Supplemental: Robert E. Lee was a very fine man!

THURSDAY, JULY 2, 2015

Also, new thoughts from Frank Bruni:
Yesterday, Elias Isquith got it right about Frank Bruni’s latest.

Or at least, he started an important discussion. But first, let’s consider last Friday’s column by David Brooks!

Personally, we’re not a fan of Brooks Derangement Syndrome. That said, Brooks is becoming extremely strange in his new career as a TED Talk character guru. This was never more apparent than when he decided to ponder the greatness of General Robert E. Lee.

We can think of few discussions which matter less at this point than an attempt to cipher Lee’s morality quotient. Last Friday, though, Brooks decided to give it a try.

His analysis started like this:

“The case for Lee begins with his personal character. It is almost impossible to imagine a finer and more considerate gentleman.”

As he continued, Brooks mentioned Lee’s “impeccable honesty, integrity and kindness,” both as a general and as a public figure. “As a family man, he was surprisingly relaxed and affectionate,” Brooks added, noting that Lee “loved having his kids jump into bed with him and tickle his feet.”

Lee could “write witty and even saucy letters to other women” Brooks saucily observed, though Lee only did this “with his wife’s cooperation.” Beyond that, he was “a gifted watercolorist, a lover of animals and a charming conversationalist.”

Did we note the fact that none of this actually matters at this point? That no one who loves community should get drawn into discussions of General Lee, fair or foul?

Except from someone deeply conversant with the morĂ©s of a distant time, it really doesn’t make much sense to measure the moral greatness of Lee. Having said that, let us also say this: It’s peculiar to read, of any person, that it’s “almost impossible to imagine a finer and more considerate gentleman,” only to reach a disclaimer like this rather late in the discussion:
BROOKS (6/25/15): The case against Lee begins with the fact that he betrayed his oath to serve the United States...

[…]

More germane, while Lee may have opposed slavery in theory he did nothing to eliminate or reduce it in practice. On the contrary, if he’d been successful in the central task of his life, he would have preserved and prolonged it.

Like Lincoln he did not believe African-Americans were yet capable of equality. Unlike Lincoln he accepted the bondage of other human beings with bland complaisance. His wife inherited 196 slaves from her father. Her father’s will (somewhat impractically) said they were to be freed, but Lee didn’t free them.

Lee didn’t enjoy owning slaves, but he was considered a hard taskmaster and he did sell some, breaking up families...
Brooks even decided to drag Lincoln in, partially making him play over there on the general’s side!

Even by our permissive standards, we thought that column was pretty strange. Every column by Brooks gets trashed. For that reason, we expected to see this column torn limb from limb.

We didn’t see anyone cite it at all!

Yesterday, in a bit of an echo, we got a rather peculiar column from Bruni. As Isquith correctly noted, the oddball column started like this, headline included:
BRUNI (7/1/15): The Sunny Side of Greed

In the dire prophecies of science-fiction writers and the fevered warnings of left-wing activists, big corporations will soon rule the earth—or already do.

Fine with me.
In fairness, Bruni was being a bit tongue-in-cheeky. But he went on to praise the corporations for their stands on several “social issues,” analyzing the reasons behind their obvious moral greatness:
BRUNI: [T]hose efforts, coupled with whatever genuine altruism and civic obligation some corporate leaders feel, have produced compelling recent examples of companies showing greater sensitivity to diversity, social justice and the changing tides of public sentiment than lawmakers often manage to.

Corporations aren’t paralyzed by partisan bickering. They’re not hostage to a few big donors, a few loud interest groups or some unyielding ideology.

“They’re ultimately more responsive to a broader group of voters—customers—than politicians are,” said Bradley Tusk,
whose firm, Tusk Strategies, does consulting for both private corporations and public officials.

“If you’re a politician and all you care about is staying in office, you’re worried about a small group of voters in your district who vote in the primary,” he told me, referring to members of the House of Representatives. “If you’re a corporation, you need to be much more in sync with public opinion, because you’re appealing to people across the spectrum.”
Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead! Let corporations rule!

Even at the new Salon, Isquith correctly railed against the strangeness of the piece. We’re sorry he linked to a piece which has the unmistakable feel of journalistic borrowing, but we can’t say he necessarily could or should have known.

(For that linked piece, you can just click here. People are supposed to say where they got all their information.)

In our view, the Bruni piece has more to tell us that even Isquith said. In our view, it helps us see something we might not otherwise tend to notice—the way we get sold “social issues” by many corporate journalists, even perhaps by our fiery “liberal” corporate journalists, even as they hide the ways the entire country is getting looted by the pols and the corporations on the “budget issue” side.

Health care spending, we’re looking at you! Also, TPP!

Having just learned that tomorrow’s a holiday, we expect to discuss this topic next week. In the meantime, Elias Isquith got it right, while leaving more to be said.


LOW-COUNTRY CADENCES: Dr. King’s peculiar ideas!

THURSDAY, JULY 2, 2015

Part 4—Community rather than tribe:
Dr. King was 28 when he wrote Stride Toward Freedom.

(Five years later, he published the embarrassingly titled book, Strength to Love.)

Stride Toward Freedom plainly wasn’t an eighth grade graduation address. Its author was a fully grown man who’d already had a wealth of experience. These experiences had helped him test his views.

Example:

At age 27, Dr. King’s home had been firebombed, in the night, with his wife and baby daughter inside. In response, Dr. King had made one of the most unusual public statements in American history.

That incident is described in chapter 8 of Stride Toward Freedom. In chapter 6 of that book, Dr. King described the “intellectual quest” which led him to the belief that “the love ethic of Jesus” was “a powerful and effective social force on a large scale.”

The views outlined by Dr. King are very much unlike our own. If you visit Our Own Cable Nerdland of a languorous weekend morning, you’ll hear a bit of humble-bragging and a fair amount of guff. But you’re likely to hear few reflections of Dr. King’s unusual views, which the Charleston families reflected when they spoke about love and forgiveness.

Within the modern context, Dr. King’s views aren’t cable-ready. Consider his peculiar ideas about concerning those who would do evil in the world.

Midway through his chapter 6, Dr. King continued to speak about Gandhi’s approach to the other. He described an outlook which seems familiar in modern-day Charleston, while being largely foreign, unknown, in the rest of our world.

“Gandhi resisted evil with as much vigor and power as the violent resister,” Dr. King wrote, “but he resisted with love instead of hate.” Dr. King then described a peculiar idea—“the faith that it is better to be the recipient of violence than the inflicter of it, since the latter only multiplies the existence of violence and bitterness in the universe.”

It should be remembered that Dr. King was describing a world in which actual violence was frequently visited on non-violent protesters. Writing from within that world, he voiced a peculiar set of concerns—his concern about the amount of bitterness in the universe; his concern that his own actions in the pursuit of justice might add to that amount.

What was this gentleman talking about?

In the following passage, Dr. King described the “social philosophy” he finally assembled during his years of graduate study. He said those ideas had been tested during the Montgomery bus boycott, during which time his own home was firebombed:
DR. KING (page 101): In 1954 I ended my formal training with all of these relatively divergent intellectual forces converging into a positive social philosophy. One of the main tenets of this philosophy was the conviction that nonviolent resistance was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their quest for social justice. At the time, however, I had merely an intellectual understanding and appreciation of the position, with no firm determination to organize it in a socially effective situation.

When I went to Montgomery as a pastor, I had not the slightest idea that I would later become involved in a crisis in which nonviolent resistance would be applicable. I neither started the protest nor suggested it. I simply responded to the call of the people for a spokesman. When the protest began, my mind, consciously or unconsciously, was driven back to the Sermon on the Mount, with its sublime teachings on love, and the Gandhian method of nonviolent resistance. As the days unfolded, I came to see the power of nonviolence more and more. Living through the actual experience of the protest, nonviolence became more than a method which I gave intellectual assent; it became a commitment to a way of life. Many of the things that I had not cleared up intellectually regarding nonviolence were now solved in the sphere of practical action.
Again—in their talk about love and forgiveness, the families in Charleston were speaking the language of Dr. King, who believed in the Sermon on the Mount “with its sublime teachings on love.”

Outside the Carolina low country, with its highly unusual cadences, is there any room at this time for Dr. King’s views on these matters? We ask that question because Dr. King went on to express some unusual views about the meaning of love and nonviolent resistance, views which are rarely reflected in our poisonous discourse.

Read the rest of Dr. King’s chapter only ye who dare! As he continues, he describes some very unusual views about the requirements brought on him by his belief in the power and goodness of love—of “the love ethic of Jesus” as expressed through Gandhian nonviolent resistance.

Weirdly, Dr. King says this: Nonviolence “does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent.”

“The end is redemption and reconciliation,” he weirdly says. “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.”

Dr. King goes further in this discussion, insisting that the nonviolent resister must direct his attack “against forces of evil rather than against persons who happen to be doing the evil.” The protester must even be willing to “accept blows from the opponent without striking back.”

(He quotes Gandhi at this point: “Rivers of blood may have to flow before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood.”)

In the modern progressive context, of course, no one is suggesting violent action—at least, no one is doing so yet. For that reason, it may seem that Dr. King’s high-minded proscriptions don’t apply to us.

That thought would be mistaken. We regret to inform yo0u that Dr. King went on to say things like this:
DR. KING (page 103): A fifth point concerning nonviolent resistance is that it avoids not only external physical violence but also violence of spirit. The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him. At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love. The nonviolent resister would contend that in the struggle for human dignity, the oppressed people of the world must not succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter or indulging in hate campaigns.
Say what? We can’t even indulge in hate campaigns? At this point, Dr. King’s peculiar views start coming a bit too close.

By now, we’ll assume that one point is clear. In the conduct which occasioned pushback form our intellectual leaders, the Charleston families were speaking directly from the moral and intellectual traditions of Dr. King.

No one is required to affirm these traditions. But in our view, it was appalling to see our useless journalists and professors rolling their eyes at the low-country folk who were, in fact, speaking from an intellectual tradition much deeper and richer than their own crabbed set of views and reactions.

Cable culture tends to be like that; so does the New York Times. No one has to agree with the views those families expressed, of course. But we thought it was rich to see our floundering, unhelpful “elites” condescend to the Charleston families in the way they did.

We’ll make one more point as we close:

Dr. King speaks directly to our world in the passage we’ve just quoted. It isn’t that we can’t shoot our opponents, he says. We also can’t revile them!

Continuing directly, he starts explaining why. Within the impoverished modern context, these are crazy ideas:

“To retaliate in kind would do nothing but intensify the existence of hate in the universe. Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives.”

Dr. King would be out of step with modern times. The liberal world which has emerged in the years since the war in Iraq is heavily built around otherization. If you doubt that, just click here.

The ethic of love hasn’t been projected to the center of our lives, at least not in the sense Dr. King meant. Our world is built around the tribe; his concept of the world was centered on “the beloved community.”

We have to help the others, he said, even if they want to harm us. Eventually, he offered this, employing a Greek term for “disinterested love:”
DR. KING (page 105): Agape is not a weak, passive love. Agape is love seeking to preserve and extend community. It is insistence on community even when one seeks to break it...Agape is a willingness to go to any length to restore community.
To Dr. King, the love ethic requires “insistence on community even when one seeks to break it”—even when someone like Dylann Roof seeks to break it.

“He who works against community is working again the whole of creation,” Dr. King goes on to say. “...I can only close the gap in broken community by meeting hate with love.”

When Dr. King’s home was bombed, angry supporters, some with guns, assembled there. He told them to take their weapons home, then seems to have made an embarrassing statement.

Slightly different accounts exist of what he actually said. In Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63, Taylor Branch records him saying this:

“If you have weapons, take them home. He who lives by the word will perish by the sword. Remember that is what Jesus said. We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies. I want you to love our enemies. Be good to them. This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love.”

David Garrow quotes Dr. King adding a bit of advice: “I want you to love our enemies. Be good to them. Love them and let them know you love them.”

In Stride toward Freedom, Dr. King recalls his own words slightly differently. In chapter 8, The Violence of Desperate Men, he recalls himself saying this:

“We must love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us. We must make them know that we love them. Jesus still cries out in words that echo through the centuries: ‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you.’ This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love.”

Dr. King’s ideas and reactions are far removed from the modern context. He lived for community—for what he called the beloved community. We’re deeply in thrall to the tribe.

A lot of money is being made by teaching us that manner of thinking. For ourselves, we think Dr. King’s views about social progress were almost surely right.

What sorts of behavior produce good results? More on this problem tomorrow in yet another breaking report from the forgotten land we might even call the low country.

Tomorrow: Reactions from several observers

Supplemental: The children are beautifully trained!

WEDNESDAY, JULY 1, 2015

The Clinton “scandals” through the eyes of Duke 2009:
The children are beautifully programmed, what with their spotless minds.

The latest such player is David Graham, Duke 2009. At the Atlantic, he apparently was assigned to compile “The Clinton Scandal Primer,” which he chillingly says he’ll “update as new information arrives.”

To call this “more prejudicial than probative” is like saying it’s dark and cold inside young Graham’s head. At the Atlantic, this one candidate will be honored with a tabulation of her scandals or pseudo-scandals, including those of her husband.

No one else will have such a tab! She’ll be the only one!

Almost anyone could see the problem with this idea. Still, the children have been beautifully trained, so David plowed right ahead.

The children are eager to please, if not real sharp. This is the way the current child presents his overview:
GRAHAM (7/1/15): The Clinton family has been in politics for a long time. Bill Clinton’s first run for office came in 1974. And for almost as long as they’ve been a force, there have been controversies about what they were or weren’t doing, whether they were following laws, and whether they were disclosing what they ought to. Even today, the repercussions of a failed real-estate investment Bill and Hillary Clinton made in 1978 can still be felt. No other American politicians—even ones as corrupt as Richard Nixon, or as hated by partisans as George W. Bush—has fostered the creation of a permanent multimillion-dollar cottage industry devoted to attacking them.

Clinton defenders insist that it’s all just—to borrow a phrase—a vast right-wing conspiracy. The members of the alleged conspiracy insist that Hillary and her husband are shockingly corrupt. The truth is likely somewhere in between: Many of the hyped controversies have turned out to have little substance, but in several cases it has become clear that Bill or Hillary Clinton fell short of rules or laws. The Whitewater investigation, despite years of effort and millions of dollars spent, found almost nothing out of line, but that doesn’t mean Bill Clinton’s extramarital escapades weren’t real.

Now, with Hillary Clinton favored to win the Democratic nomination for president, every Clinton scandal—from Whitewater to Clinton’s State Department emails—will be under the microscope.
Keeping track of each controversy, where it came from, and how serious it is, is no small task, so here’s a primer. We’ll update it as new information emerges.
“The truth is likely somewhere in between!” This is a good, well-trained boy.

Note the way this hopeless child treats the Whitewater matter, which gave its name to a decade of pseudo-scandals whose promulgation still goes largely unexamined.

In his second paragraph, he says the investigation of same “found almost nothing out of line, despite years of effort and millions of dollars spent.” Just for the record, let it further be noted that this all happened twenty years ago.

To a youngster with a critical mind, those facts might raise a few questions about the reasons why that investigation went on for so many years. They might even suggest that, twenty years later, the matter shouldn’t be found in a tabulation of some candidate’s “scandals.”

That said, this is the MSM, and Graham is nicely trained. In his third paragraph, he tells us that all the scandals, Whitewater included, “will be under the microscope” moving forward. He doesn’t say why that would happen with Whitewater, since it was exhaustively probed and next to nothing was found.

Nor does he explain his first paragraph, in which he tells us, right out of the gate, that “the repercussions of [Whitewater] can still be felt.”

Why are the repercussions still felt if almost nothing was out of line? Readers, please! Which part of “went to Duke” don’t you understand?

At the nation's top finishing schools, the children who plan to be “journalists” receive their laborious training in promulgation of script. On their diplomas, this motto is found:

“Narrative never dies”

Graham turned out to be a good boy. In recent decades, we’ve all paid the price for these, the folkways of his guild.

When youngsters begin to tire: At the end of his tabulation, Graham discussed all the “scandals” from the period which he called “THE BAD OLD DAYS.”

It may be that he was starting to tire. This is what he typed:
What is it? Since the Clintons have a long history of controversies, there are any number of past scandals that continue to float around, especially in conservative media: Whitewater. Troopergate. Paula Jones. Monica Lewinsky. Vince Foster.

When? 1975-2001

Who? Bill Clinton; Hillary Clinton; a brigade of supporting characters

How serious is it? Almost none. Some are wholly spurious (Foster). Others (Lewinsky, Whitewater) have been so exhaustively investigated that it’s hard to imagine them doing much further damage to Hillary Clinton’s standing. In fact, the Lewinsky scandal famously boosted her public approval ratings. But that doesn’t mean you won’t hear plenty about them.
“Almost none.” That’s how the youngster answered the question, “How serious is it?”

In this passage, David continues describing Whitewater as a “past scandal,” even though an exhaustive investigation “found almost nothing out of line.” He also seems to tell us that we’ll “hear plenty about it.”

Schoolboy, please! Thanks to you, we just did!

LOW-COUNTRY CADENCES: Dr. King spoke that language too!

WEDNESDAY, JULY 1, 2015

Part 3—An electrifying event:
In our view, the pushback came remarkably fast when the families in Charleston spoke about love and forgiveness.

The pushback came from the up-country gurus who have been leaving us barefoot and clueless over the past several decades. The condescension was fast and familiar concerning the low-country rubes.

Our “cable left” didn’t seem pleased with the things the families had said. In some ways, we thought Professor Butler’s statement to Chris Hayes was most notable of all:

“The problem is, love and forgiveness are not productive in American politics. That`s not how social change is achieved. You know, you could do it through organizing, you could do it through electoral politics, you could take it to the streets, but being nice in the face of white supremacy does not advance racial justice.”

We were surprised when we saw Professor Butler make that statement. For one thing, we’ve read Dr. King. Beyond that, we’re so old that we can remember the twentieth century—the century of Gandhi, King and Mandela.

It was plain that Professor Butler was very upset last week. There’s no obvious reason why he shouldn’t have been upset.

Still, as giants of cable and the web condescended to those families, we thought a basic point might be worth remembering:

Way back when, a famous person spoke precisely the way they spoke after the Charleston murders.

That famous person was one our greatest political achievers. It might be worth remembering this when we turn on cable each night.

We refer, of course, to Dr. King, who spoke at length about love and forgiveness throughout his ministry and his career. When the Charleston families spoke as they did, they were speaking from the tradition of Dr. King—one of the most brilliant moral and intellectual traditions the world has ever known.

Our cable savants rarely imagine the possibility that their low-country cousins may be speaking from a tradition more brilliant than their own. For that reason, it might be worth recalling Dr. King’s account of his own thinking about social change—for example, the account he gave in Stride Toward Freedom, his history of the Montgomery bus boycott.

Chapter 6 of that book is called Pilgrimage to Nonviolence. In that chapter, Dr. King described the “intellectual quest” he finally undertook in earnest when he entered Crozer Theological Seminary at age 19—“a serious intellectual quest for a method to eliminate social evil.”

No one is required to agree with the conclusions Dr. King reached. But before we condescend to those Charleston families, we might want to understand that they are speaking the language of Dr. King—one of the greatest social achievers in American and world history.

The full text of Dr. King’s chapter 6 is here. Warning! On various occasions, his purity of heart may seem embarrassing in the modern context.

That said, you’ll see this world historical figure speaking the language of love and forgiveness, just as those families did. Let’s start when his intellectual quest takes an important turn.

While at Crozer, Dr. King says, he “spent a great deal of time reading the works of the great social philosophers...from Plato and Aristotle down to Rousseau, Hobbes, Benthan, Mill and Locke.” He spends several pages describing his reactions to his reading of Marx.

“During this period I had about despaired of the power of love in solving social problems,” Dr. King writes, saying he had perhaps been influenced by Nietzsche. He then describes an electrifying event which would change his view of the world:
KING (page 96): Then one day I traveled to Philadelphia to hear a sermon by Dr. Mordecai Johnson, president of Howard University. He was there to preach for the Fellowship House of Philadelphia. Dr. Johnson had just returned from a trip to India, and to my great interest he spoke of the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. His message was so profound and electrifying that I left the meeting and bought a half-dozen books on Gandhi’s life and works.

Like most people, I had heard of Gandhi, but I had never studied him seriously. As I read I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of non-violent resistance. I was particularly moved by his Salt March to the sea and by his numerous fasts. The whole concept of “Satyagraha” was profoundly significant to me. (Satya is truth which equals love, and agraha is force. “Satyagraha,” therefore, means truth-force or love force.) As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of social reform.
No one is required to agree with anything Dr. King thought or believed. That said, you’ll note that this world historical figure is speaking the language of the Charleston families.

For ourselves, we’re inclined to think their language was brilliant. As Dr. King continues, he continues to speak in those low-country cadences. He describes his own utter mistake:
DR. KING (continuing directly): Prior to reading Gandhi, I had about concluded that the ethics of Jesus were only effective in individual relationships. The “turn the other cheek” philosophy and the “love your enemies” philosophy were only valid, I felt, when individuals were in conflict with other individuals; when racial groups and nations were in conflict a more realistic approach seemed necessary. But after reading Gandhi, I saw how utterly mistaken I was.

Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale.
Love for Gandhi was a potent instrument for social and collective transformation. It was in this Gandhian emphasis on love and non-violence that I discovered the method for social reform that I had been seeking.
No one is required to agree with Dr. King’s reading of Gandhi. No one has to agree with the conclusions he drew.

We’re only suggesting that we might want to acknowledge a basic point—those Charleston families were speaking the language of this world historical giant. It’s a point you’re unlikely to see expressed on your favorite cable news channel, or in the profit-fueled piddle-poo they serve us each day at the new Salon.

We’re sorry to be the ones to say this, but Dr. King believed in what he called “the love ethic of Jesus.” He believed that Gandhi was perhaps the first person to transform that “love ethic” into “a powerful and effective social force on a large scale.”

According to Dr. King, it was in “this Gandhian emphasis on love and non-violence” that he “discovered the method for social reform” he had been seeking since his teen-age years. “I came to feel that this was the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom,” he said as he continued.

Who knows? Thanks to the wisdom of cable news and the web, we may have reached the point where we can see that Dr. King was well-intentioned but hopelessly misguided.

In The Grand Inquisitor, Dostoyevsky imagined Jesus returning to earth to learn that Christians don’t want to hear his views any more. Perhaps we’ve reached a similar state with respect to Dr. King, Gandhi and Mandela. The cable insights of Rachel and Sean may have obviated our need for these once-famous figures.

For ourselves, we think there’s still a lot to learn from the views Dr. King expressed in Stride Toward Freedom. As he continued discussing his intellectual quest, he discussed some very important ideas, including his refusal to create and denigrate The Other—his explicit refusal to hate.

(“The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent,” Dr. King wrote, “but he also refuses to hate him. At the center of nonviolent resist stands the principle of love.”)

For ourselves, we think the rest of Dr. King’s chapter 6 includes a collection of insights which are applicable to social movements today. We’ll scan that material tomorrow.

That said, Dr. King’s views and beliefs bear little relation to the current behavior and impulses of us on the cable news left. Let’s face it! If Dr. King appeared on cable today, puzzled producers would shake their heads and vow not to have him back.

No one has to agree with Dr. King’s rejection of otherization. That said, will someone please tell our fiery leaders that their low-country cousins were swaying last week to the cadences and the language of one of the world’s greatest historical figures? One of our greatest achievers?

Tomorrow: “The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent, but he also refuses to hate him.”

Warning! It gets even worse after that...

Supplemental: From the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the role of race at UT!

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2015

Also, Bessie Jones meets Hobart Smith:
Given the way our up-country journalism works, does anyone ever understand any policy issue?

For example, could you explain the issues involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership in any way at all? There have been very few attempts to explain what that whole thing’s about—or to explain why Obama is siding with the congressional GOP more than with his own party.

Over the weekend, we took the obvious step. We reviewed what Krugman has said about the TPP in his columns and on his blog.

Some day soon, we’ll show you what Krugman has said. (We were a bit surprised.) In the meantime, let’s admit it. None of us understands the TPP, and no one is making the slightest attempt to explain the relevant issues.

Second issue: Obamacare.

We don’t intend what follows as a criticism of President Obama. But we’re often struck by the way the liberal world seems to have settled regarding this general topic.

We’re so old that we can remember when President >Clinton tried to create a national health care program or something of that sort. No one ever understood that program either, but it seems to us that the original goal was something like “universal coverage.”

Twenty-two years later, the Supreme Court saved Obamacare’s bacon last week. That said, we still aren’t hugely close to universal coverage; we still spend two to three times as much on health care, per person, as other developed nations spend; and we watched Ezekiel Emanuel on C-Span last weekend telling a caller why the deductibles in Obamacare are so darn high.

Is it just our imagination? Or, judged on a global basis, is this a comically awful program, even after all these years?

(Some day soon, we’ll show you the Q-and-A with Emanuel.)

Third issue: affirmative action procedures at the University of Texas.

In this morning’s New York Times, Adam Liptak reports on the Supreme Court’s decision to review UT’s affirmative action admissions program again.

Liptak’s front-page report struck us as perhaps a bit propagandistic, and perhaps a bit poorly explained to boot. After reading it, we don’t even feel clear about which part of UT’s admission procedure will be under review.

In this passage, Liptak describes the current admission procedure, which has two basic parts:
LIPTAK (6/30/15): Most applicants from Texas are admitted under a part of the program that guarantees admission to top students in every high school in the state. (This is often called the Top 10 program, though the percentage cutoff can vary by year.)

The Top 10 program has produced significant racial and ethnic diversity. In 2011, for instance, 26 percent of freshmen who enrolled under the program were Hispanic, and 6 percent were black. Texas is about 38 percent Hispanic and 12 percent black.

The remaining Texas students and those from elsewhere are considered under standards that take account of academic achievement and other factors, including race and ethnicity. Many colleges and universities base all of their admissions decisions on such “holistic” grounds.
Later, Liptak describes the Top 10 program as “race-neutral,” implying that it won’t be under review. Here’s the problem:

If we understand the matter correctly, the Top 10 program was adopted in part to produce racial diversity. Among various theoretical downsides, it can have bad consequences for ambitious black kids and for diversity in Texas high schools. (In theory, it could give black kids a reason to stay in all-black high schools instead of transferring to more challenging magnet schools, where they might not end up in the top ten percent.)

We didn’t think that Liptak’s report was especially clear. For that reason, we had the analysts file “UT admission procedures” in the drawer with TPP and O-care.

Our national discourse is a daily ridiculous mess. This fact, though, may be hard to discern, given the platforms from which our journalists and our professors perform.

Those high platforms may convey the sense that the moral and political intelligence resides in Gotham and DC, not in the Carolina low country, where people talk love and forgiveness and may even lapse into Gullah.

Do yourselves a favor! Imagine the possibility that those families in Charleston may know more about various things than their condescending city-dwelling cousins, who pushed back against them last week.

Why not take a trip on that old gospel ship! For more on the so-called “Lowcountry clap,” you can examine a book from the Duke Books Scholarly Collection, Talking to the Dead: Religion, Music, and Lived Memory among Gullah/Geechee Women.

The low-country clap is explicitly mentioned. Readers, we’re just saying!

Ranging a bit further afield, our personal preference, even in music, is for so-called black and so-called white together. For that reason, we offer this link, in which the Georgia Sea Island Singers engage with Hobart Smith.

Our up-country ways may not be all that. Except when we’re doing the telling!

LOW-COUNTRY CADENCES: The families love built!

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2015

Part 2—Echoes of Dr. King:
In this morning’s New York Times, Alan Blinder describes the last of the Charleston funerals.

“Charleston Church Mourns One More Beloved Victim,” the headline says, employing a bit of language from Dr. King.

Myra Thompson was 59 when she was murdered. According to Blinder, “She joined [the Emanuel AME Church] when she was young, and she was long one of the church’s lay leaders.”

Governor Haley and Mayor Riley spoke at Thompson’s funeral. At one point, Blinder reports an implausible claim:
BLINDER (6/30/15): Hundreds of mourners could not attend the service in the crowded sanctuary, including some who said they arrived around 7 a.m., four hours before Ms. Thompson’s funeral was scheduled to begin. As Ms. Thompson’s coffin arrived, onlookers lifted handwritten signs that declared: “Love Wins. Every. Single. Time.”

The signs also included “#CharlestonStrong,” a refrain that has been common here since the massacre. The suspect, Dylann Roof, 21, has been charged with nine counts of murder.

“We know that an evil man came downstairs 12 days ago with hate in his heart, and this community responded with love,” Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said. “He came preaching and believing in division, and he brought unity.”
For ourselves, we wouldn’t call Roof “an evil man.” We think the term confers power on someone like Roof. We think it encourages other lost souls to follow along in his wake.

That said, does love win every single time? In the literal sense, it certainly doesn’t seem to.

Last Thursday night, Professor Butler went a bit farther than that. He spoke with Chris Hayes, who thanked him for his “frank honesty:”
BUTLER (6/25/15): It goes to a larger issue, that when black people talk to white people about white supremacy, we’re supposed to be loving and forgiving. The problem is, love and forgiveness are not productive in American politics. That`s not how social change is achieved. You know, you could do it through organizing, you could do it through electoral politics, you could take it to the streets. But being nice in the face of white supremacy does not advance racial justice.
Are black people somehow supposed to be loving and forgiving when speaking in such contexts? We can’t say we observe that dynamic in our national discourse a lot.

At any rate, Professor Butler plainly doesn’t seem to think that love always wins. He specifically said that “love and forgiveness” are unproductive in our American politics.

Plainly, Professor Butler is deeply pained by the events in Charleston. That said, we were very much struck by his remark about love and forgiveness.

He was speaking as part of an instant pushback against the conduct of the Charleston families who had responded to the murders with expressions of love and forgiveness. “We are the family love built,” one of the mourners memorably said just two days after the murders.

People all over the world have responded to those families with expressions of respect which bordered on incomprehension and awe. Up north, many of our professors and journalists engaged in instant pushback.

To our ear, a fair amount of this pushback was openly condescending. It was too soon for the families to forgive, an omniscient short story writer explained in the New York Times, a paper which couldn’t run fast enough to keep condescension alive.

Some of the condescension seemed to mock the families for being too old-school churchy. Inevitably, though, it fell to the new Salon to complain about the fact that the families had spoken at all.

It’s hard to top the new Salon! Bravely fighting through her own remarkable lack of information, a fiery omniscient named Ericka Schiche heroically offered this:
SCHICHE (6/27/15): What kind of twisted criminal justice system does South Carolina have that would even encourage a family member to address a killer before a trial has even transpired? Charleston County Chief Magistrate James B. Gosnell Jr., a person who allegedly once uttered the word “n***er” in court, ought to be ashamed of himself for even exposing grieving family members to videotape of the cretinous killer standing with his back to armed guards less than 48 hours after the shootings. The looming question is: Who is protecting and advising these families which are now permanently damaged by the massacre of their loved ones in this moment of extreme shock, sorrow and bottomless dejection?
We’ll assume that Schiche is well-intentioned in some tremendously general sense. That said, she seemed to suggest that the Charleston families needed someone to make them stop talking in such ridiculous ways.

For the record, Schiche knows what everyone else should do, but she didn’t seem to know what actually happened on the day to which she refers. In the court hearing in question, the Charleston families spoke directly to Roof, who was being held in a separate location, not to videotape of this pitiful soul.

Even at the new Salon, it was amazing to see Schiche’s fact-challenged condescension thrown into print. (Her factual error stands uncorrected, except in reader comments.) At any rate, readers of the new Salon were given a perfect tribal fantasy from which to derive their tribal pleasure:

The families only spoke that way because of the racist judge!

It’s hard to top the new Salon! That said, ponder these questions:

Did those pitiful Charleston families know whereof they spoke? Had they spoken up too soon, as the omniscient Roxane Gay seemed to tell us?

Should they have been told by advisers to keep their traps shut, as the all-knowing Schiche seemed to suggest? Was this “dangerous” mess the fault of a racist judge?

To our ear, the condescension expressed by these writers is obvious and quite familiar. But in our view, Professor Butler’s statement to Hayes was the most striking pushback of all.

Plainly, Professor Butler is deeply angry about these murders; there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be. That said, is it true that “love and forgiveness are not productive in American politics?”

In their statements after the murders, the Charleston families weren’t offering theories about what works in our politics. But is it true that “love and forgiveness” don’t work?

We were struck by Professor Butler’s claim because we’ve read Dr. King. He believed that love and forgiveness constituted a powerful force in effecting social change and addressing social problems.

In 1957, Dr. King published Stride Toward Freedom, his history of the Montgomery bus boycott. In Chapter 6, Pilgrimage to Nonviolence, he described the intellectual search which led him to conclude that “nonviolent resistance was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their quest for social justice.”

The concepts of love and forgiveness are central all through the chapter and book.

Dr. King describes an anguished search, undertaken at a young age. He describes the way he found the answer to his search in Gandhi’s concept of Satyagraha, which Dr. King translates as “truth force” or “love force.”

“As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished,” Dr. King wrote, “and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of reform.”

Dr. King’s entire chapter can be read here. We’re surprised anew every time we read it. Truly, it’s a remarkable document, written when this world historical figure was just 28 years old.

You can read that chapter today. Tomorrow, we’ll run through highlights of the search which led him to his ultimate belief in the power of “the love ethic of Jesus” as a tool for social change.

Warning! If you choose to read that chapter, you may perhaps be embarrassed on several occasions. Dr. King’s basic concepts are considerably out of step with the times, though much less so in the low country than in the rest of our world.

In her report on two earlier funerals, Lizette Alvarez mentioned “the syncopated ‘Lowcountry clap’” which animated the musical presentations.

Those Charleston families live with some remarkable low-country cadences. This includes their religious traditions, which are tied to a brilliant moral and intellectual regime, one which has changed the world.

To our ear, the pushback hasn’t seemed to be real aware of that fact.

Tomorrow: A remarkable search