Sayonara, Glenn Beck (Part Two)

I will think of a dozen utterances from the mike of Glenn Beck that really irritated me after I have posted these pieces; and, too, I will probably feel guilty about having given the man so little credit for his principled positions, such as his daring to resist the Trump Train on behalf of Ted Cruz. But the people you once thought trustworthy are the ones you least trust after a rupture, for the old habit of trust lurks a while and must be broken.

My point of no return arrived when Confederate monuments started being defaced. Beck has never so much put me in mind of the old saw, “With friends like you… who needs enemies?” We must keep those monuments, he argued, because they remind us of the Nazi stormtroopers in our own history—and Confederates, to Beck, were all hood-wearing, torch-waving KKK members. They allowed his uncle of some remove to starve in one of their concentration camps, so let no one suppose that he hates the South any less than the next man. (This might have been a great-great uncle, or more probably a great-great-great uncle: someone, in short, that even Beck’s grandfather likely wouldn’t remember had the man survived; and the cause behind the starvation, O Mighty Historian of the Fruited Plain, was that Union ships had blockaded all Southern ports and laid waste to the South’s most fertile farmland… yet the Beckster very nearly teared up when remembering hungry old, old uncle-to-the-third-power Chester or Phineas.)

I had noticed Beck’s tone to grow very short on earlier occasions when he would angrily chew some comment about viewers who write in to disparage Abraham Lincoln. Our Black Belt in American History wants nothing to do with the observation that Lincoln didn’t bother to emancipate slaves in Northern states where he might instantly have done so, or that Lincoln had printing presses destroyed and publishers imprisoned if his war effort were openly criticized, or that Lincoln had plans to pack the freedmen off to Panama lest they interbreed with American white folk. No counter-evidence, no reasoned and patient rebuttal: just a highly “pissed off” look (to use one of our luminary’s favorite descriptors) and a hasty transition to the next subject. Thank you for explaining your position, O Wise Mediator and Uniter of the Masses!

The “pissy” attitude was even more noticeable last week (my absolutely terminal moment of viewing) when Beck erupted in a by-the-way remark that became the shout, “Slavery was the cause of the Civil War [the italics a defiant nod at recalcitrant Tweeters and texters]—if you have any doubt, just read the Confederate Constitution!” Okay… so I read the Confederate Constitution. What leaps off the page is the authors’ effort to underscore at numerous points the states’ jurisdiction over matters not explicitly delegated to the central government. The emphasis—understandably—borders on fixation. As for slavery… the Confederate version of our founding document appears to eradicate instances in the original that were worded with sufficient vagueness to include indentured servants. The slaves referred to are definitely of the African variety. And… that’s about it. Did I miss something? Is this perhaps a bowdlerized version, Glenn, that Confederate apologists smuggled into the archive through the nefarious machinations of the KKK KGB?

In any case, the entire gesture in the direction of the Confederate Constitution is so patently irrelevant to the context in which Beck cites it that the maneuver suggests mental derangement. The farmboys who slipped on a gray uniform and grabbed a rifle neither read that document nor had any influence upon its drafting. The immense majority of them—over 95 percent—owned no slaves personally; and to defend the institution of slavery would, in their case, have been to extend the life of a system that deprived them of employment opportunities and created for them a gross disadvantage in the marketplace. Now, did their fighting on behalf of a Southern doctrine that included the preservation of slavery favor the institution’s survival? Obviously. That was the tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of young men lost arms, legs, eyesight, or life itself—good, long decades of life—to defend the principle of self-determination while it sat, contradictorily, on the rotten foundation of enforced servitude.

None of that even comes close to justifying the assertion that the war was fought on behalf of slavery, or that those who fought for the Southern side were proto-Nazis.

I don’t like Glenn Beck’s characterization of my ancestors. I’ve had to try to explain their position, as I heard it from my grandmother (and not from the ghost of Great-Great-Great Uncle Jebediah), throughout my adulthood to a society that increasingly considers my race, sex, and lineage sufficient reason to run me down on the streets. I have in fact been told in confidence on one occasion that I was eliminated from the applicants for a position because of my demographic profile. I’m not a laureated historian, or a multi-millionaire who has been able to buy up rare artifacts for “The Vault”; but I’ve read enough first-hand accounts of boys who wore the gray, like Tom Watkins’ Co. Aytch, that I know their motives from their own testimony. They were lauded as patriots as they went marching to what they presumed would be a month of hiking and camping… and then they were thrown into a fiery furnace—whipped, branded, or shot if they attempted to slip away after the year for which they had enlisted. And not a word about slaves ever appears in most of these testimonials, unless in a protest against the release from active duty of anyone who happened to own twenty or more slaves.

Yet beyond my extreme dislike of Beck’s riding roughshod over historical fact in order to indulge his ill-tempered impatience is a genuine astonishment at the ill temper. There appears to be something profoundly out of alignment in the psyche of Glenn Beck. His vitriolic hatred of certain groups that he has designated as free and clear of any restraint required by Christian scruples is a constant wonder to me. As if so much advertised and highly promoted reconciliation and sympathy had taxed his nature to the breaking point, he unleashes his rancor in specified “safe zones” the way he and his Blaze crew boast of burning hundreds of rounds on the target range. Apparently, if you invest something exceeding a critical mass of effort in publicly loving humanity far and wide, you have to compensate by keeping a bright red bull’s eye hidden away into which you can pump shotgun shells.

My ancestors are that bull’s eye for Glenn Beck. I wish him joy at his sniping. If I had a bronze of Stonewall Jackson, I’d send it to him for duty on an indoor, underground firing range. After all, I owe him something for years of occasionally informative programming.

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Thoughts on the Las Vegas Gundown

I had planned to post my second half of a Glenn Beck ideological autopsy today, but the occasion demands a change of plans. I don’t have much time to waste… so here goes.

Could the primed-and-scented boneheads of the broadcast media please stop referring to these incidents as tragedies? The word for which you grope, Talking Heads, is “atrocity”. A tragedy occurs when a basically good person is hoist on his own petard through some ill-advised act of excess. An atrocity occurs when some animal in a human hide savages his fellow beings like a tiger in a goat pen.

As I wrote eons ago after the 9/11 atrocity, these events are in part due to the high-tech lifestyle. Huge aircraft sometimes come down in the wrong way—with huge consequences. Speeding bullet-trains sometimes jump the track. If the electricity upon which we depend for food, water, transportation, communication, and even defense should suddenly cease to work (as after an electro-magnetic pulse), our society would number about one-tenth its present size within a year, and the survivors would be living in the Stone Age. The catastrophic “ignition events” to these nightmare scenarios could be either manmade, as by terrorist act, or they could occur naturally. We’re simply living at too fast a pace, and without seat-belts. As we climb higher and higher up the ladder, an innocent slip of the foot or a wicked push from a partner will send us plunging from heights that are ever more certain to prove fatal.

Staging an enormous gathering under a high-rise of any sort is a very bad idea. If the building itself doesn’t fall, then an inexpert psychopath could use its height to pump hundreds of lethal shells down upon the massed crowd. High-velocity bullets that enter the body from above and travel downward are likely to rip apart many more arteries than shots that enter laterally; and in a panicking horde, a severed artery is guaranteed to mean that you bleed out before help arrives. The location of the Country-Western concert, though a local tradition, had become a very bad idea.

Now, this atrocity is scarcely twenty-four hours old, and what I’m about to write is almost pure speculation at the moment… but the specific circumstances surrounding this shooter remind me very much of James Hodgkinson’s profile—you know: the psycho who gunned down Steve Scalise during a softball practice. Both men were white males of middle to late-middle age who were furious at the election of Donald Trump. Both had money to spend and time to kill. Neither was particularly proficient with or enamored of firearms, but both apparently fantasized about the utility of deadly weapons for cleaning society of its inhibitive “scum”. Their outlook on life—and here I’m speculating on the merest of hunches, but I smell the old rat—was jaundiced by a meaninglessness reinforced by atheism, a nexus of shallow personal relationships, and a growing sense of embittered victimhood. Children of my generation, they had been told since their youth that progress was real, would come at an accelerated pace, and would satisfy all their selfish wants. Now they were seeing only stall and delay—all because of right-wing “fascism”.

Hayley Geftman-Gold, described as “a VP and senior counsel in strategic transactions” for CBS, was fired yesterday for tweeting taunts at the shooting’s victims because they were Country-Western fans, and… well, we know that most of those voted for Trump. The side that loves to fling “hater” across the aisle and insists that all of us fascist bourgeois nullities need to be disarmed manifests—if you haven’t noticed—a very real affinity for murderous hatred and for gunning people down. Those Ché tee-shirts they so affect are no accident: they think the Orkin approach to political opposition is entirely acceptable, and even commendable.

Could it be that this is why we’re seeing so many more indiscriminate gundowns of innocent people assembling for innocent fun—is the ideology that finds no innocence in Middle America not the real percussion cap in the atrocity?

 

Sayonara, Glenn Beck (Part One)

A few people are just plain wicked. Even fewer are genuine saints. The rest of us live in the vast middle space. It’s not permitted to such a one as I to judge the spiritual worth of other human beings, nor is it what I intend to play at in these paragraphs. But there comes a time when you have to make adjustments in the people whose essential skills you trust to make fair, stable, wide-angled estimates of worldly affairs. Glenn Beck is no longer on my list of such people.

I’ve tuned into Beck off and on for years. I liked many of his guests. Where else do you get to hear commentators as keen as Michelle Malkin and Ben Shapiro, or men as honest as Louie Gohmert and Burgess Owens? Yet I vividly recall being shaken by the treatment Debra Medina received on Beck’s radio show when she was challenging Rick Perry for governor of Texas. The year escapes me—perhaps 2008; but the interview ended when either Beck or his point man, Pat Gray, blindsided Medina with a question about one of her staffers being a “truther”. Like Medina, I had never heard a definition of this ragged, patched-up word. Struggling after clarity as her final seconds ticked away, Debra offered an entirely reasonable generalization to the effect that everything our government does at any level should be subject to public scrutiny. Her line of communication once severed, Beck and Co. went on the attack. They immediately began an indignant, derisive, and contemptuous assault upon all such people as dare to believe that George Bush and Dick Cheney would have planned the slaughter of 3,000 Americans on 9/11. Medina was now one of these… and her candidacy tanked irretrievably.

Personally, I have no doubt that we haven’t been told the full truth about the collapse of the World Trade Towers (and particularly about the accordion-plunge of the squat WTT 7). That doesn’t amount to my accusing the Bush Administration of mass murder—a supposition grotesque to the point of clinical paranoia. It means I want the full truth. Why do people like Debra Medina and me deserve to be designated “truthers” the way a playground bully might designate a child with asthma a “gasper”? Especially when Beck devotes so much of his airtime to ferreting out forgotten or suppressed historical details and constructs his professional persona so meticulously around honoring neglected artifacts, dancing around the new girl with his buddies at recess and chanting “truther” doesn’t suit the dignity of the desired image.

The “dignity deficit” has been a recurrent problem with me. Talk-show hosts, to be sure, enjoy a license to engage in buffoonery… but not so much a host who lays special claim to being a devout Christian and the one reliable adult in the room. Inappropriate are the endless permutations of the word “butt”, the eighth-grade flights of sarcasm, and the occasional too-intimate details of the host’s personal life. Even the musical overture (lately discarded) to the televised version of Beck’s show on The Blaze morphed from a tasteful collage of real-life sequences to a very odd comic strip featuring heads of major historical figures yapping out the lyrics like PAC Man eating up dots. Was the subliminal message here that Beck considers himself history’s puppeteer, able to pair any two politicians (and there were some bizarre pairings) and make them mouth his little ditty of togetherness?

Ah, yes… the “togetherness” thing. Beck the Preacher will alternately grow choked up in his appeals for unity and resonant in a prophetic lather as he scolds, “Wake up, America!” For a week or two, he wants to greet illegally entering children with teddy bears and soccer balls along our border; then it’s back to warning gullible stiffs like me that the economy can’t make it to Christmas. (I’m grateful for the warning, and I believe the economy may very well “accordion” like the Trade Towers: but you can’t stay on high alert for a decade running.) If we are at rest, we should snap to attention: if we have our finger on the trigger, we should chill out. We are to stop fighting with each other over such meaningless trivia as the propriety of the gay lifestyle and rising for the Anthem at NFL games… but those of us who feel uncomfortable with the ostentation of public prayer must nonetheless sit through the itemization of the host’s prayer life and even through a benediction concluding his nightly newsroom discussion-group. I pray, too—in my closet, as Jesus recommends. Perhaps these televised prayers, with Beck himself the hub around which the wheel spins, are supposed to make us bond… and since such unifying endeavors require a stage and an audience, the Good Shepherd can’t afford to be bashful.

Does Glenn, in his defense (if this could be a mitigation rather than an exacerbation), honestly believe himself to be a prophet touched by the One True God? His audio and video archives brim with oft-retrieved pronouncements he has made about the new millennium. Ever quick to remind the world that his prediction of a caliphate-seeking uprising in the Middle East was scoffed at by mainstream news media, he seems convinced that nobody else anywhere was sounding the alarm. At the same time, a convenient amnesia appears to settle over such forecasts as the one about Putin’s imminent takeover of Poland (imminent in… 2014). Personally, I have never sought—in Beck or anyone else—a prophet or a speaker-in-tongues: I seek someone who will tell the whole truth about events in the news (you know… a “truther”!) and perhaps provide some mature moral context to frightening trends. In this latter regard, where is the prophet, I wonder, when Beck marvels over the nanobot-ridden “transhuman” extolled by his friend Ray Kurzweil, then anguishes out loud over possible unfortunate consequences of the new robot-man? My own inner Jeremiah is lapping Beck’s every day on this track!

It’s almost as though that which we traditionalists have identified as clearly right or wrong needs to be reconsidered, in Beck’s eyes, as dividing the nation—and that which most of us would as soon allow to lapse into the background scenery needs to be center-staged. Why does a man who insists on praying over a panel discussing the day’s news express little interest in defending traditional marriage? Why were the details of Barack Obama’s thoroughly misty past not worth exploring, yet the world must stand up and take notice that a twenty-year-old line from the mouth or the pen of Newt Gingrich proves him to be a General Franco in waiting?

At these moments, Beck reminds me of the eponymous character in Gide’s Immoraliste (and our lion of historical research, I’ve no doubt, would mock me mercilessly for citing a Frenchman). Surrounded by wealthy, stuffy landowners who see poaching as a threat to the survival of civilization, the new arrival in their aristocratic midst blunders upon some malefactors one night and… and discovers that skulking around with them is one of life’s great pleasures. Glenn Beck seems to like to slip over to the other side just when you think he’s holding down your flank; and before you know it, he’s giving you a sermon on the evils of choosing sides. Tricky, that.

Is a Five-Year-Old’s Tantrum Protected by Free Speech?

I’m getting a little tired of hearing about free speech this week from people who can barely talk. If a pre-schooler crawls up to the American flag and wipes his nose on it, you sit him down in time-out. If an adult does it, you call him a champion of free speech.

Glenn Beck seems to think that reverence for a flag is akin to goose-stepping nationalism—a position not devoid of merit, but very odd in a man who also styles Confederate secession a pure and simple act of treason. (The fine art of “becking” could be a subject for another day: you achieve it by savaging convictions or figures associated with your ideology yet unattractive to you for purely personal reasons, thereby showing your broad-mindedness to the far political polarity.) I’m not going to say that athletes who take a knee as the flag is raised are vile traitors. After all, I myself have refused to mouth the Pledge of Allegiance ever since I discovered that defrocked Baptist minister and rabid socialist Francis Bellamy composed it in 1892 to program school children into believing that individual states had no rights. Yet I still stand for the Pledge. I do so because I realize that others around me don’t know what I know, and that their act is thus intended to show devotion to constitutional government rather than rejection of self-determination. In the same way, I would be appropriately quiet if a group of Jews or Muslims among whom I might find myself were to engage in a quick prayer that made little sense to me. It’s a question of manners. Why go out of your way to make others feel awkward?

Exhibitionists do precisely this: it is their definitive characteristic. They don’t care if you notice them with admiration or contempt, as long as you notice them. They need to occupy center-stage.

And here’s why I cannot accept “knee-taking” as anything more than the attention-grabbing gesture of an obnoxious brat. Expressions without any verbalization—without actual speech or even the few words of a placard or bumper-sticker—rely heavily upon context to be interpreted. I might wish to fly the Confederate battle flag in my front yard to advertise my support of the Tenth Amendment… but, no, that would be a terrible idea, because so many KKK types have decided to commandeer the flag as a condensed advertisement of their claim to be superior humans by virtue of their DNA. Did you know that the word “swastika” is used in Sanskrit Vedic texts to convey a certain meditative posture? Yet neither you nor I would hoist a swastika to ask the household not to disturb us during our meditation time.

The American flag, at this point in our history, represents to the vast majority of us the idea that we remain united in our support of certain humane values, whatever our specific differences. In this context, refusing to rise for the anthem, turning one’s back on a flag-raising, fixing one’s hat firmly aloft while stuffing one’s hands in one’s pockets, and other such displays would be interpreted by 99.9 percent of the native adult population as overt contempt for those core values. The contemptuous should not be stoned or driven from the crowd. (One of our core values is that no one may be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.) Their message, though, is clear: they’re giving the bird to the notion of a transcending endorsement of principle, declaring instead that some specific circumstance or other has exploded the principle’s credibility. They’re “saying” as much in semaphore, though they may say something else in speech or print after the fact. I can’t torch an emblem in public and then claim later that I wanted to show my warmth of feeling for what the emblem represents. Nobody would interpret my behavior that way, and I would be a) insane if I truly expected otherwise, or b) a slippery hypocrite if I argued otherwise.

Childish brats, I suppose, don’t fully qualify either for insanity or hypocrisy. And since five-year-olds can’t write, you can hardly expect them to pen an op-ed; or since their vocabulary consists of about five hundred words, you can hardly expect them to go public about legal or social dysfunction and enunciate a plan to address it. Even so, a child who was truly upset about an environmental condition would throw a fit intended to highlight the condition rather than himself. He wouldn’t wait for a very public, very solemn moment and then roll on the ground screaming.

What we have here is a crisis of boys raised without fathers. They passed their juvenile years acting out so that some adult might notice them and impose limits upon their lives… which never happened. Now, apparently, they’re going to spend the next two decades of their biological manhood playing the same game.

 

The Toxicity of Linear Time

A subject that has increasingly preoccupied me in recent years is time. This isn’t just because I’m getting older; or, rather, my aging probably is a major factor–but only because I begin to understand more of what’s happening around me, not because my own hour-glass is running short of sand.

I perceive, for instance, that people become less concerned about their moral duty as they become more convinced in the relentless linearity of time. Today is soon yesterday. You’re not the same person now as you were ten years ago (as cliché thinking would have it), and ten years from now you’ll be yet another being. Promises therefore fall by the wayside quite naturally–for how can a butterfly be held responsible for the commitments of a caterpillar? And you are supposed to grow wings, aren’t you? Isn’t that a good thing–to change and grow, to “evolve” in your thinking? You’re caught in a circle if you’re not moving in a line; but as long as you keep moving forward, there’s a chance that you’re also moving upward…

And so on, and so on. I’ve come to find these truisms very tiring. They’re excuses for so much duplicity, cowardice, and slovenly thinking that I’m near to declaring them void of any truth at all. That wouldn’t be fair, of course; but the “morally evolved” person, even when he sees that his perspective of yesterday was short-sighted, continues to stand by promises made yesterday upon which others depend–or else he accepts the penalty for not doing so without complaint. How many people of that sort do you see around you right now?

The linear/progressive view of time, by the way, hasn’t always been around. In fact, it’s a very recent arrival, characterizing none of human pre-history and perhaps one tenth of our recorded history. A far more natural perspective (to judge from its statistical dominance) has been that of conforming oneself to the values and examples of one’s ancestors. An ethos collects from the practices of several centuries; it has been refined by the process of trial and error and has withstood the “test of time”. Why should we assume that we can break with precedent and suffer no consequences? On the contrary, only a fool ignores the directions of those who have preceded him down the road of life.

For much of the Christian era, we of the West have adopted a fusion of the two views. We were no longer looking back over our collective shoulder at the Heroic Age, but forward, rather, to the end of earthly time and the fulfillment of our identity in a loving, purposeful god. We struggled to put the Old Man behind us and live in the New Man; yet that New Man was ascending to complete a circle whose first movements were embedded in our basic nature, not “boldly going where no man has gone before” in an indefinitely extending exploration of the physical universe.

Science has thrust us upon this Star Trek trajectory wherein change may either have little sense or may, indeed, end in disaster, since it is no longer magnetized to a transcending, metaphysical objective. We morph into multi-sexual beings who no longer reproduce: that’s “progress”. We fuse with robots to reduce our susceptibility to disease and prolong our material presence: that, too, is “progress”. We introduce our hybrid selves into solar systems far from our own but not endowed with any property that will prove more salutary to the soul than was Planet Earth; and that will be styled progress, as well… but I wonder if it might not be eternal Hell by any other name?

Linear time can become a toxic drug. We would do well not to pay too little attention to ourselves today as we await the new-and-improved beings we imagine ourselves becoming tomorrow.

The Most Frightening ET Could Be the One You Voted For

It has been almost exactly three years since former Lockheed engineer Boyd Bushman delivered a now-famous (or infamous) deathbed confession on video, the gist of which was that he had many times been funneled alien technology from Area 51. Bushman’s tour de force included photos of little gray men like the one above, as well as accounts of his telepathic conversations with the strange guests of Motel 51. De mortuis, nihil nisi bonum est dicendum, and all that… but Internet commentary that reverse-engineers the Bushman Bombshell into the ultimate prank is easy to come by. My own greatest problem with the “confession” is that, as I have long maintained, extraterrestrial visitors would almost certainly have to be robots or bio-robotic hybrids. Even if an alien race discovered a quick way to reach us through (say) a wormhole, infections, depression, quarrels, consumption of food and water, sleep, and a host of other problems would confront any carbon-based life-form.

So in the Bushman case, we have the long-sought smoking gun of ET visitation… or else we have a dying old man’s last bid to shaft his employers or just enjoy a good laugh. Possibly, too, we have a pack of clever lies that was meant to be exposed as such, and thereby to discredit the entire conspiracy industry surrounding ET activity. In that case, Bushman might be the ultimate company man who served his masters faithfully even unto his final breaths. The Soviets were well known for grinding out disinformation of this variety. You make it eminently credible, secreting a couple of ruinous inanities in layers of splendid intel; then when the whole package explodes, the one-time believers are caught up in such a disillusioned letdown that they want to hear nothing whatever related to the subject for the rest of their lives.

There remain enough plausible accounts of UFO’s, however (such as the Phoenix Lights incident, witnessed by hundreds and recorded by dozens), that no thoughtful person dare rest satisfied with a “business as usual” conclusion. Something is being hidden from us. Quite possibly, an immense amount of Space Age gadgetry—a new universe of technological options completely fantastical in the eyes of currently taught and published physics—hums away a mile underground or in hangars around the desert Southwest. Here is what bothers me and has always bothered me about the situation: our “dark government”. How many unelected covert operatives funded with cataracts of off-budget wealth are planning the future… and whose future is it? Are we to believe that it’s ours, when Kim Jong Un is allowed to toy with nuclear weapons though a zippy little Frisbee might annihilate him and his staff with a laser beam? Are these ultra-high-tech gurus also responsible for running up our national debt to unsustainable and suicidal levels? Are they the same geniuses who have left our power grid unprotected while Russia and China secured theirs? Is part of their plan for future prosperity to overrun our society with immigrants who reject its language and customs and want only to bleed its social welfare programs dry?

Perhaps the real question, then, is this: what’s the relationship between the Washington ruling elite and the “black ops” white coats? How many senators know what’s going on in the bunkers? Two? Five? Forty-five? Eighty-five? Are they destroying the nation because they’re pompous idiots who can think no further than the next election… or are they destroying the nation because they plan to be in those bunkers as all the architraves come crashing down, drinking champagne until it’s safe to re-emerge à la Dr. Strangelove?

We don’t need to be asking what visitors from another planet intend to do with, for, or to us; we need to be asking just how much covert knowledge is in the possession of the oligarchy that arranges our lives—and exactly what purpose is being served by that knowledge.

True Slaves Are Self-Made

This past week, I happened to hear a bit of discussion on Michael Savage’s radio show that pertained to nineteenth-century painter Giulio Rosati’s work. The specific subject was a series of paintings sharing the title, “Choosing the Favorite”. Each work graphically portrays a white European slave girl being made to stand stark naked before some sheikh or caïd who is eyeing her critically to decide if she’s worth the oily dealer’s asking price. Savage remarked that the painting (and he spoke as if there were only one) induced him to look more deeply into Arab enslavement of European coastal populations depredated by piratical raids. An entire Irish village was once emptied of its inhabitants when these corsairs swooped in unexpectedly. The total number of white Europeans thus lost to the Arab slave trade–the men to find an early death toiling in galleys, the women and children to satisfy the voracious sexual appetite of wealthy grandees–exceeded one million from the early Renaissance to the first years of the nineteenth century. Jefferson’s war on the so-called Barbary Pirates finally ended these atrocities.

Surprisingly (to me), Savage professed ignorance of most of these historical facts. He is far from alone, apparently. Indeed, the prevailing opinion of the slave trade among contemporary Americans seems to be that white Southerners raided deep into Africa and bundled their captives off to plantations in the Carolinas and Mississippi. In fact, virtually all of the mercantile sea traffic that reached the South hailed from home ports far to the north or across the Atlantic; and as for the actual slave raids, these were conducted by Arab traders and their minions on the African mainland. That is to say, at the heart of some of the filthiest chapters of human history from the end of the Middle Ages to the beginning of the twentieth century stood imperious lechers like the sheikhs represented by Rosati: the sort of people whom Western civilization is now forbidden to revile and is, indeed, often to praise as superior figures unsoiled by our Western values.

In the canvas that I have reproduced above, especially, the sheikh looks down his nose at the shivering girl as if a maitre d’ were begging him to taste of a dish whose smell was a bit suspect. This is our beacon of true civilization!

I’m very much in step with Savage, as far as feeling indignant that Islam would so long tolerate such depravity; and I’m further indignant that the slave trade’s roots would be so neatly extracted from our history books. I’ll always remember my pity and disgust when, as a young man, I learned that Cassius Clay had transformed himself into Mohammed Ali in protest against the European Christian tradition responsible for enslaving his ancestors. Clay seemed a pretty cool guy: a lot of us were drawn to him. But come on, man! If you want to register outrage about the imposition of slavery upon your forefathers, why would you embrace Islam? Don’t you know that it was Christianity which eventually abolished slavery throughout the Western hemisphere? Didn’t you know that, in the days of our youth, slavery was ongoing in places like Ethiopia?

Now I find, having probed about the Internet in search of Rosati’s paintings, that certain people consider it “white supremicist” even to acknowledge the history of European enslavement by the Barbary Pirates. The reasoning seems to be that no slavery was anywhere near as prolific and brutal as the Southern enslavement of Africans, and that to remark the existence of any other slavery at any other time or place is thus a deliberate bid to understate the crime committed by Americans in the early nineteenth century.

I irresistibly remember a passage in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Citadelle when I read such folderol. The work’s fictitious speaker (a noble caïd, actually) is commenting upon a group of beggars as they compete to see who can get his open sores and tumors to run with the foulest puss and draw the most attention from prospective almsgivers. (Saint-Ex knew a thing or two about African slavery: he once bought a slave’s freedom from his Arab masters and flew him north to an area of temporary safety.)

Is this really where we’ve come? I haven’t yet noticed any veterans with artificial limbs commanding, “Open that door for me! Get out of that chair and let me sit! And buy me some food, while you’re at it! Can’t you see I have an artificial leg?” What man possessed of a single ounce of pride could imagine saying such things? Where, then, is the manly pride of those eternally reciting their eternal grievances?