Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Thomas Jefferson and the Grievance Mongers

                  From the Monticello official website

Grievance = by definition: a feeling of having been treated unfairly; a reason for complaining or being unhappy with a situation; a statement in which you say you are unhappy or not satisfied with something.

We are amuck in the age of grievances, grievances of gargantuan proportions that cut vast swaths across times, places and peoples, grievances of tiny magnitude, registered these days under the heading, “micro-aggressions. The grievance mongers lie in ambush everywhere.  Grievances multiply to open up coveted space in today’s “Pantheon of Victimhood”.  Installation in the Pantheon as a certified victim means you get to wear a permanent moral halo and remain immune from criticism of any sort. You possess the “superior virtue of the oppressed”, as the philosopher Bertrand Russell put it.  New York Times columnist David Brooks recently concluded his review of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book, Between the World and Me, an anti-white diatribe by an angry black man by asking himself if he, “as a white man has the moral standing to question any part of it?” (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/white-america-dons-the-shroud-of-guilt/article25971483/). The answer to this absurd question is painfully obvious: David, quit writing reviews or anything else. Join a monastery. Devote yourself to good works for the poor.  Of course, you have no “moral standing”. Not because you are a white man, but because you have completely surrendered whatever slim capacity you once may have had to grasp basic facts, reason and think straight. This is the same David Brooks, by the way, who after interviewing then Presidential candidate, Barack Obama back in those halcyon days of “Hope and Change” wrote: “I remember distinctly an image of–we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant … and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.” (http://hotair.com/archives/2009/08/31/the-obligatory-david-brooks-really-impressed-with-obamas-pants-post/) And I’m thinking, (a) do we ever want to hear from this New York Times deep thinker again and (b) if we did, why would we take him seriously?

White guilt, like that displayed by groveling idiot-intellectuals like Brooks, gives an enormous boost of legitimacy to the blustering maestros in the thriving grievance industry, experts in the practice of the art of moral blackmail. (See my blog, The Left: Masters of Extortion)
(http://fosterspeak.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-left-masters-of-extortion.html) These guys you provoke at your own peril! They are “professionals” fermenting in the juices of resentment, always in a permanent high dudgeon, always wanting to remind you of how insensitive you are. They are the self-selected representatives of the burgeoning legions of the righteously aggrieved. They give “voice” to their feelings of being treated unfairly and their unhappiness with the raw deals that are the standard fare in America for anyone who is not a white male. They now maintain vast inventories of “micro-aggressions”, invent new ones, and make lots of demands, non-negotiable ones. 

Consider the ruminations of Desiree H. Melton, a philosophy professor at Notre Dame of Maryland University specializing in critical race theory and feminist philosophy, a fully credentialed grievance professional. She does not disappoint.

 A recent tour of Monticello aroused her critical race theory ire which then led to the appearance of “Monticello’s Whitewashed Version of History” in the Washington Post listed as an opinion piece. That the Washington Post would publish such a mindless piece of bilious, self-righteous posturing masquerading as serious thinking is evidence that for our intellectually elite gatekeepers of opinion white guilt trumps any standard of dispassionate reflection and critical insight that might be applied to the “conversations on race” they keep insisting that we have.  No connection with reality is required (David Brooks, case in point).  Equally depressing is that Ms. Melton gets paid to transmit her tendentious, resentment-laden drivel to young college students.   

For Ms. Melton, the Monticello tour was painful from the beginning as she complains that the other, “mostly white folks” on the tour were insufficiently somber. To my surprise, I was not saddened by the experience. I did, however, get angry. I was angry at the utter lack of reverence and solemnity.  Anger for grievance mongers is always the first reflex. You see, the critical race theorists of the world, like Ms. Melton, cannot comprehend why everyone else around them does not vibrate as they do with the same exquisite sense of moral outrage that comes from ruminating every waking moment on how awful it is to be a black person in America.  Reverence and solemnity among its white visitors were missing from Monticello because it did not demand it of them.” It is not clear that there is an “it” behind Monticello that can make these sorts of “demands”. Aren’t reverence and solemnity supposed to come from within? Perhaps the tour guides at Monticello are supposed to replicate the sessions of quivering, angry, uncensored, unmasking of America’s fake, whitewashed heroes that the students in her in her 101 classes at Notre Dame are subjected to. No pedestal can remain occupied. ”Why,” she asks, “does Monticello allow visitors to tour the house and then skip over its related slave sites? Why? – well, maybe because visitors to historic sites might have their own priorities, interests and perspectives that don’t quite match up with those of the angry professor.  Maybe it is because the visitors to Monticello are not (yet) political prisoners to be perp walked through the grounds, reeducated and forced to confess (Chinese, Cultural Revolution style) that American history is nothing other than the ugly story of racism and the subjugation and exploitation of black people. 

Ms. Melton’s is in a great wrath over Monticello’s supposed whitewashing of Jefferson’s slaver ownership. Did she even bother to look at the official Monticello website which gives ample considerable attention to the many aspects of slavery at Monticello? (http://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery) Included are a number of online exhibitions such as: Landscape of Slavery: Mulberry Row at Monticello; Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty; Getting Word: African American Families of Monticello  Also, on the website there were a number of articles relating to the reality of slavery at Monticello, Jefferson and Slavery and Jefferson and Sally Hemings.  What is lacking? Reality, it seems, makes no impression on this professor-visitor. She seems determined to enjoy her anger and bitterness.  Grievance professionals are about grievances – facts do not matter.

The problem Ms. Melton opines is that white people just don’t want to face the truth. “If white people cannot accept the awful truth that one of the nation’s cherished founders held people as property, and that slavery was indeed horrific, why would they acknowledge the covert ways in which blacks are still oppressed?
This is clearly a trick, “if-then” question. Let’s respond by turning it back around with a different “if-then” question. So:  IF black critical race theory professors are unable to grasp some simple obvious facts (a) that it makes absolutely no sense to talk about what truths white people as a single, collective race accept or do not accept because there are none, (b) that most white people do know and accept the fact that Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner, (c) that most white people as well as all other people would strongly aver that slavery is horrific (d) that the ancestors of many white Americans today, those particularly in the immigrant waves of the late 19th and early 20th centuries – Italians, Greeks, Jews from the Russian pale, etc. – had nothing to do with American slavery, many of whom were serfs and peons back where they came from, (e) that slave trading and ownership were not solely practiced by white people, (f) that white Christian abolitionists in England and America were primarily responsible for ending slavery in the western world,  THEN should critical race theorists, like Ms. Melton attempt to acquire a basic grasp of logic and critical thinking, study more history, work at becoming a little less censorious and self-righteous or perhaps, just find a more productive line of work?   

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