Also, what Mister Lee said: Every time we read Roxane Gay's confession in last Sunday's New York Times, we experience "a fit of pique."
Unlike Donald J. Trump, we can't turn to the nuclear codes when we experience such a fit. But these fits may not create the best environment for award-winning, top-notch discussion.
For these reasons, we're going to wait till Monday to discuss Gay's confession, which was paired with the absurd lament by the silly flyweight Julius Krein, founder of a silly journal no one ever read. The Times insulted its readers' intelligence when it published that high-profile nonsense by silly-boy Krein. But the piece by Gay is so appalling its makes our blood boil every time.
While we wait for our pique to pass, we'll recommend that you peruse Gene Robinson's latest column. It appeared in yesterday's Washington Post. It tells an amazing story.
The amazing story Robinson tells involves his great-grandfather. First, though, here's the way the prize-winning columnist began his transplendent piece:
ROBINSON (8/25/17): It’s not surprising that we seem to be refighting the Civil War, since it never properly ended in the first place."Hold back, men of Ithaka, from the weariness of fighting!" So spoke Pallas Athene, posing as Mentor, at the end of The Odyssey, in remarks sacred Homer recorded.
It might have, had Southerners listened to Robert E. Lee. The defeated general believed that erecting monuments to the Confederacy—such as his equestrian statue in Charlottesville, now shrouded with a black tarp in mourning of Heather Heyer — would be wrong.
“I think it wiser . . . not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered,” he wrote in 1869 about proposed memorials at Gettysburg.
As soon as they got the chance, Southerners ignored Lee’s advice. After the last federal troops were withdrawn from Southern capitals in 1877, whites began the process of re-subjugating African Americans.
So too spoke Lee in 1869, in the statement Robinson quotes. At least on this one occasion, we'd have to say Mister Lee got it right.
That's the way Robinson's column begins. At this point, Robinson describes the history which followed as Lee's sound advice was ignored. In the process, he discusses his great-grandfather, one of the many exemplars of moral greatness who emerged within the ranks of brilliant Americans socially defined as "black:"
ROBINSON: My great-grandfather, Maj. John Hammond Fordham, was among the many black Southerners who were able to take advantage of the brief window of opportunity known as Reconstruction. Born in Charleston, S.C., in 1854, he became a lawyer and held a series of government jobs, working at the imposing Custom House near the port. He was called “Major” because he was one of the founders of the Carolina Light Infantry, equivalent to a volunteer national guard unit and described by the Orangeburg Times and Democrat as “the first colored brigade organized in the South.” He was active enough in Republican politics to correspond with Theodore Roosevelt.As everyone knows but no one says, so-called black America has produced some of the greatest moral and ethical traditions in all of human history.
Maj. Fordham moved to Orangeburg and built the house I grew up in. He and his wife had nine children, eight of whom survived to adulthood, and he was able to give them the education and resources they needed to build on the foundation he had laid. But the children’s options, and those of the following generation, were deliberately and systematically limited by Jim Crow. The Fordhams achieved much, but only in spite of the circumstances the white power structure imposed.
We don't refer simply to Dr. King and to those with whom he exchanged instruction. We also refer to a giant like Robinson's Major Fordham (and his wife). It's astounding to think that our sad, ridiculous "human race" has produced such high achievers.
At the end of his column, Robinson returned to the question of those Confederate statues. Also to the question of the names of various roads.
On the whole, we think Robinson showed good sense in this part of his column. We also think there's a basic point which he left unsettled:
ROBINSON: As for me, I couldn’t care less about most street names. I sometimes commute to work on Lee Highway. I’ll bet half the people driving down that road at any given time—including millennials, Salvadoran immigrants, government workers who grew up in Utah or Vermont—wouldn’t know whether it was named after Robert E. or Spike.We note that Robinson ducked the pressing question of the renaming of Yawkey Way, a two-block road which borders part of Boston's Fenway Park.
Roads bearing a secessionist’s full name are a bit different. The United Daughters of the Confederacy intended Jefferson Davis Highway, which begins in Arlington, to stretch through the South and beyond, all the way to the Pacific. It exists today in many disconnected segments. Alexandria has been working to rename its part of the road for some time. A plaque in a San Diego park designating the western terminus was quietly removed last week.
And the statues? As societies have done for millennia, we erect and prominently display likenesses of figures we admire. When citizens no longer admire the person being honored, they should haul the statues down. They can go to museums or onto the scrap heap of history, where the Confederacy belongs.
Last Saturday, the New York Times devoted two full pages to this utterly silly question. In such ways, we liberals almost always manage to show that we'll extend any moral issue to the point of sheer absurdity, inspiring large chunks of the voting public to view us as majorly crazy. This instinct serves Donald J. Trump.
We think Robinson showed good sound sense concerning the naming of roads. We're going to guess that his great-grandfather possessed a wealth of sound judgment/good sense.
That said, we were struck by one part of Robinson's last paragraph. We refer to this sensible-sounding point:
"When citizens no longer admire the person being honored, they should haul the statues down."
As stated, that's perfectly sensible! But what about this? what if some citizens "no longer admire the person being honored," but some others still do?
The one group can always name-call the other, of course. Is there some other way to proceed?
That situation calls for the wisdom possessed by giants like Major Fordham. As Pallas Athena expressed it more fully:
"Hold back, men of Ithaka, from the weariness of fighting, so that most soon, and without blood, we can settle everything!"
Mister Lee didn't want the statues going up. On balance, Robinson seems to want them coming down.
What would Major Fordham have done? We'll recommend trying to channel the wisdom possessed by our history's giants.