Charlottesville: "Hate only engenders more hate!"

MONDAY, AUGUST 14, 2017

The mother and the thought leader:
Susan Bro's daughter was killed this weekend.

Her daughter's name was Heather Heyer. At the age of 32, she was killed in Charlottesville, apparently due to a lunatic act by James Fields, age 20.

In this morning's Washington Post, two reporters describe an interview with Bro about her daughter's killing. At one point, Bro joins the forces of moral greatness when she discusses Fields:
SILVERMAN AND LARIS (8/14/17): Every time Bro closed her eyes Saturday night, the tears would come. When she couldn't sleep, she tried busying herself doing laundry. "Who does laundry when their child's died? That's all I could do," she said.

Despite her pain, Bro said she doesn't want people to hate Fields. It isn't what her daughter would have wanted, she said.

"Our daughter did not live a life of hate, and hating this young man is not going to solve anything. . . . It's not that I think he should go unpunished for his crime. But hate only engenders more hate, and there's no purpose in hate," Bro said. "Heather's life was about—passionately about—fairness and equality and caring, and that's what we want people to take away from this."
"Heather's life was passionately about caring. That was the mother's reaction. It recalls the reactions of some of the Charleston families in the wake of the murders in 2015 by Dylann Roof, who had just turned 21.

The astounding reactions of those families produced amazement and admiration all over the world. In yesterday's interview, Heather Heyer's mother joined their number.

A major journalist reacted in a quite different way this weekend. He recommended this unwise twitter thread, in which a group of youngish people seemed to be applauding the possibility of violent revenge.

Before we link you to that thread, let's think about Fields for a minute. This front-page profile in today's Post describes his own family background.

His father was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 1997, five months before he was born. On his mother's side of the family, his grandfather murdered his grandmother, than committed suicide, in 1984. This murder-suicide occurred when Field's mother was 16 years old.

An uncle offers more information, and speculates a bit:
SHAPIRO (8/14/17): Fields, he said, grew up mostly in Northern Kentucky, where he had been raised by a single mother, Samantha Bloom, who is a paraplegic. The uncle, who saw Fields mostly at family gatherings, described his nephew as “not really friendly, more subdued.”

Fields joined the Army in late in the summer of 2015 but was on active duty for less than four months, according to online records from the Defense Department. It was unclear why he served so briefly.

“The what-ifs,” the uncle said. “What could’ve been—you can’t answer questions like that. There’s no way of knowing if his life would have been different if his father had been around.”
When we read about such matters, we tend to think of a song which was popular in certain circles when we ourselves were 20.

The song is There but for Fortune. It was written by Phil Ochs, most famously sung by Joan Baez.

When we read about stories like that, we often think of the fact that our grandparents didn't die in a murder/suicide when our mother was 16. Our father wasn't killed by a hit and run driver before we were born.

We don't know what might have made Fields commit the act of which he's accused. But we tend toward the old ways in such matters, toward the worldview called "bleeding-heart liberalism."

Heyer's mother tends toward the world of moral greatness. To borrow a phrase from Eugene Genovese, it's largely, within the American context, an artifact of "the world the [enslaved people] made."

Globally, it's largely an artifact of Mandela and Dr. King, by way of Ghandi—and by way of what the young Dr. King repeatedly referred to as "the love ethic of Jesus."

That love ethic was revolutionary because we humans don't instinctively function in the ways it recommended. This fact is being played out in various ways at this time.

Yesterday, we clicked a link in this post by Josh Marshall and perused that twitter thread. The twitter thread concerned a different 20-year-old who was present in Charlottesville this weekend.

We thought Josh showed very poor judgment in recommending its tweets, which he seemed to find heroic, fitting and just.

When we read that twitter thread, we thought of The Mortal Storm, the fascinating 1940 (fictional) film about the rise of Hitler youth. We thought about what happened to China when a large cadre of its younger, unwise people helped stage The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.

We thought about Lord of the Flies. We thought about the most remarkable passages in Dr. King's first book, Stride Toward Freedom.

We also thought about one of our favorite speeches from film—the speech in On the Waterfront in which the character played by Eva Marie Saint speaks to the Marlon Brando character on behalf of the basic tenets of bleeding-heart liberalism.

We'll review that speech, and that twitter thread, in the next few days. We thought the instincts on display in that thread were thoroughly "human, all too human" and also deeply unwise.

For today, we'll recommend Susan Bro to the world. We think Marshall gave his readers some amazingly poor advice. So it goes as the world continues to turn and we work, inevitably, to become more like the people we like to say we despise.

20 comments:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqH_0LPVoho

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  2. Appealing to better angels of our nature is fine 'n all, but it doesn't really work during turbulent times, in societies serious internal conflicts.

    Personally, I blame the authorities, Virginia authorities. People came out for a peaceful, officially approved protest againt the demolition of a statue. They should be able to do it without being confronted by counter-protesters. Cops should be taking care of that. And then counter-protesters can come, if they wish, the next day, and express their view, also in a peaceful and orderly way. This would help prevent violent clashes and attacks.

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    1. They should be able to do it without being confronted by counter-protesters.

      Nope. Not in America.

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    2. Why did so many of those peaceful alt-Right protesters arrive with weapons and body armor?

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    3. See the photos.

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    4. Mao, get lost you scumbag.

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    5. As BradBlog reports:

      “New reporting reveals an FBI and DHS intelligence report warned the Trump Administration in May about the threat of violent Rightwing domestic terrorism far out-pacing that of Islamic (or any other form of) terrorism in the U.S., at the same time the Administration was deciding to block a previously announced grant to a group that helps people escape the grip of White Nationalist groups.”

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  3. That "moral greatness" Somerby extols is also a form of psychological self defense against tragedy. It is the standard response toward which victims are counseled, because it helps them achieve peace and reconcile to what has happened. She is repeating the standard script after such a tragedy, the one that helps survivors survive.

    How do we know this? This is what counseling psychologists do. They help people cope with overwhelming and unexpected grief. Hate perpetuates harm and further damages the victims. Somerby can call this moral greatness if it makes him feel better.

    For the rest of us, anger motivates efforts to change the status quo. It may be more appropriate for us to stay angry because it will direct our efforts toward change. Anger is instrumental -- not a moral evil. The object of that anger should be the toleration of the alt-Right by our leaders, not persecution of pathetic individuals attracted to that social scam.

    Somerby has just barely managed to avoid coopting this tragedy to advance his own political agenda (choosing to advance his "moral greatness" agenda instead). Many others today have not resisted temptation. There is a lot of hippie bashing and criticism of so-called identity politics today, as if the protesters did not have every right to be walking those Charlottesville streets in peace. It is blame the victim time on the right.

    Oh, and Somerby, the main reason why a man would kill his wife and then himself is depression. But somehow in all the health statistics, Somerby never mentions our attitude toward funding of mental health treatment. In young men, that depression manifests in suicide by cop. But lets pretend we don't know why anyone would do what his grandfather did, and we have no idea why Fields did what he did either. It is morally greater that way.

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    1. It may be true psychiatrists counsel people against hatred, but it doesn’t appear Susan Bro needed any such counseling. She already seems quite cognizant of the need to abandon hatred.

      Anger can indeed be a potent motivator, and in fact is a primary factor for those motivated to seek justice. However: Do you think James Fields was angry when he committed his crime? Anger and its attendant hatred were certainly instrumental in this event, however badly misplaced and directed.

      And I don’t know what you mean when you write “The object of that anger should be the toleration of the alt-Right by our leaders, not persecution of pathetic individuals attracted to that social scam.”

      I agree we should be angry that our “leaders” tolerate the alt-Right, but you seem to imply that Fields is being persecuted. Don’t think so, but he should be prosecuted.

      Yes, let’s “pretend” we don’t know why Fields did what he did. Yes! I feel moral greatness expanding my soul as I write.

      Leroy

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    2. I don't think Fields is being persecuted but I think the rally attendees who are losing their jobs are being persecuted.

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    3. "I don't think Fields is being persecuted but I think the rally attendees who are losing their jobs are being persecuted."

      Which ones?

      Leroy

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    4. Kids today, they forgot to wear their hoods! And while the I Nazi marchers should not be persecuted by law for their thoughts, they certainly can be fired. If I employ Jewish, brown, and others, I sure as heck would want to fire a person who marches down the street chanting hateful Nazi slogans towards these people. Think all states have an "at will" when it comes to firing people. Not much you can do about it, other than try to get a job as a chief Trump political advisor.

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    5. If someone isn't breaking the law, what they do off the job is none of their employers business. They are IDing these guys from photos and contacting their bosses. There is the guy fired by Top Dog and the kid at Univ Nevada Reno whose main offense was being photogenic -- not hitting anyone. This is wrong in my opinion.

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    6. "... isn't breaking the law"

      Why this stipulation? (Honest question).

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  4. Nice blog post. Bob should put it on his computer next time he feels like writing about someone he clearly hates, like Rachel Maddow.

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  5. Whenever these murderous incidents occur Somerby always runs to Ghandi, King and Mandela. I would remind him that 2 of them ended up dead and the third was imprisoned for decades despite their good intentions.
    Everything is easy when you don't have to do it yourself; and Somerby will never have to do it because he and his relatives will never be a target of these killers.
    I await the Zimmerman rationale that the victim was acting suspiciously and/or listened to Maddow; or that the perpetrator is nuts, like Trump.

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  6. As Palmer notes, Trump finally responds to white supremacism...by attacking a black guy.

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  7. Please spell Gandhi's name correctly. The 'h' after the 'd' serves to 'harden (I don't know the correct linguistic term) the 'd', analogous to how the 'h' after a 't' turns the soft 't' in 'ten' to the hard 'th' in 'then'. Such substitute spelling constructins are needed to depict Indian language consonants not having identical correspondence to Latin alphabet consonants.

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    1. *constructins-> constructions

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