NO COMPLAINT LEFT BEHIND: The eternal note of sadness brought in!


Our "multiracial democracy:" "The eternal note of sadness" had been brought in, the poet once famously said.

For us, that note was introduced by the first thing we read this morning. It was a news report in the New York Times. It appeared beneath this headline:

Indian Court Upholds Ban on Hijabs in Schools

Ugh. Briefly, we considered refusing to click. When we did click, we encountered this:

YASIR (3/16/22): A top court in the southern Indian state of Karnataka on Tuesday upheld a government order banning Muslim girls from wearing head scarves inside schools, a ruling that is likely to heighten tensions at a time when India is increasingly polarized along religious lines.

The court said that wearing the hijab is not part of essential religious practice under Islam. The ruling came at a time when members of India’s minority community are increasingly coming under attack as the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has adopted Hindu-first policies.

Religious freedom is protected under the country’s Constitution, but there has been a proliferation of religious-based hate crimes, particularly against members of the Muslim community. Their members and right-wing Hindu activists have also been clashing at school campuses around Karnataka.

The dispute began in September at a college preparatory school for girls...

For domestic consumption, we're not sure that we'd endorse the unexplained use of the term "right-wing" in that passage. That said, the overall sadness conveyed by this report involves a basic fact about our imperfect human race:

It involves the difficulties we humans tend to have in dealing with perceived difference.

All over the globe, a pattern obtains involving perception of difference. Any way we humans can do it, we tend to split into tribes and move toward war with the others. 

We split into tribes based upon perceived difference—difference of religion, of language, of ethnicity or of "race." We rush to establish a sense of difference based upon gender and / or generation.

According to Sameer Yasir's news report, contemporary India "is increasingly polarized along religious lines." According to Yasir, it's gotten so bad that "[extremist] Hindu monks have made calls for other Hindus to arm themselves and kill Muslims." 

(We're substituting the word "extremist" for the unexplained term "right-wing.")

Historically, we human beings have tended to have a very hard time dealing with perceived difference—and we tend to see difference under every bed. 

In this country, our brutal history is tied to perceived difference in the realm of so-called "race." These perceptions come to us, live and direct, from "the world the slaveholders made." 

These perceptions suffuse the world in which we all live. In this passage, Professors Gates and Curran, quite correctly, brought the note of sadness in:

GATES AND CURRAN (3/6/22): Race is, to steal a line from Wordsworth, “too much with us.” Its history is too long, its presence and usage too common, for it to magically disappear anytime soon. While, biologically speaking, the idea of individual human races with different origins is as farcical as the medieval belief that elves cause hiccups, the social reality of race is undeniable. And genetics—or, for that matter, any science— has the potential to be misused, co-opted by racist ideologies and employed to bolster harmful narratives about racial purity or biological superiority.

Biologically speaking, the concept of race is farcical, the professors say. But its social reality is undeniable and everywhere. There's no way it can be escaped.

We note these facts for a reason. We'd direct your attention to the difficult task we Americans have set for ourselves in our attempt to create "a multiracial democracy." 

Within our liberal / progressive tribe, we tend to praise the glory of the attempt while underselling the depth of the anthropological challenge. We've shown you one headline from today's Times—but this same morning, on pages A20 and A21, these additional headlines appear:

Suspect in Shootings of 5 Homeless Men Arrested in Washington

Suspect in New York MoMA Stabbing Is Arrested in Philadelphia

Man Hit Woman in the Head 125 Times Because She Was Asian, Officials Say

Client Charged in Fatal Stabbing of Lawyer, a Tiananmen Activist

That second incident doesn't seem to involve an issue of racial difference. Neither does the fourth item, in which an attorney of Asian descent was fatally stabbed by a 25-year-old Chinese woman who had been seeking asylum in this country, apparently under what she had just revealed to be false pretenses.

The third incident seems to involve a gruesomely violent physical attack based upon perceptions of "race." The first incident doesn't seem to involve a racial motivation, but it does involve a series of murders of a different group of others.

Race was overtly present in the third headline. For many readers, it might have seemed to be present in the fourth. 

That said, it's plain in the newspapers, every day, that—in large part due to our brutal history—"race is [perhaps] too much with us." The web site of the Washington Post is featuring a new column by Paul Butler which is promoted a shown:

Why jailing Jussie Smollett is unjust 

Butler's column begins as shown. The column is followed by predictable warring comments, often from readers who don't have the slightest idea what they're talking about:

BUTLER (3/15/22): I don’t believe Jussie Smollett but I recognize when a Black man gets railroaded through a justice system that is out to get him. A rich entitled actor is hardly the most sympathetic face of reform. Still, Smollett’s case demonstrates that when powerful elites decide they want a Black man locked up, nothing and nobody—not even the elected prosecutor—will stop them.

Smollett’s the Black, gay actor who falsely claimed he had been the victim of a hate crime—attacked, he said, by two masked men who used racist and homophobic slurs and tied a rope around his neck.

Smollett’s story quickly fell apart, even as he continued to maintain his victimhood. He was charged with disorderly conduct. The charges were dropped in exchange for community service and surrender of his $10,000 bond—an appropriate result for a first-time offender in a nonviolent crime.

But that wasn’t enough for many White people—and some Black people as well—who wanted a pound of Smollett’s flesh...

Butler believes that Smollett is lying when he continues [present tense] to say he was the victim of a two-pronged hate crime. 

Still, Butler says that Smollett is being sent to jail because he's black. According to Butler, many white people—and some black people—wanted a pound of Smollett's flesh.

How many Hispanic people wanted a pound of Smollett's flesh? Butler doesn't tell us that, but he goes on to make additional statements such as these—and for all we know, he may be right in his overall assessment of this particular case:

"If those in power want a Black man locked up, they will find a way to do it."

"So a White male lawyer in private practice was handed more control over a criminal case than the Black female prosecutor elected to make those kinds of decisions."

"As for Smollett, he is just another Black man serving time—in a system more perverted than his crime."

Is Smollett "just another Black man serving time" in a perverted system? We can't answer that question!

It isn't just "race" which is too much with us; so is complexification. Butler's column involves the vast complexities of a legal system which very few readers will be qualified to assess or understand. 

Still, the predictable angry comments follow, from those on the left and those of the right, most of whom don't seem to understand the fact that they can't understand the complexities of this case.

The knowledge is AWOL; the anger is real. This is part of the very large challenge of a "multiracial democracy."

The woods are lovely, dark and deep; our society is perhaps becoming a tiny small bit of a Babel. Identity groups are proliferating—and every group has a complaint, none of which is necessarily invalid.

In Ukraine, everyone's a Ukrainian; that's not how we score matters here. We admire the way the Ukrainians have come together to fight, while failing to note an obvious fact—in the face of any imaginable challenge, it would be very, very, very hard for us to do anything like that.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. We're a nation of many "identities."

It isn't that something is "wrong" with our attempt to conduct a multiracial democracy. But human nature being what it is, the challenge involved there is great.

At the very least, we should resist a journalistic impulse, one which strikes us as highly performative:

We should avoid creating a journalistic world in which no complaint, no matter how trivial, unfounded or plainly misstated, can ever be left behind.

In India, extremists are calling for death for one group of (perceived) Others. According to major anthropologists, our brains are wired this way.

That's what's happening way far away. In our own somewhat Babel-adjacent nation, an unimpressive mainstream press corps now leaves few complaints behind.

Tomorrow: Was this a solid complaint?


  1. Thanks for documenting this latest (tiny) portion of the liberal atrocities, dear Bob, but let us not make to much of that Indian law thingy.

    Hijabs are banned in schools, dear Bob. Same as in France. Not, in our humble opinion, a big enough deal to justify pompous generalizations about "humyn race".

  2. No, powerful elites did not decide to put Smollet behind bars, because that's what happens when you break the law. If he had not chosen to break the law, he would be a free man today. It was his choice, nobody else's.

  3. The third headline, "Man Hit Woman in the Head 125 Times Because She Was Asian, Officials Say", omits the fact that the perp was black. See

    A black male punched a 67-year-old woman 125 times & stomped on her head in Yonkers, NY after calling her an "Asian b—." She suffered brain bleeding & facial fractures. Tammel Esco has been charged with attempted murder & assault w/hate crime enhancements

    1. OTOH, reporting the perp was a man, wasn't necessary
      Why such a narrow brush, David?

    2. Let's get the full facts on all these perps and victims.

      A pattern might emerge with say, their eye color or favorite show to stream.

    3. You seem to be suggesting that it is foolish to try to find out what causes violence. Studying mass murderers, for example, has yielded the info that a common denominator among them is prior police record of domestic violence. Further, there is a link between violence against women and the white supremacist, hate-motivated shootings in churches and public places too. We know this from studying the details of the prior cases. This may lead to early identification and intervention with men who might otherwise go on to commit such crimes.

      Republicans want to say that such crimes are caused by mental illness, but there is no support for that view in the details of the men who go on random killing sprees. There are other patterns and causes that need to be taken seriously.

      David Neiwert describes one study examining such men, explaining why this effort to understand and intervene is important:

      A pattern is emerging with their hatred of women and prior history of violence against women. The study argues that this needs to be included in a redefinition of terrorism to encompass domestic terrorism that does not focus on religious extremism and foreign terrorist group affiliations.

    4. Rationalist -- the article did report the race of the victim, but omitted the race of the perp. IMO they should show both or neither.

    5. David,
      Would you be okay with the police stopping and frisking all men, since they are the ones attacking Asian-Americans?

    6. "You seem to be suggesting that it is foolish to try to find out what causes violence."

      No I wasn't intending that. All traits should be looked at for purposes of criminology and profiling. I don't like to see the news being inconsistent with putting race in their headlines though.

  4. Somerby needs to understand something about the history of India, its politics and its religions, in order to understand why Modi is being called right wing and why this hijab law is different than what happened in France.

    He might start with this:

    "In August, 1947, when, after three hundred years in India, the British finally left, the subcontinent was partitioned into two independent nation states: Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. Immediately, there began one of the greatest migrations in human history, as millions of Muslims trekked to West and East Pakistan (the latter now known as Bangladesh) while millions of Hindus and Sikhs headed in the opposite direction. Many hundreds of thousands never made it.

    Across the Indian subcontinent, communities that had coexisted for almost a millennium attacked each other in a terrifying outbreak of sectarian violence, with Hindus and Sikhs on one side and Muslims on the other—a mutual genocide as unexpected as it was unprecedented. In Punjab and Bengal—provinces abutting India’s borders with West and East Pakistan, respectively—the carnage was especially intense, with massacres, arson, forced conversions, mass abductions, and savage sexual violence. Some seventy-five thousand women were raped, and many of them were then disfigured or dismembered."

    I would bet real money that Somerby has no idea what happened during the Guajarat riots, while Modi was governor of that state:

    This puts Modi's legislation targeting Muslims into a social and political context. Somerby shows no evidence of understanding any of this. Somerby offers a simple-minded statement that he is against all violence, putting people in jail, firing them for reading certain books, and anything else that arises from conflict, but he offers no suggestions for how to resolve conflict at all.

    Today, his view that culture is to blame for everything is beyond simplistic. He is like Rodney King braying "can't we all get along" when there are important issues, principles, values at stake or people would not care enough to fight over them.

    It is perhaps easy for Somerby to prescribe peace in India (or Israel or Ireland or anyplace else that folks have fought) when he doesn't care about the religion at hand or the land people fight over or the atrocities and genocides of sociopathic dictators. It makes me wonder what Somerby does care about -- besides defending Trump, Roy Moore, Russian aggression and the RNC talking point of the day.

    Rationalist asks for full facts on perps and victims. Here are some for him to read (follow the links please).

  5. "According to major anthropologists, our brains are wired this way."

    Somerby wants to claim that violence happens because people are wired that way. This is ridiculous. There is no evidence of violence or aggression among hunter gatherers throughout tens of thousands of years when group cohesion ensured survival and being cast out was a death sentence. People appear to be hard-wired for cooperation and social cooperation. There is plenty of evidence that violence between groups is a recent occurrence arising from conflict made possible by travel and conquest, most prominent during the colonial and nation-building periods of recent history. It has already been receding with the rise of democracy and increasing globalism (which again depends on cooperation and communication, diplomacy not war).

    Somerby has his head up his ass about this stuff.

    1. This is a conservative view of humanity that Somerby is preaching.