Surely it's not an exaggeration to say that George Washington was the sine qua non of the USA, meaning that without him it would not exist. At least tSurely it's not an exaggeration to say that George Washington was the sine qua non of the USA, meaning that without him it would not exist. At least that is my impression after having read Ellis's convincing portrait.
Washington to me was not much more than the face on the dollar bill: the mute, symbolic president-at-the-creation who bestowed upon us a solid currency with which to buy beer, barbecue, and fireworks on July 4th. The muteness and the presiding seemed to be his cardinal qualities: he was simply "there," with a cloudlike presence that somehow enabled the chatterboxes around him to work through their differences and get things done.
Ellis shows how this was in fact true--his composed, sphinx-like taciturnity apparently discomfited visitors to Mt. Vernon, and as chairman of the Constitutional Convention he only entered the discussion once--but he also convinces that behind the silence there was a deep, strategic mind that secured American independence and shaped the nation with beliefs that ran counter to the popular political notions of the day.
Thus it was that, contrary to a "spirit of '76" that idealized the citizen militiaman fighting for his beliefs, Washington believed that only a disciplined, standing army could defeat the British, and he persevered in that belief--with almost no support from the Continental Congress or from the states (France paid his soliders more than they did)--until he won the day.
And again in 1787 he made his galvanizing presence part of the effort to replace the Articles of Confederation with a stronger Constitution because he believed that only a central government, representing all citizens and possessing powers adequate to its national role, could accomplish the job of transforming a continent into an empire (one of his favorite words, apparently). Then, with the charter in hand, Washington's commanding vision gave the rein to the nation-building activities of such gifted and energetic aides as Alexander Hamilton, who as Washington's aide during the war well understood how to implement his leadership.
This is 2016, and it is painful to think that the nation George Washington founded stands to elect as president a person who in character, temperament, public experience, and verbosity is his exact opposite. Washington's leadership and vision produced a nation the enduring greatness of which a blustering, bluffing con-man named Donald Trump will only bring to ruin.
It is striking that when Tocqueville toured the US, civic militia duty was already so moribund as to cause him to misstate the facts: (p. 260) “in AmeIt is striking that when Tocqueville toured the US, civic militia duty was already so moribund as to cause him to misstate the facts: (p. 260) “in America, conscription is unknown; men are enlisted for payment. Compulsory recruitment is so alien to the ideas and so foreign to the customs of the people of the United States that I doubt whether they would ever dare to introduce it into their law” (my emphasis).
This is, in fact, not true, since the states had on the books at the time laws requiring universal militia service among adult males, and the federal Militia Act of 1792--with similarly universal requirements--was still in force. Furthermore, these laws essentially continued a strong tradition of compulsory military service that prevailed in the American colonies. However, due to the expense and hassle of mustering and enforcing attendance, and having had better success with volunteers, the states gave up compulsory civic militia duty in favor of a voluntary system.
The militia laws, though still on the books, had become a dead letter. Tocqueville completely missed it.
The title refers to the legislation passed by Congress in 1798 that modified terms of an embargo of St. Domingue, which had been approved six months eThe title refers to the legislation passed by Congress in 1798 that modified terms of an embargo of St. Domingue, which had been approved six months earlier in response to "rampant acts of violence, brigandage, and piratry by French-flagged corsairs" operating around the island.
Toussaint Louverture wrote to President John Adams in November of 1798 "asking for an exemption." Besides the privateering, this was after the XYZ Affair when anti-French sentiment in the US had put the two nations in a state of "quasi-war." Toussaint promised that US merchants trading with ports under his control would be protected and secure, despite the fact that St. Domingue was still officially French, as was the generalship of Louverture.
Adams proposed--in a bill to extend the embargo for the duration of the sitting Congress (through 1800)--that he be allowed to suspend the embargo for Domingan ports "with which a commercial intercourse may safely be renewed." With passage, and with Toussaint in control of the island, this in effect re-opened trade with St. Domingue. This portion of the bill was named "the Toussaint Clause."
p. 137-8: "The title of the clause was helpful of the chances of passage. Bad as the image of St. Domingo had become after years of bloody civil war, massacres, atrocities, Jacobinism, and abolition, Toussaint himself had come to enjoy a much more positive reputation. His piety, the honesty of his dealings, his competence, and his moderation had all been noted favorably since his rise to prominence, in correspondence and in the press."
During debate, Republicans raised the bugbear of a piratical regime and an "asylum for renegadoes" from the South (p. 141). Federalists countered that normalized trade would produce the opposite result--dependence on US trade and cooperation. Yes, argued southern Federalist Thomas Pinckney of South Carolina, the clause did in fact promote St. Domingan independence, but that independence would be more beneficial even to the Southern states than would continued status as a French colony.
The bill passed and was signed into law 2/8/1799, thus providing at least tacit contemplation of an independent St. Domingue under Toussaint. This sentiment of course did not survive long: the French government softened its stance, and a French sympathizing, anti-Federalist, Virginia slave-owning Thomas Jefferson replaced John Adams in the White House. However, although this administration was the opposite of supportive for Toussaint, it also turned a blind eye to American trading even when France complained that this was supporting a rebellion. Even these opponents of Toussaint saw that it was possible he would come out on top....more
In Confronting Black Jacobins, historian Gerald Horne states his "central argument" thus: "[T]he Haitian Revolution created a general crisis for the sIn Confronting Black Jacobins, historian Gerald Horne states his "central argument" thus: "[T]he Haitian Revolution created a general crisis for the system of slavery that could only be resolved with its collapse." It represented a "confrontation that compelled a retreat of the racialized slavery that had given rise to the slave-holding republic in the first instance" (p. 10).
How was this "retreat" manifested? The fact that the black slaves of Haiti rose up and killed their white owners "was bound to concentrate devilishly the collective mind of the slave-holding republic. The revolution posed starkly an existential question: retreat stolidly from slavery or risk losing everything--including one's life, as in Hispaniola" (p. 15).
Horne entirely fails to convince. The documentary period of the book overlaps US history from the Federal period midway through Reconstruction. Unfortunately for Horne, this period in US history exhibited the opposite of a retreat for slavery. In fact, this period saw the enthusiastic expansion and entrenchment of racialized slavery in the American South to the point that, sure of its destiny as an economic colossus, the South refused to compromise any longer with the chafing, sectional nuisances of the "slave-holding republic" and famously established its own republic founded upon the principle of African slavery.
And then, when this racialized-slavery-believing republic was defeated militarily--with many lives being lost on both sides--it was not done "as in Hispaniola," that is, by way of an armed slave revolt in which blacks rose up spontaneously to kill and overthrow their white masters. The defeat of slavery in the US came about as the result of a war prosecuted by one white nation-state against another white nation-state. This is not to say that blacks in the US did not contribute to the result. It is only to say that it did not happen in the US "as in Hispaniola." Is it not important for historians to make these distinctions?
Further--to the enduring shame of the US--while the military defeat of the racialized-slavery-believing republic (to continue with a Horne-style label) may have erased a legalized slave system, it did not--except briefly and bravely, during Reconstruction--produce political and social liberation for American blacks. This kind of liberation, of course, was the other signal accomplishment of the Haitian Revolution.
Instead, with slavery out of the way, the US allowed its idiosyncratic system of federalism to perpetuate a racialized caste system that discriminated against black and mixed-race men and women, with enduring effects to this day.
One gathers that Horne just can't get enough of calling the US the "slave-holding republic" to the point that he is blind to the contradictions inherent in the US constitutional system from day one, before the Haitian Revolution. There is no sense at all either that sectional differences almost scuttled the entire project in the womb in 1787 or that the ideological and ethical compromises in the final draft were widely known, controversial, and often bitterly opposed.
"Slave-holding republic" might be a sweet refrain to Horne's ears, but to the extent that it enables him to call slavery the "business model" of the US, it is not only discordant, it is just plain, bad history. And manifestly so: If it were true, there would have been no Southern secession.
Horne marshals all of his evidence to the service of the notion that the Haitian Revolution was one of the causes of the end of slavery in the US. Here are some examples where questionable interpretation leads to theoretical over-reach.
Example 1: The US--which, it must be remembered, is the "slave-holding republic"--was always afraid of the Haitian example to the extent that it always adamantly opposed it. The first quote in the book, on the third line, is President George Washington calling the slave uprising in St. Domingue "lamentable;" he then mentions a "spirit of revolt among the Blacks." The reigning narrative of the book is the fear among white Americans that the Haitian slave revolt will be exported to their shores. How to explain, then, the willingness of the John Adams administration to cooperate, militarily and commercially, with Toussaint Louverture, the revolutionary ruler of Haiti, against the French? How to explain that Louverture's constitution was written, at least in part, by Alexander Hamilton? How to explain Horne's own admission that, at least from 1812-1826, that the US was Haiti's main trading partner?
Horne's claim is that trade with Haiti "came with a steep price. For New England Federalists heavily invested in trade with the island of freedom thereby offended Dixie and quickened sectional conflict that eventuated in civil war" (p. 140). Yet surprisingly, who was among those considering the relative advantages of trade with Haiti in 1817? None other than John C. Calhoun, described by Horne--on the following page and without irony--as "maniacally pro-slavery."
Example 2: Keeping in mind that the Haitian Revolution was essentially a Spartacist endeavor and was unquestionably feared by white slaveowners as an inspirational example to their own slaves, it is also important to understand that to some Americans of the period it was not so much Haitians per se to be feared as it was (white) French revolutionaries, Napoleons, Spanish, or even the British whose imperialistic ambitions would bring black armies to the US. Even where he seems to be aware of this thinking, Horne doesn't allow it to shape his hypothesis. Ironically the force that did lead black soldiers to the destruction of slavery in the slave-holding republic was … the slave-holding republic itself.
Example 3: Haiti became a magnet for escaping slaves and refugees of color, and this was a significant drain on the labor resources of the slave system in the US. I think that's what he intends us to believe, but I can't say for sure because Horne is given to flights of rhetorical grandstanding that do not seem to fit the events that he places in evidence.
Here as an example is an extended, quoted passage (pp. 96-7): At the time Jefferson became US president,
the slave-holding republic was walking a slippery tightrope, seeking simultaneously to avoid falling into the jaws of French revanchism and what would soon become the claws of Haitian abolitionism. This became clear when slaveholder George Hunter en route to Savannah arrived on the island in the spring of 1802 accompanied with what was described as "a certain coloured man named Joseph," his "property." Having an acute sense of time and place, "Joseph" managed to reach the "shore by means of swimming"--but was captured and wisely "claimed the protection of a French citizen to which he was entitled" and "that he was not at full liberty and no longer a slave." It was "incumbent" a US agent was told with emphasis, to "protest" this bald attempt to "deprive Mr. Hunter of his property in the said Joseph"--but he and other slaveholders were to find that once Haiti was established, the ramparts of slavery had been breached fatally, as cases like that of Joseph rose in profusion in the coming decades.
What does this paragraph mean? How does Joseph's escape/attempted escape make clear that the US is walking a slippery tightrope between the effects of the slave revolt on St. Domingue and French efforts to retake the island? Not only is it a non sequitur, but It is a non sequitur advanced as an important piece of evidence that the Haitian Revolution had such an impact on the slave system in the US that there was apparently some kind of mass exodus of slaves from the US.
Which did not happen. There was no fatal breach in the ramparts of slavery in the US due to the Haitian Revolution. One perhaps wishes that there had been. But instead--and it is critical to keep this in mind--the constitutional nature of the end of slavery in the US, combined with the nature of the US federal system itself--produced the very dynamics that, unlike in Haiti, meant that the end of slavery in the US did not bring with it immediate or enduring political and social rights for blacks and people of color.
Certainly, slaves fled to Haiti and free blacks emigrated to the Dominican Republic (the "Spanish" side of the Haitian isle). Certainly these places were held up as ideal locations for the voluntary or forced removal of the African population in the US. But ever since the existence of slavery in the US, slaves had fled to the Great Dismal Swamp or to Seminole Country or somewhere else in the untracked frontier. One of the great problems for enslavers in the US was the freedom available in states where slaves had been emancipated, e.g. Massachusetts in 1783, before the Haitian Revolution. These options already existed for the escape-minded slave by the time Haiti happened. If there was a breach in the ramparts of slavery, it was already there before Haiti.
As far as slave revolts are concerned, Horne writes (p. 18) that "the evidence gushing from Dixie leads to the suspicion that enslaved mainland Africans found inspiration--if not aid--for their inclinations in Haiti." Gushing evidence that only leads to a suspicion? I would say it was manifestly true, and deservedly so, since the revolution engineered by Toussaint Louverture was an awe-inspiring accomplishment.
However, the historian must still parse the evidence--though he or she may need a colander--and one issue that Horne mentions but does not sufficiently consider is the role and reputation of the mixed-race gens de couleur in the events that he reports. The Denmark Vesey plot in South Carolina was revealed, according to Horne, by "a slaveholder of color" out of "fear of another Hispaniola-style revolt" (p. 18). Previously, in Louisiana, where a "Massacre of Whites" had been "threatened," in part by a "white man" who claimed to have been in on similar dealings in St. Domingue, it was the mixed-race gens de couleur who at least in part made up the militia charged with protecting New Orleans. Americans brought up on a binary white/black distinction between the so-called races will have little understanding of the social and political gradations produced by Caribbean Creolization, but it is an important part of the story that must be told if it is to be understood. To his credit Horne brings this aspect into his account, but his over-the-top rhetorical style is ill-suited to an examination of whatever eddies this might have produced in the gush of evidence from Dixie.
At the end Horne states "the ultimate legacy of Haiti on the mainland is the penetrating impression left by Black Jacobinism, which inspired abolition and helped to generate a spirit of militancy among African Americans that has yet to be extinguished" (p. 315). This seems to me to be a plausible statement, but the book that he has just written goes well beyond that legacy with additional claims for history that cannot be substantiated.
It is a shame. Americans in general need to know about the Haitian Revolution. Blacks in Haiti fought to free themselves from an unfathomably cruel system of labor exploitation, and then they held onto their freedom by fighting off two of the most powerful military regimes the world has ever known: first the British Empire and then the Napoleonic one. In so doing, in the latter case, they essentially made to the people of the United States a gift of the entire trans-Mississippi West (which Napoleon abandoned after the failure of his military expedition to re-take Haiti). That the response from Dixie was not "Damn, we have a problem because slavery," but rather, "Hey, let's expand slavery out there!" would be a more useful lesson for Americans than the one the Horne tries to tell. ...more
A treasure trove of a book for anyone interested in Franco-American connections of the early republic (overlapping the years of the French Revolution,A treasure trove of a book for anyone interested in Franco-American connections of the early republic (overlapping the years of the French Revolution, Directory, and Napoleon), its narrative style is more meandering than radiant, seeming to share more in spirit with the excursory voyageurs than with the architectural rulers of ordered space who provide a unifying string of buoys in this wild frontier: the "buoys" being the homes, cotton exchanges, forts, waterworks, and capitols designed by men of some French connection (often by way of St. Domingue or Scotland) for the new country's magnates.
Familiar names like Pierre-Charles L'Enfant and Marc Isambard Brunel are here, but they are joined by a troupe of others less-well-known--Latrobe, Lafon, Bauduy--whose commissions for the Duponts, Livingstons, Hamiltons, Gallatins, Girards, etc., now populate the National Register of Historic Places.
The francophilia on display here is so far beyond architectural. It is cultural, linguistic, mercantile, political, and military, and comes as a surprising reminder to this reader of how truly history is a different country. It also seems in its way to suggest the larger story behind the events: that much as we concern ourselves with the formation of nations, the fortune and destiny of those individuals who have mined the cracks--speculators, traders, privateers, pirates: internationalists all--often appear to influence the future of humanity more than those more scrupulous of patriotism. This book tells the history of many who risked and lost--the schemers for the silver of Mexico (Aaron Burr and the post-Bonapartists) and the planters of Haiti--and shows that the distance between a private adventurer and a provocateur of enormous crimes against humanity is short indeed....more
Empire of Cotton is a comprehensive overview of a capitalist endeavor that has been global for its entire career, and that characterizes capitalism'sEmpire of Cotton is a comprehensive overview of a capitalist endeavor that has been global for its entire career, and that characterizes capitalism's amoral pursuit of profit with its attendant "race to the bottom" of labor costs (Slavery? Child labor? Why not?), labor avoidance through technological creativity, and labor exploitation by way of various modes of political and organizational enforcement (including state control of the industry, as in contemporary China, for essentially capitalistic purposes).
While this is a compelling overview, I would have liked more viscera, which might have been enabled by a more compact presentation of data. The author would probably retort that this is economic history and not a novel, so I dutifully shut up and retract my quibble because the book really is very enlightening if you can slog through....more
I read this almost immediately after "Empire of Cotton" by Sven Beckert. The differences for the most part relate to the contrasting approaches of antI read this almost immediately after "Empire of Cotton" by Sven Beckert. The differences for the most part relate to the contrasting approaches of anthropology (Mintz) and economic history (Beckert), with the latter presenting an unceasing and repetitive record of cultural causation by the hammerblow forces of capital, and the former describing far-reaching and dramatic cultural change resulting from a much more nebulous set of agents intersecting one another in chance and unpredictable ways.
Thus Mintz (pp. 185-186): "The argument advanced here, that big background alterations in the tempo and nature of work and daily life influenced changes in diet, is difficult or impossible to prove. The further assumption is that the nature of the new foods was important in their eventual acceptance. The substances transformed by British capitalism from upper-class luxuries into working-class necessities are of a certain type. Like alcohol or tobacco, the provide respite from reality, and deaden hunger pans. Like coffee or chocolate or tea, they provide stimulus to greater effort without providing nutrition. Like sugar they provide calories, while increasing the attractiveness of these other substances when combined with them. There was no conspiracy at work to wreck the nutrition of the British working class, or turn them into addicts, or to ruin their teeth. But the ever-rising consumption of sugar was an artifact of intraclass struggles for profit--struggles that eventuated in a world-market solution for drug foods, as industrial capitalism cut its protectionist losses and expanded a mass market to satisfy proletarian consumers once regarded as sinful or indolent."
Mintz casts an eye on causation--concerning the present and future experience of food--in the final chapter ("Eating and Being"). He suggests that a root dimension relates to "the experience of time in modern society": how an ever-expanding consumer economy increasingly saturates our finite 24-hour day with products developed and marketed to stimulate desires that, psychologically insatiable, must necessarily remain unfulfilled even as the attempt to fulfill them results in adaptive efforts to maximize, compress, and combine, resulting in structural changes in the way societies eat. This complex process is similar to the one at work in the history of the use of sugar in English society, primarily to the one in which a novelty--the industrial work day--together with the increasing availability, cheapness, desirability, and versatility of sugar--transformed the social structures of British "daily bread."
The author is a law professor at Indiana University. His online c.v. says that "he is a popular lecturer on Native American people and on the Second AThe author is a law professor at Indiana University. His online c.v. says that "he is a popular lecturer on Native American people and on the Second Amendment."
The book considers the possible meanings of the Second Amendment for a country that no longer recognizes the "Framers' myth" that posited a universal militia as a "Body of the People" capable of expressing unity and acting as one of the "checks and balances" in the Constitution.
Much of the book addresses the notion of "constitutional violence" and the ways in which various constitutional interpreters imagine it to be appropriately exercised. Williams's conclusion is that there are no constitutional agents today capable of exercising such violence in a way that comports with the vision of the Framers. Essentially, the original meaning of the amendment has been so alienated by cultural and societal change that "commentators on the Second Amendment find the whole concept of the Body of the People so foreign that they imagine the Framers must have meant either private individuals or state governments." The development of liberal thought in the nineteenth century, with its emphasis on individual rights, has had the result of eviscerating Second Amendment's notion of institutionalized civic unity on a national level.
Williams says this lack of a belief in such a Body of the People represents a "silent crisis" and that there must be some way to re-constitute ( or "redeem") it if we are to regain a culture of civic trust. "Such civic love, concerned to build connection so as to make possible coordinated action for the common good, is the necessary counter-balance to civic suspicion, concerned to detect attacks on the common good before it is too late."
He does not say specifically how this should happen--that being a question beyond the scope of the book--but "possible answers might include certain styles of child rearing, certain religious traditions, easily discernible markers of trustworthiness, democratic governance, high levels of optimism, participation in certain associational activities, and general economic prosperity, so that risks do not seem potentially catastrophic."
Please forgive such a familiar greeting from a total stranger, but I just had the pleasure of "meeting" you, so to speak, by way of the beDear Samori,
Please forgive such a familiar greeting from a total stranger, but I just had the pleasure of "meeting" you, so to speak, by way of the beautiful and demanding book that your father wrote for you.
I can imagine that you're probably both proud and embarrassed to be the object of such a lavishly public paternal heart-to-heart. Maybe at this point you're more embarrassed than you are proud. Believe me when I say that in the future you'll be way prouder and not at all embarrassed. I hope so anyway.
Your father gives a few glimpses of who you are, mostly I think to point up for the reader the different circumstances of your childhood and his; and how, no matter the differences between his Baltimore and your New York, there must always come the point of reckoning for you as a black person in America. That point of reckoning, according to your father, came when nothing was done about the policemen who killed Michael Brown. A flash of understanding; then the dam bursts and swept away is all hope that America can ever possibly offer a black person any reliable expectation of justice, much less belonging.
A lot of your book is how your father has lived with that reality, how he has come to understand and articulate it, and how--denied any sense of belonging by his country--he found where he did in fact belong. This he does for you, I think, at least in part to give you the wherewithal to transform your own point of reckoning from alienation into pride. It's a gift from him, which I hope you're able to accept.
Hope. Funny I should say that, because hope seems to me what your book is all about, even though to the first-time reader it really doesn't seem like it, and even I who have spent some time with it have to kick myself to say that, much less believe it.
It's not so much that I'm a pessimist as that, well, you know the Dream that your father keeps talking about in your book? I live inside of the Dream. I hate to say this: it's worse than he says. About the Dreamers, I mean.
(If anybody's reading this who hasn't read your book, I'm going to go ahead and tell them that it is the "American Dream" that your father floats as a happy-face balloon--"It is perfect houses with nice lawns. It is Memorial Day cookouts, block associations, and driveways. The Dream is tree houses and the Cub Scouts. The Dream smells like peppermint but tastes like strawberry shortcake"--only to puncture: "the Dream rests on our backs, the bedding made from our bodies … the Dream persists by warring with the known world.")
Living inside the Dream comes standard to a white, middle-class male like me, particularly in the South, which is where I have always lived. Fortunately I had a father whose only words of advice that I can remember were "Do not belong." We couldn't belong, anyway, because my family was secular in the Bible Belt.
In any event I have observed Dreamers all my life. And when your father says, relative to the country coming to the aid of the murdered Prince Jones's mother, "Dr. Jones's country did what it does best--it forgot him. The forgetting is habit, is yet another necessary component of the Dream," all I can say is that he is being charitable.
And when your father asks you not to struggle for the Dreamers, but to "hope for them. Pray for them if you are so moved," all I can feel is an immense sense of wonder at his forbearance and his willingness to try to move you to hope.
Because, as I say, it's way worse than he says. About the Dreamers, I mean.
Forgetfulness? No, ignorance. At best, ignorance. At worst? It's not hard to see. Especially in the South. Vicious, in-your-face, racist triumphalism borne aloft in a Confederate flag.
But didn't the South lose? No, the South held on bitterly to its slavery-born notions of white supremacy, and it won. It fucking won. The rest of the country not only backed away from bringing African-Americans into the civic composition, but the South would not have it and embarked on a campaign of terror to prevent it. And the would-be liberators? We could say that they just forgot about the African-American. But no. They listened to the South. They agreed with the South. They let popular expressions of the national mind like "The Birth of the Nation" and "Gone With the Wind" wash over them and suck them into something that goes beyond forgetfulness.
These days, at best, as I say, it is ignorance. Total, complete, and willful ignorance that begins and ends with a vague and uninformed sense that they know what the Civil War was all about. Well, not only do they willfully not know, but they also have this bizarre notion that somehow the Civil War put paid to this country's obligations to assure citizenship rights across the board. They are intentionally, fiercely uninterested in slavery, the Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the great migration, and the civil rights movement. They don't fucking care.
If I had any hope in this area, it would be that somebody, somewhere would be trying to bust up this ignorance, would crank out hugely popular media of all kinds showing the unpitying truth of black history in the New World--mostly America, but take the Haitian Revolution, for example: it should be a paragon of the just struggle. Oh, for someone to make it so with something as wildly popular as was "The Birth of the Nation"! Oh, for someone to shake it in the face of a country supposedly dedicated to freedom and ask "What about this? What about this?"
And that's just for starters.
The history of black America ought be taught to all Americans from kindergarten on as an essential ingredient of American history. Why? Not so much "lest we forget" as an object lesson of what happens when a country's ideals falter, right out of the gate, but as a questioning counterpoise to the Pledge of Allegiance, one that asks, "Are we delivering on this?"
Dreamers want only rote recitation of the pledge and blind faith in the flag, when what we need are more moments like the one in 1968 when, on the Olympic medal stand, during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, black American medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos bowed their heads and held up black-gloved fists. If you don't know about this event, you should read about it. White people were generally horrified, saying that they should be stripped of their medals for disrespect to the flag. I always believed they showed great dignity and respect for doing what they did. They, like your father, were trying to get the Dreamers to pay attention to the ideals they pay lip service to, trying to get them to be human and mix some shame in with the pride when they look at the flag. God knows they need to.
(By the way I have to say at some point that your father is doing the country an incredible service right now. The way he wrote about reparations and, after the Charleston massacre, about the Confederate flag. I just wish … yeah, I just wish.)
How to get the Dreamers to understand this about lip service? Dreamers are a notoriously defensive bunch whose defensiveness is like a raincoat that sheds the rain of truth. Besides, lip service seems to be an essential component of the Dream. Many Dreamers claim to be washed in the Blood of the Lamb, but let's just say they towel off quick. Don't ask them to live by the ideals they profess, because they can't, not when those ideals have to do with love, or caring, or respect, or empathy, or fairness. Why can't they? For two reasons: their religious beliefs let them off the hook, and their liberty always, always, always seems to come at someone else's cost. Their coin of liberty is selfishness, and its obverse is oppression.
So I don't have much hope for the Dreamers. I just don't. It was depressing to read recently about leaders of Black Lives Matter meeting with Hilary Clinton and telling her they wanted to change white minds, only to have her say they couldn't do that. They couldn't change white minds. Dammit, Clinton, can't you see that's one of the things you of all people need to take a stab at, at least?
I'm more a wisher than a hoper, I guess. I'm glad to have your book to help me think through all of this, even though I don't know where it leaves me. The whole time that your father talked about the Dream, the thing that welled up inside of me was a different dream that I'm sure you know about: the dream spoken of by Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a dream of liberty and justice for all. I wish that was the American Dream. By rights it should be. I wish you and I would be able to meet one another and be able to accept that we share in common both citizenship and humanity, but given the past that leads up to now, why should you accept the humanity of a white American like me? If that's not cause for shame for America, I don't know what is.
There should be a studio somewhere whose sole purpose would be to churn out all sorts of pop media renderings of the many stories in this book so YA lThere should be a studio somewhere whose sole purpose would be to churn out all sorts of pop media renderings of the many stories in this book so YA librarians across the country could use them to permeate the mind of the young. ...more
A brief for gun ownership as a private right. Has to explain why the Founders really didn't talk about it that much when writing their constitutions (A brief for gun ownership as a private right. Has to explain why the Founders really didn't talk about it that much when writing their constitutions (state/federal). Some did, but for the most part--as the author says--this was accepted as part of a common law right to self-defense.
Therefore, the purpose of the state constitutions and the Second Amendment had more to do with assuring arms for a militia to provide for the defense of the nation or the state, as opposed to a standing army.
Militia duty as a civic duty was understood by most of the Founders as being a responsibility of the citizen. This "civic" understanding of the Second Amendment is much more clearly delineated by Saul Cornell in "A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America."...more
From the author's introduction: "One need not deny gun rights advocates and gun control proponents their history. ... While these opposing theories haFrom the author's introduction: "One need not deny gun rights advocates and gun control proponents their history. ... While these opposing theories have deep roots in American history, there is little evidence that either theory was part of the original civic understanding that guided the framers of America's first constitutions. ... The one theory absent from current debate over the Second Amendment is the original civic interpretation."
Got that, America? Constitutionally, gun ownership is about your civic duty to serve in the militia. If there's one thing all Americans agree on, it is that militia service as a civic duty is right up there with the civic duty to vote and serve on juries. [cue laughter]...more