years: “Get over it. It’s the law.”

(I originally wrote this post for Mr. Conservative.)

Found it on Facebook: Republicans are the party of slavery and Jim Crow

I don’t even know where to begin addressing this one:

Would any of you care to have it? A good start would probably be the fact that blacks are returning to the South because economic conditions are better there and they are better integrated, rather than being consigned to vast, dangerous urban ghettos in the Blue States.  We could also talk about the more conservative values southerners, including blacks, have that have nothing to do with slavery or racism.

UPDATE:  A map that shows votes by county reveals that the election split wasn’t slave versus free or north versus south or black versus white. It was, instead, cities versus suburbs and rural areas:

Newt Gingrich, poor children, and work habits

One of the reasons a lot of people, myself included, like Newt is because he says politically incorrect things that ordinary people think.  In other words, his politically correct utterances aren’t out of the KKK playbook, they’re out of “the reasonable common-sense before 1960s Leftist education took over” playbook.

A week ago, he said that child labor laws are stupid insofar as they prevent children from getting paying jobs (including janitorial jobs) that would help them to maintain their own schools — at less cost, incidentally, than using unionized janitors.  His most recent utterance, expanding on this point, was that poor children have no work ethic:

“Really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works so they have no habit of showing up on Monday,” Gingrich claimed.

“They have no habit of staying all day, they have no habit of I do this and you give me cash unless it is illegal,” he added.

All the usual suspects are up in arms.  I haven’t bothered to hunt down quotations from the unions that keep schools supplied with janitors, but I’m sure they’re not happy.  More than that, though, Newt’s statements have been interpreted to mean that he advocates a return to 19th Century child labor, complete with seven-day work weeks, 12 of which are spent laboring in a coal mine.  Take a gander, for example, at this screen shot from YouTube after I searched up “Newt Gingrich poor children”:

Charles Blowhard, New York Times opinion columnist, is horrified that Newt might look at the way in which the poor behave and conclude that their learned behavior contributes to their poverty.  He also comes back with reams of statistics about the fact that the poor do work:

This statement isn’t only cruel and, broadly speaking, incorrect, it’s mind-numbingly tone-deaf at a time when poverty is rising in this country. He comes across as a callous Dickensian character in his attitude toward America’s most vulnerable — our poor children. This is the kind of statement that shines light on the soul of a man and shows how dark it is.

Gingrich wants to start with the facts? O.K.

First, as I’ve pointed out before, three out of four poor working-aged adults — ages 18 to 64 — work. Half of them have full-time jobs and a quarter work part time.

Furthermore, according to an analysis of census data by Andrew A. Beveridge, a sociologist at Queens College, most poor children live in a household where at least one parent is employed. And even among children who live in extreme poverty — defined here as a household with income less than 50 percent of the poverty level — a third have at least one working parent. And even among extremely poor children who live in extremely poor areas — those in which 30 percent or more of the population is poor — nearly a third live with at least one working parent.

I’ll accept as true the fact that the poor work, but that’s too facile.  We also need to look at their attitude towards work.  As Shakespeare would say, there’s the rub.  Let me quote from a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago, describing the way in which a white liberal tried desperately to explain away the fact that large corporations find it extremely difficult to keep minority employees:

Mr. Bookworm works for a very large corporation.  While we were in the car with the kids, the conversation turned to the exquisite sensitivity the corporation has to show when it’s faced with firing a minority employee. The process is arduous, requiring huge HR involvement, dozens of staff interviews and a lengthy paper trail.

The reason for this labor intensive firing is the unfortunate fact that minorities tend to be less satisfactory employees. As Mr. Bookworm was at great pains to point out to the children (and correctly so), this is a group trend and has nothing to do with the merits of any individual minority employee. It’s just that, if you look at a bell curve of minority employees versus a bell curve of white employees, you’ll find more white employees than minority employees in the segment denoting “good worker.” No modern corporation, however, wants a reputation as a “firer of minorities.”

The above are facts. What fascinated me was the different spin Mr. Bookworm and I put on those facts. Mr. Bookworm sent twenty minutes explaining to the children that, to the extent blacks were poorer employees, it was because their culture made them incapable of working. (This was not meant as an insult. He was talking, of course, about the culture of poverty.).

Mr. Bookworm painted a picture of a black child living in a ghetto, with a single mother who gave birth to him when she was 14, with several siblings from different fathers, with a terrible school, surrounded by illiterates, hungry all the time, etc.  No wonder, he said, that this child doesn’t bring to a corporation the same work ethic as a middle class white kid.

This creates big problems for corporations.  A modern corporation truly wants to hire minorities.  Once it’s hired them, though, according to my liberal husband, it ends up with workers who are incapable of functioning in a white collar, corporate environment. The corporation therefore finds itself forced to fire it’s minority hires more frequently than white or Asian employees, with the result that it’s accused of racism. Its response to that accusation is to proceed with excessive caution and extreme due diligence whenever a black employee fails at the job.

My suggestion to the children was that minority employees, aware that it’s almost impossible to fire them, might be disinclined to put out their best efforts on the job.  Why should they?  Logic and energy conservation both dictate that a smart person should do the bare minimum to get a job done.  In this case, for the black employees, the job their doing isn’t what’s in the job description.  Instead, their job is simply to keep their job.

Amusingly Newt thinks exactly the same as my liberal husband does.  They both blame black culture for poor black employment habits.  The difference is that, while Newt thinks it’s a fixable situation, starting with the children and their attitude toward labor, my husband, like Mr. Blowhard, thinks that all one can do is accept that minorities are going to be lousy employees.

America’s black poverty culture (as opposed to the Asian or East Indian) poverty culture is handicapped by a terrible, false syllogism:

  • Slavery was work
  • Slavery is evil
  • All work is evil

Even when they’re getting paid, too many African-Americans seem to feel they’ve sold out — that any work involving the white establishment is tantamount to slavery and that they can participate in this system by participating least.   It’s a principled stand, but it’s a principle that’s in thrall to terribly flawed logic and that ensures generational poverty and despair.  As far as I’m concerned, Newt gets serious kudos for his willingness to state what is, to the working class, quite obvious:  learn how to work well when you’re young, and you’ll be able to support yourself when you’re old.