YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

March 9, 2013

Feel no pain: Rand Paul’s secret weapon

scaryangrybearThis blog is about the reasons that Rand Paul’s filibuster regarding “drone attacks” upon American soil garnered approval from individuals and pundits who may not themselves be isolationists. My thesis is that we tend to repress scary events and influences, thus providing receptiveness to anyone who proposes that we are in danger of sudden annihilation out of the sky or from trusted family members and their surrogates in the political world.

Here are some stressors. Some are recent, others are ongoing, but all of them prepare the soil for panic and paranoia: North Korea/Iranian nuclear threat, internal jihadists, 9-11, Obamacare: its cost, rationing, and “death panels,” ongoing nuclear threat leftover from the Cold War, uncertain economic future, growth of the federal government under the Democratic Party that backs off from American superpower status (making us vulnerable to internal subversion), culture war angst, the pervasive rhetoric of family while stigmatizing the “individual” as destroyer of family harmony.

(Note that the pervasive rhetoric of family in all political propaganda and advertising reinstates the parents as controlling the now infantilized “children”—even as we are mature adults. This is one cause of regression, making us ever more dependent on “leaders” or “celebrities” who do our thinking and feeling for us. And we dare not confront these “Good Kings,” for it is their anodyne that protects us from wild animals, the “nanny state”, alien invaders, and any and all sinister forces.)

It is possible that Rand Paul’s filibuster was a relief to those who feel helpless in the face of all these unresolved and perhaps unresolvable stressors (I’m thinking of parents and siblings who may or may not have been bullies). While some dismiss Rand Paul’s “stunt,” here was a surrogate action for our helpless selves, standing up to Eric Holder, and demanding an unequivocal answer regarding the safety of loyal Americans.

wolf

My own views are contained here, and are supplemented by fine, well-researched guest blogs by Tom Nichols (an authority on international relations, nuclear threats, and war) and Phillip Smyth (a researcher specializing in Mid-East conflicts and neo-isolationism on the American Right). See https://clarespark.com/2013/03/07/blogs-on-neo-isolationism/. My blogs note the ongoing influence of such isolationists as Charles Lindbergh, and the presence of American First members or sympathizers in the sociology that followed the trauma of World War 2, and that have affected the programming of “alternative media.” It should be noted also that two of Joseph McCarthy’s most prominent enemies were active in establishing community radio: I refer to Paul G. Hoffman and William Benton. See https://clarespark.com/2010/06/19/committee-for-economic-development-and-its-sociologists/.

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March 7, 2013

Blogs on neo-isolationism

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul

https://clarespark.com/2011/06/03/neo-isolationists-and-the-jewish-problem/ (Clare Spark)

https://clarespark.com/2010/07/04/pacifica-radio-and-the-progressive-movement/ (Clare Spark)

https://clarespark.com/2012/01/09/living-in-the-nuclear-age/ (Tom Nichols)

https://clarespark.com/2012/04/26/responding-to-neo-isolationists/ (Phillip Smyth)

https://clarespark.com/2012/09/14/ron-paul-anarchist-in-chief/ (Phillip Smyth)

https://clarespark.com/2013/03/09/feel-no-pain-rand-pauls-secret/ (Clare Spark)

Some of these blogs were guest blogs written by Tom Nichols or Phillip Smyth. My own view: no one who is not a masochist (or otherwise infantilized, as in the discourse of “family”)  likes to be bossed around, and most of us are bullied at some point, maybe a lot. But to throw over self- and national defense in favor of a calculated stunt is madness and could spell the end of the Republican Party. The notion of an unexpected drone attack dropping upon our heads is a potent symbol that taps repressed fears of nuclear annihilation or a repetition of 9-11. Recall that North Korea threatened a nuclear strike before Rand Paul hit on the filibuster idea: one that suggested a fatal blow and annihilation out of nowhere. Who wouldn’t be riled up? Will the Democratic Party win by default the entire issue of national security?

January 3, 2012

The Race Card

Sumner bio paperback cover art

This blog responds to the playing of “the race card” by such politicians as Eric Holder, Barack Obama, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson, plus a cast of thousands of militant black nationalists, along with academic allies who favor ethnic studies. Their separatism and taxonomy of “African-Americans” suggests not only an underlying loyalty to (racist) Pan-Africanism, but a fashionable version of US history as unmarked by moral and political outrage at the institution of slavery or horror at the failed struggle for Reconstruction after the supposed ending of the Civil War. At bottom, this blog suggests that the President’s continued popularity may be partly attributed to white liberal guilt (as suggested early on by Shelby Steele and others), and certainly not to powerful “liberal” blows against the racism that permeates our society, with some exceptions.

I will try to contrast two important books on race and class in the 19th century; one by the late David Montgomery, writing from the Left, and another by the late David Herbert Donald, writing from the moderate middle.  As I have shown in other blogs on the website, such success as the ex-slaves and their descendants have achieved in America is explained by the overt or subtextual racism of primitivism and  multiculturalism. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/04/08/racism-modernity-modernism/, and https://clarespark.com/2011/05/12/the-great-common-goes-to-the-white-house/.

I.    After having faulted upper-class antebellum and post-bellum Radical reformers (through 1868) for their obliviousness to structural class conflict, the late labor historian David Montgomery concluded that “the Radicals” (including Charles Sumner), nevertheless exerted a positive influence on American politics. In Beyond Equality, (1967) the book that established him as a leading historian, Montgomery ended with this paragraph:  “…though their moment in power was brief and their response to the dilemmas of that moment confused, the Radicals left America a legacy that was both rich and various. To Negroes they bequeathed the promise of equality, enshrined in the organic law of the land. To Liberals they imparted faith that an educated and propertied elite might shepherd the nation through the morass of democratic ignorance toward an increasingly prosperous, harmonious, and rational life. Upon the Sentimental Reformers, and through them, on the working classes, they bestowed the ideal of popular use of governmental machinery to promote the common good, and a conception of that good as something nobler than a larger gross national product. Henry Carey’s sense of revulsion toward the consecration of “selfishness and individualism as the prime feature of society,” and Thaddeus Stevens’s aspiration for a community ‘freed from every vestige of human oppression,’ jettisoned by a nation in frantic pursuit of wealth, were left in trust to its labor movement.”

(For David Montgomery’s views on his membership in the Communist Party see http://rhr.dukejournals.org/content/1980/23/37.full.pdf+html.)

II.   I have quoted from Montgomery’s first book, not because I sympathize with his Marxist analysis of the future of the labor movement, but because Montgomery’s positive view of the abolitionists and antislavery men (including Senator Charles Sumner, 1811-1874) stands in such sharp contrast with that of his Ivy League colleague David Herbert Donald, author of a much lauded two-volume biography of Sumner, that leaves out the labor question altogether, focusing rather on Sumner (a catalyst for Civil War) as a pain in the neck (perhaps with Jewish, Negro, or Indian blood), deserving of endless psychological analysis. But even more importantly, Donald sees the race problem as one of “prejudice,” without consideration of labor competition, in Ralph Bunche’s view, the lingering cause of white racism (see https://clarespark.com/2009/10/10/ralph-bunche-and-the-jewish-problem/) .

Here are some passages that illustrate my point:

David Herbert Donald

[From Donald, Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War (1960), footnote: pp.4-5:] “…Barry [1853] asserted that Sumner’s mother was ‘probably of Jewish descent’; this allegation led…Stearns [1905]…to identify ‘the Hebrew element in Sumner’s nature; the inflexibility of purpose, the absolute self-devotion, and even the prophetic forecast.’ Such a theory of inherited racial traits is, of course, highly unscientific. But, in any case, the Jewish strain in Sumner’s ancestry is dubious. At no point in his career, when virtually every other possible weapon was used against him, were anti-Semitic charges raised.” In the text on p. 5, Donald reports that “Boston maiden aunts speculated—without any evidence whatever—that the mysterious [Esther Holmes, Sumner’s paternal grandmother, never married to Major Sumner] had been ‘partly of Negro or Indian blood.’” But then, Donald hints that there may be something to these speculations seeking to account for Sumner’s passion for Negro human rights: “Prudently the new senator preferred to draw the veil over the whole subject of his genealogy (referring to CS’s autobiography): “It seems to me better to leave it all unsaid.”

In Charles  Sumner and the Rights of Man (1970), Donald takes a slightly more positive view of his subject, but no sooner does he declare Sumner’s belief in the brotherhood of humanity, than he finds a quote that attributes distinct racial qualities to Negroes (though this typical 19th century view of national or racial character never affects Sumner’s view of such crucial matters as freeing the slaves immediately after the attack on Fort Sumter, or endowing the freedmen with some of the land that they had worked, plus a full panoply of civil rights, including desegregated quality education, male suffrage, the right to testify in trials, desegregated public space, etc.

[Donald, V.2, p. 422, referring to Sumner’s anti-segregation speech “The Question of Caste”:]  “Invoking the new prestige of evolutionary science, he declared that ethnology and anthropology proved the ‘overruling Unity’ among the races of man, ‘by which they are constituted one and the same cosmopolitan species, endowed with speech, reason, conscience, and the hope of immortality, knitting all together in a common Humanity.’… [The Switch:] When the bars of caste were lifted, the Negroes would exhibit their basic racial traits of ‘simplicity, amenity, good-nature, generousity, fidelity,’ and these, when added to the ‘more precocious and harder’ characteristics of white Americans, would result in a civilization where ‘men will not only know and do, but they will feel also.”….

Near the end of Vol. 2, Donald reveals his affinity with Gunnar Myrdal, the white liberal foundations who funded and controlled the production of An American Dilemma (1944), and other cultural historians who hoped that reduction of “prejudice” and interracial understanding (or the constant reiteration of “white guilt”) will alleviate every kind of racism, through a change of heart:

[Donald, p. 533, referring to Sumner’s proposed civil rights bill:] “The subordination of the Negroes was less a matter of economics than of prejudice, deep-seated and ineradicable so long as black men legally were marked as belonging to an inferior caste. Only by securing equal rights to all citizens could the United States live up to its promise and become a land where even-handed justice ruled.”

This rejection of economic considerations (e.g. labor competition) is precisely what Myrdal’s associate Ralph Bunche or his mentor Abram L. Harris, were repudiating in the late 1930s.

What to take away from this dip into the conflicted mind of the late David Herbert Donald, a Mississippian with a Vermont ancestor who fought for the Union? How did he climb the academic ladder to become one of the most honored historians in the field? Why should we pay attention to his Sumner obsession?

I have two primary reasons for writing this blog:

  1. Having reread the two-volume Donald  bio of Sumner, I am more convinced than ever that Melville modeled his character Captain Ahab after Sumner. Just as “Ahab” was a “fighting Quaker”,  Sumner’s first scandalous public oration– on the Fourth of July 1845, in Faneuil Hall, Boston, to an elite assemblage that included military brass sitting in the first row—denounced all wars and pledged his life to peace.  The “fighting Quaker” moniker, plus the compassion that Ahab feels for the black boy Pip, going so far as to take “crazy” Pip into his cabin and promising never to abandon him, clinches the deal for me. For Sumner’s writing completed as Melville was writing Moby-Dick see https://clarespark.com/2009/10/05/charles-sumner-moderate-conservative-on-lifelong-learning/. Or see https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/.

2. The notion that a career such as Sumner’s, passionately averse to slavery, that then fights for reconstruction of an American post-Civil War Union, could be the sign of a mental disorder or even tainted blood, is so bizarre as to be a sign of mental  incompetence and perhaps outright hostility in Sumner’s biographer. It was noted in one obituary (the New York Times) that Volumes one and two of  Donald’s major work were different in tone, owing to the growing civil rights movement. Clearly, that writer did not read the new, improved model with sufficient care.  Donald never relinquishes his characterization of a foppish, somewhat gay, anti-social, supremely arrogant and Negro-fixated Charles Sumner. His complexion may have been olive-tinted in Volume 1, but he goes out in Vol. 2 with “So White a Soul” (referring to Emerson’s characterization of Sumner’s moral  purity, but with a suggestion of underlying racism).

TO BE CONTINUED.

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