Thursday, April 10, 2008
Personal Asides: Fr. Greeley Again Brings Up Obama Possibly Being Shot...Excellent Responses to The Kerner Report, Defining Moment of the `60s IV and Defining Moment V, The Environmental Movement.
All of us who are familiar with the, um, priest Fr. Andrew Greeley know he is desperate for celebrity psychically unconvinced that, although having earned millions writing soft-porn using his clerical collar (and at one time wearing vestments in a photo on a novels back cover) as sales inducement, he will be ever taken seriouslyas indeed with most cultivated people and knowledgeable Catholics, he has not. Moreover we all understand that Greeleys true church is the Democratic party, one, unholy, venal and catastrophic. As he has been a kind of perverse court chaplain to the Daleys where he gently wafts the big fan over the brow of the Big One, he seeks to graduate to the White House where he can saunter, roman collar and all, into meetings as the spiritual (sic) counselor to a Bigger One. This hope is keeping this elderly, mostly ignored, spitting vitriol cleric alive. He has been serenading Barack Obama continually, defending his choice of spiritual guidance from Jeremiah Wright and has resorted to something greater than mere obsequious flattery.
Now for the second time, in his Sun-Times column, he has raised the possibility of Barack Obama being shotassassinated. First, allowing that Greeley has no self-restraint where his desire for notoriety is concerned, it is the grossest act of editorial irresponsibility for the newspaper to have kept the reference in his copy. Whenever one raises the question of assassination of a public official, he runs the risk of triggering a similar desire for celebrity in a fevered mind that can be drawn to Greeleys column. Second, the Sun-Times should immediately apologize for the lamentable lack of judgment from Greeley and his editor.
`60s Defining Moment IV: The Kerner Report of 1968.
Comments yesterday on The Kerner Report included probably one of the finest commentaries we have received on the Seriesthe views of Frank Nofsinger. To my mind he sizes up the disarray concerning the races perfectly. You can read his and all other commentaries, of course, in Readers Comments for yesterday. Leon Dixon supplies another worthwhile piece. Elizabeth Alexander (I use her name because she does in Readers Comments) fears that we do not fully understand the black-white divide and she refers us to comments received from a John Kass Tribune column of Sunday which is contained in the Chicago Tribune website. All these things and John Powers, my good colleague, who has a scathing comment on the mis-uses of government to solve the poverty problem.
What Kerner did was to recast the civil rights narrative from a legitimate drive to equal opportunity and color-blindedness to a scathing fiction of racial victimization and irresponsibility. Martin Luther King and Roy Wilkins had concentrated on color-blindedness but were moving toward the more radical direction when King was assassinated. Probably the most immediate reaction to the Kerner Report was the furor over local control of public school faculty appointments in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville area of Brooklyn. Jews historically engaged in the teaching profession in New York but Kerner inflamed the situation so that blacks demanded local control over their schools, placing control on a higher priority than quality of teaching. Many bad speeches were delivered therewith indigent blacks declaring that the first and foremost thing was that black teachers and principals take over shrugging off matters of educational excellence in favor of skin color.
This antagonized what had heretofore been a bastion of liberalism, the American Federation of Teachers and Albert Shanker. With The New York Times opting to its usual role of subservience before the specter of angry black demonstrations, the area was forced to decide whether American liberalism would continue to maintain support for a classic race-blind society or descend to black militancy. It chose the latter. An historic rupture was then effected between two once valuable alliesJewry and blacks. The vestiges of Kerner are still seen in that choice as differences increase between blacks and Jews. Jesse Jacksons scurrilous comment about Hymietown stems from that. Increasingly a segment of Jewish liberalism broke away over racist demagogues like Jackson who was not punished by society for his bigotry creating a segment that has aligned with the Republican partyIrving Kristol, his wife, Gertrude Himmelfarb, their son William; Norman Podhoretz, his son John and many many others. Most of the neo-cons who joined the Reagan, Bush I and Bush II administrations are ex-liberals estranged either directly or indirectly from the national effects of Ocean Hill/Brownsville whether they were involved personally or just followed it.
Kristol, a former Marxist, provided brilliant leadership by starting a journal that for me was a must-read for many yearsThe Public Interest which he edited with Nathan Glazer. He then became an editorial board member of The Wall Street Journal and wrote Op Eds that dramatically affected a new relationship between intellectual Jews and conservatism. He became a permanent fellow of the American Enterprise Institute and was a lecturer at our Quaker Oats public policy forums for years. His wife, Gertrude, was likewise a powerful force in shaping a counterculture to liberalism. Their son, William, is the editor and publisher of a fine magazine, The Weekly Standard. Podhoretz as editor of Commentary, a magazine initially put out by the American Jewish Committee, turned it into an exciting and challenging conservative vehicle which it still is. I regard it as the best and most satisfying of all conservative magazines. They were instrumental in leading Jeane Kirkpatrick, a liberal professor, to the Republican party and to the post of UN ambassador where she served stunningly.
But the bleak effects of the Kerner Report are with us yet. The continuing challenge against blacks who favor a more moderate way by being called Oreos by the militants, the expanded role of Jesse Jackson as extortionist are all vestiges of that ill-considered report. Just as with the Tet Offensive, the existentialist view of liberals contrary to facts and history is that it was a failuregiving birth to the Iraq is lost proclamation of Sen. Harry Reid. As with existentialism generally, what counts is not what is but the nobility of my feelings. I feel blacks should have overthrown the Jewish teachers lobby in Brooklyn; therefore it is a moral imperative. If there is resistance the Jews are at fault. Another vestige of existentialism is Fr. Michael Pflegers and others insistence that the murders among black poor are not caused by chaotic non-family structure or single-headed families but simply the availability of guns-guns-guns. Concentration on removal of guns relieves the poor of any appreciation of the role family stability plays in moral guidance. Guns supposedly go off by themselves and children are killednot much concern is shown to how the children who roam the streets at night in gangs come from broken homes for that would affix responsibility which for Pfleger and Jesse Jackson would be unpopular to admit.
Media go along since it is politically inadvisable to challenge. All existentialism is whim of the moment and angry rejection of facts that displease.
Thanks to all who participated and who may yet write on this issue.
`60s Defining Moment V: The Rise of Environmentalism: 1969.
With the perceived vacuousness of traditional religion there came good and bad: concern for conservation of resources but occasionally the worship of a new godthe earth. For practical purposes it began with the landmark book by Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, Pollution of the atmosphere became joined with criticism of technology. Interestingly enough, it was technology that gave the movement its first boost. Photographs of planet Earth made by Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders from the command module windows of Apollo VIII electrified the nation and created the aura that we are all inhabitants of the same planet which seemed to blur national boundaries. There was perceived some smudges in the photos which were immediately ruled as pollution and started a grand furor. Environmentalism and anti-pollution are virtues but there has ever since been the danger of materialistic pantheism.
Global warming and the awarding to Al Gore of the Nobel Prize and all the attendant issues about environmentalism have produced Earth Day and the fear that we are going to be suffocating in factory smoke and poisoned water. And what of the population? Too many of us as Ted Turner says. Now Id like you to comment on this Defining Moment: V. The Rise of Environmentalism. Itemize the good and unsalutary parts if you would.