Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

By way of an assault on the John Birch Society, the Southern Poverty Law Center has taken a shot at yours truly.  Upon reading Don Terry’s, “Bringing Back Birch,” it became painfully obvious that the Center’s reputation for lousy marksmanship is richly deserved. 

Equally obvious is that it is the ease with which it smears those who reject its far left ideology that accounts for why, despite its name, it has done nothing to help the poor.  After all, before the SPLC can hope to ameliorate the poverty of others, it must first address its own intellectual and moral poverty. 

Regardless of what Don Terry suggests, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the John Birch Society.  Not unlike that of  Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and others, my work appears in the JBS publication, The New American, when it coincides with the magazine’s conservative and libertarian thrusts.  Had Terry done his due diligence, he would have discovered that I write for various publications. 

This, though, is neither here nor there.  What matters most is Terry’s treatment of my article, “‘Root Causes’ and Mass Murderer Adam Lanza,” a piece that appeared in The New American (and elsewhere) in the days following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.

According to Terry, in this essay I “bemoaned the fact that the absence of meaningful gun control was widely discussed in the aftermath of the mass shootings [sic?]” while “the ‘root causes’ of too many abortions and too few executions in the United States” wasn’t discussed at all.  This is bad enough, Terry thinks, but just when it didn’t seem that things could get any worse, “Kerwick turned to Lanza’s race and gender.”

Terry quotes the following lines from my article: “From ‘affirmative action’ to massive Third World immigration, from media depictions of white men as either ignoramuses or crazed ‘racists’ to the incessant barrage of giddy proclamations of an ever-diminishing white America, the assault on white men is comprehensive.”

He continues quoting me: “Is it impossible to believe that a young white man such as Lanza, who has been exposed to this systematic abuse his entire life, may not have been consumed with both self-hatred and rage?  For that matter, may not his cultural animus toward whites have figured in Lanza’s choice to leave a trail (judging from news photos) of mostly white bodies?”

Terry contends that if the JBS continues to publish pieces like mine, it will once “again be nudged towards the basement”—i.e. irrelevancy.  And even though he admits that near the end the article “Kerwick swears he’s being facetious,” he dismisses this as “a lame attempt” on my part “that sounds painfully like the old John Birch Society.” 

There’s pain here alright, but it stems from the spectacle of Terry’s cognitive and ethical limitations conspiring to render insurmountable to him the task of following a simple train of thought ranging over a meager 800 words or so. 

For starters, anyone who looks at just the headline of my article for more than ten seconds should suspect that I am not really interested in identifying “the root causes” of Lanza’s killing spree (or anything else for that matter).  Not only do I place “root causes” in quotation marks. By referring to Lanza as a “mass murderer,” I call him out for the agent of evil that he was.  And these specifics of the title set the tone for what follows.  

The application of the concept of “root causes” to any moral phenomenon arises from a confusion of categories.  Causes act upon matter—inert, mindless matter.  Scientists study causes.  Moral agents, in contrast, act on reasons. There are no causes when life is considered under the aspect of morality. Because a mass shooting is a morally significant act, it is wholly inappropriate, and offensive, really, to analyze it in terms of “root causes.” To exploit for it political gain by linking it to a “root cause”—like the alleged lack of “gun control”—that isn’t remotely connected with it is unconscionable.

I never “bemoaned” the fact that the “root cause” of the “absence of meaningful gun control was widely discussed” while “the root causes” of “too many abortions and too few executions” were not, as Terry says. If I can be said to have bemoaned anything, it is that there was talk—incessant talk—in the aftermath of Sandy Hook about “root causes” at all.

Yet it is true that I also wanted to expose the sheer hypocrisy of the left.

By now it should be a foregone conclusion to anyone who knows the leftist that on any given issue, his search for “root causes” always ends up exactly where he begins: the only “root causes” that exist are those determined by his ideological prejudices.  It is only for the sake of establishing this point that I mentioned “the root causes” of “too many abortions,” “too few executions,” and the race and gender oppression that I mockingly insinuated accounts for Adam Lanza’s murderous rampage.   

Not to give Terry more credit than he deserves, but it is hard to believe that he doesn’t know that I really was being facetious.  That it is more dishonesty than density of the intellect of which he is guilty is born out by Terry’s omission of a paragraph in my piece in which I identify Lanza’s Italian ethnicity as a possible “root cause” of his actions.  I write:

“Then there is the matter of Lanza’s ethnicity.  ‘Lanza’ is an Italian surname, and Italians and Italian-Americans are routinely portrayed as Mafioso and other violent thugs in the popular media.

“Maybe Lanza incorporated this image into his own self-understanding. Maybe this is why he chose to go on a shooting spree.”

No one—including Don Terry—believes that an Italian-American brought up reading Mario Puzo novels and watching Martin Scorcese gangster films is going to be prompted to shoot down a bunch of young innocent kids.  This stuff happens neither in real life nor in the gangster genre.

Incidentally, I mention the rise of atheism as a potential “root cause.”  I suppose it is because this doesn’t fit in too nicely with Terry’s spin that he omits this as well.

In any event, most distressing about reading the SPLC’s hit piece is being reminded that the vices of which it is guilty transcend political differences. 

Terry quotes a former editor of The New American who was fired from his post back in 2006.  According to Terry, William Grigg “became so angry that Kerwick’s commentary appeared” in his old magazine.  Grigg is reported to have said: “It is incomprehensible to me…that JBS would run such a specimen of ethnic grievance-mongering anytime—let alone in the immediate aftermath of the atrocity at Sandy Hook Elementary.” 

This has been my point: far from engaging in “ethnic grievance-mongering,” in ridiculing “root causes,” including and especially the “root cause” of race, I sought to undermine it.

Let me close here with the final paragraphs from the essay that has Terry and Grigg waxing indignant.  There is a reason that it wasn’t included in the SPLC’s brief against the Birchers: had Terry quoted it his case against me would’ve collapsed.

“Now for the punchline: I don’t for a moment believe that any of the foregoing ‘root causes’ are in the least relevant to Adam Lanza’s decision to gun down 20 little kids and six adults.  Yet they have at least as much to do with it as does the lack of ‘gun control’ on which scores of leftists rushed to hang this abomination.

“Lanza was an evil man responsible for perpetrating an evil deed.  As long as there are evil people in the world, evil will be with us.

“Maybe it is to the ‘root causes’ of why our generation fails to come to terms with this timeless fact to which we need to turn our attention.”

And maybe Terry, Grigg, and everyone else at the Southern Poverty Law Center should delve into the root causes of why they can’t seem to grasp any of this. 

          

 

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My interest was piqued recently when I encountered at Townhall.com the title of Kurt Schlicter’s article: “Let’s Help Academia Destroy Itself.”  The author, a self-described conservative, levels a visceral assault against the university.  

Schlicter offers an essentially two prong attack against academia.  The first we can call “the tick argument.”  Academia, he says, is like “a liberal tick” in that it divests society of its “blood” while producing nothing in return.  The second argument centers on the politicization of higher education.  Schlicter calls academia “the College-Progressive Complex,” for it is “a reservoir of leftism” that American taxpayers are forced to subsidize while it insures a bottomless supply of liberal, and largely underemployed, Democratic voters.    

While Schlicter oversimplifies some things, as an academic who also happens to be a conservative, I know as well as anyone that, sadly, there is also much truth in what he says. In fact, in some respects, he actually understates the extent to which leftist ideology saturates the contemporary academy.

Not only is “the disinterested pursuit of truth” an ideal that leftist academics have long abandoned.  This is an ideal that they regularly mock.  Moreover, it is more frequently than not treated as a Eurocentric social construction by which white men have traditionally bludgeoned into submission women, non-whites, homosexuals, non-Christians, and the environment.

To those outside of the academy, this may sound like hyperbole.  I assure you, it is not.  One of my professors from graduate school actually referred to the Western philosophical tradition as “thuggish” for its assumption that truth was real and discoverable.  Think about this: with one proverbial stroke of the pen, he dismisses most of the West’s brightest lights, from the ancient Greeks through the Christian medievalists to the moderns, as a bunch of bullying thugs.

Yet this is not an anomaly.  World famous philosophers, like Jacques Derrida, make it their task in life to “deconstruct” Western civilization so as to convict it of “logocentrism”—its faith in reason to access reality. 

However, even when the academic is not a self-sworn post-modernist, the contempt for his or her civilization is expressed in other ways.  Indeed, what one can’t fail to discover upon spending any bit of time in today’s university is that contempt for Western civilization has assumed the standing of a creed. 

All that has been said and thought in the West is routinely brought before the tribunal of what one commentator once aptly called “the holy trinity” of race, sex, and class.  Actually, it is even worse than this, for it isn’t just racism, sexism, and classism for which academia condemns the West. The latter is also guilty of “speciesim,” bias against non-humans; “ableism,” bias against the handicapped or “differently-abled;” and “ageism,” bias against those of a specific age group.

Many commentators on the right regularly charge leftists generally, and leftist academics in particular, with endorsing “moral relativism.”  It should be clear by now that this charge is misplaced. 

Of course it is correct that there is no short supply of leftist academics who disavow “absolutism.” And there are many who claim to be relativists. 

But I have never met or even heard of an academic who really is a relativist.  The leftists who dominate the academy, whether they style themselves “relativists” or not, are like jihadists or crusaders when it comes to their creed.  As far as they are concerned, either others convert to their cause or risk a kind of social—and/or professional—death:  ostracism and demonization.  Leftist academics are absolutists in the worst sense of this word.

Before deciding as to whether they want to pledge to a university their precious time and treasure, aspiring college students and/or their guardians need to know what life in academia is really like. 

 

 

 

 

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Yesterday, while on Fox News Sunday, Mitt Romney ascribed his defeat in November to his campaign’s failure to take “our message to minorities, to Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans.”

Doubtless, this is the conventional wisdom among Republicans.

As I write this, I am listening to Bill Bennett’s morning talk show.  The host is speaking with City Journal’s Heather MacDonald, discussing the electoral prospects of the Republican Party.

MacDonald, to her credit, is quite sensible.  Unlike many of her fellow partisans, she is well aware that it is primarily the promise of ever larger government—and little else—that lures the vast majority of blacks and Hispanics to vote for the party of Barack Obama.  And, unlike her fellow Republicans, MacDonald seems to recognize the notion that her party will be able to transform legions of Hispanics and blacks into good little Republicans for the fantasy that it is.

Yet conspicuously absent from this discussion of the GOP’s woes is any mention of a painful fact that is conspicuously absent from all such discussions:

Millions of Americans who have always voted Republican refused to do so during the last two national elections. 

In other words, the losses that the GOP has suffered cannot be attributed solely, or even primarily, to their abysmal showing among non-whites.

In fact, I would go even further on this score.  Blacks have been voting overwhelmingly for Democrats for decades and decades, even as their percentage of the nation’s population has remained relatively stable.  So, this is nothing new.  Neither is it news that Hispanics vote predominantly for Democrats.  It is true that Hispanics constitute a larger portion of the country’s population now than at any time during the past, but even this demographic change isn’t nearly the seismic shift that it is often made out to be.  Hispanics are only about 15% ofAmerica.

The point is this: even with black and Hispanic votes against them, Republicans were winning national elections handily until very recently.  The problem is not that the GOP has failed to expand its base with new non-white voters.  The problem is that its base has contracted.  And it has contracted because it has lost the support of millions of whites who had voted for them until the elections of 2008 and 2012.   

The omission of this tidbit from conversations over the future of the GOP is glaring. 

Republican politicians and commentators will eagerly flagellate themselves for failing to “do more” in the way of minority “outreach.” But they are most unwilling to acknowledge that the ranks of their party are populated mostly by whites.  And they are that much less willing to speak of an outreach program to this demographic.

The irrationalities of political correctness explain this to some extent. For a fuller explanation, though, we must turn elsewhere.

For Republicans to admit that they have hemorrhaged millions of white voters is for them to admit the reasons for this.  However, this is one task in which they would prefer not to engage, for when it comes right down to it, the reason for why legions of conservatives and libertarians abstained from voting for their party in ’08 and ’12 can be summed up in two words: Big Government.

Far from reducing the size and scope of the federal government, Republican reign under George W. Bush resulted in its expansion.  Both domestically and, especially, internationally, the national government grew at a rate and to a size that it had never been before. Those scores of Republican voters who once turned to the GOP to protect the constitutional liberties for which their ancestors fought and died became disenchanted.  They felt betrayed.

And so they refused to be treated as suckers again.

There is another point here that shouldn’t be missed. 

Former Texas Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul was treated as persona non grata by the establishment of his party.  The latter paid a hefty price for this.  Paul is the one national Republican figure who walked the GOP talk of “limited government.” He also commanded a significant, and intensely devoted, following.  No one—not Sarah Palin, not Barack Obama—could energize a crowd like Ron Paul.  Moreover, many of his followers were young voters. 

Many, and maybe most, of these millions of Paul supporters were among those who sat the last election out.

If the Republicans want to be victorious once more, then they should spend more time looking within their party, and less time looking beyond it.       

 

 

 

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The president of Emory University, James W. Wagner, has been censured by faculty members.  He may even be forced to resign.   

In his school’s magazine, Wagner, you see, cited “the three-fifths compromise over slavery” as illustrative of the art of political comprise.   

In response to the backlash, Wagner issued the obligatory mea culpa and deplored the “clumsiness and insensitivity” of his piece. 

There was a time when the average American elementary school student could be expected to know that of which our current academics remain invincibly ignorant: the three-fifths compromise was intended to retard the expansion of slavery, to weaken the power of the slave states.    

Yet this is historical fact.  Along with reason, logic, and truth itself, fact is routinely treated by my colleagues in the academy as an ideological “weapon” with which white men have been bludgeoning the entire planet into submission for millennia.  Still, there is more than one way to expose a position for the species of folly that it is.

The Emory faculty and their president believe that the latter was both clumsy and insensitive for mentioning slavery in a way that could give offense to the sensibilities of those who continue to suffer from slavery’s legacy (or something like this). The faculty thinks that such is the gravity of Wagner’s transgression that he just might deserve to lose his job.   But if this is true, then most of our racial activists, and, particularly, our academics who write on slavery for their livelihood, are clumsy and insensitive as well.  Maybe they deserve to lose their jobs.

The word “slave” derives from the word “Slav”—as in the Slavish people.  It grew out of the experience of being enslaved that untold numbers of the Slavish endured for centuries.  Interestingly, for all of our generation’s tireless talk over slavery, this little detail is seldom stated. 

But while this omission may be interesting, it is not surprising.  The Slavish, of course, are white.  Current talk over slavery centers almost exclusively on American—i.e. black—slavery.   

However, is this not clumsy?  After all, by focusing solely upon blacks in bondage in America, don’t we present a wildly distorted vision of slavery?  Don’t we delude ourselves into thinking that, historically speaking, slavery has always equaled the enslavement of blacks by whites?  And isn’t it the case that this severely truncated account of slavery is deeply insensitive to those whites of Slavish descent (like my wife and son) whose ancestors were subjected to the hardships of slavery? 

As if the failure of racial activists to mention any of this didn’t already convict them of “clumsiness” and “insensitivity,” at least two other considerations convict them all the more.

First, aside from the ubiquity of slavery throughout Europe prior to the rise of Christianity, the modern world witnessed the enslavement of millions of white Europeans—and not just the Slavish.  Moreover, they were enslaved by and large by Africans, North African Muslims.  Robert Davis is one brave scholar who relays this conveniently neglected chapter of history in his, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800. Paul Baepler is another. In White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives, Baepler covers this ground that few dare to tread.

Second, even the conventional story of American slavery is woefully inaccurate.  The first slaves in America were white.  I know of two books that do a meticulous job showing that both in route to America aboard British vessels, as well as once they arrived here, America’s first (white) slaves endured conditions just as horrific, and just as humiliating, as those suffered by blacks. The one is Don Jordan’s, White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain’s White Slaves in America.  The other is Michael Hoffman’s, They Were White and They Were Slaves: The Untold History of the Enslavement of Whites in Early America.

This episode at Emory University is just the latest reminder of the sham that is the politically correct orthodoxy regarding slavery and race in America.

originally published at World Net Daily 

 

 

 

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