Thursday, March 20, 2008

Blacks are now America's chief racists

We're told, over and over, that Christian Fundamentalism is the single greatest threat to the American way of life; that it is, among many other evils, a breeding ground for race hate. We are reminded of the virtual descendants of Simon Legree among the Baptist Republicans of the Caucasian persuasion. We are harangued without end about their ceaseless lust for power. Baptist Democrats, it would seem, possess a "Get Out of Racism Free" card. Not because of their religious belief, but because of their party affiliation. It is a strange religion where sanctity is determined by politics and not by faith, but that seems to be the case.

This afternoon on the lawn my gardener asked me if I have given myself up to God yet. He is a devout believer, a Christian Fundamentalist with a paperback bible in his back pocket. It's new this year because he gave his well-worn one last September. He is concerned for my soul. And he has reason to be. I confessed I had not but was still searching, as indeed I am.

Born and baptized an Episcopalian, I am a member of no church. I feel this as a nagging lack in my soul and my weak response is to, well, "look around." As the old song goes, I'm always "window shopping, but never stopping to buy."

I've been church shopping on and off for several years. During that time I've attended more than three dozen churches whose congregations could be considered Fundamentalist. I've been in these churches from Seattle to Key West, from California to the Carolinas. I've sat with congregations of well-to-do middle-class folks and congregations of poorer folks. A lot of this has involved just dropping in at random when, as they say,the spirit moves me. This is not hard to do in the Carolinas where I once counted more than 22 churches within four miles of where I was located in the countryside. But the density in the cities is comparable.

From my direct observation, these Christian Fundamentalist churches have all -- every single one -- had congregations composed of all the races. From my auditing of the sermons I have never, not once, heard a message of race hate preached. Neither have I heard race hate promoted in the social meetings after. Not one single time, not even in the whitest of congregations. I have never, not for one instant, felt anything coming from these meetings that is anything other than embracing tolerance and Christian love for mankind. I have never, not for one instant, detected a whiff of bigotry or of anti-Semitism in these gatherings. Being a reformed radical from Berkeley in the 1960s I have keen radar for this sort of thing. Like many of my unreformed cohort I can detect it even when it doesn't exist.

Now I will admit that there may well be some churches that are, somewhere, all-white and that specialize in race-hatred, but they have to be pretty well hidden. Hidden not only from the world at large but from people like me.

I say "people like me" because, as you would know in a moment if you met me, I'm the whitest kind of fellow around. Pure WASP with a long American lineage. If I wanted to stumble onto institutionalized white racism in American churches, it wouldn't be too hard for me to find it and gain admittance.

This is not to say that white racism does not exist in America. It does. There are, as we know, a lot of white folks around that do not take kindly to people of other races and differing lineage. But that doesn't mean you find it in the churches. Indeed, it is harder and harder to find anywhere with every passing year. Whatever you may feel about racism in America in 2008, it is clear that the trend is not up.

What has also become clear to me -- what has been a revelation to me -- in the last week is that you do find racism embedded in some Christian Fundamentalist churches; churches whose congregation is almost strictly African-American. Indeed, scanning the tapes of the Reverend Wright Church that Barack Obama has attended it was difficult for me to find one white member of the congregation. I have, it is true, seen a tape where a white female pastor of another church was brought in to gush over the church, but that seemed to me to be a special occasion; something performed for the cameras.

While I can imagine many parishioners of many of the fundamentalist churches I've attended over the last few years sitting through a lot of sermons on this or that, I cannot imagine a white person sitting through the kind of sermons I've heard coming out of Reverend Wright's mouth -- unless they were overwhelmed with guilt and had a twisted sort of Christ-complex.

Indeed, it would seem that if a person of faith wanted to mix some naked racism into their weekly diet of scripture and Christ's teachings in America, he or she would not seek out some Billy Grahamesque church lodged far back in Redneck County,USA, but would instead want to sit in a pew in a church formed almost exclusively of African-Americans. That seems to me, according to the evidence of my senses, to be where racist sentiments are currently being preached with fire and conviction. And where they receive a hearty AMEN.

I am sensible, as I write the above, that such beliefs and behaviors are not true of the majority of African-American Fundamentalist Churches. And I pray that that is true. At the same time, I am not at all convinced that Reverend Wright's church is a single anomaly, a one-off. There are, I am certain, others. But since, given the nature of such churches, their doors are closed to me, I cannot get a real sense of how big a fraction of the churches they represent. I can only hope they are not many.

There's been a lot of analysis about why these churches seem to thrive -- Reverend Wright's is given as the largest of its kind in Chicago -- but in a way the explanations are all shallow; are all excuses for behavior and habits of mind that should have been expunged from sermons decades past. Yet they abide and their slow poison works its way into the souls of the faithful and leeches out into the body politic.

It seems to me more than a little ironic that as a new great awakening has swept across the land in the last twenty years, a great sleep has fallen over this realm. Listening to Reverend Wright preach and to the call and response from his congregation it seemed to me like looking in on some long vanished rituals devoid of real thought and faith; living only via the expected call and the given response, almost robotic, and having little -- very little -- to do with the message of salvation, brotherhood, and forgiveness.

It was like watching people letting themselves be hypnotized for the greater glory not of Christ but of men. It was like watching a generation willing to continue their enslavement to a self-imposed definition of inferiority rather than rise up in the liberation of truth faith and equality. I saw not a hunger for the glory of God, but a thirsting after the glory of a race to the detriment of all others. How weak, I thought, and how shameful. A Christ triumphant would drive these race hustlers from His temple.

I thought, watching these sermons, these crazed rants spouted in the name of God, "Don't they know.... Can't they see... They're not worshipping God or Christ, they are worshipping men.... racist men.... the very thing their forefathers suffered under and fought to get free of... and now they're back in the same place."


Now chocolate is incorrect

It is almost unthinkable to have Easter without Easter eggs. This year we will spend more than $200 million on them. And as a father of (now grown-up) children, I have witnessed over many years the joy they bring.

Yet there are hundreds of thousands of other children who are profoundly effected by Easter eggs and not for the better. They are the children who work in the cocoa plantations of West Africa - they toil to produce cocoa that goes into the 924,000 tonnes of chocolate Australians eat each year. It is estimated that in the West African nation of the Ivory Coast alone more than 600,000 children work on cocoa fields.

Research in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, which together make up 60 per cent of the world's cocoa, reveal up to 80 per cent of children in the cocoa fields are being exposed to dangerous practices such as unprotected use of chemicals, carrying heavy loads, brush burning and using machetes. About half of these children do not go to school. There is also evidence of children being trafficked. The study estimated up to 12,000 children had been trafficked for cocoa in West Africa.

I have just returned from West Africa where I have seen the problem. I have seen the mug shots of the traffickers; spoken to children, cocoa farmers, authorities and local organisations desperately trying to help trafficked and exploited children. It was an experience that saddened me but also made me determined to do all I can to change the plight of these children.

It is difficult to estimate the scope of trafficking of children for cocoa in the Ivory Coast but what evidence police have uncovered reveals it is a sophisticated network involving fake identity papers and established smuggling routes. The trafficked child will often live with the cocoa farmer's family but as a second-class citizen. That child won't go to school, won't get paid and will do the dirtiest and most dangerous work on the cocoa field.

World Vision Australia has launched the Don't Trade Lives campaign, designed to focus public attention on the modern-day trafficking and enslavement of people across the world. More than 200 years after British parliamentarian William Wilberforce successfully campaigned for the abolition of state-sanctioned slavery - slavery still exists. It is estimated that trafficking enslaves 27 million people worldwide today. In September 2001, members of the chocolate industry signed a voluntary protocol - the Harken Engel Protocol - to establish credible standards of public certification that ensured cocoa production was free of the worst forms of child labour practices in Ivory Coast and Ghana.

This process was to be completed by July 2005. The industry failed to meet this deadline and it has now extended to July 2008. It is also critical that manufacturers outline a plan of action by Christmas to ensure the chocolate we eat is free of human exploitation.

We don't want people to stop eating chocolate or to boycott some brands; this will only further hurt the children we are trying to help. [A rare burst of realism!] But consumers must send a message to chocolate makers that they are watching. To help people make the right choice, World Vision had made available a "Good Chocolate Guide". People can also find out more about this problem and what action they can take at


Left slays its apostates

A comment from Australia on the Mamet conversion

Why the shock when a smart guy decides to think about issues and changes his politics? It is not just in Islam where apostasy is a capital offence. Judging from the reaction to David Mamet's self-proclaimed conversion from liberal to conservative politics, apostasy is also a mortal sin in the arts world. Declaring that he is no longer a "brain-dead liberal", the famed American playwright performed the ultimate act of treason. After turning his back on a lifetime of progressive beliefs, Mamet was flayed for staining his artistic credentials. Just one question: why does an artist - whether a playwright, a painter or a writer - have to subscribe to left-wing views to make good art?

First to the conversion. Writing in The Village Voice last week, Mamet looked to John Maynard Keynes who, when chastised for changing his mind, famously replied: "When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?"

Mamet changed his opinion after he did some reading for his latest Broadway play. In November, he pits a corrupt, selfish, money-grabbing, realistic president against his left-wing, lesbian, utopian-socialist speechwriter. "I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson and Shelby Steele and a host of other conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than the idealistic vision I called liberalism."

It was quite a change for Mamet. He admits that, for years, he was such a "brain-dead liberal" that he listened to NPR - National Public Radio, which he dubbed National Palestinian Radio - with "wonder and rage contending for pride of place". A child of the 1960s who accepted the progressive orthodoxy that everything was wrong with the world, Mamet realised that "these cherished precepts had, over the years, become ingrained as increasingly impracticable prejudices. Why do I say impracticable? Because although I still held these beliefs, I no longer applied them to my life."

His epiphany came from honestly reviewing his life. "A brief review revealed everything was not always wrong," he wrote. In a series of acts that would shock the arts world, Mamet began to question his hatred of corporations, recognising his hunger for their goods and services, and dumped his "bad, bad military" views, instead realising these were men and women who risked their lives to protect the rest of us. He found he was hard-pressed to find too many examples where government intervention "led to much beyond sorrow". And, drawing once again on his experience, he realised that the Marxist view that classes in the US were static, not mobile, was simply wrong.

Like a red rag to a bull, the Left attacked. "What worries me," Michael Billington wrote in The Guardian, "is the effect on his talent of locking himself into a rigid ideological position." The New Statesman lamented Mamet's embrace of "a more Hobbesian strain of conservatism". Back at The Guardian, Mike Marqusee saw the conversion as an unconditional "surrender ... to the dominant powers" of society.

David Lister, in The Independent, moaned that "so complex and gifted a playwright should now seek to reduce his own work and his own politics to simple concepts".

For the Left, Mamet's days as a provocative playwright are over. As I parse the shrieks of horror over Mamet's move to the Right, I recall what a friend on the Labor side of politics said to me late last week. So many on the Left are obsessed with how they feel about something, he says.

Think about it. So many issues the Left is consumed by are about raw emotion, not intellectual analysis. They will ask you how you feel - not what you think - about some gripping issue. And that's why Mamet changed his views. He started thinking about issues, engaging his head. So many on the Left take the shortcut, letting their gut reaction dictate their response.

Of course, even before Mamet's political conversion it was easy to work out that left-wing politics is essentially emotional, not logical. With only rare exceptions, poets, playwrights, actors, directors and artistes generally are overwhelmingly political bleeding hearts. If your daily occupation is to emote as effusively as possible and your aim is making your audience feel some emotion or another, then rational analysis is simply not your strong point. Hence any collection of Australian artistes - think Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Judy Davis or David Williamson - resembles nothing so much as an old-time Fabian Society love-in.

And that's why Hollywood artists such as Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, George Clooney, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Matt Damon, Will Smith - the list is endless - have signed up to the Barack Obama campaign. The campaign, based essentially on hope and change, all about feelings, is political manna to these guys. A large part of the problem is not merely that artists are frequently economic illiterates but that they actively reject the notion that knowledge of economics is helpful to policymakers. So you won't find them reading Friedman. Instead, they will, as Williamson so famously did a few years back, lament that more Australians are not reading Proust.

And the richer they are, the likelier they are to think the average bloke ought to forgo aspirations for economic security in favour of a caring, sharing utopia where flourishing government-funded art houses will make up for crippling tax rates and a moribund economy. It is no coincidence that in these lofty circles, the phrase economic rationalist is the greatest insult. Much more acceptable is the opposite: economic irrationality.

But let's be fair. There is a certain class of intellectually feeble capitalists who possesses a similar world view. Having made it big in the free market, acquiring all the accoutrements of a fine life, they have a perfectly timed conversion to the Left. Check out YouTube where you'll find rich guy "Warren Buffet 4 Obama".

Indeed, some of these corporate types get rich by avoiding tax, only to turn around and demand higher taxes of those still toiling away - not to mention the next generation - to fund policies that feed their consciences. It's easy to start subscribing to woolly politics that would mean bigger government, more regulation and higher taxes for the average punter after you've made your substantial stash of money.

The leftist glitterati is justifiably upset about Mamet's rejection of progressive beliefs. After all, he unpeeled the layers of hypocrisy of those who have made plenty of money, feeding very nicely on the fruits of capitalism, only to espouse anti-capitalist dogma because, let's face it, it feels so damn good.


Why Political Correctness is Censorship Masquerading as Civility

My bias in this blog is a whole hearted belief in the genius of the First Amendment to the Constitution which, for those of you who missed Government Class, deals with the inability of the Congress to dictate what we can believe in the form of establishing a state religion and in the sanctity of individual speech no matter how unpleasant it might be. The reason the drafters of the Constitution protected speech, press, and religous choice in the first amendment is that when those are gone the others don't really matter.

Political correctness is a way of dividing and making victims of people who shouldn't be separated from the whole nor who, in their own right, aren't defenseless. As long as we are operating, talking, and describing ourselves as Americans it's hard to identify and isolate specific groups as groups that need more protection than the rest of us or funding for that matter. It's when we partition people as to race, religion, speech, net worth, income, or education that we create an automatic platform for grievance and special attention.

The purpose of the politically correct movement is to identify and isolate potential victims groups in the furtherance of the politically correct proponent's own legislative or financial agenda. If we can give separate and special causes of action to people because they are of color, or poor, or white and underemployed, or religous or not religous, like animals or don't like animals, then we have a whole structure to build a system of addressable and redressable grievances that should be paid attention to and paid for by other people. It's a version of the lottery where sooner or later everyone is both a loser and a winner.

Speech has long been the intellectual conundrum of lawyers and the courts. While I'm clear that I cannot arbitrarily shout "Fire" in a theatre without just cause I am also clear that I should not be prohibited from a wide range of possible descriptions of people or situations that come across my path. The problem with using your sensibilities as my measuring stick of appropriate discourse is that you have all the freedom and I have all the responsibility without any of the protections.

I have long felt that the best form of speech regulation is purely and simply a market based one: don't listen to or pay to listen or read anything that you find offensive. While there may be situations where the occasional Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake wardrobe malfunction occurs accompanied by the predictable embarassment, it is the exception rather than the rule. Anyone who's listened to a comedy routine for very long that is filled with four letter references and personally offensive sexual innuendos understands that after a while it is neither funny nor intelligent. It is also not mandatory that you stay.

Anyone who thinks that teenagers listening to four letter words in a rap tune is a basis for moral and cultural degradation missed the fact that Elvis and the Beetles didn't destroy a generation or the fabric of America. They just entertained some kids in need of entertaining. For my tastes Rap is fourth rate poety set to sixth rate music. I don't like it but I like even less someone telling me that I can't listen to it. I'm sure there are people who heard Metallica or "Chances Are" by Johnny Mathis for the twelfth time in an evening think the same thing.

The arguments for the proponents of speech regulation or "appropriate" speech base their arguments on gross generalizations of the kinds of personal affronts or catostrophic effects that will occur within the family or society if such speech is allowed to continue. The simple answer is to turn off the tv, radio, internet, or cd. The worst answer is for me to let you, whoever you are, determine what I can watch, listen to, play, or say. The better answer is not to subscribe at all. The really, really worst answer is to engage in a process of micro filration that turns sponteneity into sameness. The great thing about America is that we have the freedom in most situations to leave the room, walk away, turn something off, or unsubscribe. I'm not sure we need the language or the thought police to tell us which ones we should do when..

It's easier to be a victim than almost anything else. It just involves shifting the responsibility for what happens to you or what you want to have happen to you to someone else with the kind of irresponsibility that let you arrive in the situation in the first place. To continue to listen to a comedy routine that you find offensive makes you a victim of your own inertia and not of the comedian's language. I'm very clear you need to flip the" move out of here" switch. I'm not at all clear you should delegate what you should or should not hear to someone with an agenda or arbitrariness that promotes their cause while manipulating your options.

If you don't like what I say, then don't listen. If you don't like what I write, then don't read it anymore. If you think I've offended your race, religion, sex or national heritage, then tell me that to my face without filtering it through the nebulousness of political correctness.

Geraldine Ferraro was absolutely right in her reasoning about Barack Obama. She was absolutely wrong in the way she expressed it and politically stupid as well. She should've said, "White or Black or Asian or Hispanic or Inuit, Barack is a lightweight applying for a heavyweight position. He has neither the experience nor the credentials to lead the most powerful nation on earth. It's a pumped up resume delivered by an affirmtive action courier for a job that no one with such weak credentials should be applying for.

To speak smoothly and eloquently is a great skill. To inspire with great rhetoric is an even greater gift. It is easier to espouse a great vision than it is to execute a great plan. I support Barack's right to promote as much as I support Geraldine's right to criticize..each in their own language and in their own medium and more importantly, in their own way. My options are to not vote for either Geraldine or Barack if I find them offensive.. I'd much rather live in a country that is run by a moron that I would be told what to say by one.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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