Friday, May 23, 2008

America is not America

Yes, I would appear to have contradicted myself but hear me out. Last night my wife and I watched the finale of this season's episode of Boston Legal. Two themes dominated -- one was on the nature of friendship. The other was what does America stand for? The conflict that drove the latter theme was that the city of Concord, MA wanted Alan Shore, a liberal lawyer with Crane, Poole, and Schmidt, to bring an action against the United States to sever its relationship to the country. The second theme was driven by the fact that Denny Crane, who has "Mad Cow" (aka Alzheimers) and is a cognitively impaired (but mostly in regard to his behaviors) patriot and Alan's best friend decides to defend the US against this secession law suit.

Alan was very good as an advocate for Concord's suit. Denny was, to everyone's great surprise, a good deal better. He countered Alan's argument that the US under George Bush has ceased to abide by the values held by the founding fathers of the country in allowing torture, imprisonment of people, including Americans, without any access to family members, to say nothing of lawyers, invading another country for totally fabricated reasons, etc. We all know what the Bush Administration has done. Denny responded by pointing out that America has been violating the principles held by the founding fathers, as embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. from the very beginning His argument, then, was that there is nothing new under the American sun.

Is Denny right? During my time working for Civil Rights in the early 60's and against the Vietnam War in the mid-60's to the mid-70's I wondered why I was getting so worked up about how Blacks were being treated in Texas, where I was living during the time of my civil rights activity, or our fighting in Vietnam in order ostensibly to make S. Vietnam free of Communist rule. (America's actions toward Vietnam began with our canceling an election that would have unified Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh, who, by the way, had been an ally in WW II, which was totally at variance with our professed values.) The answer I came up with was that the values I was taught in civics class in Junior High or High School seemed to be being violated and I believed it was my duty to do what I could to bring our behaviors in line with our values. We were taught about all the wonderful things we stood for and the wonderful actions we had taken to help others. We were not taught about all the rotten things we have done, such as imprisonment of perfectly innocent Japanese Americans during WW II, among very many other quite rotten things. Had our text book and teacher been honest, I might not have grown up to be the Idealist I came to be (and still am despite all the evidence that it is a pretty hopeless perspective on the world). I shouldn't forget, of course, that my parents promoted the same values as those taught in my civics classes. I suspect that ver few parents tell their kids the ugly truths about America.)

The way Conservatives talk, they had their brains frozen after their educations in all the wonderful things America stands for. The result is that they brand anyone who draws attention to our flaws as a traitor.

America was not America when it was founded. The language of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is totally inconsistent with slavery and Founding Fathers knew this but chose to ignore this inconvenient truth in order to form our "more perfect union." Note now that slavery -- at least the sort of slavery that Blacks had to endure -- does not now exist. At the height of my disdain for the United States (I would cringe during the playing of the national anthem) for its failure to provide equal opportunities to all people and and its fighting in Vietnam on behalf of puppet leaders, my wife and I went to Edinburgh, Scotland, where I did research at the University of Edinburgh. While there it became apparent to me that Great Britain was some 20 years behind the US in its race relations and that did it have the military power of the US the UK would likely be engaged in even worse military atrocities. At the time, if memory serves, the UK was the only country that continued to supply arms to the White government of S. Africa. I decided that maybe the US was not as bad as I thought it was.

I learned from that experience that the values I believed America stands for are less a reality than an ambition. It is our ambition that minorities of all sorts (even when they are majorities, as in the case of women) should have equal opportunities but that is not yet a reality. With a simple change from the quite evil government of George Bush, to an administration led by Obama or Clinton (I'm much less sure of McCain) we will make a quantum leap toward making America's values a bit more of a reality.

Sadly, Obama is going to get the nomination in the Democratic Party to run for President and he is going to lose. America's reality is that it is too racist to elect a Black man -- even one who is very different from the sorts of Blacks who have run in the past (with perhaps the exception of Shirley Chisholm) that White America has been afraid of in some sense of the term. However, if the superdelegates in the Democratic Party were to see this truth for what it is -- a truth that the voters in Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and now Kentucky have made quite evident -- and decide to move over to Clinton's side, then Hillary would lose as well, for Blacks would be very, very angry at this. What they would do, I do not know.

So, my prediction is that America is insufficiently evolved to elect a Black man and that is a shame

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

When an Apology Isn't

Roger Clemens, possibly the greatest pitcher in baseball history, continues to wreak havoc on his reputation. Last week The Daily News of New York City claimed that
Roger Clemens carried on a decade-long affair with country star Mindy McCready, a romance that began when McCready was a 15-year-old aspiring singer performing in a karaoke bar and Clemens was a 28-year-old Red Sox ace and married father of two, several sources have told the Daily News.
This is an interesting sentence since it refers both to an affair (sexual) and a romance (possibly not sexual). So, it is not asserted that Mr. Clemens committed statutory rape. Clemens' spokesman claimed that she was a long time friend of his family. Ms. McCready said
"I cannot refute anything in the story,"
So, she denies neither that she had an affair nor a romance with Clemons.

What interests me is, first, that Clemens does not speak for himself but rather uses a spokesman. This may be because Clemens is involved in a suit and counter-suit with his former trainer, Brian McNamee, the source for claims that he used performance enhancing drugs. The second thing that occurs to me is his apology. Clemens said, according to the Columbus Dispatch (the AP being the source)
"Even though these articles contain many false accusations and mistakes, I need to say that I have made mistakes in my personal life for which I am sorry," Clemens said in a statement issued by spokesman Patrick Dorton. "I have apologized to my family and apologize to my fans. Like everyone, I have flaws. I have sometimes made choices which have not been right."
This is as far from a genuine apology as one can get. He claims that he has made "mistakes" in his personal life. I trust it is clear that sleeping with a 15 year old, if he did that, is rather more than a mistake. It is a crime. And cheating on his wife is not my idea of a mistake. We use the quite powerful term "adultery" to refer to that sort of "mistake". Perhaps he needs a scarlet "A" tattooed on his forehead. If I were his wife I would insist on it.

I am totally fed up with people referring to serious errors of judgment leading to actions that are reprehensible as "mistakes." Getting the result "5" on adding "2" and "4" is a mistake. Committing adultery is not a mistake. It is an immoral action of a particularly nasty sort for it betrays the one person in one's life who should be able to count on you. (This is my former Baptist self speaking.)

Roger's biggest "mistake" was to sue Brian McNamee for outing him as just another jock who used performance enhancing drugs, for this made him vulnerable to McNamee's lawyers during their depositions. These disclosures about his personal life might have stayed quietly buried in the past had Clemons simply ignored McNamee. He should simply have said, "These pernicious allegations are unworthy of comment."

The lamest part of Clemons is his statement that "Like everyone, I have flaws." So, now he is saying that statutory rape (something he might have done) are excusable on the grounds that everyone does stuff like that. Sorry, Roger. We don't all make "mistakes" of that sort.

The McNamee camp is itself not lacking in flaws. The Dispatch reports
"I think what it says without saying it is that he apparently admits he cheated on his wife and family. And if he cheated on them, I think it's reasonable to assume that he cheated his fans and baseball," Richard Emery, one of McNamee's lawyers, said in a telephone interview.
Sorry Mr. Emery, cheating in one compartment of one's life does not mean that one cheats in all parts of one's life and that would have to be true for this squalid inference to hold.

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