Quote of the Day: The Power of Illusions

by matttbastard

 

There is one thing about Henry Kissinger, the ultimate cynical Realpolitiker, that strikes the eye of all observers: How utterly wrong most of his predictions were. To take only one example, when news reached the West about the 1991 anti-Gorbachev military coup, he immediately accepted the new regime (which ignominiously collapsed three days later) as a fact. In short, when socialist regimes were already a living dead, Kissinger was counting on a long-term pact with them.

The position of the cynic is that he alone holds some piece of terrible, unvarnished wisdom. The paradigmatic cynic tells you privately, in a confidential low-key voice: “But don’t you get it that it is all really about (money/power/sex), that all high principles and values are just empty phrases which count for nothing?” What the cynics don’t see is their own naivety, the naivety of their cynical wisdom that ignores the power of illusions.

The reason Obama’s victory generated such enthusiasm is not only the fact that, against all odds, it really happened, but that the possibility of such a thing to happen was demonstrated. The same goes for all great historical ruptures. Recall the fall of the Berlin Wall: Although we all knew about the rotten inefficiency of the Communist regimes, we somehow did not “really believe” that they will disintegrate. Like Kissinger, we were all too much victims of cynical pragmatism.

[…]

The true battle begins now, after the victory: The battle for what this victory will effectively mean, especially within the context of two other much more ominous signs of history: 9/11 and the financial meltdown. Nothing was decided by Obama’s victory, but his victory widens our freedom and thereby the scope of our decisions. But regardless of whether we succeed or fail, Obama’s victory will remain a sign of hope in our otherwise dark times, a sign that the last word does not belong to “realist” cynics, be they from the Left or the Right.

– Slavoj Žižek, Why Cynics Are Wrong: The sublime shock of Obama’s victory

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U.S. House of Representatives Apologizes for Slavery

by matttbastard

Well it’s about damn time:

The House on Tuesday issued an unprecedented apology to black Americans for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow segregation laws.

“Today represents a milestone in our nation’s efforts to remedy the ills of our past,” said Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

[…]

The Cohen resolution does not mention reparations. It does commit the House to rectifying “the lingering consequences of the misdeeds committed against African-Americans under slavery and Jim Crow.”

It says that Africans forced into slavery “were brutalized, humiliated, dehumanized and subjected to the indignity of being stripped of their names and heritage” and that black Americans today continue to suffer from the consequences of slavery and Jim Crow laws that fostered discrimination and segregation.

Full text of the Cohen Resolution, H. Res 194 (courtesy the Thin Black Duke):

Whereas millions of Africans and their descendants were enslaved in the United States and the 13 American colonies from 1619 through 1865; (Engrossed as Agreed to or Passed by House)

HRES 194 EH

H. Res. 194

In the House of Representatives, U. S.,

July 29, 2008.

Whereas millions of Africans and their descendants were enslaved in the United States and the 13 American colonies from 1619 through 1865;

Whereas slavery in America resembled no other form of involuntary servitude known in history, as Africans were captured and sold at auction like inanimate objects or animals;

Whereas Africans forced into slavery were brutalized, humiliated, dehumanized, and subjected to the indignity of being stripped of their names and heritage;

Whereas enslaved families were torn apart after having been sold separately from one another;

Whereas the system of slavery and the visceral racism against persons of African descent upon which it depended became entrenched in the Nation’s social fabric;

Whereas slavery was not officially abolished until the passage of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865 after the end of the Civil War;

Whereas after emancipation from 246 years of slavery, African-Americans soon saw the fleeting political, social, and economic gains they made during Reconstruction eviscerated by virulent racism, lynchings, disenfranchisement, Black Codes, and racial segregation laws that imposed a rigid system of officially sanctioned racial segregation in virtually all areas of life;

Whereas the system of de jure racial segregation known as `Jim Crow,’ which arose in certain parts of the Nation following the Civil War to create separate and unequal societies for whites and African-Americans, was a direct result of the racism against persons of African descent engendered by slavery;

Whereas a century after the official end of slavery in America, Federal action was required during the 1960s to eliminate the dejure and defacto system of Jim Crow throughout parts of the Nation, though its vestiges still linger to this day;

Whereas African-Americans continue to suffer from the complex interplay between slavery and Jim Crow–long after both systems were formally abolished–through enormous damage and loss, both tangible and intangible, including the loss of human dignity, the frustration of careers and professional lives, and the long-term loss of income and opportunity;

Whereas the story of the enslavement and de jure segregation of African-Americans and the dehumanizing atrocities committed against them should not be purged from or minimized in the telling of American history;

Whereas on July 8, 2003, during a trip to Goree Island, Senegal, a former slave port, President George W. Bush acknowledged slavery’s continuing legacy in American life and the need to confront that legacy when he stated that slavery `was . . . one of the greatest crimes of history . . . The racial bigotry fed by slavery did not end with slavery or with segregation. And many of the issues that still trouble America have roots in the bitter experience of other times. But however long the journey, our destiny is set: liberty and justice for all.’;

Whereas President Bill Clinton also acknowledged the deep-seated problems caused by the continuing legacy of racism against African-Americans that began with slavery when he initiated a national dialogue about race;

Whereas a genuine apology is an important and necessary first step in the process of racial reconciliation;

Whereas an apology for centuries of brutal dehumanization and injustices cannot erase the past, but confession of the wrongs committed can speed racial healing and reconciliation and help Americans confront the ghosts of their past;

Whereas the legislature of the Commonwealth of Virginia has recently taken the lead in adopting a resolution officially expressing appropriate remorse for slavery and other State legislatures have adopted or are considering similar resolutions; and

Whereas it is important for this country, which legally recognized slavery through its Constitution and its laws, to make a formal apology for slavery and for its successor, Jim Crow, so that it can move forward and seek reconciliation, justice, and harmony for all of its citizens: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved, That the House of Representatives–
    • (1) acknowledges that slavery is incompatible with the basic founding principles recognized in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal;
    • (2) acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow;
    • (3) apologizes to African Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow; and
    • (4) expresses its commitment to rectify the lingering consequences of the misdeeds committed against African Americans under slavery and Jim Crow and to stop the occurrence of human rights violations in the future.

Attest:

Clerk.

Sure, simply saying sorry isn’t enough.  But it’s a start (key word: start — I’m curious to see what specific measures Congress will take in tackling “the lingering consequences of the misdeeds committed against African-Americans under slavery and Jim Crow.”)

As Jill Tubman says:

Is it empty symbolism, you may ask? I don’t discount symbols which are powerful, especially when it comes to race in America. It’s good to see positive symbolism rather than negative symbolism come our way for once. And it instills confidence in our leaders when they can admit poor judgment and commit to better choices. Still, when the gov’t acknowledges oppressive, incorrect action — isn’t corrective, remedying action a reasonable expectation?

Related: More from Jack and Jill Politics on Rep. Steve Cohen (D – TN), the author of the resolution.

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Quote of the Day: The Vortexes of Rancor

by matttbastard

A racial divide, once lived, dwells in the deepest parts of the psyche. This is what was captured by Barack Obama’s pitch-perfect speech on race. Slavery was indeed America’s “original sin.” Of course, “the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow” lives on in forms of African-American humiliation and anger that smolder in ways incommunicable to whites.

[…]

It takes bravery, and perhaps an unusual black-white vantage point, to navigate these places where hurt is profound, incomprehension the rule, just as it takes courage to say, as Obama did, that black “anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.”

Progress, since the Civil Rights Movement, or since apartheid, has assuaged the wounds of race but not closed them. To carry my part of shame is also to carry a clue to the vortexes of rancor for which Obama has uncovered words.

I understand the rage of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, however abhorrent its expression at times. I admire Obama for saying: “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community.”

Honesty feels heady right now. For seven years, we have lived with the arid, us-against-them formulas of Bush’s menial mind, with the result that the nuanced exploration of America’s hardest subject is almost giddying. Can it be that a human being, like Wright, or like Obama’s grandmother, is actually inhabited by ambiguities? Can an inquiring mind actually explore the half-shades of truth?

Yes. It. Can.

Roger Cohen, Beyond America’s Original Sin

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One Inconvenient Truth About Michael Medved: He’s An Imbecile

by matttbastard

x-posted @ Comments From Left Field

The title says it all: “Six inconvenient truths about the U.S. and slavery“. Yes, it’s exactly what you think it is, a revisionist ‘essay’ on slavery – and yes, it’s as bad as (if not worse than) you’d expect, considering the source. Apparently erstwhile movie critic and conservative pundit Michael Medved is living on some cozy, antebellum plantation far, far away from what the rest of us commonly refer to as ‘reality’.

Maha pointedly asks “What the hell was eating at Medved’s reptilian brain that inspired him to write this? Has criticism of American slavery been in the news lately?” Man, I gave up trying to understand Medved back when he was on Sneak Previews, railing against Hollywood’s secular humanist jihad against organized religion and good taste while poor Jeffrey Lyons struggled to keep a straight face (Medved on Pulp Fiction: “I hated it! I hated every frame of it! Well, I won’t say that I hated every frame of it. I mean, Bruce Willis and John Travolta have never been so mediocre, but I found it just rampagingly mediocre. But that’s enough about Pulp Fiction, let’s get to one of the films on my ten best list The Swan Princess. “)

Maybe CNN will give Medved a prime-time segment to defend his 6-point thesis (especially #3: THOUGH BRUTAL, SLAVERY WASN’T GENOCIDAL: LIVE SLAVES WERE VALUABLE BUT DEAD CAPTIVES BROUGHT NO PROFIT), much like they did back when he was offering notorious Hollywood anti-Semite alcoholic Mel Gibson some Judaic apologia.

Related: Ed Morrissey provides a sensibly conservative response to Medved’s sub-literate shit-stirring (as only a sensible conservative like Ed can):

In the end, it doesn’t matter whether we think that slavery was more brutal than it was, or whether it had some minutely positive affect on the arc of the lives of its descendants. Its long existence in the history of humanity should also count for little. After all, the entire American experiment exists as a means to keep a free citizenry from becoming the chattel of an aristocracy or monarchy and able to govern itself freely. At its heart, slavery denied every American ideal, and the Jim Crow regime that followed betrayed our political values. Those insults deserve no mitigation, only contempt and fierce condemnation.

Won’t bother linking to the reliably frothy Dan Riehl’s not-so-sensible response (“[g]et over it, already”), since, well, I refuse to give Dan Riehl a link – ever. Suffice to say, he’s clapping for Medved like a slack-jawed circus seal (arf arf). Incidentally, CNN also considers Riehl to be a mainstream representative of the Right.

“Liberal bias” my ass.

More from: Michael van der Galiën, Sadly, No!, Lean Left and Crooked Timber

Via Memeorandum.

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