The Weaponizing of Hurt Feelings (Part Two)

I have entitled these two pieces “the weaponizing of hurt feelings” because the aggrieved “snowflake” turns out also to serve on a kind of SWAT team.  Once you’re accused of being insensitive to race or gender or an alien culture, you have no defense, no recourse, and no opportunity even to present your side of the issue.  You are instantly guilty as charged.  (Sexual harassment law is indeed written in these terms.) The mere perception by one of the “offended” class—a person of color, a woman or gay or transgender, a Latino, a Muslim, an atheist—that you may not be one hundred percent “down for the struggle” suffices to convict you of major thought crimes.  Now you can only go belly-up and present your throat to the predator’s teeth.  Perhaps your life will be spared after your body is mildly savaged… but the terms of such clemency require that you remain forever more in a default position of worthless, despicable offender caught red-handed and shame-faced.

That the female enjoys particularly ready access to these weapons is obvious to anyone who has recently picked through the mine fields of Academe—but detonations may be heard far beyond the hallowed halls of ivy.  The #MeToo movement has already terminated many a career.  Most of the condemned deserved the firing squad, from what I can tell; yet the method of trial and execution remains disturbing to me.  The candidacy of Herman Cain was picked off a few years ago by dubious accusations that were never verified—and the Anita Hill attack on Clarence Thomas was a kind of sniping-school rehearsal for the ambush several decades earlier.

These cases were especially interesting because the sex of the accusers appeared to trump the race of the accused.  As much rhetorical ammunition as the Left has expended in arguing that we gun-and-Bible clingers continue to practice our old-time racist ways unrepentant, it is yet more invested in the notion that women are constantly abused and enslaved.  Judge Thomas was charged with having stacks of Playboy Magazine awkwardly displayed in his apartment, and Cain with having suggestively offered a job-applicant a ride to her hotel: such “horrors” (if they ever really happened) were supposed to concern us more than a black couple’s not being able to secure a home loan.

So who am I to undervalue the magnitude of such atrocities? The male has no right whatever to rate the trauma created by offensive incidents; their victims may be veritable Auschwitz survivors in their own minds, for all he knows.  Assume the supine posture, present your jugular, and shut the **** up.

If this isn’t the equivalent of being visited by the thug-enforcers of a “protection” racket in a Thirties ghetto and having your storefront rearranged, then I’m at a loss for a better parallel. Those men whose reputations and careers lie in ruins beneath the #MeToo movement’s juggernaut would probably have preferred to get off with a broken arm or a few shattered ribs. And while I do not condone their behavior—while I of all men, who lived my youth holding doors open, surrendering chairs in crowded rooms, and declining offers of one-night stands, have earned a title to deplore and condemn male coarseness—I also smell the rat of self-serving manipulation in certain cases. Women who don’t want their fanny pawed shouldn’t wear tight-fitting dresses into crowded ballrooms full of egomaniacs. Women who don’t want eyes leering at their breasts shouldn’t sport low cleavages where alcohol is liberally flowing. Women who don’t want to be chased around the furniture shouldn’t retreat with the producer to his bachelor penthouse. To call forth a man’s baser impulses and then sue him for a quarter of his net worth because he failed to resist… is that so very unlike snapping a photo of some politician in a compromising position with a “plant” and then blackmailing him for a crucial vote? Do you see how these indignant protests can uncomfortably approximate the tactics of the Mob?

If today’s woman is indeed so readily offended, maybe she should make the burqa part of her wardrobe. As a matter of fact, while pondering these issues, I have begun to discern a prickly similarity between the passive aggression of the “hurt feelings bomb” smuggled into our classrooms and boardrooms and the suicide bomber of radical Islam. How else to explain the seemingly nonsensical solidarity that leftwing causes like avant-garde feminism manifest for proponents of Sharia law… how else, but by recognizing the ambition of both to blow up stable, rational social structures?

For there is much passive aggression in most terrorist acts, too: this is another paradox that has nagged at me for years. I could almost agree with the smattering of ill-advised Democrats who professed admiration for the “courage” of the 9/11 murderers: they did, after all, kill themselves as well as thousands of innocents. Yet suicide isn’t so very gutsy, especially when you force others through the exit along with you. I myself knew plenty of alienation as an adolescent. My school days were a daily hell—and, in what would activate a flashing red alarm today, my budding masculinity sought a significant refuge in black-powder revolvers. I learned not only to become a fairly good shot, but also to melt lead and mold Minié balls. Never for the fraction of an instant, however, did I so much as idly fantasize about turning a muzzle on the rudest of my classmates. To my mind, such an act would have justified their contempt for me. I would have demonstrated that I was truly the lowest of the low: a spineless, murderous coward. If I entertained any silly adolescent fantasy at all, it was that I would step up and save the lives of those who would happily have watched me drop dead, they cringing and sniveling and I advancing to meet the threat head-on.

So how could these young men of our new century who crave a manly exit have hit upon such a vile means of defying the world and commemorating their misunderstood lives? How can suicide bombers be such loathsome, wimpy back-shooters—and how can the mass-murderers of Columbine and the authors of all subsequent campus atrocities, slaughtering helpless targets with the ease of snuffing out fish in a barrel, have supposed that they were leaving behind a manly mark? Are these not “feminized boys” seeking vainly a brief and final passage to manhood? With their irremediably hurt feelings and their one-way vengeance upon offenders without any defense, they seem to me a very odd and late development in our global epidemic of moral chaos. These boys aren’t acting at all like men. Why don’t they understand that?

Why don’t young women understand that it’s not sensitive to be over-sensitive—that obsession with one’s own feelings, almost to the exclusion of allowing anyone else to feel, is the very opposite of sensitivity and, indeed, the emulation of uncivilized masculinity?

Is the objective of the progressive female to transform herself into the worst kind of male? Is the destiny of progressivism’s haphazardly produced males to imbibe the most untutored qualities of a primitive femininity?

And as for suicide, as I wander back to that worst single hour I ever passed in a classroom… is it not significant that the very word is now the subject of a taboo, and that to scorn suicide as cowardly is no less forbidden and anathematic than denouncing abortion as human sacrifice?

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The Weaponizing of Hurt Feelings (Part One)

It’s no longer at all original to comment upon the “snowflakes” among us: terminally spoiled late adolescents symptomatic of our lobotomized college community with their demands for safe spaces, comfort animals, and freedom from threatening speech.  I have chronicled more times than a faithful reader would care to recall my personal run-in with these anemic ghosts of intellectual limbo.  My casual use of the word “suicide” compromised an advanced class in English grammar for the rest of the semester, and in some ways the cloud never cleared between me and the “affected” students.  Naturally, I understand that there are many more severe cases cropping up everywhere.  A petition is circulating around the University of Toronto to dismiss Jordan Peterson from his position, not because of what he has said, but because of what he refuses to say: the nonsensical, idly concocted pronoun “ze”.

So there are certain things we must not say lest they have distressing connotations for someone somewhere; and then there are certain things we must say, because not to say them is to imply a disapproval that makes certain people “feel hurt”.  If I’m teaching a Latin class and a need for the word “black” arises, I had better opt for the poetic ater instead of the commonplace niger—or else I risk ending my career (which, mercifully, has now in fact ended).

Say that the Green Movement should decide that everyone must wear a green streak down his/her/zits left sleeve to show “solidarity with the planet” (whatever the hell that would mean—these phrases never mean anything coherent); then I must produce a green streak on the proper sleeve.  If I wear none, then I want to see us all poisoned.  If I streak my right sleeve, then I’m mocking the movement and giving the bird to the endangered Horned Owl.  If I’m a woman in a sleeveless dress (or a man who feels like wearing such a dress that day), then I’d better reconsider… or, at the very least, paint a green streak down my bare epidermis.

Not to salute at the moment scripted for the masses to salute is fatal.  Not to give the right salute is fatal.  To salute close-mouthed, without voicing the party’s condensed two-syllable slogan, is fatal (for cameras are rolling somewhere, and you will be detected).  To move one’s mouth for the cameras without actually saying anything might prove fatal (for party loyalists on either side of one might quickly become a lynch mob of righteous zealotry).

This is our brave new world.  Notice how I have already veered from the passive to the aggressive. The wilting cringe that follows when Cisalpine Gaul reminds young Chelsea over there of “kiss”, which reminds her of a bad date, which reminds her of how cruel the male sex is… the neurotic wave-effect of such occasions, I say, has now become a phalanx of clenched fists demanding the ban of the word “he” from campus.  Our fading flower, in other words, has mutated into a prickly cactus—and even into one of those tropical fly-catching plants that snaps up whatever haplessly buzzes in its vicinity.

I’m sure that this insight, too, isn’t terribly original… but it hadn’t really occurred to me until this past week, or at least had only been fuming in the beaker without crystallizing.  Psychologically, you see, it has really thrown me back on my heels.  I’ve known plenty of spoiled-brat kids who can’t face up to worldly realities—but I would never have fused their profile with that of the foul-mouthed, brick-throwing “revolutionary”.  A feminist might say that I have been held captive by my prejudices, and she/he/ze might be right.  I conceive of the wilting flower as overwhelmingly female and the fecal-friendly Yahoo as overwhelmingly male.  My recent experiences of being called an “idiot” by people I don’t know on Twitter seem to bear this out.  Male Twitterbirds like to shower those beneath their tree with deposits of “idiot”, “stupid”, and “stupid idiot” before passing on to words that I can’t reproduce here.  The female of the species seems much more likely to accuse one of enslaving or slaughtering millions with one’s views, like the aiai oimai wailing chorus of a Euripidean tragedy.

Yet having said this, I also sense a change.  Let us stay with Twitter for a moment.  Dana Loesch, who has put herself squarely in the crosshairs of the leftwing intimidation machine by defending the Second Amendment, receives almost daily threats upon herself and her family… but largely of the veiled variety, when they come from ostensible males.  Her children will be forever reviled and ostracized, she is told—or else her opponent in this “community forum” expresses the pious hope that her kids will be attending the next school to be shot up.  As I say, these passive threats come from what biology would be forced to call the male of the species.  To the female fall the pleasures of showering Dana with the linguistic spittle of a drunken sailor.  “Comedians” like Samantha Bee and Michelle Wolf (I couldn’t pick either of them from a line-up, but their voices appear to resonate for some reason) unleash comments—usually about other women—that blend sexual obscenity with coprology and fifth-grade narrative talent.  A really badly reared and socially stunted adolescent boy is the typical author of such utterances, in my experience… but now they flow from publicly celebrated female figures, and other females in the chatter-class cheer them on.

Has the morbidly vulnerable sensitive plant, then, interbred with the hell-raising sociopath because we have inverted gender roles—not erased them, but inverted them?  The more I think about this formula, the more justified it appears to me: not because I understand it at this point, but because it describes what I see.  The flurry of female ruffled feathers in my grammar class didn’t project any inclination to tears or deep, silent pouts.  These were killer-sparrows from an Alfred Hitchcock nightmare.  A rational explanation on my part wasn’t enough.  An abject apology (which I didn’t offer—not for a remark no more hurtful than, “You could have knocked me dead”) wouldn’t have been enough.  Upon reflection, I think the terms of the truce would have run something like this: “You agree hereafter that you are a person of diminished sensibilities who will continue to utter offensive remarks despite yourself, and who will therefore stand in constant need of our sufferance.  We agree, for our part, to tolerate you only to the extent that you admit to the moral inferiority inherent in your nature.”

Or, to put it a little more succinctly, “Shut up!  No, don’t open your mouth to explain.  Are you trying to speak?  What did I just tell you?  Shut up!  SHUT THE **** UP!”

This is how educated young women, increasingly, are “interacting” with their adversaries in public.  It’s been going on a while.  I’m only now, I confess, reading the copy of Professing Feminism that Daphne Patai sent me about twenty years ago… and the book is full of such incidents in Women’s Studies programs of the late Eighties and early Nineties.  Perhaps my comfortable exile in the backwaters of academe insulated me at that time.  Now the piranhas have swum upstream and populated every puddle.

Meanwhile, “men” are copying the feminine style of grievance and victimhood ever more often.  Even school shooters are turning out to claim intolerable bullying as a motivation.  The Mahdi of the anti-gun holy war is David Hogg, holding his slender feminine fist aloft and leading curious chants about defenselessness.  “Protect us!  We cannot protect ourselves, and we shouldn’t have to!  We won’t endure this vulnerability any longer!  We’ve had enough!  Put down all your guns and make us feel safe… or we’ll write down your name and make your life hell on earth!”

And thereafter follows an online shaming and slandering campaign that would lead a less stalwart, more adolescent character than Dana Loesch to… commit suicide.

In the not-too-distant future, will there be a David Hogg shooting the stuffing out of an NRA convention?  Hasn’t that already happened—didn’t something in the genre occur in Las Vegas?  We know that Stephen Paddock was a leftwing-fringe type who thought that Country Music and NASCAR fans needed to die in large numbers.  How different is this from the Hogg message?

So the offended people are now out for blood… and the blood-soaked mass-murderers are now victims of hurt feelings.  I’m not at all sure what’s going on here—but I’m certain that it’s insane, and I’m convinced that it is a manifestation of genuine evil.  I’ll try to parse it a little better next time.  For now, I can do no better than extend Jordan Peterson’s observation.  Forcing me to say or write certain words and never say or write certain others is an implicit species of violence, and not a normal expression of wounded sensibility.  Choosing words carefully is what you do in a civil society; demanding that others banish Word X from their thoughts because it clashes with your subjective vision of harmony is maniacal despotism.

(Since I will be preoccupied with the chore of moving from one state to another throughout this coming week, I’ll post Part Two tomorrow and then go silent for a while.)

“It’s My Body!”… Then Why Can’t You Control It?

What’s that whining Fifties jukebox favorite that goes, “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to”?  That one invariably springs to mind when I hear the tired refrain, “It’s my body, and I’ll do with it what I want to.”  Many mutations of this peevish, childish taunt were run up the masthead during Ireland’s repeal of her Eighth Amendment last month—a plebiscite which effectively legalized abortion under most conditions.  Yet how true is that claim about one’s body, and in what sense might it ever be true?

You cannot legally amputate a limb just because you take a disliking to it in most civilized nations.  This dark urge is rightly considered to characterize a mental disorder, and those who suffer from it are viewed as incompetent to make such decisions.  So… no, in that case you cannot do whatever you wish with your body.

The counter-argument might be made that the fetus is an invading, parasitic life form, so that the “amputation” analogy is inaccurate.  The modicum of truth in this protest, however, seems to me to undermine the broader claim irreparably.  Because the fetus is indeed another life and not just one of your appendages, you no longer have any right whatsoever to terminate its existence.

But (says the whining party-girl) you ignored the “invading” part, the “parasite” part!  I don’t want this parasite growing in me!  This is an entirely different line of argument that has completely abandoned the “it’s my body” umbrella.  Assessing its validity would require a close review of just what’s meant by invasion and parasitism.  A three-year-old child might well be deemed a parasite: we would certainly be contemplating a life form that cannot survive on its own.  Would the parent, then, be morally justified in murdering the child on the ground that the toddler had become an insufferable parasite?

But to return to the “it’s my body” contention… how does the “yourness” of this body reconcile with its having been successfully invaded by a parasite against your will?  You submitted your body to a course of behavior which rendered the parasite’s implantation highly probable.  Unless you are an utter idiot incapable of guiding her own Sharpie along her own demo-placard, you must know that pregnancy is a possible-to-likely consequence of sexual activity.  You made the choice to engage in that activity through your body.  If you own a car and you race it along a muddy, stony course for thrills, then your insurance provider is not responsible for returning the vehicle to its previous condition.  You chose to employ it in a risky, irresponsible activity: the consequences of that choice must be addressed with your own resources.  Why does society have an obligation to patch up the “damage” when your body was the vehicle of your joy ride? Because, you know, you’re demanding that society’s resources remedy your inconvenient predicament. Most abortions are not self-administered, just as most people can’t repair their own car.

Two further points arise here.  One is that you don’t really have a right to treat any item of personal property however you damn well like.  You can’t set fire to your car or your house because you enjoy the sight of smoke and flames.  The flames may spread to other people’s possessions; and, in any case, wantonness is considered morally reprehensible even in situations where it is legally permitted.  You could pay ten thousand bucks for an oil painting and then shred it without fear of facing charges… but your community would regard you with horror and disgust, as it should.  Even inanimate objects should not be destroyed for idle amusement.

Secondly, the public actually does have a stake in whether or not you give birth to the children you have conceived.  Societies that do not produce another generation do not survive: Western Europe is slowly (too slowly) awakening to this grim fact as I write, and even China will soon run into it around a surprising near-future turn of events after having promoted abortion for two generations.  Those who extol the demographically salutary effects of abortion in an overpopulated world, such as certain eugenicist members of my own family, may be right at some level; but notice that, once again, their position doesn’t support the “it’s my body” premise.  On the contrary, they maintain that society has an exigent interest in keeping your progeny off the face of the earth.  (I might add that their attitude often infects its elitist proponents more quickly than the seething masses: childlessness has all but exterminated my side of the family tree.)

Finally, I’d venture to point out that anyone who lives for more than half a century must begin to question just what kind of possession he or she enjoys over the body.  As you age, your body becomes a traitor.  If it were truly yours, it would behave better… but it doesn’t sleep as it should, it rebels against certain foods, it must relieve itself with irritating frequency, it torments you with mysterious pains never before known—it’s increasingly a ramshackle house that you are forced to rent.  You begin to understand that it doesn’t really belong to you and never really belonged to you: that it was always a rental property, and that the terms of the lease require you to endure a degree of inconvenience.  You’d rather have been a little taller; that won’t happen.  You’d like to have blond hair.  Well, that can be arranged temporarily… but probably at the cost of long-term damage to your mop.  You’re too fat.  That’s a condition similar to being pregnant, in that it follows upon certain choices you have made in pursuit of pleasure.  If you want to be thinner, eat less and eat better.  If you want to be un-pregnant, abstain from sex, or at least circle three days in the middle of your month to be reserved for fasting and meditation.

If you can’t read a calendar or count to thirty, find a friend who can.  Why is it that the most educated people appear to advocate most vocally for these positions that should never have relevance to the conduct of any but the very dullest?

But I forget: the most educated are busily changing the biological sex of their bodies even at this instant.  It seems that their body really wasn’t theirs, after all, having been switched at birth with someone else’s.  Is that perhaps what abortion ultimately represents in their minds—is it a kind of transferred suicide, a revenge directed at life for ever having interrupted their peaceful oblivion?

The Propagandistic Caricature of Slave-Day History: Part Two

My maternal grandmother was the most extraordinary person I’ve ever known.  Though her family had inhabited a small area along the Rappahannock for three hundred years, the household’s dissolution upon the death of her mother more or less forced her to accept an offer of marriage from a Texan who happened to be stationed near Norfolk during the First World War.  The life to which he transported her in central Texas wasn’t remotely similar to the cultural setting she had left behind.  The dissonance that resulted did not send harmonious ripples through subsequent generations; I trace a lot of the complexities of my own character back to a schizophrenic kind of tug-of-war between a nearly antisocial independence and an invincible attachment to fine creations that “have no use”.  I suppose my emigration to Georgia, now in its final stages, is a compromise between the Texan and the Virginian in me.

One priceless bequest I owe to my grandmother is a small (all too small) amount of oral history that roots in times far preceding the Civil War.  I recall, for instance, a story that concerned the childhood of her own grandmother.  The girl was privy once upon a time to an exchange between the adult womenfolk and a slave girl called (I think) Sally.  The women were chattering over a rumor that so-and-so whipped his slaves.  They were scandalized, and quickly reached the conclusion that the reports were malicious.  Nobody whipped slaves!  I imagine they treated the talk just as you would if somebody whispered that the strange man down the street had two Thai girls locked away in his basement.  Such things were thrilling to talk about in their Gothic horror but not to be believed in the light of day. Sally overheard the discussion and ventured to disagree with its conclusion.  Oh, such things did indeed happen, Miss Anne!  Oh, no, Sally, you shouldn’t be so gullible—that’s all just vicious gossip.  Oh, no, Miss Anne, I know what I’m saying!

And this went back and forth until Sally at last, in an argument that could not be rebutted, dropped her blouse and exposed her back.  It bore the cicatrices of old lash marks from a previous owner.

My grandmother’s intent was to illustrate through the story that her family, at least, did not maltreat slaves.  I recall thinking at the time that it also revealed a disturbing degree of isolation from ghastly realities needing to be faced and addressed.  I now understand, further, that the vignette confirms what I’ve often read about slaveholders: that the bullies among them were held in contempt by their neighbors and socially ostracized, so that they would go to great lengths to conceal their sadistic practices.

Merely accepting the institution of slavery, you may counter, should disqualify anyone from entering heaven… but in that case, my friend, it may be you who inhabits a fantasyland.  Our world, unfortunately, is colored mostly in shades of gray.  You and I like to believe that our own lights shine bright—but time will humble us, I guarantee you.  If moral perfection is a prerequisite for heaven, then it’s a very lonely place.

My grandmother, for instance, would often vigorously point out that the Yankee slave traders made a handsome profit off of a commercial activity forbidden in most of their states.  (Not all of them, by the way; states like Maryland and Kentucky not only permitted slavery, but were not prohibited from the practice by Mr. Lincoln’s glorious Proclamation.)  I would add on the basis of my own reading of slave narratives that simply setting your bondsmen free wasn’t always a clear benefit for them.  Sometimes a freedman would run into a couple of ruffians who would tear up his documents and put him back on the selling block… and the result might be trying to survive on a big plantation’s chain gang rather than currying Mr. Jones’s horses and feeding his hound dogs.  These outrageous recaptures, besides, could occur in northern territory, and even in Canada.  Yankee laws didn’t seem to be overly concerned about the problem.

I’ll close for now with one more ambivalent vignette that my grandmother proudly repeated.  After the war, her father was down at the waterfront as evening gathered.  (He captained a small fleet of boats that harvested menhaden from the Chesapeake, primarily for fertilizer.)  A strapping young black man appeared from nowhere and approached him on the lonely wharf with a plainly unfriendly purpose in mind.  “Papa” had no arm with which to defend himself—but he did have his trusty pipe; and in the gloaming, as he pointed the pipe’s stem deliberately, it must have looked very like a Derringer or a “pepperbox”.   The menacing stranger lit out with his hands over his head and was seen no more.

Why do I share this story?  Well, it shows us that a) casual robberies and murders took place routinely far east of the Mississippi even in the 1870’s; and b) that not all Americans of African descent were angels, just as not all European DNA was diabolical.  With the freeing of the slaves came an uptick in violent crime.  How could it have been otherwise?  The South was destitute: the economy into which the slaves were freed had been shattered.  (Many sought jobs in the industrial north—and the bigotry and race riots that ensued somehow don’t reach the threshold of interest in most history books.)  Organizations like the KKK are a permanent stain on our cultural legacy; but it’s not a moral equivocation to observe that some naive souls may have been seduced into sympathizing with them thanks to a perceived link between freed slaves and more dangerous streets.  In the same way, the Bolshevik objective of exterminating the Catholic Church, with wholesale murder of clergy, persuaded more than a few distressed French, Spanish, and Italian bourgeoisie to embrace fascism in the Thirties.

I wish we could collectively remember, in these rabid and downwardly spiraling times, that we are complex beings whose history is a tangle of mixed motives and bad calls.  There are no angels among us; but there are, indeed, a few devils—the very behind-the-scene puppeteers who would have us all choose a tribe, a camp, for the most simplistic of reasons and then raise barricades.  No good can come of such non-thinking.  We still have a little time, maybe, before it sucks us irresistibly into a vortex that will pull apart the last vestiges of our civilization.

The Propagandistic Caricature of Slave-Day History: Part One

In my soon-to-be renounced city of residence, efforts are ongoing to rename Robert E. Lee High School.  One proposal is simply to designate it Lee High School.  That seems a very appropriate solution to me.  All parties concerned represent elements of the community too incurious to ask, “Which Lee?  Lee who?” in the future, and also too intellectually inept to do any historical research.  As for the honorable burghers who will likely reach this non-decision resulting in a wrap-around smoke screen, they will effectively initiate themselves into Dante’s outer circle of Inferno’s Indecisive, who would cry neither “fair” nor “foul” during the War in Heaven.  Welcome to Hell.  Pass on through—your place is waiting.

I also don’t think it does justice to the memory of Robert E. Lee to assign his name to the largest zoo of adolescents in our county.

The self-righteous pile-on launched against Confederate veterans was only one stop in a whirlwind tour last year.  Taking a knee at football games, the “#metoo movement”, post-atrocity gun grabs, a “culturally appropriated” prom dress, more gun-grabbing, more outed Hollywood predators…  now the cry and hue is about whether you can ever designate human beings as animals.  I personally think this Trumpian epithet does an injustice to real animals, inasmuch as our furry friends have no natural endowment of free will which they may renounce in deciding to “go ape”… but I don’t believe my disagreement deserves two-weeks-and-counting of air time.

No casus belli appears to be too harebrained (sorry, rabbits!) for our society to get worked up about.  I’ll limit myself today, however, to the Confederacy.

I’ve floated these figures before, for anyone who cares: 95 percent of the boys in gray came from families that owned no slave at all, and about 95 percent of the slaveholding families had five or fewer.  Let’s see… five percent of five percent is… a quarter of one percent of one percent, or even less than the amount of “deadly carbon dioxide” in our atmosphere.  Yet no less a conservative luminary and self-styled guardian of historical veracity than Glenn Beck grows audibly irate when one of his humble audience dares to challenge his assertion that the Civil War was fought entirely and exclusively over slavery.  You can imagine what the poor dumb kid who just likes to shoot hoops or play video games must know about the subject after our schools put their stamp of approval on his shrunken cranium.

If I give my horse the rein, there will be no stopping him; so let me just toss out a few remarks drawn directly from the memoirs of two men who were “on the ground” as the war was being fought.  Amazon’s Kindle program has made the rather brief and direct works of Sam Watkins and John S. Mosby available for practically nothing—so you can buy and read these testimonials yourself without great expense either of money or of time.

Watkins never mentions any slaves in his family references.  His first mention of the subject is a bitter commentary upon the privileged few who were allowed to return home once their year of enlistment had expired: members of families that owned twenty or more slaves.  They who remained under duress, he writes, felt that they were now fighting against the very principle of self-determination on whose behalf they had volunteered their lives.

Much later, in the war’s final months and as their dwindling numbers sought to obstruct Sherman’s scorched-earth frenzy of pillaging Georgia, Watkins observed entire companies of black soldiers led by white officers.  These were freed slaves who were immediately presented with the option of enlistment: a “no-brainer” for many of them, since they would otherwise have faced starvation in a war-ravaged landscape.  (It’s beyond the scope of Watkins’s recollective undertaking… but one may speculate that the Emancipation Proclamation was at least partly engineered to refurbish depleted Union ranks as the South’s heartland was penetrated and populations in states like New York and Illinois violently resisted conscription.)  The recently freed slaves in blue uniforms surrendered a position to Watkins and his comrades without a shot on at least one occasion.  It was evident to him that they were caught almost literally in a crossfire.

The Mosby family’s circumstances were such that they very likely had slave girls in the kitchen and a “boy” or two in the stables—but these were not plantation folk, who authored the horrendous corporal punishments dramatized in Roots and were roundly loathed by most other Southerners.  I’ll confine myself to two incidents late in the Mosby memoir.  One concerns the guerrilla leader’s nearly fatal shooting by intoxicated Union troops as he dined with sympathizers behind enemy lines.  The Federals left him for dead after searching the premises carelessly; but Mosby’s hosts feared that, after a little sobering up, the Yanks might return to give their victim a second look.  The wounded colonel was therefore loaded into a buckboard and consigned to “two negro boys” for conveyance to a neighboring farm.  These young slaves were unsupervised.  They might have delivered the most wanted man in Virginia to any Union outpost and won, not only their freedom, but probably a rich reward.  Yet they considered themselves part of the family and did their part to confound the invaders.  The Becks of the world can cite Stockholm Syndrome all day long—but this was an isolated rural family headed by two old white folks (their sons having gone to war), not a Mansonesque cult conditioned by drugs and sexual deviance.

After the war, an extraordinary friendship evolved between the one-time mounted guerrillero who had animated so many Yankee nightmares and the victorious General Grant.  The latter showed himself an advocate of clemency and amnesty on numerous occasions when his titular superior, the drunken sot Andrew Johnson, treated Southern petitioners with complete contempt.  Mosby actually helped to secure Grant’s election to the presidency, arguing to his fellow Virginians that the inequities of Reconstruction could only be resolved by working with reasonable men of the Republican persuasion.  On one occasion late in their acquaintance, Mosby asked Grant whether he would have worn gray if he had been a born Southerner.  Grant answered, “Of course!” noting his admiration for the Virginians with whom he had attended West Point.

Similarly, General Lee’s remark to a third party in strong disapproval of secession on the eve of war is reported by Mosby.  Lee’s final choice was dictated utterly by the allegiance he felt to his “homeland”: i.e., his state—Virginia.  His slaves were set free as hostilities began precisely so that his motives would not stand in doubt. (General Grant, in contrast, held on to all the many slaves he had acquired through marriage until Lincoln’s Proclamation made retaining them impolitic. Their release by a Northerner such as he was not legally required.)

But… yes, tear Lee’s statues down, by all means! Rename all the streets and schools, and continue to teach that Southerners were American Nazis and their black slaves American Jews.  Keep encouraging idiot white boys to associate the Stars and Bars with the KKK and the Swastika. Turn up the flame on both burners of the stove, making Holocaust survivors out of political pawns and “rebel fringe” bad boys out of semi-literate couch potatoes. Thank you, Glenn Beck, for promoting all that shameless and indefensible claptrap; and please, Tyler, Texas, remove Robert E. Lee’s name from your sprawling house of pedagogic malpractice.

Leftism and Sexual Predation: As Closely Connected as Carnivores and Steak

S.E. Cupp is considered to represent views on the right side of the political spectrum, for reasons that evade me.  A few days ago, I read something of hers lamenting that girls in bikinis and stiletto heels (the participants in the Miss America pageant) were being chided by other conservatives for sharing their #MeToo moments, as they seem to have done during the contest’s few seconds dedicated to rhetorical skill.  The crusty right-wing position of default is that girls who wiggle lots of bare skin in public should expect the occasional pinch or lewd proposition.  Unlike Ms. Cupp, I don’t find this association of ideas pernicious; I’m afraid I find it perfectly sensible.  By way of analogy, say that I claim a right to walk in any part of town I choose at any hour of the day or night without fear of molestation. I may indeed enjoy that right in abstract; but in most cities today, no sane adult would dare to act as if it were in effect. In a fallen world, rights must be tempered with common sense.

Cupp, however, is among those younger female intellectuals who don’t understand why a woman shouldn’t be able to wear whatever she wants (more or less including the wardrobe choices of Lady Godiva) and still endure no wolf-whistles or fanny-pats.  I deplore bad manners as much as anyone, and probably more than most; but I also find something marginally insane about supposing that a girl should be able to engage in displays and behaviors explicitly designed to arouse men—then enjoy complete insulation from any little expression of arousal.  If a lion-tamer loses an ear after thrusting his head into an ill-tamed lion’s mouth, who’s at fault?

Full disclosure: I paid my “gentleman’s dues” many times over during the Seventies in dark scowls and snarled rebukes after holding doors open for “ladies” or offering them my seat in a crowded space.  In other words, men of my generation remember the days when women were wholly uninterested in mannerly conduct, and even aggressively opposed to it.  The “enlightened” girls of those days also, all too often, refused to shave under their fully exposed arms or to use deodorant on a hot day.  That, too, was their “right”, and to begrudge it was to cast them in the bonds of cruel servitude.  So to hear of supermodel-caliber lasses now seething because their generation has decided to flip all the male hormonal switches to “on” instead of “off” while expecting every onlooking man’s vital signs to flatline… I’m confused.  If a girl’s wearing a skimpy bikini, does the revised feminist code now allow you to hold the door for her?  Does it now require you to do so?

Of course, I don’t think most of the confusion is on my side.  I think the #MeToo tornado has been largely generated by decades of circular thinking on the part of women themselves. Girls don’t seem to understand men nearly as well as their grandmothers did.

But even many a grandmother, if she was a revolutionary in her youth, was probably making the same errors. Poor judgment may be less a sign of the times than of ideology. In the wake of the Weinstein and Schneiderman scandals, Rush Limbaugh lately opined that leftist men are quite often sexist pigs who talk the feminist talk just to have their way with their marks farther down the road.  This is very droll, and probably somewhat true; but it doesn’t come close to the heart of the matter.  Leftist males, after all, subscribe to an ideology every bit as self-contradictory as that of leftist females.  If the feminist female wants to be treated indistinguishably from a male in all circumstances yet also expects insulation from bad manners, the “feminist male” wants his women to be “pals” yet also to understand that, as females, they have something he needs.  That something is a cozy garage for his little sports car.  It’s not a lifetime of conjugal bliss, or even a shared apartment for two weeks (unless she pays the rent); it’s not children to bounce upon the knee and to comfort one in one’s declining years.  It’s sex: it’s “pleasuring”.  It’s a need on the same level as having to go to the bathroom.  You go, you relieve yourself… then it’s over and you can get on with your life.

The female “pal” is supposed to get all this.  Several characters in Jules Romains’s epic series of novels about the twentieth century’s first decades, Les Hommes de Bonne Volonté, model the behavior from within Bolshevik cells or nihilist artistic circles.  There’s no God, no life after this one, no values except those created by society, no society except what power and privilege have assembled.  Truth, therefore, lies where the last layers of conditioning have been stripped away: at the primal level, where male and female are beasts with needs and urges.  A man needs a woman to have sex.  A woman who embraces the revolution lends herself to satisfying a comrade’s need, even if it means being passed around in the group like a bottle of cheap wine.  In my day and long before, much of avant-garde feminism was invested in the idea that women have identical sexual needs—and so “educated” women were supposed to scratch their itches with the same indifference to circumstance and consequence as their hairy-ape counterparts.

The inequity that cannot be eradicated from these arrangements, however (and has hence fueled an explosion of lesbianism among “educated” women today), is the essential quality of sexual pleasure.  For the fully initiated leftist male, the woman remains a toiletry, though she be ever such a good “pal” about it.  Use, flush… and get on with the revolution’s business.  Though female initiates may also approach this state of depravity, they cannot redesign their role as receptacle in the exchange.  They are the object into which the maddening poison must be discharged—and, as such, they acquire a certain guilt by association with the interlude’s inconvenience and vileness.  They are the consumed butt of the smoked joint, the empty bottle after the last drop of whiskey is coaxed out.  Empty whiskey bottles rarely end up in curio cabinets.

What a man gets from sex is release—and the man of action wants a quick release.  What a female hopes to get from sex, even in its most degraded form, is a sustained experience of pleasant sensation.  The difference is very like that between a flask drained in a foxhole and a glass of rare Château Mouton-Rothschild savored over a candlelit dinner.

Given these irrefragable facts, the leftist male has not even the degree of sentimental affection for his casual sexual partners as he might feel for a dog.  With the dog, there is no physical contact in the relief of a burdensome need (after the fashion of a sheet of toilet paper), but rather the side-by-side warmth of a good blanket, unfailing devotion, and unthinking self-sacrifice in moments of high danger.  And the dog’s big loving eyes show a dumb oblivion to the future that a woman might try to imitate but can never match.

Now, to the extent that our contemporary, self-styled Che Guevaras in the broadcast-entertainment-legal complex have to mouth proper phrases about health care or gun control to keep their human puppies in a fawning posture, I’m sure they do so without a qualm.  What’s false in these professions, after all, is not so much their content as their degree of concern.  A Harvey Weinstein probably does believe that women should have condoms paid for by public health care—not to preserve their personal health, however, but to render them more readily amenable to his “needs”.  And what revolutionary would not vigorously endorse the confiscation of all firearms from law-abiding citizens?  A lion who bites off ears is all in favor of Q-Tips and aural hygiene.

I wish I could see young women making some progress in figuring this all out.  Hey, if you want to show off your beautiful body, fine… but it’s beautiful especially (if not uniquely) to males, and most of them are not sculptors.  Among men who claim to champion your long-denied rights as a woman, in particular, exercise caution.  Many tracks lead into the lion’s cave, but you will find none coming back out.

Garbage In… Clean Energy Out?

Moving out of a house where you’ve lived for twenty years is a bit like being the caretaker of an old graveyard.  I can’t remember what Italian novel I read whose speaker was a sexton’s son… but in the Old World, space is at such a premium—and some bodies have been buried for so many centuries—that part of the custodial work consists of excavating decayed remains and depositing them in a kind of dustbin called a charnel house.

A lot of stuff that I kept from previous moves, and that apparently I expected to keep forever, has at last gone to that charnel house called the garbage can.  Copies of bitter letters that might once have ended up in a courtroom have now not only surpassed the statute of limitations, but even the limit of memory.  I literally can’t recall the details in some cases… and why in the future would I ever waste my time trying?  If God should call me in eternity’s amplitude to be a witness against one of these desperadoes, I’ll have to shrug and say, “Sorry, chief.  I’ve forgotten the specifics.  I’ve almost forgotten the name.”  Of course, the records in eternity are flawless and won’t need my corroboration.  God will smile and answer, “Just checking.”

An entirely different class of charnel-house material includes utterly obsolete technology.  What can you do these days with video cassettes?  I still have a functioning VCR, fortunately—and some of those ancient recordings have become treasures.  But many have not, and all are quite bulky by present standards.  I hate to chuck them in the bin for a one-way trip to the landfill… but am I, then, supposed to keep them forever despite their bulk and uselessness?

One can usually find an operation that accepts old TV’s and computers (for a fee), then mines them for recyclable parts.  That may ease the conscience… but I’ll bet I know where the parts end up that are not recyclable.  Never before this spring have I had occasion to reflect seriously on how much irreducible litter our society produces.  Oh, I’ve seen the documentaries about floating islands of Styrofoam packaging, plastic “carrier rings” molded to hold six-packs, lost bikini tops, flip-flops without mates, crumpled clear-plastic water bottles, kids’ paddle-boards, and various and sundry other mass-produced, mass-marketed items of advanced artifice that have clumped together.  Actually, I have sometimes wondered if such insipid flotsam doesn’t have a benign side.  Why would a real island, full of natural material like moss and captured silt, not eventually form around these drifting effluvia?  Why would that be a bad thing?  Maybe the island’s formation could even be “encouraged” with artifice taken to new heights (or depths).  If it floated, at least the Chinese couldn’t claim it as part of their ancestral domain.

But a substratum of earth dedicated to old video cassettes… no, I’m hard put to imagine how that has a happy outcome, even millennia in the future.  I promise that I am not not going to launch into a Philippic against capitalist waste and moral bankruptcy that constantly drives consumers to have “new and better”—and hence to send last year’s Christmas haul to the bulldozers and the sea gulls.  I understand the power of such outrage.  Yet I usually find it a) hypocritical, because the illuminati who lecture us have their own varieties of wastefulness that they conceal from themselves and everyone else; and b) unhelpful, because the progressive/high-tech genie is out of the bottle, and accusing others of removing the cork won’t get him back in.  (For that matter, aren’t the accusers here the very same crowd that clamors for universal health care—and where would advanced medicine be without cutting-edge technology, with its rafts of disposable plastic cases and bottles, used hypodermic needles, etc.?)

Here as on so many issues, the only antidote to progress that I foresee is further progress: another damned genie to restrain the previous one.  In the matter of my ancient cassettes, for instance… why do we not have a way of manufacturing energy from all such waste?  If you dumped the whole lot into the Kilauea volcano, wouldn’t it obligingly incinerate?  And if the released energy could somehow be tapped like the coal burned in power plants….  Yes, I understand that the toxic byproduct would likely be exponentially worse than coal’s; but I ask, with all the ingenuousness of someone would performed indifferently in high-school chemistry, couldn’t we find a way to knead this byproduct into something at least anodyne, or even valuable?  Why are people of such creativity reduced to such block-headedness as soon as the party’s over and the floors need to be mopped?

Certainly this is a large part of the eventual solution to gun violence: i.e., produce weapons that function only for their legal, trained owner.  Though well within reach, such a solution isn’t much discussed because too many anti-gun crusaders don’t really want an independent populace capable of self-defense: they want a servile mass abjectly obedient to an elite leadership.

Garbage does not have any covert advocates that I know of, however.  Why can we not put our oh-so-clever heads together and clean up this mess by means of some profitable new industry?