Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Whatever respectability Al Sharpton is thought to have achieved in recent years, some of us know all too well that he is the same demagogic agent of the Racism-Industrial-Complex (RIC) that he has always been.

Some instances of Sharpton’s, and the Industry’s, glaring racial double standards are less well known than others.

A little more than 20 years ago, with an army of camerapersons in tow, Sharpton descended upon my hometown of Trenton, New Jersey to weigh in on a “police brutality” case.  Both the officer and civilian in question were black, but this didn’t prevent “Reverend Al” from making a racial issue out of the incident.

The officer was eventually acquitted by a jury.  But by this time, Sharpton was long gone.

Interestingly, however unsurprisingly, at about the same time, Trenton was engulfed by a real racially-oriented crime that neither Sharpton nor any of his fellow agents ever thought to acknowledge. Only this time, the perpetrators were black and the victim white.

On the morning of December 17, 1992, Kristen Huggins, a 22 year-old Temple University graduate and artist, drove into Trenton from her suburban home to paint a mural at a private club.  While in the parking lot, she was greeted by 39 year-old Ambrose Harris.  Harris, who was on his bicycle, was in search of a car that he could use in a robbery. Huggins’ Toyota MR2 caught his eye.

Without further ado, he held her up at gunpoint and ordered her into the trunk of her tiny compact vehicle.  Waiting for him at the end of the driveway was his accomplice, 29 year-old Gloria Dunn.  With Huggins stuffed in her trunk, terrified, Harris and Dunn drove around the city for a bit before they returned to the scene of the kidnapping where Harris retrieved and hid his bike.

Harris and Dunn then drove Huggins to a wooded area under a city overpass.  Harris ordered her from her trunk.  He told her to take her off her clothes.  According to Dunn, Huggins “didn’t take her clothes off.  She was nervous and shaking and said, ‘What are you going to do?’”  Harris, Dunn continued, told her to “shut up” and called her a “bitch.”  Kristen [Huggins] “said she was a virgin and had never had sex before.”  But Harris “didn’t care.  He grabbed her and she started trying to take her clothes off.  She pushed her sweats down to her knees.”

Harris then proceeded to sodomize his captive as she cried in pain and pleaded with him to stop.  When he finished, he told her once more to shut up and ordered her back into her trunk. Then Harris grabbed his gun and asked Dunn if she wanted to “watch” as he killed Huggins.  Dunn said that she was only helping Huggins out of the trunk as Harris had commanded when he shot his victim in the back of the head.

Dunn testified that Huggins’ head, wrist, and leg were thrashing.  Harris put an old mattress over her body and tried to wash her blood off of the ground with water from a puddle that he scooped into an empty beer bottle.  The criminals left for Harris’s home and then returned to the location of the rape and murder with a couple of shovels with which to dig Huggins’ grave.  But to make sure that she was dead, Harris shot Huggins one more time in the face.

Harris, who had spent the previous 16 years in prison and who was in police custody as a suspect in four other rapes committed over a four month period when they suspected him of having murdered Huggins, kept silent for two months as police searched for Huggins’ body.  It was Dunn and her sister who lead them to it.

Yet the reader would be gravely mistaken to think that it was any sense of civic responsibility or guilt that motivated them.  By this point, a $25,000 reward had been issued for anyone who could aid in locating Huggins.  Dunn and her sister concocted a story according to which the latter was a psychic whose occult powers informed her as to the whereabouts of the fallen artist.

Harris is vermin among vermin. Yet he also hated whites.  Dunn admitted that before he knew for certain the racial identity of the driver of the Toyota MR2 on which he set his sights, he told her that if the driver was black, he would only “tie” him up.  But if the driver was white, then he would kill him (or her).

During his trial, Harris spit on the courtroom floor, grabbed his crotch, flipped off Huggins’ grieving parents and told the court that they owed him an apology.

Police representatives had complained that during all of this, many bystanders in the black neighborhood from which Huggins was taken knew what was happening to her and yet refused to volunteer any information.

Sharpton never returned to Trenton again that year.  Neither he nor any of his fellow demagogues in the Racism-Industrial-Complex ever uttered a peep about this outrage, a crime so horrid and so sensational that it most certainly would’ve achieved national notoriety had the races of the perpetrators and their silent abettors, on the hand, been reversed with the race of the victim, on the other.

But this is exactly what we should expect from Al Sharpton and his Industry.

 

Philadelphia Eagles’ star Riley Cooper is the latest celebrity to have to issue an emotional, and very public, mea culpa for having used that most infamous of racial slurs, “the N-word.” Fortunately for him, it appears that Cooper has been forgiven.

From these public apologies much can be learned—and a thing or two about contemporary American racial politics isn’t even the most of it.

First, from the highest to the lowest, every aspect of our culture remains saturated in a distinctly Christian vision of morality.

The notion that it is gravely immoral to regard people differently, much less treat them badly, on the bases of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and even religion is a part of Christianity’s legacy to the world. And it is the ubiquity of the belief in this idea that accounts for the pressure brought upon Cooper and others to repent of their transgressions.

In other words, if not for the world that Christianity produced, it is not likely that “racism,” “sexism,” “ethnocentrism,” “classism,” “ageism,” “ableism,” “classism,” or any of the other “isms” that are deemed unmitigated evils by our public culture would have ever been conceived, to say nothing of actually observed.

Note, I do not mean to suggest that there’s anything like a straight line that runs from an educated understanding of Christianity to the Politically Correct excesses of our day.  And I know that, consciously speaking, the most zealous of “anti-racists” and their ilk are motivated by an animus toward Christianity—not a devotion to it.

No matter.  The point is that while our PC zeitgeist is doubtless a perversion of Christianity, it is still a perversion of Christianity. If the aforementioned “isms” are unconscionable, it can only be because the differences on which they are based are superficial.  That is, it must be the case that underlying our differences is a common human nature, a fundamental essence from which each and every person derives an inalienable dignity.

It is this belief, and only this belief, that informs not just belief in the awfulness of “racism” and the like.  It is also only this belief that informs the widespread view that there is a “moral law” and “moral rights” of which all members of the human race are in possession.

But here’s the rub: if there is such a thing as human dignity, then human beings are not, and can never be, the bio-chemical accidents of a purposeless, endless evolutionary process. This isn’t to deny evolution, in some sense of this word.  It is to deny the logical tenability of a theory according to which something called “human dignity” can emerge from a universe comprised of nothing but matter in motion.

In fact, as such staunch atheists as Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean Paul Sartre have remarked, the very notion of human nature itself is the offspring of Christianity. The concept of human nature serves the same function as the concept of God: both constrain individuals by specifying in advance limits on what they can do and who they can be.  This similarity is no coincidence, for unless there is a God, an author of human nature, the latter can’t exist.

But, as Sartre wrote, if there is no God, then “everything is permissible [.]” The great existentialist philosopher admitted that he found this view of reality “very distressing,” for he recognized that it entailed that there are “no values or commands” that “legitimize our conduct [.]”  It means that “we are alone [.]”

Nietzsche disdainfully referred to Christianity as the penultimate “slave morality” from which other species of slave morality like “Democracy,” “socialism,” and “liberalism” spun off.  From the perspective of “the slave morality,” the evil man is “the aristocrat, the powerful one, the one who rules [.]”

The slave-morality, on the other hand, affirms just those qualities that promise to alleviate its proponents’ suffering: “sympathy, the kind, helping hand, the warm heart, patience, diligence, humility, and friendliness [.]”  Because these are the characteristics that supply “the only means of supporting the burden of existence,” they are elevated to the stature of universal human excellences.

If there is such a thing as human dignity, it can only be because humans were, as Christians say, made in the image of God.

The verdict is clear: whether we choose to recognize it or not, the fact of the matter is that upon our shared morality is the indelible impress of Christianity.

The latter’s nemeses from yesteryear readily conceded this.

Apparently, their progeny today lack either the honesty or courage of their intellectual ancestors.

 

 

 

In his latest book, Collision 2012, Dan Balz, a Washington Post writer, expresses his incredulity over “the inability” of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign to “humanize” its candidate.

This is one reason why, in Balz’s estimation, Romney lost the 2012 election to Barack Obama.

Yet there are two other reasons that he supplies to account for Romney’s defeat.  The one pertains to the “technically superior” character of his rival’s campaign. The other is in regard to Romney’s “ambivalence” concerning his bid for the presidency.

The first thing that should be noted is that if Romney’s consultants had difficulty in “humanizing” their man, it’s because those at places like the Washington Post were more determined to see to it that he was dehumanized.  This, after all, is exactly what their man, Obama, wanted.

Second, as far as technical finesse goes, if there were differences between the campaigns, they were negligible: Obama was more successful in conveying his message because of the ubiquitous and overwhelming media bias that sought to dehumanize his opponent.

As for Blaz’s third contention, it is superfluous to note Romney’s “ambivalence” toward his political fate, for Romney is a Republican and Republicans, as a rule, can be counted upon to act as if they are ambivalent toward the political fate of their party.  However, of the three reasons that Blaz submits for Romney’s misfortunes, this is the only one that takes.

It is not, as many “conservative” media personalities insist, that Romney is a “RINO” (Republican-In-Name-Only).  It isn’t that he is a “moderate.”  And it certainly isn’t that he is “too far to the right,” as those in the Democrat-friendly press maintain.

Though more difficult to accept, the truth is far less dramatic, and much more simple, than any of these fictions.

And the truth is that Romney lost to Obama because he is just another typical Republican.

To see that this is so, we need only ask ourselves: Politically—that is to say, substantively, not stylistically—how is Romney any different from, say, John McCain and George W. Bush?  For that matter, with the exception of Ron Paul, how is Romney any different from any of his competitors in the GOP presidential primaries of 2008 and 2012?

The answer is obvious: Romney is not at all significantly different from any of his colleagues.

Not unlike the Bushes and McCains of the world, Romney generously pays lip service to the standard GOP slogan of “limited government” and its ancillaries. And, not unlike the Bushes and McCains, he favors a robust, activist military to reinforce America’s “exceptionalism” around the globe.

In other words, Romney, like his fellow partisans past and present, appears at best incoherent—Big Military, being Big Government, is radically incompatible with “limited government.”

At worst, he seems dishonest, talking one way out of one side of his mouth while talking an entirely different way out of the other.

Yet there is more.

We now know that the GOP has been hemorrhaging white voters for the last two presidential election cycles.  While Romney needed 46 percent more of the Hispanic vote to win, had he garnered only three or four percent more of the white vote and he would’ve won comfortably.

Many of these same whites who are now cold toward the Republican Party weren’t always so. Having experienced what they rightly take as one too many betrayals, they have either sat out the last couple of elections or they have cast protest votes.

Interestingly, the disenchantment with the GOP that has overcome ever-growing numbers of the conservative and libertarian-minded is the mirror image of the disinterest of independents and others in it.  For those on the right, Republicans’ rhetoric is fine and good; it’s their Big Government policies that are the problem.  For those in the center and on the left, it is primarily Republicans’ rhetoric that frightens them.

Mitt Romney exemplified the contradictions of his party.  Thus, their dilemma became his.

This is why Romney lost the race for the White House of 2012.

 

 

It is becoming painfully clear to me that, while there is doubtless no short supply of reasonably intelligent pundits on the political horizon, very few of them know how to think.  Or, if they do know how to think, they refuse to bring that knowledge to bear upon their craft.

Indeed, reasoning is as lost an art upon the average commentator as ballet is lost upon an elephant.

During just this past week alone I encountered two glaring instances of this misology (hatred of reason) on the part of veteran journalists.

First, Nicholas Stix accused me of “ripping off” his work.  This is the conclusion that he arrived at based solely on three considerations: (1) I wrote an article in which I relayed the ghastly fate visited upon a young white couple from Tennessee back in 2007 by four black men and one black woman; (2) Stix had been writing about this same case for years; and (3) I misspelled the name of the reporter, Jamie Satterfield (I wrote “Sutterfield”) who I quoted in my article.

As I made clear in my response, Stix’s reasoning on this score was embarrassingly, even scandalously, poor.   I wrote the following:

“Upon googling the names of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, no fewer than 136,000 results are listed.  And the very first result is a link to the Knoxville-Sentinel’s archive on this case.  The second result is a link to a Wikipedia entry on the latter.  To his eternal credit, Michael Savage, the third most listened to nationally syndicated radio talk show host in the country, a man with probably 10 to 12 million listeners, has talked about the fate of Christian and Newsom since 2007.

“In other words, this story has been in the public domain since the time that it first broke—and Stix was not the person to have first broken it.  It is preposterous to imply that any discussion of this case that doesn’t give a tip of the hat to Stix is disreputable.

“As for my own piece, there isn’t a single argument, turn of phrase, idea, or detail in it that can in any way be construed as having been lifted from Stix’s work.  It merely recapitulates the bare bones of the ‘Knoxville Horror,’ as Stix quite appropriately refers to it (Now, had I not credited him as having coined this term, then I would indeed be guilty of ‘ripping’ him ‘off.’).  To lend authority to my summation, I turned to the Knoxville-Sentinel archive and quoted Satterfield, the local reporter who, I discovered, had been all over this story, as well as the medical examiner who she in turn quoted.”

So, Stix’s argument boiled down to this: Either Kerwick was familiar with Satterfield’s work or he “ripped off” Stix.  He was not familiar with Satterfield’s work.  Therefore, he “ripped off” Stix.

Moving right along, we come to Washington Post writer Michael Gerson.  The latter wrote a piece in which he blasted Rand Paul and his supporters. Paul, Gerson maintained, could never become a “mainstream Republican” because his supporters are both “neo-confederates” and the enemies of almost all war and federal coercion.

I noted that this argument is incoherent: it makes no sense.

“But Gerson would have us think that these libertarians are at once consumed by an inordinate passion for liberty as well as an equally inordinate passion for ‘a regime founded on slavery,’ a burning hatred for war, the penultimate emblem of coercion, and a comparably intense affection for the coercion required by ‘state-sanctioned’ racism.

Paul and his supporters love liberty and they hate liberty. They love coercion and they hate coercion.  They are statists and anti-statists.”

It should go without saying that there are plenty of other exhibits that I could supply of the illogic that pervades the work of your average commentator.  In the future, more such exhibits will be supplied.

For now, though, let these displays serve as textbook cases of the misology of the punditry class.