Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

During a heated exchange on my Facebook wall, a “friend”—I’ll call him “DB”—remarked that while I was “cool,” the rest of those posting on my thread, including family members of mine, were “faggots.”

As soon as I realized what he had said, I deleted him from my friends’ list.

Soon thereafter, evidently unaware that I unfriended this person, another friend of mine—someone who I do indeed know personally and who I’ll call “Ted”—contacted me privately to share his judgment that the use of the word “faggot” on the part of the offending individual was “problematic.”

In other words, Ted was upset primarily because of the specific insult that DB used as a conversation-spoiler. That DB spoiled the conversation by way of gratuitously insulting others was of secondary importance.

According to Ted, unlike any number of other nasty pejoratives, “faggot” has “a toxic past.”

Admittedly, the idea that a word has a “toxic” history is, at best, a vague one. I suspect that what Ted’s driving at is something like this: To use “faggot,” at least in the sense in which DB used it, is “careless and callous” because it perpetuates “intolerance” of “homosexuals.”

Where to begin?

First, while it is undeniably true that, for much, though not all, of its history, the word “faggot” has been used as an epithet to describe homosexuals, it has usually referred to homosexual men.

DB referred to “men and women” on my wall as “faggots.” These are, importantly, men and women about whose sexual orientation he knows nothing.

Second, “faggot” can and has also been used pejoratively to reference a “repellent,” but heterosexual, male.

Third, “faggot” needn’t be construed as a pejorative at all and, in fact, is “sometimes used within the gay community as a positive term of self-reference.”

Fourth and, most importantly, “faggot,” not unlike language generally—as, ironically, Ted himself unfailingly insists in our many conversations—has continued to evolve in its long trajectory from its sexually-neutral etymological origins. Interestingly, for an increasing number of people, particularly the young, “faggot” is evolving once more away from the sexual connotations that it’s acquired to mean something like “idiot.”

According to UrbanDictionary.com, “faggot” is no longer used to refer to a homosexual, but is instead a synonym of sorts for “stupid” and “loser.” Below is the example that is given:

Ralph: Chris hasn’t been answering his phone.

John: Yeah, he is probably hanging out with those other kids, that’s why.

Ralph: He is such a faggot.

John: Yeah, him and his faggot friends.

Given the context, it is unquestionably the case that DB used “faggot” in this last sense. That this way of speaking is indeed callous and crass, to say nothing of sophomoric, is not in dispute. Nor is there any denying that it can be offensive to homosexuals (and others).

However, the point is that Ted seems to assume that the word “faggot” has a life—a static life—of its own, that it must be offensive whenever it’s used—even when it’s used toward heterosexual men and women, or even when employed within the context of friendships such as that which “John” and “Ralph” have with “Chris” in the foregoing illustration.

The word, while it certainly remains a pejorative for gay men, has a range of connotations that are not limited to this.

Thus, it’s not at all clear how DB’s, Ralph’s, and John’s use of “faggot” perpetuates “intolerance” of gays. It’s even more difficult to discern what this can even mean given that Ted holds up as an example of such “intolerance” the Republican Party’s 2016 Platform! Pence, Ted declared, is representative of the platform in being “rigorously anti-homosexual.”

So, belief in the civilizational ideal of historical (heterosexual) marriage reveals an “intolerance” of homosexuals?! And using the word “faggot,” then, helps to promote such things as traditional marriage? In all fairness, this conversation occurred very quickly via private messaging, so Ted may have had more to say here.

But since he is the one leveling this charge, the burden is on him to prosecute his case.

 

Just as FBI Director James Comey confirmed for the world that Hillary Clinton chronically lied about having compromised national security, the “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) crowd stole the media spotlight from the disgraced Democratic presidential nominee.

The shooting deaths of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota by police have resurrected with a vengeance the narrative of Racist Police vs. Innocent Black Victims: In cities around the country, so goes this tale, police officers are busy “hunting” and “killing” black men.

On July 7, the logic of this rhetoric culminated in the shooting of a dozen Dallas police officers, of whom five died, and two civilians.

Speaking candidly, I believe that the black Sheriff of Milwaukee County, David Clarke, had it right when he renamed Black Lives Matter “Black Lies Matter.” Clarke also called on Americans of all races, but particularly white Americans who have been intimidated by threats of “racism” for far too long, to “stand up” to these racial arsonists.

I accept the challenge.

Black Criminality

For starters, there can be no honest discussion of police brutality vis-à-vis blacks unless there is an honest discussion of the astonishingly high rate of black criminality.

The Department of JusticeBarack Obama’s DOJ—recently released numbers on race and crime that may come as a quite unpleasant surprise to those invested in promoting the notion that blacks are perpetual victims of “white racism.”

In 2013, blacks were six times more likely to commit murder than non-blacks (whites, Hispanics, Asians) and twelve times more likely to murder someone of another race. For nearly every category of crime, blacks were found to be perpetrators at a higher rate than that of any other racial group.

Larry Elder is a black writer and syndicated talk radio host who was born and bred in South Central Los Angeles. He castigates racial agitators for not conceding that “blacks commit half of all street crime in America.” Elder implores his audience to concede the “fact…that nearly 40 percent of violent crimes—murder, attempted murder, non-negligent manslaughter, and aggravated assault”—are not just committed by blacks, but by “young black men, who account for no more than 3 percent of the nation’s population.”

As far as interracial crime is concerned, three years ago, there were 660,000 such crimes involving whites and blacks. In 85% of these cases, blacks were the perpetrators. Edwin Rubenstein places this in perspective: “This meant [that] a black person was 27 times more likely to attack a white person than vice versa.”

Blacks and Police

Heather MacDonald is a resident scholar at the Manhattan Institute. Her most recently published book, The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe, is a searing indictment of what she refers to as “the myth” of the BLM movement.

In point of fact, relative to the white and Hispanic homicide rate, death-by-police comprises a significantly larger proportion than it comprises for the black homicide rate: 12 percent of white and Hispanic killings occur at the hands of police, versus only 4 percent for blacks. “So,” MacDonald concludes, “if we’re going to have an Anti-Cop Lives movement, it would make more sense to call it White and Hispanic Lives Matter.”

In spite of constituting a smaller percentage of the country’s population than whites and even Hispanics, more blacks—over 6,000—are killed each year than are all white and Hispanic homicide victims combined. This, though, is because blacks, who are eight times more likely than non-blacks to commit homicide, kill at a much higher rate than do the members of any other racial group, and most blacks—93 percent—die at the hands of other blacks.

Thus, police, who exist in order to save lives, have a strong presence in just those areas—black areas—where lives are most at risk.

But there’s more.

Black males, in spite of comprising no more than six percent of the population, were responsible for 40 percent of all police shootings (When it is considered that young black males, who compose the bulk of criminal suspects, make up only about one to three percent of the national population, this figure becomes even more staggering). This means that a police officer is more than 18 times more likely to be shot by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be shot by an officer.

Another interesting tidbit that threatens the BLM narrative is that recent studies have shown that while there is racial bias in police shootings of suspects, it is actually whites who get the short end of the stick of it. As the Washington Post reports, “even with white officers who do have racial biases, officers are three times less likely to shoot unarmed black suspects than unarmed white suspects.”

Officers also take more time before shooting at black suspects than they take before shooting at white suspects.

The Post quotes researcher Lois James, of Washington State, who adds that officers are “significantly less likely to mistakenly shoot unarmed black suspects than unarmed white suspects.”

Roland Fryer, a black economist at Harvard and the youngest black person to have ever received tenure at this institution, conducted his own study which coincides with the findings of the Washington State University researchers that black suspects are not shot by police more so than are white suspects. “On the most extreme use of force—officer-involved shootings—we find no racial differences in either raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account.”

Fryer referred to this as “the most surprising result of my career.” Doubtless, Fryer suffered profound cognitive dissonance when facts conflicted head-on with the heady racial rhetoric of the day.

In March of 2015, the Justice Department released a report in which it found that in the city of Philadelphia, black and Hispanic officers were substantially more likely than white officers to shoot black suspects under the mistaken belief that they were armed. Greg Ridgeway, a criminologist at the University of Pennsylvania who was the former director of the National Institute of Justice, found that in New York City, black officers were 3.3. times more likely than non-black officers to shoot at crime scenes involving guns.

Sheriff David Clarke’s verdict that BLM should stand for “Black Lies Matter” now appears that much more justified.

 

 

 

Gersh Kuntzman of the Daily News is calling for Major League baseball to permanently ban the playing of “God Bless America.”

While conceding some of its virtues, Kuntzman laments that the classic jingle “embodies” some of “our worst things,” vices like “self-righteousness, forced piety,” and “earnest self-reverence.”

Kuntzman approvingly alludes to a 2013 poll conducted by the author of a book on “God Bless America.” The poll found that 61% or so of those asked share Kuntzman’s judgment that the song should go the way of the dinosaur. The real story here, though, is to be found in how those numbers break down:

While only 20.5% of those who wish to see the song banned from major league baseball self-describe as “very conservative,” a whopping 84% who want the same regard themselves as “very liberal.”

The “very liberal” stand side-by-side with “foreigners,” like Kuntzman’s British friend, who find “the self-righteousness” and “patriotism” of the song “exactly what [to] expect from Americans.”

This is telling.

Setting aside that these judgments reflect a profound, indeed, a scandalous, ignorance of the natures of both piety and patriotism, they are telling in another respect. It’s worth asking:

As Americans prepare to celebrate Independence Day, can, logically speaking, the “very liberal”—i.e. the left—join them in doing so?

Paul Gomberg is one leftist, a philosopher, who resoundingly rejects this as a moral and logical possibility. In his essay, “Patriotism is like Racism,” Gomberg argues for his thesis that the former is as big an evil as the latter.

“Racism” is immoral because it violates the requirement of “moral universalism,” namely, the requirement that our “actions are to be governed by principles that give equal consideration to all people who might be affected by an action.” From this perspective, “all count equally and positively in deciding what to do.”

So, in other words, among the most “fundamental rights” that moral universalism bestows upon individuals is the right to be “treated impartially,” i.e. the right to be treated “without regard to race [.]” Since “racism” consists in treating people partially according to race, it is immoral.

However, Gomberg is quick to note, the right to be treated impartially includes as well the right to be treated without regard to “nationality” and “citizenship.”

This being so, because patriotism is a matter of treating one’s co-nationals and/or fellow citizens partially, like “racism,” patriotism, then, is immoral.

In summary: Morality requires impartiality. Racism and patriotism, though, require partiality. Hence, racism and patriotism are both equally immoral.

Gomberg adds that partiality toward one’s friends and the members of one’s community can also exacerbate social and economic “inequalities.” For example, suppose Joe owns his own business and needs to hire more employees. If he were to hire his “old school chums,” say, and/or residents from his old neighborhood, “the degree of residential and school segregation in most big cities in the United States” would all but guarantee that they would be of the same “ethnic group” as Joe himself. And “given the greater initial disadvantage of most black people in access to capital and business opportunities generally,” the hiring of one’s friends and acquaintances “will tend to maintain or exacerbate poverty in intensely impoverished inner-city black ghettos.”

This is “racism,” for it undermines “human equality.”

Patriotism, though, does the same thing. “People from other countries immigrate to the United States because of international inequality.” Moreover, “international income gaps are vastly greater than domestic racial inequality.” Therefore, “favoritism toward a more prosperous nationality or discrimination against nationals from poor nations contributes to a morally objectionable inequality” that is “no better” than the inequality that is the essence of “racism.”

Gomberg, quite inconsistently, does not criticize as “objectionable” the inherent “inequality” between the families of some and those of others, an “inequality” resulting from the robust partiality of people toward their own families. Yet the reasoning that he uses to condemn partiality toward one’s co-ethnics and co-nationals holds at least as strongly when it comes to familial partiality.

People tend to be more partial to the interests of their own family members than they are toward those of the members of other families. Yet, overwhelmingly, people of all racial backgrounds continue to date and marry intra-racially. So, this partial treatment toward one’s relatives, inasmuch as it translates into partiality toward the members of one’s own race, inevitably leads to inter-racial inequalities.

And inter-racial “inequality” is, according to Gomberg (and the prevailing wisdom of the Racism-Industrial-Complex), “racism.”

If, then, you’re, say, white and you choose to marry and procreate with another white person, you’re guilty of “racism.”

Gomberg doesn’t go there. Most “very liberal” folks won’t go there (at least not yet). The point here, however, is that neither Independence Day nor any other “patriotic” holiday, institution, or tradition can be a cause for celebration by the lights of the Gombergs of the world.

As for the Jack Kerwicks of the world, here’s wishing you and yours a happy and safe Independence Day!

 

 

 

 

A friend and colleague of mine just sent me a NY Times article by Robert Reich in which the latter contends that the Republicans are acting “unconstitutionally” by refusing hearings to any of Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. I replied—admittedly, a bit too abruptly—that the Democrats feign concern about abiding by the Constitution only when it suits their purposes.

I stand by this position. But I know that the same can be said for Republicans.

Brion McClanahan’s latest book underscores in spades this bipartisan disregard of the Constitution. His 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America and Four Who Tried to Save Her (Regnery: 2016) is a tailor-made book for the lover of American political history. Moreover, though a piece of scholarship of the first order, it is, refreshingly, written in prose that is accessible to any remotely curious reader.

Another welcoming feature of McClanahan’s analysis is its indisputably non-partisan tone. Unlike Robert Reich, McClanahan’s repulsion from unconstitutional governance is not selectively determined by ideological prejudice and political gain. It is principled. That this is so becomes obvious as soon as one begins thumbing one’s way through 9 Presidents.

McClanahan notes that the concerns of the anti-Federalists began to materialize as early on as George Washington’s tenure in office.

While “Washington’s first administration was a model for the constitutional exercise of the presidential powers,” his second administration was not. For starters, though he was constitutionally required to seek the “advice and consent” of Congress when it came to issues of war and treaties, in 1793, in the wake of the bloody French Revolution, Washington acted unilaterally by essentially breaking America’s treaty with France by issuing his “Proclamation of Neutrality.” James Madison and Thomas Jefferson were among those who viewed this move as the stuff of, not presidents of Constitutional Republics, but monarchs.

Washington also crushed the so-called “Whiskey Rebellion,” a move that was unconstitutional on multiple grounds.

Yet Washington is not among the cast of characters that McClanahan charges with having “screwed up America,” of having grossly, routinely undermined the Constitution. This ignominious distinction the author endows upon such worthies as Andrew Jackson; Abraham Lincoln; Theodore Roosevelt; Woodrow Wilson; Franklin D. Roosevelt; Harry Truman; Lyndon Johnson; Richard Nixon; and Barack Obama.

It would be a mistake, however, to think that McClanahan treats this list as exhaustive. Like Washington, there are several presidents—George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush are three notable examples—who don’t have chapters reserved for them, but whose flagrant abuses of the Constitution the author meticulously documents.

McClanahan knows that by including Lincoln in his list of presidents who “screwed up America,” he will shock the contemporary sensibilities of many readers. Yet he also makes a compelling case that any such list that omitted “Honest Abe” would be downright dishonest, for Lincoln, “more than any president who came before him, created the blueprint for the modern presidency.”

If ever there was a “fundamentally transformative” president, it was Lincoln, the man who presided over the transformation of the American political system from “a federal republic to a consolidated nation.”

Through a chain of the most cogent reasoning, McClanahan reveals how and why the Southern states that formed the Confederacy were indeed justified, constitutionally speaking, in seceding from the Union. Lincoln, thus, acted unconstitutionally in treating secession as a “rebellion.” Yet even conceding, for argument’s sake, that Lincoln was right about this matter, he was, from the standpoint of the Constitution, terribly wrong in how he proceeded to address it.

“Lincoln,” McClanahan explains, “violated the Constitution and his oath by unilaterally calling up the ‘militia’ to subdue ‘combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings or by the powers vested in the marshals by law.” The problem, here, is that the Constitution authorizes Congress—not the Executive branch—to do such things.

However, McClanahan remarks, “these violations of the Constitution were only the beginning.” The 16th president, he continues, “presided over the most oppressive and lawless general government in American history to that point, one that has only been surpassed by the imperial presidencies of the twentieth century.” Lincoln’s “unilateral suspension of habeas corpus was ruled unconstitutional by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney”—and yet “Lincoln ignored the ruling [.]” His administration “arrested over ten thousand Northern Americans for their opposition to the war, mostly newspaper editors and politically well-connected citizens” (emphases original) [.]

There are many more violations of the Constitution of which Lincoln was guilty, but space constraints preclude enumeration of them here.

“Progressive” Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, given “his belief that…the Constitution was an outdated piece of parchment subject to elastic interpretation and the will of the executive,” was the first of the 20th century imperial presidents. Even some of his fellow Republicans in Congress objected to his blatant subversion of the Constitution in executing his “Square Deal” agenda.

While Roosevelt was the first of the last century’s imperial presidents, he was far from the last. Woodrow Wilson, who “lamented that the founding generation did not have the foresight to call for a closer link between the executive and legislative branches” and who, to remedy this alleged weakness, regarded the Constitution as “organic,” “was a…pioneer in unconstitutional executive authority.”

Then, of course, Franklin Delano Roosevelt ratcheted things up considerably by ramming his “New Deal” “through Congress with a personal zeal unmatched by anyone who had held the office before him.” Yet FDR’s successor, Harry Truman, “had become the most progressive president in American history” by the time his nearly eight years in office had come to a close.

The four presidents who tried to “save” America by exercising admirable, if imperfect, constitutional constraint are Jefferson, John Tyler, Grover Cleveland, and Calvin Coolidge. Not unsurprisingly, though, and with the exception of that of Jefferson’s, the presidencies of these last three are ordinarily regarded by historians as either unremarkable or even failed. This, however, reveals more about the extent to which these same historians subscribe to the model of the imperial—to repeat, the unconstitutional—presidency than it speaks to these forgotten presidents themselves.

By the measure of the Constitution-as-ratified, Tyler, Cleveland, and Coolidge join Jefferson as among the best presidents in American history.

Brion McClanahan’s Nine Presidents Who Screwed Up America and the Four Who Tried to Save Her is must reading for everyone who is more interested in preserving the Constitution than in preserving their respective parties.

During this heated election season, it is also timelier than ever.

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