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New (to me) opinion writer

Mom sent me an article by a gentleman named Shelby Steele today. It is really interesting.

White Guilt and the Western Past

There is something rather odd in the way America has come to fight its wars since World War II.

For one thing, it is now unimaginable that we would use anything approaching the full measure of our military power (the nuclear option aside) in the wars we fight. And this seems only reasonable given the relative weakness of our Third World enemies in Vietnam and in the Middle East. But the fact is that we lost in Vietnam, and today, despite our vast power, we are only slogging along–if admirably–in Iraq against a hit-and-run insurgency that cannot stop us even as we seem unable to stop it. Yet no one–including, very likely, the insurgents themselves–believes that America lacks the raw power to defeat this insurgency if it wants to. So clearly it is America that determines the scale of this war. It is America, in fact, that fights so as to make a little room for an insurgency.

Certainly since Vietnam, America has increasingly practiced a policy of minimalism and restraint in war. And now this unacknowledged policy, which always makes a space for the enemy, has us in another long and rather passionless war against a weak enemy.

Why this new minimalism in war?

It began, I believe, in a late-20th-century event that transformed the world more profoundly than the collapse of communism: the world-wide collapse of white supremacy as a source of moral authority, political legitimacy and even sovereignty.

It’s a fascinating article; give it a read.

Mr. Steele has written other intriguing pieces, including the following:

Selma to San Francisco? Same-sex marriage is not a civil rights issue.

The true problem with gay marriage is that it consigns gays to a life of mimicry and pathos. It shoehorns them into an institution that does not reflect the best possibilities of their own sexual orientation. Gay love is freed from the procreative burden. It has no natural function beyond adult fulfillment in love. If this is a disadvantage when children are desired, it is likely an advantage when they are not–which is more often the case. In any case, gays can never be more than pretenders to an institution so utterly grounded in procreation. And dressing gay marriage in a suit of civil rights only consigns gays to yet another kind of mimicry. Stigma, not segregation, is the problem gays face. But insisting on a civil rights framework only leads gays into protest. But will protest affect stigma? Is “gay lovers as niggers” convincing? Protest is trying to hit the baseball with the glove.

The problem with so much mimicry is that it keeps gays from evolving institutions and rituals that reflect the true nature of homosexuality. Assuming, as I do, that gays should have the option of civil unions that afford them the legal prerogatives of marriage, isn’t it more important after that to allow quiet self-acceptance to lead the way to authentic institutions?

Hillary’s Plantation

Precisely because Republicans cannot easily pander to black grievance, they have no need to value blacks only for their sense of grievance. Unlike Democrats, they can celebrate what is positive and constructive in minority life without losing power. The dilemma for Democrats, liberals and the civil rights establishment is that they become redundant and lose power the instant blacks move beyond grievance and begin to succeed by dint of their own hard work. So they persecute such blacks, attack their credibility as blacks, just as they pander to blacks who define their political relationship to America through grievance. Republicans are generally freer of the political bigotry by which the left either panders to or persecutes black Americans.

Witness

In the ’60s–the first instance of open mutual witness between blacks and whites in American history–a balance of power was struck between the races. The broad white acknowledgment of racism meant that whites would be responsible both for overcoming their racism and for ending black poverty because, after all, their racism had so obviously caused that poverty. For whites to suggest that blacks might be in some way responsible for their own poverty would be to relinquish this responsibility and, thus, to return to racism. So, from its start in the ’60s, this balance of power (offering redemption to whites and justice to blacks) involved a skewed distribution of responsibility: Whites, and not blacks, would be responsible for achieving racial equality in America, for overcoming the shames of both races–black inferiority and white racism. And the very idea of black responsibility would be stigmatized as racism in whites and Uncle Tomism in blacks.

[…]

Bill Cosby’s recent demand that poor blacks hold up “their end of the bargain” and do a better job of raising their children was explosive because it threatened this balance. Mr. Cosby not only implied that black responsibility was the great transforming power; he also implied that there was a limit to what white responsibility could do. He said, in effect, that white responsibility cannot overcome black inferiority. This is a truth so obvious as to be mundane. Yet whites won’t say it in the interest of their redemption and blacks won’t say it in the interest of historical justice. It is left to hurricanes to make such statements.

I think I may start reading this guy regularly.